Chai Chocolate Quick Bread

When I think of fall, I think of baking. Once those leaves start ever so slightly turning colors and the nights get a little bit longer and a tad bit cooler, I’m ready to break out my mixer and crank up the oven. I love making pies from scratch or exploring fun new soup or side dishes, but my weakness during the fall leading into the holidays will always be bread. I’ve definitely been known to set aside a whole day (sometimes two!) dedicated solely to bread making. But I know that life oftentimes makes it to where setting aside that much time just isn’t realistic.

Enter…quick breads. Unlike yeast breads, quick breads do not contain any yeast at all in the dough and use Clabber Girl Baking Powder and/or Clabber Girl Baking Soda as a leavening agent. Because we’re omitting the yeast and using a chemical leavening agent instead, we’re able to cut out all the time needed for yeast breads to rise. The end result is usually a very tasty bread that took a faction of the time to make. So though I love yeast breads, I always end up making A LOT of quick breads this time of year.

Generally made a little on the sweet side, quick breads are great because of their versatility. You can make savory breads (Rosemary, Thyme & Asiago Cheese sounds good to me!) perfect as a side for dinner slathered with butter or sliced and toasted to dunk in your favorite fall soup. The ever popular Banana Bread or Pumpkin Bread are always amazing recipes to have in your recipe box. You can even go crazy and indulge with a Chocolate Quick Bread Drizzled with Dark & White Chocolate with Toasted Nuts sprinkled on top. The possibilities are endless and perfect for you to make it your own for your family to enjoy.

As you can probably tell, I have been thinking a lot lately about quick bread flavors. I wanted to find something unique and different, that still had all my favorite fall flavors in it (and chocolate, everything is better with chocolate, right?). That’s when I decided on Chai Chocolate Quick Bread. I love the warm spice notes you get when drinking a Chai latte, so they go perfect in this fall bread.

You’ll need two bowls to make this bread, one for your dry ingredients and one for your wet ingredients. Because we’re using baking powder (which reacts to liquid) to leaven our bread you want to keep your dry ingredients separated from your wet until you’re ready to mix and immediately go into your dish and bake. This bread is tasty all on its own, but you can always kick it up a notch and serve it with a maple-cinnamon compound butter. Plus they make great gifts during the holidays and are perfect as mini loaves as well (you’d get 3 from this recipe). I hope when all is said and done and you’re taking your first bite you enjoyed it as much as I did!

Chai Chocolate Quick Bread

Makes: 1 loaf
Ingredients:
1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. Clabber Girl Baking Powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cardamom
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp kosher salt
2 eggs
1 c. chai concentrate
¼ c. granulated sugar
¼ c. coconut oil, melted & slightly cooled
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a bread loaf pan with parchment paper.

Line Bread Pan with Parchment Paper
In a large bowl mix flour, Clabber Girl Baking Powder, spices and salt. Set aside.

Dry Ingredients Chai Chocolate Bread
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, chia concentrate, sugar, and coconut oil. Set aside.

Liquid Ingredients Chai Chocolate Bread
Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave for 30 seconds. If needed, microwave for an additional 15-30 seconds and stir until smooth.

Melted Chocolate
Slowly pour your wet ingredients into your dry ingredient bowl and stir until just combined.

Mixing Chai Chocolate Bread

Pour batter into your prepared bread loaf pan. Drizzle melted chocolate over the top and using a butter knife gently swirl the chocolate on top, just barely mixing it in with the batter.

Marble Chai Chocolate Bread
Bake in a 350° F for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean. Let cool 15 minutes before removing from pan and slicing.

Chai Chocolate Quick Bread Hero 2

Birthday Celebration Cake

Birthdays are one of my favorite days of the year. Growing up, birth dates we’re a special day to celebrated, tailored to make it so uniquely about celebrating you. We never did anything too extravagant, as a child there were the “big” birthday parties with school friends. But by middle school, birthdays become more about celebrating as a family as opposed to having the biggest party. Every year it is the same, like clockwork, our birthdays have become a tradition.

