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Happiness is a chocolatey treat that’s comforting and goes with your favourite cup of jo! But here’s the thing if you’re going to enjoy something this decadent first thing in the morning – like these double chocolate coconut yogurt muffins, make sure you mean business!  Seriously, they are chocolate on chocolate and you can’t be sorry about it. So don’t bother cutting back on the chocolate or the sugar, enjoy what they are or else you’re just robbing yourself of something delicious. Savour your treat, it’s better than buying a chocolate cake to fix that craving later!

These are the best chocolate muffins that I’ve made yet. They are super chocolatey, moist with a crunchy coconut top. The yogurt in these muffins makes me feel like I’m balancing the unhealthy part, ha! Let’s be real, I’m dreaming right?! But it does help keep these muffins moist.  Just like buttermilk it keeps baked goods moist and tender by breaking down gluten and added that acidic tang. Buttermilk, yogurt and sour cream are key baking ingredients and I just love working with them, especially in muffins. If you haven’t discovered baking with these ingredients yet, well, you’re missing out. Whenever I have sour cream or buttermilk kicking around in the fridge I feel inspired to make some muffins (one of my favourite things to bake).

What I love about muffins is the ease of popping them into the freezer and pulling one or two out. I can throw a muffin in my purse for a snack later or add one to my  lunch for a busy day ahead.  They are just the perfect snack; I find muffins so comforting.

Whether you want to call these chocolate muffins a dessert rather than breakfast or a snack, just make sure you try them, share them and enjoy each and everyone one of them!

Happy Baking!

 

Double Chocolate Coconut Yogurt Muffins
 
Prep time
10 mins
Cook time
15 mins
Total time
25 mins
 
Author: Alie Romano
Serves: 16
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup canola oil (or vegetable, safflower, or coconut oil)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1¾ cups (224 g) all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup (80 g) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (170 g) chocolate chips and/or chunks
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (extra to sprinkle on top of muffins)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F. Line a muffin tin with liners and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl mix sugar with eggs, yogurt, milk, oil and vanilla. Mix well. In a separate bowl, add flour, sifted cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine dry ingredients. Add coconut and chocolate chips; mix together.
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring lightly until combined.
  4. Evenly spoon batter into muffin cups. Sprinkle extra coconut on top of each muffin.
  5. Place muffins in the middle of your preheated oven. Bake for 4 minutes then turn heat down to 350˚F and continue to bake for another 10 - 12 minutes or just until tops start to crack and are set. DO NOT OVERBAKE!
  6. Let cool in the pan for 2 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.
Notes
Store muffins in a tin for 2-3 days or store in a freezer bag and freeze for up to a month.

Best enjoyed the day of for crunchy muffin tops.
3.4.3177

 

The post Double Chocolate Coconut Yogurt Muffins appeared first on Baking for friends.

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Baking for friends by Alie Romano - 2w ago

Ever since I can remember I grew up with home cooked meals lovely made by mom and dad.  Always the whole family was together at the dinner table. I never knew just how important those moments were until later in life. On a weekly basis my mom would bake in the kitchen and I got to be her helping hand, sifting the flour or licking the beaters! The influence of food and being together as a family was something that my mom has always showed me (and my brothers), even as a little girl.

Perhaps it’s been passed down through generations, as my grandmother also found great joy in cooking and baking for the family. When I was a teenager my grandparents moved into our home because my grandfather had a massive stroke (growing up with a family of mostly men it was nice to add another female figure to the mix). The smell of home cooked dishes and fresh baking constantly drifted up from the floors below. We sometimes ate together too, getting to indulge in grandma’s meals and her to die for baking. She loved – loved making my grandfather and her kids happy with their favourite dishes and baking.. Just as I see my mother does for us kids and especially my father.

As a kid my mom had on rotation certain desserts that we got to have after dinner or in our lunch boxes. This was mostly because of dad and his sweet tooth and my mom enjoying making him happy with his favourite treats. Then there were special treats at holidays or our favourite summer vacation at the cottage. On that list has always been my mom’s lemon squares (I think mostly because she loves lemon and rarely got to enjoy what she loves, since she’s always baking for everyone else). I’m not actually sure who ate the lemon squares as kids, we were too busy fighting over anything chocolate but as I’ve gotten older they have become one of my favourites. I can always count on this recipe and absolutely love sharing these with friends and family over the summer for backyard bbq’s or cottage weekends (just like when I was a kid).

They are easy to make, sour and tart with a buttery shortbread crust, will feed a crowd and freeze well. My mom has always taught me the importance of baking ahead and freezing recipes! And these lemon squares are perfect for just that.

They even became so popular that these exact lemon squares were on the menu for my dessert company and sold all over the Kawarthas at special events. Sharing these squares means more to me than just enjoying a sweet; I’m sharing a piece of my story told by my grandmother and mother to you.

There is no greater gift than passing down traditions and spending time with family. I’ve had and have such strong beautiful women as role models who’ve passed this down to me. They’ve helped shape me into the little baker that I am and instilled my love for food and my desire to share with all of you – baking for friends!

Happy Mother’s Day to my loving mom and to all those wonderful moms out there!


Lemon Squares
 
Prep time
10 mins
Cook time
40 mins
Total time
50 mins
 
Sour and tart with a buttery shortbread crust.
Author: Susan Romano
Serves: 24 squares
Ingredients
Crust
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
Filling
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice
  • lemon rind from 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Icing sugar for dusting on top
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a glass baking dish (9"x11") with parchment paper, leaving an overhang to easily pull out squares later.
  2. In a food processor add flour and icing sugar, pulse to combine. Add cubed butter and pulse until fine crumbs form. Transfer to your baking dish and using your fingers gently press down to create a flat base. Note: the base will seem very dry, do not add more butter.
  3. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile make your filling.
  5. Clean out your processor and reuse to make your filling. Blend eggs and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add lemon juice and rind, blend together. Add flour and baking powder and pulse for 5 seconds. Pour filling over hot shortbread crust and continue to bake for another 25-30 minutes until the middle is set.
  6. Once cooled, top squares with sifted icing sugar.
Notes
Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days or freeze squares for up to a month.
3.4.3177

 

The post Lemon Squares appeared first on Baking for friends.

