Yeasted coffee cake

My friends, let's talk about yeasted coffee cake!  Did you know there was such a thing?  Maybe it's just me but I'd never thought of it or had it before...at least not knowingly. 
Maybe it's not a huge stretch of the imagination when we think about yeasted sweet doughs we know and love - everything from cinnamon rolls to brioche, to babka. Well, now I've had yeasted coffee cake and I'll just say it is big-time tasty!  Not only that, this recipe is easy...oh so very dangerously easy...
This recent sweet breakfast came to be thanks to my son's love of these coffee cake muffins - we adore the small-batch recipe from Dessert for Two so much that I now have to double the recipe when I make it!  So I went looking for other ideas and came across a yeasted version of coffee cake that had me totally intrigued.  
Like many of Christina's recipe, it seemed almost too good to be true, too easy to be the case but again, the proof was in the results.  The process is so simple.  Just mix the ingredients together to form the dough, then spread it into a loaf pan (this is a small-batch recipe, perfect for feeding my family of 3) - no kneading involved!  All you need is about 45 minutes to an hour of time for proofing, to let the dough do its magic.  If you plan to serve it for breakfast, I can tell you it's a great do-ahead.  I made the dough and crumb topping the day before and stored everything in the refrigerator.  In the morning, I let the dough proof before popping it in the oven and we had warm, fragrant yeasted coffee cake to start the day with.
Through the magic of yeast, the cake is soft, fluffy, and a bit chewy; it has a wonderful light texture.  The crumb topping is what you know and love, with an added chocolate bonus!  I thought of the cinnamon rolls I make and how I always include a little chocolate in the filling; in that vein, I scattered a couple of tablespoons of mini chocolate chips among the streusel for this cake and it was lovely; I highly recommend it. 

If all that wasn't enough, drizzle a bit of glaze on top and there you have a sweet breakfast worthy of waking up early on a weekend morning for.  For us, it certainly perked up a cloudy Saturday morning.



Double chocolate oatmeal cookies

For me, a surefire way to make an already good recipe involving chocolate even better is to add more chocolate!  So here we are with some chocolate chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies.  
When in doubt, I make cookies.  It's baking therapy - the simple act of whipping up a batch of chocolate-chip cookies always soothes me and makes me feel useful.  Then you realize you also have the bonus of fresh homemade cookies to share with your family and to tuck away into your cookie jar for times when someone needs a treat!
Chocolate-chip cookies and oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies are ones I make often because it's something no one ever gets tired of.  In fact, they're things we eat and often feel caught off-guard by in how good they are...they make us remember how nice and satisfying a simple cookie can be.  So I embrace all my cookie-making and eating moments.  This time, I jumped on the chance to try a batch of double chocolate oatmeal cookies. 
They're dark, soft, chewy, sweet and chocolaty...it's hard not to love them so basically, I heartily recommend making a batch, soon!



Chocolate mint bars

One thing leads to another...after making revel bars, I thought I'd make another bar dessert that I've had on my list for a long time: chocolate mint bars.  Since St. Patrick's Day is coming up, a touch of green seems appropriate right now.  Clearly, I embrace all kinds of excuses to make treats!
I had my son in mind for these because he is a big fan of the chocolate + mint combination. These 3-layer treats feature a base layer of chocolate cake/brownie, followed by a cooling and sweet layer of mint frosting, topped with (my favorite part) a chocolate glaze. 
The chocolate mint bars I made are a result/collaboration between a couple of recipes. I based them off of both recipes from Hershey's (this one as well as this) and one from Cooking Light.  Typically, you'll see chocolate syrup used for the base layer but I found a Hershey's recipe that used cocoa powder instead, which I preferred.  I scaled the recipes down and made a few tweaks here and there.  In the end, I had an 8x8" pan of these minty chocolate bars that I've been meaning to try for ages. 
It's clearly all about the layers, which marry together so well.  Bite into it and the first thing that hits me, and what lingers, is that creamy chocolate glaze on top...that's my favorite part.  And the minty flavor is always refreshing and works so well with chocolate.  It's a time honored classic for obvious reasons.  So call it frosted mint brownies or mint chocolate cake you can eat with your hands...either way, it's a tasty little treat!



