Espresso S’more Bars + News!

| by | Bars, Desserts, Recipes

Hello there!

Wow. What a last couple of months it has been! I suppose you might be wondering what I have been up to? OK, maybe not, but remember in my last post I mentioned that I was working on a big and exciting project? Now I’m thrilled to be able to tell you more about it.

Espresso S'more Bars | Sempre Dolce

Since March, my brother and I have been working together to start a magazine devoted to the subject of food photography. I’m super pumped about this. It was a rather quick progression of events, starting with one of my brothers mentioning the idea at lunch one day. I took the idea, played around with it, and then it sort of became a “why not?” situation. It was such a good idea. So after some time on the internet, I approached Landon (my 4th brother and the dude behind most of the photos on here) with a serious proposition to start this magazine thing. Not only did he agree to do it, but to my surprise, he was rather excited about the idea (he’s usually an Eeyore with new ideas).

Espresso S'more Bars | Sempre Dolce Espresso S'more Bars | Sempre Dolce

Long story short, here I am with a deadline to meet and very little time for blogging these days. If you would like to know more about the magazine and its purpose, please visit our website (and PLEASE give us some social media! Though, I have yet to become very active on the social webs yet… one thing at a time, right? ;) – to tide you over until you do though, here is the gist of it: the name of the magazine is Whisk & Camera (“The Art of Food Photography”). It is going to be an online magazine with an option for print-to-order copies published quarterly (3 issues a year). The first issue will be available on August 29th – 9 weeks away!!

Espresso S'more Bars | Sempre Dolce

We are starting Whisk & Camera primarily because in our current culture that seems to be enamored with food, as well as the photographing, blogging, and Instagramming of food, we truly believe that there is a need for a publication that could help others in their (food) photography endeavors. I know that I, personally, have wished for a magazine geared to food photographers and have been bummed at the lack of one. There are a lot of resources to help people with food photography and photography in general (workshops, countless blog posts, books, etc.), but not one place where a person can find tips and information from multiple food bloggers and photographers… in the same place!

It’s Awesome. So awesome.

Espresso S'more Bars | Sempre Dolce

Espresso S'more Bars | Sempre Dolce

So there you have it. I do hope you will visit the website (of which I put a lot of time and effort into… ;P) and I hope even more that you will join us come August!

OK, item No.1 on the list is done, now onto item No.2: these Espresso S’more Bars. These bars have been floating around in my mind for quite some time now.

Espresso S'more Bars | Sempre Dolce

They are: easy, quick (excluding cooling and chill time, but even then…), tasty, tasty, TASTY! And the oven is hardly needed – 5 minutes of baking time, that’s all. No advanced skills needed for this one, folks. They are a super summer (or any time) treat! I mean, when is graham crackers + ganache + espresso + marshmallowy meringue ever a bad idea? Like, never.

Espresso S'more Bars | Sempre Dolce

A couple of things to note: I like espresso in my desserts and really liked the idea of espresso combined with s’mores, but, if this combination doesn’t send you delicious thoughts, cut out the coffee granules – no biggie. Secondly, the meringue is technically a Swiss meringue which to me, tastes like marshmallow. I believe I slightly prefer the texture of the Swiss than that of that of a marshmallow meringue, but if you would rather use marshmallow then I recommend this recipe here.

Enjoy!!

Espresso S'more Bars | Sempre Dolce

 

The lowdown: This recipe provides all the delights of s’mores in bar form. A thick graham cracker crust is topped with a lush layer of espresso ganache and then finished with a toasty Swiss meringue. Easy to put together and super delicious, these Espresso S’more Bars will be sure to make your summer extra special!

 

