Chocolate-Orange Ricotta Cupcakes

ricotta-cupcakes

I can’t believe I haven’t posted about these before– these are some of my very favorite cupcakes. Cupcakes that are soft and warm and full of chocolate; cupcakes that contrast the rich creaminess of ricotta with the slight bitterness of good marmalade; cupcakes that one of my coworkers has dubbed “the best cupcakes in the world.” And you can have them out of the oven and ready to eat in an hour.

The base of the recipe is from a lovely blog I read, Orangette, but I’ve tweaked it just a bit to make it a little more decadent (though you’ll still need to go out and buy ricotta). The result is fantastic– if you’ve ever daydreamed about crossing a fresh cannoli with warm chocolate cake, this is what you’d get. They’re wonderful as-is, but if you ever wanted to gild the lily, you could top them with a thin drizzle of chocolate ganache, and watch your dinner guests go into a chocolate coma!

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Tahini Swirl Brownies

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I was invited to a last-minute barbecue the other day, and with nothing in the house to contribute I was forced to scramble for a dessert idea! A quick survey of my fridge revealed a mostly-used can of tahini, and as luck would have it I had a decent-sized chunk left from a Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bar of dark chocolate. Clearly, brownies were in order.

I did a search online and found a frequently-lauded recipe for tahini-swirled brownies from Milk Street Magazine. I lifted the recipe in its entirety, though I admit to making a careless error and accidentally using 4 oz. of butter rather than 4 tablespoons of butter! Oops! Luckily it didn’t seem to hurt the recipe any– the interior of the brownie was moist and plushy in a way I’ve never seen in brownies before, and I really liked it. I’m tempted to keep the revision, but I’ve printed the recipe below as written so you can try the original. You’ll have to tell me how it turns out for you!

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Chocolate-Hazelnut-Caramel Mooncakes

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I know, I make a lot of mooncakes here on the blog, but they’re just so adorable that I can’t help it. These aren’t all that different from my chocolate-cherry mooncakes, using the same cake and crust recipes and the same general technique, so I suggest you check out that post for recipes and instructions. Still, I just had to post about these because the gooey caramel center was so neat!

I started with homemade chocolate cake, then crumbled it up fine and stirred in big globs of Nutella.

caramel-nutella

Did that get your attention? Thought so.

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Cherry-Bourbon-Chocolate Ice Cream

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It’s summer, which means that it’s time to make ice cream! I haven’t made ice cream in ages, but I had my annual Ice Cream Social coming up, which meant I needed to get going again!

The first recipe that really caught my eye this season was Alton Brown’s Serious Vanilla Ice Cream. What intrigued me was the addition of peach preserves to the mix, which supposedly don’t affect the vanilla flavor but instead add a unique texture to the ice cream. I was eager to give it a try myself, but was mindful of the fact that plain vanilla wouldn’t necessarily tempt my guests when compared with the more exotic flavors that were sure to be on hand. So I gave the matter some thought and settled on the addition of bourbon-soaked cherries. And then chocolate, because why not?

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Patriotic Mint Brownies

patriotic-brownies

Adding another dessert to the list of “summer BBQ contributions,” here’s a batch of dark chocolate brownies, topped with a layer of chocolate and a colorful surprise!

I shamelessly stole… er, adapted this idea from Ruthanne at EasyBaked, as it was so neat-looking I had to try it! Since I was going for fun and pretty rather than gourmet I subbed in a doctored-up boxed brownie mix for her brownie base, but I kept the topping recipes the same. I doubled the recipe to fit a 9×13″ pan, since I was going to be feeding a crowd, and changed up the stripe pattern to be sure that my brownie squares would be just as pretty as her tart slices.

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Cocoa Nib and Pecan Shortbread

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Slice and bake cookies are some of my favorites for gift-giving or other occasions that require large quantities of portable desserts. You can plan ahead, make a bunch of dough, shape it into cylinders (or in this case, squared-off logs), and freeze them until you’re ready– then just slice and bake!

I actually made these for last year’s holiday season, but never got around to posting about them until now. Never fear, though– these really are delicious, and they only improve with age! I got the recipe from the incomparable Alice Medrich, and her book (a must-read for any real chocolate lover) Bittersweet. It’s one of my very favorite chocolate recipe books, particularly as it gives specific instructions as to how to modify a recipe for use with different-percentage dark chocolates.

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Chocolate Pear Cake, Take 1: Reasonably Good

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A friend of mine is currently forbidden to ingest dairy at all (which is a shame because she loves cheese), so I decided to bake her a cake. Ordinarily I would just go with my standard chocolate cake recipe (naturally dairy- and egg-free), but no dairy means no frosting, no ganache, no whipped cream, nothing! So the cake would have to have a little extra oomph to it to make up for the lack of topping.

I’d previously bookmarked a recipe for a chocolate cake with poached pears baked inside, which sounded delicious, but the cake part looked a lot moister and denser than my standard recipe, which usually requires butter to achieve. I decided, therefore, to try to enrich my usual recipe with the addition of two eggs. Also, instead of poaching my own pears (fussy, tedious, and ultimately the delicate flavors of the poached pears would be drowned in chocolate) I opted for canned pears.

Results? Not bad. Even with the eggs, though, the cake without frosting lacked richness, and the pears were too soft (and too sparse) to stand up well to the cake. I think next time I make a chocolate-pear cake I’ll use raw pears, probably whole and cored so they can stand up in the pan and aren’t confined to the bottom of the cake. And perhaps next time I’ll use a cake recipe that involves butter and just substitute margarine, so my friend can partake despite her dairy problems.

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