Grits in the morning...breakfast/brunch inspiration

You know how much I love a good weekend breakfast or brunch (a lot!).  I look forward to filling the dining room table with food and sitting down for a leisurely meal with my husband and son.  The little man finishes and usually takes off after a while but my husband and I linger at the table for a long while just chatting and enjoying a few cups of coffee.
Above all else, I like eating and being at home these days.  But I also make it a point to go out once in a while (especially on Sundays for brunch) and take advantage of some of the amazing restaurants available to us, as we live so close to NYC.  I try to mix things up and in our latest outing a few weeks ago, we went to Amy Ruth's in Harlem. It's known for soul food and, specifically, the fried chicken and waffles.  We'd been there many years ago but thought it would be a nice change to head there again.
We had a good breakfast at Amy Ruth's and our favorite dish turned out to be the smothered fried chicken, served with white corn grits and eggs.  I realized I'd never cooked grits despite how much I love similar things like porridge and oatmeal.  So I was inspired by that breakfast outing to cook grits for breakfast back home!  I love when inspiration strikes.
Here we have breakfast of grits, bacon and eggs, with a side of toast.  Nothing too out of the ordinary but so hearty and satisfying.  One of the things I liked about the grits at Amy Ruth's was how it was a great blank canvas for the smothered chicken.  I asked the server whether the grits were cooked with water or milk and she told me, as I suspected, that it was made with just water.  I was happy to hear it and I did the same at home.  You can source good stone-ground grits but for a novice like me, I settled for the quick cooking kind easily found in a canister.  You know what?  It tasted just like the one at the restaurant.  

You don't always get inspired eating out but it's such fun when it happens.  I keep a little list of restaurants to try out for brunch and I'm hoping for some good meals as well as a little inspiration to take back home every now and then.



Revel bars (oatmeal-fudge cookie bars)

This has been a bit of an odd winter for us, with abnormally warm temps that suddenly dip into the very low double-digits.  I find that with the swing in temps, my cooking/baking as well as eating habits have been jumping all over the place, too.  So when the weather turned cold this weekend, I took it as an excuse to bake up something hearty.  I turned to my "to-try" list and decided to make a batch of Revel bars.
I never had these cookie bars growing up and I don't know exactly how the name, Revel Bars, came about but I have to assume it's to assure us that we will be very happy eating them.  My knowledge of them comes from having seen them on blogs (including this delectable peanut butter version from Tricia at Saving Room for Dessert, which I would have gladly made if my fellas are as into peanut butter desserts as I've become).  The bars always look drool-worthy and I've had them on my "to-bake" list for some time... 

And how could they not be drool-worthy when Revel Bars are basically oatmeal bar cookies with a chocolate fudge-like center!
You make a relatively basic oatmeal cookie dough, press two-thirds of it into a baking pan for the base, then make a simple chocolate fudge layer by melting sweetened condensed milk with chocolate chips and butter.  The fudge gets spread over the cookie base and then you dollop the remaining oatmeal cookie dough on the surface before baking it altogether for about 25 minutes.  
I suggest starting these early in the morning because you need to allow time for cooling.  The cookie bar needs to cool completely in the pan so the fudge layer sets up and the bars are easy to slice.  When they're finally ready, I think you will revel in these as much as we did.  

The cookie bars may be rich but they aren't achingly sweet.  I adore the texture - the oatmeal cookie portion is chewy while the fudgy layer adds an extra dimension of richness, creaminess, as well as chewiness of its own.  These are fudge oatmeal cookies in bar form and great for a crowd, for sharing in general.  
There's something about bar cookies/desserts...somehow, they're almost always good and generally rich.  These Revel bars were aptly named and were a hit with us and friends we shared them with!


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