Every time in the weeks leading up to your birthday, the customary “Where do you want to eat at?” would be asked and pondered. Growing up we didn’t go out to eat much, we enjoyed cooking

together at home and having “Pizza & Movie Night” every Friday. Going out to eat was a treat, something usually reserved just for birthdays. But the best party was dessert, we never had dessert at the restaurant, it was like an unspoken rule. Your favorite cake or dessert was ALWAYS made for your birthday. It changed from year to year, growing more consistent as we all grew older, but cake was always a mainstay.

Over the years I have taken up cake decorating for family birthdays, it’s the little something extra I can try and do to make someone feel special on their day. In my family vanilla cake is a crowd pleaser and one we make most often, but I love to mix it up a bit by adding in different flavors. For the birthday cake I am sharing with you, I went with my favorites: strawberries and lemons. With the simple sprinkle decorations and piping, this is a decorated cake that anyone can pull off for any number of occasions. Change up the colors, size and/or shape of your sprinkles to match your theme and you’ve got an easy to make birthday cake, tailored just for you!

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Birthday Celebration Cake

Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Filling and Lemon Buttercream

(Get the full Birthday Celebration Cake Recipe Here)

 

Makes two 9-inch round layers

Ingredients:

For the Cake:
2 cups All-Purpose flour
2 teaspoons Clabber Girl Baking Powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. lemon extract
3 eggs
¾ cup milk

For the Strawberry Filling:

1 lb. strawberries, stems removed and quartered
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. Clabber Girl Cornstarch
Juice from 2 lemons

For the Lemon Buttercream

2 lbs. powdered sugar, sifted
1 # unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp. lemon extract
Zest from 2 lemons

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl, whisking to combine.
    Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attached and beat on low for about 5 minutes or until combined and lightened in color. Add in the vanilla and lemon extract and mix to combine.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk and set aside. Reducing the mixer to low, slowly add in 1/3 of the flour mixture and then ½ of the milk-egg mixture. Stop and scrap down the bowl on the edges after each addition or as needed. Add in another 1/3 of the flour mixture and the remaining milk-egg mixture, scrap again as needed and add the remaining 1/3 of the flour mixture. Scrap the bowl with a large spatula and pour the batter into prepared pans.
  4. Bake in a 350 degrees F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans on racks for about 5 minutes, then remove from pans and let cool the remaining time on the rack.
  5. For the Strawberry Filling: Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized pot and toss to combine. Cook over medium heat, until the strawberries begin to soften and release their juices, stirring occasionally. Let mixture come to a boil and reduce to simmer for about 5 minutes until thickened and cooked to desired consistency, stirring as needed. Remove from heat and let cool completely before using.
  6. For the Lemon Buttercream: Using the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy and lightened in color. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar to the creamed butter and beat to combine, continue adding the powdered sugar 1 to 2 cups at a time until the mixture is lightly and fluffy. Add in the lemon extract and mix to combine. If the mixture is too stiff, mix in 2-3 tablespoons of milk to reached desired consistency.
  7. To assemble the cakes: Cut the tops of the cakes to create a flat even top. Place 1 cake layer, cut side down on your cake stand. Using a piping bag, pipe a circle around the entire rim of the cake top. Spoon ½ of the Strawberry Filling inside of the buttercream circle (this acts as a wall to keep your filling from spilling out of the cake). Gently place the second layer, cut side down on top of the first cake, lining up the edges. Ice and decorate the outside of the cake as desired with the remaining Lemon Buttercream.

**You will have extra Strawberry Filling, serve some on the side so guest and spoon more over their own cake slices as desired or reserved for a later use.

Cinco de Mayo Party: Margarita Bar

Cinco de Mayo is fast approaching and while everyone else may be thinking tacos and churros, I’m over here thinking about the salty, sour, and tart perfection of the Classic Margarita. As many of us gear up to celebrate, we often find ourselves focusing on the food and not the drinks. And it’s hard to fault that game plan, as the food is the star. This year however, I wanted to change things up and focus on the drinks for once. Because let’s face it, what’s a good party without a good cocktail? But then again, why settle for just one. While I love a classic lime margarita, I also love the versatility of it. There are so many variations on that drink it can make your head spin. But how to pull off multiple different flavors and combinations and still stay on theme?

Easy…enter the Margarita Bar.

