Baking Fun for the Weekend

The forecast for St. Louis this weekend is rain, clouds, and more rain, thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Isaac. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining at all. We are so deep in the depths of a drought that any rain is fabulous. Rainy days make me want to bake. Weekends, especially long weekends give me time to bake.

On this last weekend of summer, according to some, I thought I would share some of my favorite desserts from the summer’s posts, and maybe inspire you to try one.


I can’t end the summer without revisiting an ice cream recipe. Try Cinnamon Ice Cream for something different.

If you want to go all out, top it with Hot Fudge Sauce and experience a little ice cream heaven.

Or you could take just a few minutes to whip up Vanilla Shortbread and revel in the decadence of a cookie that showcases butter. All butter, all the time.

If you are looking for relatively healthy, but still indulgent breakfast, make Banana Muffins. They take no time to make, but you can also make them the day before so they will be ready when you roll out of bed and start the coffee brewing on a lazy weekend morning.

Finally, if you want a quick (and I mean quick) dessert to take to any party or dinner, try White Texas Sheet Cake. This recipe takes just a few minutes to put together, and you can stir it up with a wooden spoon and bowl – no mixer required. If you don’t need a large cake, half of the recipe fits into a 9 by 13 pan beautifully. Just cut all the ingredient amounts exactly in half and you are good to go.

What are you baking, or eating, this Labor Day weekend?

Any Excuse to Eat Ice Cream

Calvin got his next stage of braces today – two-plus hours to get brackets on every tooth, along with a lot of other additions to his hardware. If he asked me for ice cream for dinner, I would give it to him. He hasn’t asked yet, so I am going with macaroni and cheese, with applesauce and some sort of zucchini as side dishes. Then we will go out for ice cream after dinner. Rich and I aren’t going through orthodontic hassles personally, but we can’t just sit and watch Calvin eat his ice cream. It is rude to stare, especially if we keep asking for bites.

I thought braces galore called for a post on the ice cream we made over the weekend. The inspiration for our Spicy Chocolate Ice Cream came from a recipe for Mexican hot chocolate fudgesicles in Feast magazine, along with our experiments a few years ago to make Calvin’s Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies into cinnamon/chipotle/cayenne chocolate cookies. Those experiments never really panned out the way we wanted, but the ice cream was a winner on the first try.

I started with a teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/16 of a teaspoon of powdered chipotle in our favorite chocolate ice cream recipe. I tasted the unfrozen mix and couldn’t really taste any heat, though it was good. I bumped it up to 1/8 teaspoon and there was the kick, the heat on the tongue I was looking for. If that isn’t to your tastes, use the smaller amount of chipotle powder or leave it out all-together. There is nothing wrong with chocolate cinnamon ice cream.

The spicy version was fabulous with our homemade hot fudge and our failed ice cream cone bits (recipe for those coming after a few more test batches). Rich liked his better without the cone pieces. He had maraschino cherries on his, too, but he thought it would have been better just to keep it simple. Imagine this ice cream on a piece of dark chocolate cake, or mixed with crushed Oreos.

What excuse, if any, do you use when you want ice cream?

Spicy Chocolate Ice Cream
from The Cook’s Life
Makes 1½ quarts

 With the larger amount of chipotle or cayenne, this ice cream has a kick. Feel free to use the smaller amount or leave it out to make cinnamon chocolate ice cream.

 Because of the large amount of cocoa, this ice cream does get a little harder in the freezer than some other flavors. The optional vodka will keep the ice cream a little softer and more scoopable, but feel free to leave it out.

1/3 cup granulated sugar*
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/16-1/8 teaspoon powdered chipotle or cayenne
½ cup cocoa
Dash salt
2 cups half and half*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon vodka (optional)

Stir sugar, cocoa and salt together in a medium bowl. Gradually add half and half, making a paste at first to get all the cocoa mixed in thoroughly. Add vanilla and stir until sugar is dissolved. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions – ours takes about 25 minutes. Add vodka, if using, during last 5 minutes of freezing. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze for several hours before serving.

*Use ½ cup sugar for a sweeter ice cream. But try it once with less sugar and see how you like it. You can also use an equivalent amount of Splenda for sugar-free ice cream.

** You can use all cream, which will make a richer ice cream. Half and half makes a creamy ice cream, with a little less fat and without the greasy mouth feel you can sometimes get with all cream.

Download the recipe here.

Brownie Sundaes on the Fourth

We got to have a holiday within a vacation this year, with the Fourth of July falling in the middle of our week in Colorado. It both felt like a holiday, and didn’t, since we were already off work, but it was a great day. Rich’s parents took Calvin to the town parade, but Rich and I decided to skip the crowds and go on a hike. Everyone else in the area was at the parade, it seemed, so we had the trail to ourselves. We could hear the celebration in the distance every so often, but it was mostly quiet, with a few bird calls. Ah, bliss!

We spent the afternoon relaxing and then getting ready for our barbecue dinner. We planned brownies, vanilla ice cream (not homemade, since the condo doesn’t have an ice cream maker for some reason. If you have one, try this recipe) and hot fudge sauce for dessert. The brownies were from “Pie in the Sky” by Susan Purdy. We used the adaptations for 10,000 feet, but I am posting the sea level version since I think they will have more universal appeal. The brownies were good yesterday, but they are actually better today. The fudge sauce was my recipe from the Joy of Cooking. It was an experiment, since I wasn’t sure how to adapt it for high altitude. It ended up working just fine, with no adaptations – another point in that recipe’s favor.

The rest of the dinner (in case you are interested in more than dessert) was hamburgers, bratwurst, corn on the cob, baked beans, parmesan crusted zucchini chips, salad with every veggie we could think of and chips and dip. We could hardly fit the brownie sundaes in, but we managed.

Rich’s folks invited their friends, Jim and Paige, to share our celebratory dinner. In fact, Paige follows the blog and saw my mention of the brownies in Tuesday’s post. She and Jim were hoping I hadn’t changed my mind about making them before they came for dinner. Paige and I talked a little about cooking and baking at high altitude. She and I will have to talk more the next time we come for a visit. Paige, I know you are reading this, so be sure to post a comment.

I hope everyone reading had a good celebration for the Fourth. To me, there is nothing better than a day when you can do what you like, topped off by a dinner with friends and family. Brownies sundaes for dessert can’t hurt either.

Independence Pass Brownies
from “Pie in the Sky” by Susan G. Purdy
Adapted slightly by The Cook’s Life
Makes 9-12 brownies, 8-inch square pan

These baked up into slightly chewy, very dark brownies. They were good the day they were made, but they were even better the next day. The chocolate chips all sank to the bottom of mine. You might want to sprinkle some, or all, of the chips on top of your brownies instead of mixing them in.

1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts or white chocolate chips (optional, I didn’t use them)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan.

Mix cocoa, flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Beat eggs in a separate bowl. Add vanilla and butter and mix well. Add egg mixture to cocoa mixture and stir well. Make sure there are no dry streaks of flour. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs. Don’t over bake. Cool the brownies on a wire rack before cutting into squares.