Praline Chocolate Sweet Rolls

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Breakfast, Chocolate | October 15, 2017 | By

Fall is here and I’m so pumped. Bring on the seasons of holidays and baking and big feasts, I’m in. 

I’m back in the kitchen after a few weeks of a break after I finished up and sent in all the recipes and other work for my upcoming book! After cramming in the last few recipes at the end there, I needed a little break from baking. 

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But now, fall has hit me and I’m so ready. I’m starting out this season with these Praline Chocolate Sweet Rolls, and omg, what a start.  These rolls are layered in flavor all throughout, and you’ll love all the bold, unique tastes wrapped up together into a big ‘ol fluffy, soft bun. 

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These babies start with homemade praline candies, sweet and crunchy. You’ll need a candy thermometer to get these right since the temperature is so important. Sugars, butter, milk, bourbon and more will bubble away until they reach the soft ball stage, and you’ll scoop it out and let it cool. 

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The remaining filling is made of softened butter, dark cocoa powder, brown sugar, and cinnamon, smashed together into a paste. You’ll spread it over the fluffy, light dough, sprinkle on chopped pralines, and roll it all up like a present. 

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The best sweet rolls are generously covered in smooth frosting. I honestly get bummed out when I buy a roll somewhere and they skimp on the frosting. We all love it, why the heck aren’t we ALWAYS covering rolls in frosting? Listen, we’re already splurging on a sweet roll, we do not need to save the calories. 

These rolls are truly over the top, and they’re worth every step. Don’t wait, make ’em today. 

Praline Chocolate Sweet Rolls

Ingredients

  • For the praline:
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs. bourbon
  • 6 tbs. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped pecans
  • For the dough:
  • 1 1/2 tbs. active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (110-112 degrees)
  • 2 tbs. sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbs. canola oil
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 2 tbs. dark cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbs. cinnamon
  • For the frosting:
  • 1 8oz. package of cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tbs. softened butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs. milk

Instructions

  • For the praline:
  • Lay out two pieces of parchment paper on your counter, and have a small cookie scoop or a spoon ready to go.
  • In a medium pan, use a wooden spoon to stir together all of the ingredients over high heat. Once the mixture has started to boil.
  • Place your candy thermometer into the pan, and turn the heat down to medium-high.
  • Continue to stir the mixture constantly until it reaches the soft ball stage, or 240 degrees.
  • Remove from heat, and stir for about 1 minute, until it just begins to thicken.
  • Working quickly, use your scoop or spoon to scoop the praline onto your parchment paper. Let these cool completely and then roughly chop. Set aside.
  • For the dough:
  • Mix together the yeast, warm water, and sugar. Let this sit for 5 minutes until the yeast has bloomed.
  • Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat together the whole milk, 1 cup of water, canola oil, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt until about 120 degrees.
  • Pour the milk mixture into a stand mixture, or a large bowl. Add in 4 cups of flour to start, and beat together until combined.
  • Add in the yeast mixture, and beat together for several minutes. You will have a lumpy, very wet mixture at this point.
  • Add in another 1/2 cup of flour, and beat together. Continue slowly adding flour until dough leaves the sides of the bowl, and is no longer sticky.
  • Then, pull the dough out onto a floured surface and gently knead in a little more flour until it's smooth.
  • Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 30-35 minutes for the first round, until doubled in size.
  • After the first rise, punch down the dough, and knead on a floured surface once or twice. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover, and let it rise again for about 20-25 minutes this time, until risen by about 1/3.
  • For the filling:
  • Stir together the softened butter, cocoa powder, brown sugar, and cinnamon until a paste forms.
  • Roll out the dough to a large rectangle, about 20 inches by 12 inches.
  • Spread the filling evenly over the entire rectangle. The dough will be soft, so this will take some working.
  • Sprinkle the chopped pralines evenly over the top.
  • Roll the dough, starting on the longer end, until it has formed a log.
  • Slice off the uneven edges of the log first. Then cut the dough in half, and in a half again, until you reach 16 rolls.
  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick sheet, and evenly arrange the rolls on it.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees, and allow the rolls to rise while it preheats, about 15 minutes.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown.
  • For the frosting:
  • In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar.
  • Add in the vanilla extract and milk, and beat together until smooth.
  • Scoop the icing onto the warm rolls, and spread. Enjoy!
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Frosted Mocha Cookie Bars

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Bars, Chocolate | August 30, 2017 | By

You like coffee, right? And chocolate, obviously. And so you probably like things that combine them. Cool, me too, glad we got that straight. 

These bars are that. A sweet, rich, frosted cookie bar that tastes like deep dark chocolate and bold espresso. That description was dramatic, I know, but really I love these. 