Margarita Bar Cinco de Mayo

Behind every tasty and delicious margarita is good tequila and fresh ingredients. Like I said before, there are a TON of different flavor combinations that you can make, some of the ones that I came up with are featured in the pictures throughout this post. I went with 5, but you if you go with just 3 flavors you’re still headed in the directions of an amazing Cinco de Mayo party!

Here’s the low-down on how to make a margarita bar for Cinco de Mayo:

Simple Syrup:

This is where you’re getting the sweetness in the drink from, especially in drinks that are highly acidic (like a classical margarita), and the simple syrup helps balance the sweet and tart/sour flavors. To make simple syrup you just need equal parts water and granulated sugar. Place in a pot on medium heat and simmer until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool before using.

Strawberry Jalapeno Margarita
Strawberry Jalapeno Margarita

Fruits/Juices/Herbs:

Whatever flavor combinations you decide on, this part is key to making a tasty margarita. If you’re just using juices and herbs you’re all set to throw everything in your shaker, shake, strain into a glass over ice and enjoy. If you’re using fruit, like the Strawberry Jalapeno Margarita then you can muddle the strawberries, jalapeno and mint together or blend everything into a puree like I did. This will give you a slightly thicker margarita, but nevertheless delicious.

Tequila:

This to me, is what makes a margarita a margarita. I prefer to use silver tequila in my drinks, especially for a classic margarita or the Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita so I get the drink color I’m looking for.

Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita
Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita

Grand Marnier:

Is your drink still really tart from all the lime juice? Grand Marnier will help cut that too with some add sweetness. Triple sec or any other orange liquor will work, so go with your preference. Not all margaritas call for it, so it’s really up to you if you want to include it in your drink, but I’d really suggest making the trip to the liquor store if you don’t have it on hand as it can make a world of difference in the outcome of your cocktail.
Once all your ingredients are a go, it’s time to figure what you are going to serve. You can premix a large batch or have all the ingredients ready to guest can make their own drinks. Whichever direction you decide to go in, here’s a list of some of the essentials you’ll need on your Margarita Bar.

Pitches/Wine Carafes/Drink Dispensers:

Whether you’re going with large batches or single serve, you’re going to need a few of these for the beverage table. Premix large batches with all the liquid ingredients (the Lemon Basil Margarita is perfect for this) and serve in a large drink dispenser for guests to pour their own. If you want your bar a little more interactive, use full or half carafes to fill with different juice flavors for guest to choice from.

Lemon Basil Margarita
Lemon Basil Margarita

Drink Shakers:

Give everyone a change to be a bartender for a night! If you’re doing a serve yourself bar, litter your beverage bar with drink shakers for guest to use. Have one on hand just in case if you’re premixing, you never know if you might need it and it’s good to have on hand.

Ice Bucket & Scoops:

These are a must have. Even if you decide to go with drink dispensers, don’t risk pre-icing your drinks and watering that flavor down. Have ice available for guest to add to their cup before pouring themselves a drink. If you’re going for a self-serve make your own drink kind of bar than you can’t pull that off without a lot of ice. Not only do party goers need it for their drinks, but for the drink shakers as well. Be sure to have a bag of ice on hand just in case your ice dispenser can’t keep up too, you’ll thank me later.

Coconut Lime Margarita
Coconut Lime Margarita

Glasses:

You are going to need lots and lots of glasses! If you’re anything like me, than I doubt that you have a secret stash for tons of margarita glasses lying around. No worries though, I used all kinds of different glasses. I think it adds to the charm of a Margarita Bar, plus you don’t have to dish out any money to buy all new glasses just for the party. Pilsner and rocks glass, as well as some mason jars worked perfectly for me!

Little Plates/Shallow Rimmed Bowls:

You can not have a margarita without salt. Okay, you actually can. But you definitely can’t ditch the salt when hosting a Margarita Bar so little plates or shallow rimmed bowls are perfect for this. You can use ones that go with your theme colors or just stick with white like I did. Be sure to have one out for each margarita flavor you are going with or just a couple if you’re sticking with just one salt for all the flavors (kosher salt worked for me, but you can buy margarita salt too). The salt that you’re rimming your glass with is just another area where you get to impart different flavorings and put a spin on your margaritas to kick them up a notch (like the cayenne salt for the Mango Orange Margarita), so get creative if you want.

