Dovetailing off the Chicken Enchiladas I made for the Sho-Yu holiday party we had (yes, still a few months behind here), I wanted to share the dessert I made for the potluck! I took advantage of hosting the party this year and picked a dessert that could be served hot out of the oven – bread pudding! And not just any bread pudding – croissant bread pudding. Sometimes I find bread pudding using bread (challah, brioche, etc.) can get a little too dense. And let’s be honest – if you’re going to have bread pudding, you might as well commit to the buttery, flaky goodness that croissants can bring to the table!
I’ve been a fan of Michael Chiarello for a few years now, after Kevin and I ate at his Italian restaurant in Yountville, Bottega Napa Valley, which is still arguably our favorite Italian meal (including the ones we had IN Italy!). I’ve also had the pleasure of dining at his tapas restaurant in San Francisco, Coqueta, where my favorite grilled octopus can be found. He spoke at an event I worked on at Coqueta, and my boss at the time knew I was a fan and insisted on getting me a photo with him.
After some research online for just the right recipe, I came across Michael Chiarello’s Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding recipe, and couldn’t wait to make it. I do admit that I made a few adjustments to it, skipping the raisins and bourbon as well as adding an extra 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped small (I use Guittard chocolate baking bars for best results)
In a blender or stand mixer*, combine butter and sugar process until well blended. Add cinnamon, and vanilla, and pulse to combine. *The original recipe says to use a food processor, but it’s too much liquid for the food processor to handle.
While the mixer is running, pour the beaten eggs into the mixture. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides. Add the heavy cream and pulse to combine.
Lightly butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Break up the croissants into 1-inch pieces and layer in the pan. Scatter the bittersweet chocolate over the top, and gently mix to incorporate. Pour the egg mixture over the croissants; soak for 8 to 10 minutes. You will need to push croissants pieces down during this time to ensure even coverage by egg mixture.
Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake for additional 10 minutes to brown the top. The croissant bread pudding is done when the custard is set, but still soft. Allow to cool. Serve with the ice cream of your choice! I used Alden’s Organic Salted Caramel Ice Cream.
I cooked up a STORM of freezer friendly meals over weeks leading up to Mia’s arrival last fall. I found a recipe for the “best enchiladas ever” on Gimme Some Oven and was obviously intrigued. I liked that the site also provided a recipe for enchilada sauce from scratch. I don’t mind store-bought, but I really like knowing what is my food and being able to make adjustments accordingly.
This recipe is great for parties too. The theme of this year’s annual Sho-Yu holiday party was Mexican food, and this ended up being a great potluck dish!
Here’s the recipe, as adapted from Gimme Some Oven. I highly recommend doubling the recipe, eating half for now and freezing the rest!
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small white onion, peeled and diced
1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, shredded or diced into small 1/2-inch pieces (*see substitution below for making shredded chicken)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare your enchilada sauce, if making homemade.
In large saute pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cooked chicken and green chiles, and season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.
To assemble the enchiladas, set up an assembly line including: tortillas, enchilada sauce, chicken mixture, and cheese. Lay out a tortilla, and spread two tablespoons of sauce over the surface of the tortilla. Add a spoonful of the chicken mixture on top of the tortilla, then sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese. Roll up tortilla and place in a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish, lined with foil for easy clean-up (unless you love really scraping melted cheese off your baking dishes). Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Then spread the remaining enchilada sauce on top of the tortillas, and sprinkle on the remaining shredded cheese.
Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately, garnished with chopped fresh cilantro if desired.
*If you are using pre-cooked chicken, just leave it out of the saute and cook the onion and green chiles for 1 additional minute (instead of 6-8). Once you remove the onion and green chiles from the heat, stir in the chicken (which should be shredded or chopped into bite-sized pieces). You can find instructions on how to make shredded chicken here via slow cooker or stove top.
I made this for a two different parties, one with and one without the peppermint and I did find some people just don’t like mint and chocolate together, while others just do. If I made this again, I’d make half the batch with the mint and half plain. I found the Cookies and Cups’ version to be a little too sweet, so the second time around, I added a wee bit of salt to mellow it out a little.
1/2 C butter, room temperature
4 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C dry hot chocolate mix (about 2 packets; without mini marshmallows)
1/3 C + 1 TBSP heavy whipping cream
In a small saucepan combine hot chocolate mix and cream. Heat over medium until hot and steaming…not quite boiling, stirring consistently. You want the sugar in the hot chocolate to dissolve. Set aside to cool.