Espresso S'more Bars
Serves 8
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Crust
  1. 2 C. finely crushed graham cracker crumbs
  2. 8 tbsp. (1 stick) butter, melted
  3. 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
Filling
  1. 9 oz (about 1 ½ C.) chocolate, chopped *see note below!!
  2. 1 C. heavy cream
  3. 1 tbsp. coffee granules (espresso powder would probably work as well)
Meringue
  1. 3 egg whites
  2. ¾ C. granulated sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325° f. Line a 8x8 square baking dish with foil or parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Pour in melted butter and stir to combine.
  3. Press mixture evenly in pan (I like to use the bottom of a measuring cup for even spreading). Bake for 5 minutes, or until crust is firm.
  4. Place pan on a cooling rack and let crust cool completely.
  5. While crust is cooling, make ganache.
For the ganache
  1. Place chopped chocolate and espresso powder in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Heat heavy cream in a small saucepan until almost simmering. Pour over chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk until completely smooth. Cover bowl (I used a kitchen towel) and let sit at room temperature for about 1 hour, stirring with a rubber spatula every 15 minutes.
  4. Pour ganache over crust, cover pan and transfer to fridge. Chill for 1 hour, or until ganache is firm.
Make the meringue
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together egg whites and sugar. Place bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure bowl does not touch water).
  2. Whisk until mixture reaches a temperature of 160° f. or until sugar is completely dissolved and egg whites are warm to the touch, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Transfer bowl to stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form and mixture is thick, glossy, and marshmallow-like in texture – about 5 minutes.
To finish
  1. Remove pan from fridge. Pull bars out from pan and carefully slide off of foil and onto desired serving platter. Spread meringue evenly over top of bars. Using a kitchen torch, toast meringue to desired toastiness – serve immediately or return to fridge until ready to serve.
  2. Leftover bars (what are those?) can be stored in fridge.
Notes
  1. For the ganache, I used a combination of bittersweet and semisweet chocolate (1 C. chopped bittersweet and 1/2 C. chopped - or chips - semisweet). I highly recommend this combination but you can use whatever type of chocolate you desire! :) For my bittersweet chocolate, I used Trader Joe's 72% cacao dark chocolate - super yummy (super yummy in cookies too)!
  2. For measuring purposes, my measuring cup was a heaping 1 1/2 cups of chocolate, so don't worry too much getting a perfectly even measure.
Adapted from Southern Lady (crust) Baker Bettie (swiss meringue)
Adapted from Southern Lady (crust) Baker Bettie (swiss meringue)
Sempre Dolce http://sempre-dolce.com/
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Churro Popcorn

| by | Desserts, Recipes, Snacks

Greetings! 

Churro Popcorn | Sempre Dolce

Where has the time gone? One day I’m blogging in March and the next, April (which is creeping flying closer to May – like, two days close). March kept me crazy busy with kitchen renovations and visiting family. April has been keeping me busy with a new (and very exciting, I might add) project that I can’t wait to reveal soon. *jumps up and down*

Churro Popcorn | Sempre Dolce

Churro Popcorn | Sempre Dolce

Churro Popcorn | Sempre Dolce

We finally renovated our kitchen (actually, it’s still a work in progress) and what a process/experience that has been! When it’s all said and done I hope to share some before, during, and after photos with a little on how we did it, but for now let me just say that sometimes there is a reason you pay professionals to do things for you… It’s not all Fixer Upper and Property Brothers, people. It’s real life everything is out of order and I’m tired of eating fast food and can’t wait to cook an actual meal again. In the end it’s all good but wow, what a process!

Churro Popcorn | Sempre Dolce

I need some popcorn. Popcorn covered in butter. And cinnamon sugar. And maybe some chocolate too. Yes, this my friends, is what I am calling Churro Popcorn. I’m sure it’s been done before, but I refuse to check on this fact so that in my mind of blissful ignorance, mine is the brain behind this recipe. ;^) To me, it seems kind of silly to call this churro popcorn, as popcorn is nothing close to churros. But it was a better name than just calling it cinnamon sugar coated popcorn ⇐ see what I mean? 

Churro Popcorn | Sempre Dolce

Churro Popcorn | Sempre Dolce

Churro Popcorn | Sempre Dolce This popcorn is so easy peasy (and um, addicting!), I really shouldn’t be posting it in recipe format, but here you go!

The lowdown: Popcorn that is coated in butter and then finished with a cinnamon sugar mixture (and…maybe some chocolate too) is sure to please all. Easy as pie to put together and super addicting, this sweet snack would be perfect for parties and gatherings. 

Churro Popcorn
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 8 C. popcorn, popped
  2. 1/2 C. granulated sugar
  3. 1/2-1 tbsp. (it depends on your level of affection for cinnamon) cinnamon
  4. 6 tbsp. butter
Instructions
  1. In microwave safe bowl or in a small saucepan on the stove, melt butter; set aside.
  2. If you have not already done so, pop your corn (you will need 8 C. popped).
  3. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Mix until thoroughly combined.
  4. Place popcorn in a large mixing bowl (I like to use our giant mixing bowl - makes it easier for tossing :). Pour butter over popcorn in increments, tossing and stirring to coat between increments.
  5. Shake cinnamon sugar mixture over popcorn, again doing this in increments and tossing/stirring to combine between increments.
  6. Mix (I used my hands) until popcorn has been well coated in cinnamon sugar.
  7. If desired, drizzle melted chocolate over popcorn.
  8. Serve and enjoy!
Sempre Dolce http://sempre-dolce.com/
IMG_9972_edit

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Grapefruit Cake with Marshmallow Buttercream

| by | Cakes & Cupcakes, Desserts, Recipes

March, we have arrived.