Mango Orange Margarita
Mango Orange Margarita

Bowls:

You’re going to want bowls of various sizes. This is perfect for garnishes if your serving out of drink dispensers and a must have to serve lime wedges needed to rim your glass with before dipping into the salt. If you’re going with a make your own bar, then little bowls are just right for all the herbs and various fruits you might be using.

Festive straws that match your theme are a great thing to have on the bar, as well as plenty of cocktail napkins. Little chalkboard signs are a great way to label the different drinks if your serving out of drink dispensers. If you can nab some larger chalkboard signs, write out the recipe for the single serving drinks that are available so party goers can make their own.

Once you have all the essentials gathered, it’s only a matter of displaying the bar in a way that is uniquely you. Keep it casual in the kitchen or set up a whole beverage bar station that is sure to be a talking point. Whatever you do, when throwing a Margarita Bar, have fun…and enjoy!

An American Tradition: Boston Brown Bread

Though not as well known today, Boston Brown Bread has a pretty interesting history story. Better known in the New England areas, brown bread started making in appearance in the early 1800s. Early settlers where trying to grow wheat, which was their preferred grain for baking. They soon realized that wheat did not grow well in the New England soil and this drove up the prices. Corn on the other hand was a crop that flourished on the east coast, making the price of cornmeal much cheaper and readily available. Another cheap alternative to flour was rye flour.

Mixing Rex Coffee, Buttermilk and Blackstrap Molasses
These two grains made up the main dry ingredients for the bread, occasionally whole wheat flour was added and eventually became a mainstay on the ingredient list. Molasses is added and gives the bread its signature rich color and sweet flavor. Because we are using baking powder and soda as our leavening agents as opposed to yeast, we are able to complete cut out having to factor in a rise time and can go straight from mix to dish to cook.

Making Boston Brown Bread in a Rex Coffee Tin
Another key element that sets it apart from most traditional breads, is the cooking method. Brown bread is typically steamed in a can of some sort until finished cooking. At the time, this was in large part due to the fact that this was a bread for the common people. Using the cheaper grains made this an affordable bread to make at a time when wheat was at an expensive price and not easily affordable to all. Steaming the bread in a can over a fire or stove top made it assessable to most, especially those that didn’t have a wood-burning oven.

Seal Boston Brown Bread Tightly
Somewhere along the way brown bread started being steamed in coffee cans. I’m not sure if this was because at the time canned foods where not as readily available as it is today, and this was just a common things to have on hand. But after doing loads of research on brown bread and reading multiple variations of recipes, almost everything listed a coffee can as the vestal to steam your bread in. So this took my brown bread adventure on an interesting twist.

Secure Boston Brown Bread with Twine
I am fortunate enough working here at Clabber Girl, to work someplace that has its very own coffee roasting company. In fact, all our Rex Coffee is roasted in house just 10 steps away from the kitchen I work in on a regular basis. So I started thinking about ways I could tie in our coffee with a bread that is known for being cooked in coffee cans throughout history.

Cook Boston Brown Bread in Large Dutch Oven
I gathered up old cans we had on hand and started wondering about different ways I could try and incorporate coffee into this historic bread besides just using our old tins. The obvious answer to me was to just try and add coffee to the batter…but would it work? After multiple tests working on the recipe, the ratios, and finally the final taste test…I can honestly say that it did!

Boston Brown Bread Final

Boston Brown Bread

Ingredients:
5 oz. whole wheat flour
5 oz. rye flour
5 oz. cornmeal
1 tsp. Clabber Girl Baking Powder
1 tsp. Clabber Girl Baking Soda
2 tsp. kosher salt
8 oz. Blackstrap molasses
8 oz. butter milk
8 oz. Rex French Roast Coffee, room temperature

8-10 cups water
Cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Bring 8-10 cups of water to a boil over medium high heat. While the water is coming to a boil, add all of the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside. In a small mixing bowl, add the molasses and Rex Coffee and whisk together.

Create a small well in the middle of your dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk and molasses-coffee mixture and whisk to completely combine the batter.

