Spicy Orange-Bourbon Hot Chocolate

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How was your Thanksgiving weekend? Ours was good. It was easy and fun. I made this Chocolate Mousse Pie with Phyllo Crust and it was SO GOOD and much simpler to make than I anticipated. I’m obsessed with it and plan to make it for Christmas, since my brother loves chocolate pie and this version is my new favorite. I also mades these dinner rolls and the mashed potatoes–which I kept warm in the slow cooker and it’s totally my new favorite trick. I also learned that I find rice-ing potatoes super satisfying. It’s on par with melon-balling. I’m a weirdo. Casper snatched a handful of stuffing from Sean’s plate, but luckily he couldn’t figure out how to put it in his mouth (since he’s not on solids yet) and ended up just sucking on the back of his hand instead.  It was pretty funny.

In lieu of Black Friday shopping, I stayed at home in my jams all day, did a bit of online shopping, and decked the dang halls because I LOVE CHRISTMAS. I love it, guys. A lot.

I also made this spicy, boozey, hot chocolate. Sean and his brother had some after kicking the soccer ball around at the park and I’m pretty sure it was the perfect warm-up since it was super cold and windy out there. It’s made with chopped chocolate, so it’s super-rich and creamy. There’s also orange zest in there, which cuts the richness a bit and adds a ton of flavor. The cayenne is spicy and brings on another level of heat, while the bourbon warms everything up in the way only bourbon can.

It’s seriously so good. This may be the winter of hot chocolate. I hope you don’t mind.

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Spicy Orange-Bourbon Hot Chocolate

Makes 2-3 servings

2 cups whole milk

2-3 large pieces of orange peel

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate

2 ounces bourbon

whipped cream, additional chopped chocolate, and cayenne for topping

In a saucepan combine the milk with the orange peel and cayenne. Warm the milk over medium heat in a saucepan until small bubbles begin to appear around the edges and the milk begins to steam. Try to avoid boiling it. Turn off the heat and add the chopped chocolate, then cover with a lid and let it sit for a minute or two before whisking to combine. Whisk in the bourbon and pour into 2 or 3 mugs, top generously with whipped cream and a sprinkle of chopped chocolate and cayenne.

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Hazelnut Crunch Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

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Guys, cake!

Yesterday was a day that called for cake…even though I didn’t have any left, I wish I did. It was one of those frustrating, frantic, half-assed days where you’re pulled in different directions and nothing gets accomplished. Days like that deserve something sweet. In my case it was a Reese’s pumpkin eaten over the sink with a gulp of cold coffee between ringing doorbells, barking dogs, a startled baby, and a project I just couldn’t seem to get through. But I wanted it to be a piece of this cake with a side of coffee…that was still warm.

This cake is a moist pumpkin and spice number with little bits of hazelnut suspended in the batter, iced with a brown butter + cream cheese concoction, and sprinkled with crunchy hazelnut candy. It’s got it all: tender-spiced cake, a buttery-tangy frosting, and lots of crunchy-sweet texture. It’s a dream boat and a sure-fire cure for one of those kinda days.

I don’t mean to get all complain-y, but some days are better than others and cake days are definitely the best!

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Hazelnut Crunch Pumpkin Cake

Makes 1, double layer, 6 inch round cake OR 1, 9-inch square cake.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teapoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 cups finely chopped, toasted hazelnuts

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, browned*

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/4 cup bourbon

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease 2 6-inch round cake pans and line with parchment circles (you can also bake this cake in a 9-inch square pan).

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and hazelnuts. In another bowl whisk together the browned butter, brown sugar, bourbon, eggs, and pumpkin puree until combined. Fold the butter-pumpkin mixture into the flour and spice mixture until just combined and there are no longer streaks of flour throughout. Divide the cake batter between the two cake pans and smooth the tops. Bake in the center of the oven for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks for 15 minutes before turning out the cakes and cooling completely. Cool the cakes completely before frosting—it is even better to wrap the cooled cakes in plastic and place them in the refrigerator to chill before frosting.

Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, browned*

4 ounces softened cream cheese

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

Using a mixer, beat the browned butter with the cream cheese until smooth. Add in the salt and beat in the confectioner’s sugar gradually until smooth and spreadable.

Hazelnut Crunch

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons water

pinch of salt

1 heaping cup toasted hazelnuts

Place a sheet of parchment on a sheet pan and set aside.

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves and becomes a deep golden amber color—don’t stir it, but you can swirl the pan if you need to. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and hazelnuts. Pour the mixture onto the sheet pan and cool completely. Chop the cooled hazelnut crunch coarsely and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

To assemble the cake:

Place one of the cooled cake layers on a cake stand, spread a heaping scoop of frosting on top of the layer and spread evenly, then sprinkle with a handful of the hazelnut crunch. Place the other cake layer on top, pressing down lightly to adhere to the first layer. Pile several heaping scoops of frosting on top of the cake and spread evenly to the edges of the cake, spread the excess frosting over the sides of the cake, evenly. Scrape any excess frosting off with an off set spatula for a “naked-cake” effect, or spread thickly for a more traditional look.

*To brown the butter, place it in a skillet or saucepan over medium heat, let it melt. It will bubble and foam. Once it begins to foam, whisk it constantly until deep brown bits begin to appear and the butter smells nutty like toffee. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature before using. [/recipe]

 

 

 

 

Ginger Bourbon Cider

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I’ve never been a big drinker, especially post-baby, but I do enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine every so often. This cocktail has been my jam this season! I made it for the first time when we had some friends over for an impromptu game night and it was a hit. It combines some of my favorite autumnal flavors–apple and ginger–in an easy-drinking libation.

The ingredients are pretty familiar, for the most part. The only semi-exotic thing being the Calvados–which is simply French apple brandy. It’s warm and caramel-y with lots of apple flavor without being a neon-green-sour-apple situation. It’s one of my favorite fall liquors to cook with (use it to deglaze a pan of pork chops!), but also makes a great addition to this fall-time cocktail. Besides the Calvados, we have warming bourbon, fresh apple cider, fizzy-spicy ginger beer, a little bitters, and a pinch of cinnamon. The combination makes for a cocktail that’s reminiscent of hot apple cider, but packs a refreshingly fizzy, tipsy punch.

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Ginger Bourbon Cider

Makes 1 stiff drink.

Calvados can be found at any well-stocked liquor store. It’s a bit of an investment for your bar, but makes a great addition for fall cocktailing–it’d be great in a hot toddy! and like I mentioned, it’s awesome for deglazing for an excellent pan sauce. There are a few different brands, so choose the one that best fits your bar-budget. That said, this cocktail doesn’t suffer much without it, just add more bourbon!

1 ounce bourbon

1 ounce Calvados

2-3 ounces apple cider

a few shakes of orange, or classic, bitters

ginger beer

pinch of ground cinnamon

Fill a cocktail glass with ice (I like crushed, but cubes work just fine). Combine the bourbon, Calvados, apple cider, and bitters. Top the drink with ginger beer–more or less depending on how strong of a drink you’d like–stir and sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon.

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