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Also, can I just be honest with you for a minute when I say that sometimes baking several batches of individual cookies kinda just takes way too long? I start making cookies all the time and then by oven swap 5 I’d rather die than keep baking. So when you can just stuff all the cookie dough onto one pan, bake it one single time, and slice it up- DO IT. 

Anyways, on to other matters.

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My book is nearly done! Not published-done, but writing and photographing recipes is nearly complete, and I’m so thrilled. I can’t wait to look at all the work I’ve done finished and ready to send off. Also, I’m pretty sure my oven could use a little rest- I’ve been baking multiple times a day on the weekends you guys, pretty much every weekend. 

So sometimes baking something easy, yet rewarding like these babies is the perfect thing. I use dark cocoa powder in all my recipes, including these. I’m not exactly sure what it is about living at a high altitude, but I just can’t get a strong chocolate flavor to come through with regular cocoa. 

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I actually use Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder, mainly because it’s available at regular grocery stores. Also though, it’s a blend of regular cocoa and dutch processed cocoa, so it interchanges nicely in recipes. 

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I’m also using instant expresso powder in this recipe, which brings out a strong coffee flavor without the need to dilute the cookies or frosting too much.

Hope you guys enjoy this one as much as I do!

Frosted Mocha Cookie Bars

Ingredients

  • For the cookies:
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbs. water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • For the frosting:
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 tbs. strongly brewed instant espresso
  • 1 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Instructions

  • For the cookies:
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and espresso powder. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat together the butter, canola oil, sugar, and powdered sugar until fluffy.
  • Add in the egg, water, and vanilla, and mix until combined.
  • Slowly add in the flour mixture, and mix until completely incorporated.
  • Spread the dough evenly in your prepared pan, using an off-set spatula.
  • Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until the dough is set.
  • Cool completely before frosting.
  • For the frosting:
  • In a medium bowl, beat together the softened butter and powdered sugar until the butter has been dispersed fairly well in the sugar, but the mixture has not fully come together.
  • Beat in the brewed espresso, instant espresso powder, and salt, and mix until the frosting is smooth.
  • Spread evenly over the cooled cookie bars.
  • Slice, and enjoy!
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Pesto Babka

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Do you guys watch Seinfeld? 

My husband is obsessed with sitcoms, and Seinfeld is definitely on the list. There’s an episode where babka plays a big role, which is one thing I think of when I think of this recipe- “Lesser babka? I think not!” 

Anyways, if you don’t watch the show, that was probably nonsense to you. The bigger reason I love babka, though, is that I am carb-obsessed. If you’re here, you probably are too. It’s cool, this is a safe space for us bread lovers. 

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Basically, babka is typically a sweet number, but today we’re switching it up a bit. Normally you’ve got lots of layers of a dense yeast bread and some kind of gooey chocolate or cinnamon filling, and let me tell you, that version of things is fan-freakin-tastic. But sometimes you need a little bit of savory bread too. 

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The way this recipe works is by rolling your dough super thin. It rises while baking, so even though the dough feels super delicate while you work on filling and shaping it, the result is perfect. 

Since pesto has both olive oil and cheese for moisture, it offers a very similar texture to your traditional babka recipes as well. More importantly, I love pesto. 

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Baking bread at a high altitude is tough you guys. I get it. Baking in general is much more complicated at altitude, but when you spend hours letting bread rise, and shaping it, and letting it rise again, only to end up with something you don’t want to eat?? It’s suuuper disappointing. 

Here’s my biggest tip for bread at a high altitude- watch the dough, not the clock. When I realized I was over-proofing most of my bread doughs, everything got better. 

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Make the pesto babka. It’ll work, it’ll taste awesome, and it’ll impress you’re friends. 

Pesto Babka

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2- 2 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 3 tbs. sugar
  • 1 tbs. active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup pesto (use whatever you like best here- homemade or jarred)