Grapefruit Cake with Marshmallow Buttercream| Sempre DolceFor some that means a glimmer of spring shines near off in the distance. For me (and other Texans), well, March arrived back in January. The trees are in bloom and even yesterday my mom and I saw some bluebonnets in full bloom, and bluebonnets never bloom until late March/April… Bleck, bleck, BLECK! (not bleck to the flowers, just the weather!) 

I hate warm winters.

Oh, I know; if I lived somewhere where it snowed day after day and had to deal with winter depression I might not mind these warm winters so much, but all I’m asking for is a little balance. A small burst of cold for a few days, then maybe some sunshine and warmer (I don’t mean 60’s or 70’s, either) temperatures and then maybe a little cold again – balance, you know? To put it in the words of Pepi from Shop Around The Corner (best Christmas movie ever): Am I asking too much??

Grapefruit Cake with Marshmallow Buttercream| Sempre Dolce

Ah, well – c’est la vie!

Since we’re on the subject of all things bright and sunshiny… where do we stand on Grapefruit? 

Grapefruit is a food I’m funny about; I don’t like it plain as it’s too tart for my tastes. But, I do like it in other things – like cake, for example. (Especially cake covered in marshmallow buttercream and topped with a blood orange glaze… ;P )

Grapefruit Cake with Marshmallow Buttercream| Sempre Dolce

I am so excited to share this recipe with you guys! All three components have me thrilled to pieces:

1. We start with a buttermilk cake (once again, I love buttermilk cakes as they are usually moist and of course delicious) and give it a little edge by adding grapefruit zest as well as actual grapefruit chunks (if you don’t like the idea of the chunks, just leave them out – no big deal!).

2. To decorate the cake, I made a marshmallow buttercream frosting – which, as a side note, has to be one of the only buttercream that I could eat by the spoonful.

For the frosting, we’re making a basic buttercream and adding a whole jar(!) of marshmallow creme which turns it into pure deliciousness!

3. To finish, I made a blood orange glaze – which turns into a lovely shade pink – for some tangy sparkle. The glaze consists of two ingredients: blood orange juice and powdered sugar. It’s really fun – wait, did I just say a glaze was fun? – and pretty; it adds the right amount of tang to compliment the cake but doesn’t overshadow any of the other flavors.

Grapefruit Cake with Marshmallow Buttercream| Sempre Dolce

If you like citrus desserts and need a little sunshine, I highly recommend trying this cake. It’s pretty (I could so see this adorning a dessert table) and not hard at all to make. I’m excited about it and think you would be too!

Grapefruit Cake with Marshmallow Buttercream| Sempre Dolce

Grapefruit Cake with Marshmallow Buttercream| Sempre Dolce

If you try it, I would LOVE to know how you liked it – comment, send me a message, or SOMETHING, just let me hear from you! :D

The lowdown: A buttermilk cake enhanced with grapefruit zest and actual chunks of grapefruit flesh is covered in a marshmallow buttercream and then finished with a blood orange glaze – the perfect cake to use up some winter citrus! 