In large mixing bowl cream butter until smooth.
Add in powdered sugar and salt, and mix until combined. It will be very dry.
Turn mixer to low and slowly pour in your hot chocolate mixture (I learned the second time around that it’s easier than throwing it all in and then mixing it together). Once all is added turn mixer up to medium and beat for about a minute until light and fluffy, scarping down sides of bowl when necessary.
Spread or pipe on cupcakes.
(OPTIONAL): If you want to make mint hot chocolate frosting, just pulverize some of your leftover candy canes in a food processor and sprinkle over the top. I saw these pink mint-flavored marshmallows at Target and thought it sounded good but it didn’t look that appealing (see gallery).
I recalled having Baskin-Robbins ice cream cakes on quite a few birthday celebrations for Crystal throughout the 10+ years I’ve known her. And any time she had a chance to bring dessert to a potluck, she brought ice cream cake. I thought it might be somewhat of a no-brainer to see if she’d want one for her birthday potluck a few weekends ago, but I wanted to make sure she’d be into it. This is literally the conversation we had verbatim:
Allison: hi friend, do you have room in your freezer if i made an ice cream cake for saturday?
The full recipe is a little long, so bear with me. I didn’t include the ice cream recipes, since I used store-bought ice cream on this cake. I don’t have an ice cream maker, but Dreyer’s Grand (not the slow-churned stuff!) has great consistency for spreading the ice cream. I will leave the links for the sauces that I made to shorten this post a bit. I used Brown Eyed Baker’s strawberry and pineapple sauce recipe, but I used Food Network’s Tyler Florence’s version for the chocolate sauce (I generally just don’t like using corn syrup).
Since we were expecting 25 people at the potluck, I made two cakes in a 9×3 springform pan and a small loaf tin for the second cake, using 1.5 the amount of the suggested ingredients. This ended up being a 5-day process, given my day job. I got nervous the ice cream would freezer burn being out that long, as I’ve had frequent freezer burn problems with my freezer. After lots of Googling, I found that using parchment paper helps prevent it. Each time I finished a layer that would be in the freezer overnight or while I was at work, I cut out a 9″ round piece of parchment paper to keep in contact with the top layer of ice cream or sauce. This recipe is just for one 8×3 inch springform pan’s worth of awesomeness.
1. Spray an 8×3-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom and sides with parchment paper; set aside.
2. Assemble the Crust: Combine the Oreo cookie crumbs with the melted butter, tossing until all of the crumbs are evenly moistened. Press into an even layer in the bottom of the prepared pan. Top with the banana slices. Place the pan in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.
3. Assemble the Strawberry Layer: Top the banana layer with the strawberry ice cream. Use an offset spatula (or the back of a giant spoon) to spread the ice cream into a smooth, even layer. Place the pan back in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
4. Pour the strawberry topping over the strawberry ice cream and gently spread so that it covers the entire ice cream layer beneath. Return to the freezer for at least 1 hour, or until completely frozen. This is where I took a break and froze the cake overnight, so I put a layer of parchment paper down to prevent freezer burn.
5. Assemble the Chocolate Layer: Top the strawberry layer with the chocolate ice cream. Use an offset spatula to spread the ice cream into a smooth, even layer. Place the pan back in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, or until firm and set.
6. Pour the hot fudge sauce over the chocolate ice cream and gently spread so that it covers the entire ice cream layer beneath. Return to the freezer for at least 1 hour, or until completely frozen.
7. Assemble the Vanilla Layer: Top the hot fudge layer with the vanilla ice cream. Use an offset spatula to spread the ice cream into a smooth, even layer. Cover with plastic wrap, return the assembled cake to the freezer and freeze overnight. Don’t forget the layer of parchment paper!
8. Final Assembly and Garnishment: At least 1 hour (and no more than 12 hours) before serving, unmold the cake. To release the cake from the pan, invert the cake onto a plate or cardboard round the same size and wrap a hot kitchen towel around the cake pan, keeping it there for 30 seconds, or until the cake loosens and slide the pan off.
Remove the parchment (and bottom of pan if using a springform). Top with a serving plate and turn the cake right side up. Return to the freezer for at least 10 minutes.
9. While the cake is in the freezer, make the whipped cream. Combine the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the cream is light and fluffy and holds a medium to firm peak, 2 to 3 minutes.
10. Just prior to serving, pipe the whipped cream into mounds around the outer edge of the cake, making sure the mounds touch so that no pineapple sauce leaks down the top. Place a maraschino cherry on top of each whipped cream mound.
