Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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I never really thought about making homemade ice-cream until I came across a superb book called The Chocolate Bible. After going through the whole book over and over again (it never gets boring) I decided to try the custard based vanilla bean ice cream recipe – as well as other chocolate recipes.

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Custard based ice cream is also known as French-style ice cream; it’s thick, silky, and very scoop-able because of the addition of egg yolks which thickens the mixture. American style ice cream is not as dense, and it’s far quicker to prepare since it doesn’t require cooking a custard base; it is simply a combination of milk, cream, sugar, and flavoring.

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For the custard, you first start cooking the milk, vanilla, and egg yolks over low heat for a few minutes and add the whipping cream at the end. After chilling the mixture for two hours, you pour it in an ice cream maker which will simultaneously freeze the mixture while churning (to aerate it and avoid ice crystals to form). The result was so wonderful: the ice cream was rich and creamy, it tasted exactly like Häagen-Dazs! Can you imagine how impressed everyone would be when they find out that you whipped out a delicious traditional vanilla bean ice cream from scratch?! You will feel special, I’m telling you ;).

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Serve this ice cream with Fudgy Brownies, Chocolate Ganache, Apple Tart, or chunks of chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies… My mouth is watering while writing this post, so I’m going to jump right ahead with the ingredients and instructions.

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Ingredients: (from The Chocolate Bible)
• 5 egg yolks
• 125 grams (½ cup+2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
• 500 ml (2 cups) milk
• 1 vanilla pod, split
• 50 ml (¼ cup) whipping cream

Instructions:
1. Beat the egg yolks and 60 grams (5 tablespoons) of the sugar until pale, yellow, and creamy.
2. Pour the milk into a saucepan; add the remaining sugar.
3. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod – using the point of a knife – into the milk. Add the pod in the saucepan and slowly bring it to the boil.
4. Whisk 1/3 of the hot mixture into the eggs and sugar mixture, stirring well to combine. Then pour this mixture into the remaining hot milk.
5. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook over low heat until the mixture is thickened and coats the back of the spoon. (~10 to 15 minutes. Do not allow to boil).
6. Stir in the whipping cream and remove from the heat immediately; strain into a bowl.
7. Stand a bowl in crushed ice and place in fridge for two hours until the mixture is cold.
8. Pour the mixture into an ice-cream maker and churn for 30 minutes.
9. Remove the ice cream from the machine and transfer it to the freezer before serving.

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Chewy Almond Cookies

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2013 is almost coming to an end.

It’s been a year full of ups and downs, challenges and accomplishments, and I’ve learned so many life, love, and work lessons that helped me grow as a person. Not only did I start this blog in 2013, but I also had the amazing opportunity to travel to New York to pursue my passion in graphic design and get lost in a big city full of opportunities and inspirations. I’m simply amazed at how much I enjoy the work that I do today (my full time job, freelance work, and baking blog!) and how many awesome people I get to meet everyday. I’m so grateful for having incredible parents, family, and friends who have been encouraging me and supporting all of my decisions. I’m also grateful for the people who have been following Brownie Box; the past few months have been slow but I’m working hard and putting a lot of effort into every single post.

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We’re still in the stretch of the holidays and some of you might be relieved that Christmas is over because of the copious amount of FOOD we ate for 3 days straight, but I’m not done baking. In fact, I’m still using the “Christmas/New Year” excuse to constantly replenish the supply of cookies and chocolate.

Today’s post is about these incredibly chewy almond cookies. I still can’t believe that I recently discovered this recipe. It’s so GOOD it’s making me sad that I just started baking these; they’re perfect with coffee, tea, or even dipped in chocolate ganache! I seriously can’t stop munching on them all day.

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The recipe calls for almond paste: a combination of almond meal and sugar in equal quantities mixed with a little bit egg white to hold the ingredients together. You can buy almond paste at the grocery store or make your own (see below!) because it’s tastier and more economical. Now there’s a difference between marzipan and almond paste: the former is sweeter and commonly used for decoration purposes – like fondant. Almond paste contains double the amount of almonds, which is perfect for baked goods because of its intense flavor.

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Almond Paste

Almond Paste

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I guarantee that everyone will love these cookies because they are so light and versatile! What’s your favorite holiday cookie recipe?

Ingredients:
Almond Paste:
150 grams (1¼ cup) halved blanched almonds
150 grams (¾ cup) powdered sugar
1 egg white
Note: This recipe yields 8½ oz. (250 gr.) of almond paste. The cookies recipe calls for 3½ oz. (100 gr.), so you can freeze the rest or double the cookie recipe!