Grapefruit Cake with Marshmallow Buttercream| Sempre Dolce

Grapefruit Cake with Marshmallow Buttercream
Serves 12
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Grapefruit Cake
  1. 2 1/2 C. cake flour
  2. 1 tsp. baking powder
  3. 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  4. 1/2 tsp. salt
  5. 1 grapefruit
  6. 12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, but not too soft!
  7. 1 1/2 C. granulated sugar
  8. 5 eggs, room temperature
  9. 1 C. buttermilk (I highly recommend using full fat buttermilk)
  10. 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
Marshmallow Buttercream
  1. 3 C. powdered sugar
  2. 1 C. (2 sticks) butter, softened
  3. 1 (7 oz) jar marshmallow creme (you could try fluff as well)
Blood Orange Glaze
  1. juice of 1 blood orange (1/4 C.)
  2. 1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
For the cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350° f.
  2. Spray three 8" round pans with baking spray (this is the kind with flour in it) or grease and line bottoms with parchment paper.
  3. Zest grapefruit and set aside. Then, cut grapefruit in half and scoop out flesh, using the same method you would as if you were going to eat it. Place grapefruit chunks in bowl and set aside.
  4. In a medium sized bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in grapefruit zest, and using a slotted spoon to remove chunks from bowl (you will want to shake off excess juice), add grapefruit chunks. Toss to combine.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a large bowl and handheld mixer), beat butter for about 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat for 2-3 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
  6. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, scraping down bowl a few times as needed.
  7. Add 1/3 flour mixture and 1/3 of the buttermilk. Beat on low speed (or by hand) until just incorporated. Using a rubber spatula and mixing by hand, add vanilla and remaining flour and buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed. The batter will look a little grainy, but that's okay - just be sure you've mixed all of the big flour patches.
  8. Divide batter evenly between pans.
  9. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs, or when when the tops of the cakes springs back when lightly pressed in the center.
  10. Transfer pans to a cooling rack and cool in pans for 1 hour, or until no longer warm.
  11. Once cooled, invert cakes onto racks (you may need to coax them by running a knife around the pans).
  12. While cakes continue cooling, make frosting. (Remember, that they already need to be pretty cool when you invert them, otherwise let them cool a bit longer before making the frosting)
For the frosting
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk (or paddle, see note below) attachment, cream together butter and sugar for 2 minutes.
  2. Add marshmallow creme and vanilla and beat for an additional 2 minutes.
To assemble
  1. Place one cake, top side down, on a cake stand (or whatever you want to decorate your cake on).
  2. Evenly spread about 1/2 C. of frosting on the first layer. Place second layer on top of first, again with the top side facing down. Spread with about another 1/2 C. frosting. Place 3rd layer on top of second, using the same top side down method.
  3. Cover the sides and top of cake with a very thin coating of frosting and freeze for 15 minutes. While freezing, place frosting in fridge.
  4. Remove cake from freezer and spread remaining frosting evenly around sides and top of cake.
Make the glaze
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together fresh blood orange juice and powdered sugar. Note: if you want a thicker glaze, add more powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it reaches your desired consistency.
  2. Pour glaze on top of cake and let drizzle down sides, using as much or little of the glaze as you would like - I didn't use quite all of it.
  3. (Once you have finished decorating, you now have permission to lick any beaters and bowls clean... ;P)
  4. Serve cake immediately, or cover and keep in fridge until ready to serve. If keeping in fridge, bring to room temperature before serving.
Notes
  1. For the frosting: I'm not sue if a regular paddle would work or not, but my brother gave me this awesome paddle attachment for our KitchenAid, (which I absolutely LOVE) and is what I used. This special paddle is super great; I now know creamed butter like I've never known it before! It has a rubber coating and a special feature that scrapes the sides of the bowl. Plus, it's dishwasher safe - big win! If you are interested in checking it out, I've included a link at the bottom of this post below the recipe. As a side note: I have not been paid or anything to tell you about this product. I just thinks it's awesome and want to let you in on it! :^)
Adapted from The Dessert Bible (cake) & Food Network (frosting)
Adapted from The Dessert Bible (cake) & Food Network (frosting)
Sempre Dolce http://sempre-dolce.com/
 SideSwipe for KitchenAid

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting

| by | Cakes & Cupcakes, Desserts, Recipes

Have you seen The Great British Bake Off?  

Chocolate Cupcakes | Sempre Dolce

It’s a funny chain of events. I first laughed at my sister’s addiction to it, but that was before my mom and I saw it and we too, became hooked. Then, my brothers laughed at at the three of us for our addiction… until they saw an episode and needless to say we are now one GBBO addicted family! 

Chocolate Cupcakes | Sempre Dolce

I don’t know if it’s the British accents, the countryside setting, the slower pace, the sunshiny classical style music, or what – but it’s awesome! It’s also terrible, though because I’ve only been able to see the first season! (we can’t get the other seasons here in the U.S. – unless there’s something I don’t know about? *hopeful face*) Argh… 

Dear Someone in the UK,

Please send me every season of The Great British Bake Off ASAP! 

Thank you, 

Deprived

While I wait for some kind soul somewhere out there to see my cry for help and send me some GBBO, let me ask you: Had any good cupcakes lately? 

Chocolate Cupcakes | Sempre Dolce

Cupcakes are actually a dessert that doesn’t show up around our house too often. I don’t know why, but that’s the case. When I do have them I like my cupcakes moist and chocolaty; not too much frosting and not too little; throw in a s’mores cupcake and you’ve got me!

How do you like your cupcakes? 

These cupcakes were originally supposed to have some Snickers involved, but that didn’t. quite. work. However, I decided that these made for pretty darn good chocolate cupcakes on their own, so here you go!

How the cupcakes work: These cupcakes are adapted from a chocolate buttermilk cake recipe and are super moist (I usually look to buttermilk, or sometimes sour cream, recipes when I want a moist cake). I added some coffee in place of half of the buttermilk, as I like the enhanced chocolate flavor (if you taste any coffee it will only be a slight hint). For the frosting, we are going with a (dark) brown sugar frosting enhanced with brown butter – totally optional – which makes for a great contrast to the chocolate.  