Spray the insides of two quart-sized cans with cooking spray. Divide the batter evenly between the two cans. Using aluminum foil, cover the tops of the cans, folding the excess over the outsides of the cans. Use butchers twine to tie around the edges of the can to secure the aluminum foil to the sides. Place cans in Dutch oven or an oven safe pot.

Carefully pour in the boiling water, taking care not to pour the water over the tops of the covered cans, until the water reaches halfway up the side of the can. Bake in a 325 degrees F. oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the bread comes out clean.

Remove pot from oven, and using oven mitts carefully removed cans from pot and set on a cookie rack. Let cool 15-20 minutes and then gently slide bread out of can to cool completely. Once cool, slice bread and toast and serve with butter or cream cheese.

Boston Brown Bread

Decorating Cake Pops for Adults: Strawberry Champagne for Valentine’s Day

Decorated Cake Pops for Valentine's DayDecorating a cake can be difficult. It takes time and patience to go through all the necessary steps needed to make your cake beautiful. It’s also a lot of small detail work, which I personally love. So, when Chef Mandy was in the kitchen trying to decorate her tasty little cake pops, it was difficult to not immediately offer up assistance. As her frustration mounted, it was time to suggest a cake pop collaboration. She already had the Valentine’s Day flavors down pat, because what’s not to love about strawberries and champagne? Now it was up to me to do her cake pops some justice and make them shine on the outside, too!

I’ll be honest. Up until that point, I had never actually decorated a cake pop. All of my decorating experience has been with buttercream frosting and fondant. I’ve made Oreo truffles before, so I was hoping that the process would be much the same. What I found through a lot of trial and error were some handy tips and tricks that helped me successfully create a cake pop.

First step is making the actual cake pop. As Chef Mandy suggests, when rolling the crumbled cake and icing, be sure to roll the balls tightly so that when pressed slightly they don’t crack. A firmly rolled cake ball will help prevent the cake pop from falling apart when dipped in the chocolate (I should know…one of my first cake balls came apart in the chocolate because it wasn’t rolled firmly).

Next is to put the cake balls in the fridge to help set them. If you have room in the fridge, you can put your sticks in the cake pops before refrigerating. But if your fridge situation is anything like mine, then it’s okay to put your rolled cake balls in the fridge to set up first and add the sticks later.

While the cake pops are in the fridge, melt your chocolate using a double boiler. Don’t have one? Neither do I! Though double boilers are available for purchase, if you don’t have one, don’t panic. You just need a medium-sized pot and a glass or metal bowl that is large enough to set into the pot with at least 2 inches of clearance between the bottom of the bowl and the inside bottom of the pot. (Check out the picture below for reference!)

DSC06597

DSC06614

Something to keep in mind if you are using white chocolate like I did for the Valentine’s Day Cake Pop is that it is very temperamental. This is why I use a double boiler instead of the microwave for melting chocolate. You have better control while your chocolate is melting and are less likely to burn it.

DSC06611

When you are ready to dip your cake balls in chocolate, only pull a few from the fridge at a time to keep them firm until ready for dipping. If you haven’t already put the stick in, now is the time. Gently push the stick into the cake ball about half way through. Gently dip the cake ball on the stick into the melted chocolate, only covering the cake ball about ¾ of the way. Put the cake ball in a stand (a piece of Styrofoam works as a stand if you don’t have one) and the chocolate will drip down slightly to cover the remaining part of the cake pop.

Once the cake pop is in the stand, you can immediately sprinkle with your choice of sprinkles or nonpareil. You can also let the chocolate set for a few minutes and then drizzle with a different colored chocolate; the choice is up to you and the options are limitless!! Here’s a tip if you want to use different colors: be sure that you buy the colored candy melts. Adding food coloring/dye to white chocolate causes the chocolate to “seize” and you won’t be able to drizzle it. Colored candy melts are available at major mass retailers and many online retailers.

I hope that these tips are helpful the next time you are ready to decorate cake pops. Be sure to watch for updates on this post, as the Valentine’s Day Cake Pops were the first of many cake pops I will create this year! They are great options for almost any holiday and I’m sure to come up with new, fun and easier ways to make your cake pop decorating a success!!