1. Place almonds in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process the almonds until they are very finely ground, stopping periodically to scrape the sides of the bowl.
2. Add the sugar and egg white, process until smooth.
3. Knead the dough on a working surface until firm and smooth (you can also use a dough hook).

Cookies: Yields ~ 36 cookies
1 large egg, room temperature
½ cup (100 grams) sugar
1 stick (113 grams, ½ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
3½ oz. (100 grams) almond paste
1 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla bean paste
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1. Beat together the egg and sugar using a stand or hand mixer.
2. Add the softened butter, almond paste, and vanilla. Continue mixing until homogeneous.
3. Add the sifted flour and salt to the egg mixture. Then mix by hand or using a wooden spoon until combined.
4. Shape the dough into a disk and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 320ºF or 160ºC.
5. Transfer dough to a large parchment paper that fits a 19″x13″ inch baking sheet (48×32 cm). Press down the dough with a rolling pin and move it from the center out to form a flat dough of ¼” inch or 0.5 cm in thickness.
6. Cut out the dough using a cookie cutter. (Note: you can also shape the dough into small balls and flatten them with the palm of your hand).
7. Bake for 12 minutes (the cookies will stay white and soft), take out the baking sheet of the oven, and let cool completely until they harden.

Bittersweet Chocolate Cointreau Cupcakes

Bittersweet Chocolate Cupcakes Brownie Box

I had many requests to post a chocolate cupcake recipe– so here it is! After trying three or four recipes this year, this one instantly became my favorite chocolate treat and I didn’t look up another recipe again.

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The cupcakes are moist, light, and moderately sweet with a refined taste and texture. Typical chocolate buttercream frostings are heavy with butter and sickly sweet, but this whipped ganache frosting is a winner. It’s actually THE reason why these cupcakes are so successful: it’s almost mousse-like and flavored with orange liqueur which enhances the intense chocolate flavor (hey–a little booze won’t hurt!). You can also substitute it with rum, brandy, vanilla extract, or omit it completely.

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bain marie
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Start with melting the butter and dark chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. Add sugar, eggs, and water and mix until homogeneous.

dry ingredients

Sift the cocoa powder and the flour in a bowl, and pour in the chocolate mixture.

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Divide the mixture evenly among cupcake liners, about 3/4 full.

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Bake until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of a cake.

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Make the chocolate ganache and refrigerate for an hour or until it reaches a “spoonable” consistency.

whipped ganache

Whip it with a whisk or a stand mixer. Note: Make sure the ganache is chilled well before whipping.

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And finally pipe ganache onto cupcakes!

Makes ≈ 22 cupcakes.
Preparation time: An hour and a half (with ganache frosting). Baking Time: 20-25 minutes.

Ingredients:
(Adapted from Cupcakes, a fine selection of sweet treats)
Cakes

150 g (5½ oz, 2/3 cups) unsalted butter, chopped
200g (7 oz, 1½ cup) dark chocolate chips
285 g (10 oz, 1¼ cup) caster sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
185 ml (6 fl oz, 3/4 cup) water, room temperature
185 g (6½ oz, 1½ cup) self-raising flour (check substitute here)
30 g (1 oz, 1/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder

Frosting (Whipped Ganache)
200 ml (6½ fl oz, 3/4 cup) cream
250 g (9 oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Optional: 1½ tablespoons Cointreau (orange-flavored liqueur) – Or Rum, Brandy, Vanilla extract.

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (315°F/Gas 2-3)
2. Line standard muffin holes with paper cases.
3. Place the butter and chocolate chips in a small heatproof bowl. Sit the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water.
4. Stir the chocolate constantly until it is melted.
5. Add sugar, eggs, and water to the melted chocolate mixture. Mix well.
5. Sift the flour and cocoa into a large bowl.
7. Pour in chocolate mixture and stir until well combined.
8. Divide the mixture evenly among the case (3/4 full).
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of a cake.
10. Cool for 5 minutes, then transfer onto a wire rack to cool.

Making the Whipped Ganache:
1. Finely chop the chocolate. Place in a large mixing bowl.
2. Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan until it comes to a boil.
3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds. Then slowly whisk until smooth and shiny.
4. Add Cointreau (or optional flavoring) and mix until fully incorporated.
5. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour– or until the mixture is at a “spoonable” consistency.
6. Whip mixture with a whisk or the beater attachment of your mixer for 1-2 minutes on medium speed until stiff peaks form.
8. Pipe chocolate ganache onto cupcakes.