I had a little trouble with runniness in the frosting so here is what I did, in case you have the same problem: If you go through all of the steps and what you have is a runny mess here’s what you can do: Add some powdered sugar (a little at a time, I added 2 1/3 C. total), switch to the whisk attachment on your mixer and whip!

If still a bit runny, pop bowl in the freezer for a good 15 minutes – give a few stirs when you remove from freezer (and maybe one or two during the chilling process).

Please let me know how this recipe turns out for you!

The lowdown: Moist chocolate cupcakes topped with a dark brown sugar (and brown butter!!) frosting make for a delicious twist on your average chocolate cupcake and buttercream frosting – a must try! :) 

Chocolate Cupcakes | Sempre Dolce

Chocolate Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting
Serves 18
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For the cupcakes
  1. 1 1/2 C. cake flour
  2. 1/2 C. dutch process cocoa powder (Hershey's Dark cocoa powder works as well)
  3. 2 tsp. instant espresso powder (or instant coffee powder)
  4. 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  5. 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  6. 1/4 tsp. salt
  7. 12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, but not too soft!
  8. 1 1/4 C. granulated sugar
  9. 2 eggs + 1 egg white, room tempature
  10. 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  11. 1/2 C. buttermilk (I highly, highly reccomned using full fat buttermilk)
  12. 1/2 C. strong coffee *see note below*
For the frosting
  1. 2 C. dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  2. 1 C. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
  3. 1/4 C. heavy cream
  4. 1/4 tsp. salt
  5. 2 eggs, beaten lightly
Instructions
  1. Cupcakes
  2. Preheat oven to 350° f.
  3. Line 2 cupcake pans (this yields 18-19 cupcakes, so it will be more like 1 1/2 cupcake pans :) with cupcake liners and set aside.
  4. In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until light, about 1 minute.
  6. With the mixer on medium-high speed, gradually add sugar; mixing until fluffy and very light in color, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl a few times.
  7. Add eggs, and egg white one at a time, beating until almost completely combined after each addition.
  8. Add in vanilla and beat briefly, about 10 seconds.
  9. Stop mixer and in a liquid measuring cup (or bowl), mix together buttermilk and coffee.
  10. Turn mixer on low speed and add flour mixture to butter/sugar mixture alternately with the buttermilk/coffee in 3 parts. Mix until almost completely combined - do not overmix! Be sure to scrape sides of bowl with a rubber spatula a few times during alternations.
  11. Finish mixing by stirring batter together with rubber spatula until just combined.
  12. Divide batter evenly between cupcake liners (I used about 1/4 C. batter per liner).
  13. Bake for 14-17 minutes (1 pan baked longer than the other) or until cakes spring back when pressed lightly in the center and/or toothpick/cake tester comes out with moist crumbs. Rotate pans halfway through baking.
  14. Transfer pans to wire rack to cool. Cool completely before frosting.
  15. While cupcakes are cooling, start frosting.
Dark Brown Sugar (and brown butter!) Frosting
  1. In a medium-small sized saucepan placed over medium-low heat, melt butter until butter goes from it's lemon-like yellow color to a toasty brown, swirling the pan to ensure even cooking. (if you have never browned butter before, I recommend reading the more detailed how to on The Kitchn)
  2. Once we have some delicious brown butter, maintain the medium-low heat and to the saucepan with the butter, add brown sugar, cream, and salt. Cook until mixture begins to simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  3. Add eggs to mixture, stirring to combine. Return pan to heat and simmer, stirring constantly, for 2-9 minutes, or until mixture is thick and foamy.
  4. Cool completely - this took 1 1/2 hours.
  5. About 30 minutes before continuing, set remaining 1/2 C. butter out to warm to room temperature.
  6. Once brown butter mixture is cool, transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer (a hand mixer can also be used). Cut room temperature butter into pieces and add to brown sugar mixture.
  7. Beat until butter is completely blended and frosting has lightened in color (the texture will also be smooth), about 1-2 minutes, occasionally scraping bottom and sides of bowl.
  8. Pipe or spread onto cupcakes and enjoy immediately or place in fridge until desired serving time!
Notes
  1. If you don't wish to add the coffee, just substitute with an additional 1/2 C. of buttermilk.
Adapted from The Dessert Bible by Christopher Kimball
Adapted from The Dessert Bible by Christopher Kimball
Sempre Dolce http://sempre-dolce.com/
Chocolate Cupcakes | Sempre Dolce

 

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