11. Fill in the space in the middle with the pineapple topping and top with chopped walnuts. A hot, dry knife will yield the cleanest cuts. Dip your knife in a glass of hot water, wipe it clean with a towel, and cut a slice. Repeat between every slice. Store leftover slices in airtight containers (or covered with parchment paper and foil) in the freezer.
Note: If you are making homemade ice cream, your best bet is to time the assembly so that you can add the freshly-churned ice cream right onto the cake. It will be the perfect consistency. If you will be using already-made ice cream, put it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before you plan to need it and then mix it really well with a spatula so that it is smooth and spreadable.
After work the day before the BBQ, I pulled the cake out of the freezer to check on it and saw this:
My dad had accidentally left two heavy WARM ice packs on top of the parchment paper layer of cake the night before, and the packs had melted the already soft ice cream and pushed it down, causing the top layer to get a little foamy and spill out the sides of the pan. My 4 days of work leading up to that had been ruined. I could only think of one thing to say, but it was already too late. After a good hour of wanting to take a wrecking ball to my kitchen, I calmed down tried to figure out how to salvage the cake. I re-froze the cake, and then scraped off as much as I could of the vanilla layer without breaking the chocolate sauce layer. I put another layer of parchment paper down and froze it for a few hours. I reapplied the vanilla ice cream layer, put another layer of parchment down and froze it overnight. The next morning, I made the whipped cream and piped it on to the cake, and filled the top with the pineapple sauce.
The cake layers definitely weren’t as perfect as I had hoped, but there was no time to start the cake over. Thankfully, Sho-Yu is definitely not a crowd to judge based on appearances as we tend to just inhale sweets however imperfect they may look.
I do think Crystal was a happy camper with the cake, and there were no leftovers which is always a good sign.
I’m having trouble accepting that summer is over and we’re merely days away from the first day of fall. My days of tanning frantically so that people stop asking me if I’m sick are over, and I won’t have to worry about being seen in a swimsuit anymore.
…I think I’ll be able to cope with it. I’ve been really behind on baking due to the never ending list of weekend social, athletic, and work obligations this summer. Every weekend seemed to present itself with weddings or basketball tournaments (sometimes both), or work events. Luckily, there was ONE weekend in August where I had time to make something – luckily it also happened to be Kelli‘s birthday potluck with Sho-Yu. Since she loves all things salted caramel, I whipped up a batch of Salted Caramel Cupcakes. I found the recipe on Cookies and Cups, who adapted it from The Butch Bakery Cookbook. I actually did some adapting of my own to the recipe, after making Cookies and Cups’ version of the caramel sauce. I thought the original recipe left the caramel sauce a bit too watery and not rich enough, so I ended up making a second version of the caramel sauce. Below is what I’m recommending!
10 TBSP butter
2 1/4 C packed brown sugar
1/4 C whole milk
1 3/4 C all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
12 TBSP butter, room temperature
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 C whole milk
3/4 C reserved caramel sauce
3 C powdered sugar
4 TBSP butter, room temperature
1 TBSP milk
Sea Salt for topping
In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the brown sugar for a bit (it won’t melt the way white sugar does), and then add the butter and milk. Bring to a boil.
Let mixture until all of the sugar is melted (about 3 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool. If you’re finding that the caramel is too liquidy, add more sugar. Conversely, if you’re finding that the caramel hardens when you dip a spoon and pull it out for a bit, add a little more butter.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.
In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together.
In mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar over medium speed for 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and continue beating until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl when necessary.
Add the flour and the milk, beating on low speed until ingredients are just combined.
Fill each liner a little more than 1/2 full. I used a 1/4 measuring cup to scoop but don’t use a full 1/4 cup in each cupcake liner.
Bake approx 20 minutes until centers are set.
Transfer to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.
While cupcakes are cooling make the frosting. Combine butter, powdered sugar 3/4 cup prepared (and COOLED) caramel sauce and milk in a mixing bowl. Beat ingredients together about 2 minutes until creamy.
After cupcakes have cooled for about 10 minutes, pierce the tops of cupcakes with a sharp knife or skewer about 10 times. Pour about 1 tablespoon of caramel sauce on top of each cupcake, allowing it to absorb into the holes.
Let the cupcakes finish cooling completely and then frost with about 2 tablespoons of frosting on each. Or you can just pipe the frosting on as I did.
Lightly sprinkle your cupcakes with (coarse or flaked) sea salt.