Chocolate Pomegranate Brownie Cake

If you’re not a dog or allergic, there is no such thing as too much chocolate, especially during the holiday season. To celebrate both chocolate and an excess of pomegranates in my house, I decided I should make this amazing cake for Holiday Baking 2016.

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This dessert is truly a show-stopper. It’s colorful, shiny and looks like it’s a lot of work, but it’s secretly super easy to make. Deseeding the pomegranate is a little laborious, but it’s a task of brute force, not skill. I’ve left some brief instructions on how I got the arils out below the recipe, but there are tons of videos online if you need to see it being done.

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Ultimately, the best part is that it’s gooey and delicious and will make you the hero of whatever holiday celebration you’re attending. Seriously, this thing will stand out on any dessert table AND it’s the perfect stand alone dessert as well.

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Just look at that brownie coated in ganache… it’s a dream come true for chocolate lovers. I’m getting hungry just looking at the photo.

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There is truly nothing tastier or more festive than this brownie cake, either. It’s rich, decadent and covered in nature’s Christmas ornaments.

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Ingredients

  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup butter, cut into cubes
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 4 ounce recipe chocolate ganache
  • ¼ cup pomegranate arils

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350º F.

In a bain marie, heat your chocolate and butter until the mixture is fully melted and comes together. This should take around 7 minutes.

Take the bowl off heat and whisk in the sugar and brown sugar until completely combined. If the mixture is still hot to the touch, let it cool for a few minutes before adding the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition.

Add the cocoa powder, salt and flour and whisk just until the batter comes together.

Grease and line an 8 inch round pan with parchment paper and pour the batter in. Bake for 30-33 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs.

Let the cake cool completely before decorating with ganache and pomegranate arils.

To deseed a pomegranate, score a ring around the middle of the fruit and use your fingers to pry it in half–this preserves more arils, as cutting it down the middle ruptures them.

Place the pomegranate half open side down into a small bowl of cold water and start to peel back the skin. The arils might need a little nudge, so running your finger along the bottom will help them fall out.

If any of the white part–the pith, as it’s apparently called–catches onto the arils, just let it be and skim it off later. Repeat this process until all the arils are gone. I ended up using about half a pomegranate’s worth, which was around a quarter cup.

To decorate, pour the ganache over the cake and, before it sets, sprinkle the arils on top. Set the cake in the fridge so the ganache sets a little before serving.

Chewy Gingerbread Bars

Recipe number two of this year’s baking extravaganza is here, and this is one I’m really excited to share. Gingerbread is often thought about in the context of houses or cookies, but I decided to take it to the next level and make soft, chewy bars.

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These are not for the faint of heart either; I love ginger, so I added quite a lot. Desserts that aren’t too sweet are always sort of interesting and usually taste really good, so I couldn’t help but overdo it just a little bit. To cut the spicy flavor, though, I added white chocolate and metallic sanding sugar on top.

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I think there’s nothing that screams the holidays like gingerbread does, especially because it has such a distinct flavor. Ginger is usually thought of as an Asian spice, and is predominantly a feature of more savory or spicy dishes. Using ginger in a dessert is a lot of fun and has a great result. Totally worth it to take food photos outdoors with a windchill below zero, I guarantee it.

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Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ⅓ cups all purpose flour

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375º F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, brown sugar and butter until the mixture comes together. Add the molasses and stir until completely combined.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Add the baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt and mix until you can’t see any specks left in the batter.

Stir in the flour and mix until the batter just comes together; you don’t want to overmix.

Line a 13 x 9 baking pan with parchment paper or foil, and spread the batter evenly in it.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs.

Let the bars cool completely before cutting or decorating.

Almond Shortbread Cookies

It’s Holiday Baking 2016, and I could not be more excited.  I can’t wait for my time off so I can spend the days in my nice, warm kitchen baking up a storm for my friends, my family and myself. If you’re anything like me, the posts over the next few weeks are really going to interest you, because you’re going to keep getting original and seasonal recipes between now and Christmas. Hype!

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First off I’m tackling traditional Christmas shortbread and giving it a little more flavor and pizzazz. These almond shortbread cookies are amazing; the soft and crumbly cookie pairs perfectly with the almond slices on top, and the almond extract–if you choose to include it–adds a nice sweetness. On top of that, they’re also extremely pretty. Who could say no to that?

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These cookies are super festive (they look like little wreaths!) and would be perfect as a gift or a party snack over this winter break.

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They’re also super easy to make. The longest step of the process is waiting for the dough to chill, and everything else goes really smoothly, even cutting the circles. I ended up using the opening of a mason jar to get the size I wanted, but you could use circle cutters, cookie cutters or even rims tops of glasses or small bowls. They don’t even have to be circular; I just think it looks nicer that way.

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I hope you guys enjoy recipe number one of Holiday Baking 2016. If you tried these, leave a comment letting me how they turned out. Happy Holidays!

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup salted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk (plus more for sticking almonds)
  • ½ cup almond slices
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

Instructions

In a mixing bowl, beat together the powdered sugar and butter together until it forms a light paste. Add in the flour ½ cup at a time and mix until the mixture takes on a crumbly texture.

Add the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together, and the almond extract if you’re using it. The dough should still be slightly crumbly and not at all wet.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it for 30-40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325º F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Dust a clean surface with flour and roll the dough out to ¼ of an inch thick. Using a cookie cutter (or any of the aforementioned substitutes) cut out circles and set them on the baking sheet.

Brush each with milk, then arrange the almond slices in a wreath pattern. Sprinkle each cookie with sugar and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.

Let cool for 5 minutes on the sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.

Coconut Hot Chocolate

December is here and the snow is falling, so there’s only one logical thing to do: hide in your bed and wait for the people with the snow plows to clear the roads. And what better to do while in bed than watch Netflix and drink hot chocolate? Sounds pretty good to me.

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And the best way to make hot chocolate is to make it accessible to everyone by also making dairy-free version using coconut milk instead of cow’s milk. The coconut milk is super thick and creamy and does a good job sweetening up the drink; you have to use pretty dark chocolate to get it dairy-free. It’s totally awesome, and you can either choose to play up the coconut flavor or cover it as much as possible. Enjoy, and stay warm this winter!

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Ingredients

  • 1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup coconut cream
  • 1 cup coconut flakes (optional)
  • marshmallows (optional)

Instructions

In a small saucepan, heat up the coconut milk to a simmer. Add in the powdered sugar and cocoa powder, and whisk until the sugar is dissolved.

Turn off the heat and stir in the chocolate until it melts. If you’re having trouble melting the chocolate, turn the heat on to a low setting until it’s completely combined.

Pour the hot chocolate into a mug or two and top with whipped coconut cream, coconut flakes and marshmallows.