Instructions

  • Butter a large bowl generously, and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together 2 1/2 cups bread flour, salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Set aside.
  • Heat your whole milk in the microwave until it reaches 115 degrees.
  • Stir the sugar into the whole milk, and then stir in the yeast. Let the mixture sit and bloom for 5-10 minutes, or until it's bubbly and frothy.
  • In a large bowl, stir together the eggs and melted butter.
  • Add the yeast mixture into the egg mixture, and stir to combine.
  • Add in the flour mixture, and stir until combined, and a dough has formed.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough, adding more flour as needed, for about 5 minutes. The dough will be fairly stiff.
  • Place the dough into your buttered bowl. For the first rise, you want the dough to double in size. For me, this takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour, but you should keep a close eye on your dough after 30 minutes. Do not let the dough rise to more than double in size.
  • Remove the dough from your bowl, and roll it out on a floured surface.
  • You want the dough to be very thin, 1/8-1/4 inch thick, and in the shape of a large rectangle. Since the dough will be a bit elastic, this may take some working.
  • Spread your pesto evenly over the entire rectangle, all the way to the edges.
  • Lightly grease a loaf pan, and set aside.
  • Begin to roll your dough, very tightly, like you would a cinnamon roll, starting on one of the shorter sides of your rectangle.
  • Once you have the dough completely rolled up, slice the roll in half length-wise.
  • Twist the two halves together, lightly pinching each end together.
  • Place the dough into your prepared loaf pan, and cover.
  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and let the dough rest for 25-30 minutes. The dough should rise during this time just slightly, by about 1/3 at most.
  • Bake the dough uncovered for 40-45 minutes. If you notice the bread becoming too brown on top, cover with foil for the remaining bake time.
  • Using an instant-read thermometer, the inside of your dough should reach about 165-170 degrees on the inside when it is finished baking.
  • Remove from the oven, and cool completely in the pan. Slice, and enjoy!
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Blueberry Almond Olive Oil Cake

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Cake | July 30, 2017 | By

Have you ever had olive oil cake before guys??

Well if the answer is no, it’s like. This lightly sweet, tender, uniquely flavored cake and seriously, you will LOVE it. I mean especially if you like the taste of olive oil. 

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I am personally obsessed with olive oil. It’s one of my favorite things ever when you go to a restaurant and get free bread with olive oil. Don’t lie to me, you love it too. I understand. I have a whole collection of different flavors on my counter right now- side note- have you guys ever been to one of those olive oil shops? It’s amazing.

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This is my first time making olive oil cake, and now I think it’ll be a go-to for me! 

Anyways, olive oil cake is also super easy to make, and you can flavor it with whatever you want. Some of the most popular things I’ve seen included lemon, orange, almond, ricotta, or even just plain. Since it’s not very sweet, it’s easy to add in whatever you feel like, or whatever you have. 

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This time I’ve chosen to go with blueberry almond for this version. The blueberries play off of the fruitiness of the olive oil, and sliced almonds add beautiful texture throughout. The top of the cake is crunchy and sweet with the addition of coarse sugar on top before baking. 

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This is an easy, classy dessert you guys. It’s impressive, and all your friends will think you are sophisticated as heck! Hope you guys enjoy this one! 

Blueberry Almond Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds (plus more to sprinkle on top)
  • 2 tbs. coarse sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and grease a 9 inch cake pan. Line the bottom of your pan with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat together the olive oil and sugar until smooth. Mix in the eggs until combined.
  • Add in the flour mixture and whole milk alternating, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, until smooth.
  • Fold in the blueberries and 1/2 cup sliced almonds. Pour the batter into your prepared pan.
  • Sprinkle about 2-3 tbs. of sliced almonds, as well as the coarse sugar, on top of the cake batter.
  • Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely, enjoy!
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Buttery Shortbread Cookies

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Cookies | July 24, 2017 | By

Hey guys!! It’s been awhile. Here’s why- 

A few weeks ago my best friend in the whole world got married to the man of her dreams. It was an incredible wedding, and also made for a very hectic few weeks! 

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Also, I just spent an amazing week in Seattle at a conference with some of my favorite co-workers! The conference was so good, and I got to meet some of my SEO heroes, which was so exciting. 

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Anywho, today I’m keeping things simple. I’ve only been back home from Seattle for a couple days, and somehow still feel exhausted, so I’m taking the easy road on this one. Still though, this recipe is a great one to have in your back pocket. 

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Shortbread cookies are buttery, lightly sweet, and they don’t have any eggs which means a few things- one is that if you are out of eggs, it’s ok. Two is that if you’ve got kiddos, this dough is a bit more safe to eat raw, plus you can roll and cut it into shapes!

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I feel like shortbread cookies are pretty elegant honestly. You can flavor them with anything- vanilla, lemon, almond, thyme, rosemary, honey- literally anything you like. I’ve chosen vanilla with a hint of lemon extract for this go around. 

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Experiment with them, bake em up, enjoy em anytime guys! 

Buttery Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups softened butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon extract
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, beat together the butter and powdered sugar until smooth.
  • Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon extract, or the flavorings of your choice.
  • Beat in the flour and salt until a soft dough forms.
  • Divide the dough in half, and form each half into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap, and chill for 30-45 minutes. (I know chilling dough sucks, but it does matter for this one, I promise!)
  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment or a non-stick sheet.
  • Roll one half of the dough out to about 1/4 inch-1/2 inch thick, and cut into your desired shapes.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are just golden. Cool and serve!
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