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The idea itself seems pretty frightening, travelling alone! The fear of actually being alone in general can be stressful but then add in a place that’s not familiar to you and the feeling amplifies. Every decision is your own to make and experience with no one else to be accountable for but you. But I promise the experience will change you and add more value to your life that you can’t get from any education or explain to anyone else, unless they themselves have travelled alone too.

I don’t care what anyone says, if you think you know exactly who you are or where you’re meant to be and what you want – travel alone and you’ll discover a whole different view about yourself and something completely new within you. There’s the saying “you’ll find out who you are” but I’m not a huge fan of this. I’d say, you’ll learn more about yourself that you didn’t know was already in you!

I’ve just returned from living in Cape Town, South Africa for the past 2 months. This will be my 4th time to South Africa over the past decade and a half. There were many highs and lots of lows but an experience of a lifetime that forever changed me. Every time I go away I discover something about myself that I wasn’t expecting. I’m pushed to step outside my comfort zone and forced to open myself up to new experiences. I’ve made new friends; friends I would have perhaps never made if I travelled with a group, or a significant other; friendships that I cherish. The friends that I’ve made while travelling alone have made me a better and kinder person especially to strangers and other travellers. When someone treated me with kindness or gave me a helping hand it made a world of difference to me. It can be such a simple gesture like stopping to help someone who is lost or looking for a place, but in concentrating on our own busy lives we pass right on by without giving a helping hand. I no longer pass right on by!

The biggest and most important discovery is the confidence you build in yourself that you never knew existed. You’ll have to take care of yourself, problem solve situations and learn new skills to ‘survive’ in a foreign place. There’s no one else to rely on so you have to dig deep and do it yourself – making decisions can actually be fun when you don’t have anyone else to check in with. There’s no pressure if that decision was a right one or a wrong one.

You learn how to take control and be resourceful, and sometimes you don’t realize that you can do this on your own when you have other people around doing it for you. Let’s be honest, no trip ever runs perfectly smooth, whether it’s missing a flight (yes, been there) or getting lost (yup) there will be a situation where you’ll have to make choices and be resourceful. You might find yourself booking an adventure that you never would have done if that flight wasn’t missed!

In the unexpected lie some of the most beautiful experiences.

That’s if you loosen up, adapt and be resourceful. When I found myself taking a job in Thailand last year for 5 days I decided to travel while I was there, alone. I ended up on an island for longer than excepted so I went to the travel centre and booked what the island is known for… rock climbing (there weren’t too many options of what to do on the island). I’ve never rock climbed a real mountain before, just those little indoor setups when I was in high school!! So you can say I was just a tad nervous and out of my element! I did however, let go of my fear and joined a group and had the most epic day climbing and seeing Thailand from a whole other view. Not to mention surprised myself on my strength to climb a mountain!

For me and I think for many others it’s the actual fear of just plain old being alone. I do have to say just how important it is to actually spend time alone and to be forced to sit with yourself and your thoughts. This is not a new thing you’ve heard, but when you travel alone you are forced to be with your thoughts and you are allowed the space to do it, even if you don’t want to. You find out what you, you yourself really like, your hobbies and passions because no one else is guiding you. Your routine from regular life will change. For some who have hectic busy schedules, or pressures from life, this is probably the best part of travelling alone.

There are so many other reasons to travel alone and I’ve just talked about a few. Here are my top reasons why I think everyone needs to do this once in his/her life:

  1. Making strong friendships you’d never make while travelling with others.
  2. Appreciate kindness from others, making you a kinder person in return.
  3. Learning how much confidence you actually have.
  4. Learning to take control and be resourceful.
  5. Being forced to sit with yourself and your thoughts.

Have you ever travelled alone? What was your experience?

The post Why you should Travel alone once in your life! appeared first on Baking for friends.

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Baking for friends by Alie Romano - 4M ago

Is there anything more precious than a two year old devouring a cupcake shaped like Mini Mouse?! I didn’t think so! Especially when you baked them for your little niece’s birthday! I just love her to pieces and it’s such a change of pace to have all these little ladies in the family to bake for. Growing up with all boys and the youngest at that, I’ve mostly spent my time as a tom-boy; playing sports and video games, and watching kung-fu to keep up with my brothers and cousins.

With 3 nieces now, I’m getting to enjoy everything sparkly, pink, frilly and, well girly! My brother’s girls are just that and so much more!! It’s so adorable to see them excited about make-up, bracelets, and purses!

The girls recently just got back from a trip to Disney World so it was fitting to celebrate little E’s birthday with Mini Mouse cupcakes. It wasn’t difficult to achieve the look, I have to admit it was a lot of work – but well worth it when I saw the look on the birthday girl’s face.

I made the hair bows for Mini out of royal icing, unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any candy that looked like pretty bows. I noticed online that a lot of people made the bows out of fondant. I’m not very experienced in fondant so I stuck with what I knew. I printed out a template of Mini Mouse bows off the internet and placed the paper under my parchment paper so I had something to trace the bows. I did this instead of trying to free hand them so they would actually look like bows and all similar. I made sure to do this the night before so they had plenty of time to dry. The funny part, is the kids loved the bows, they ate the chocolate ears and the bows first! All the adults left just that, the ears and the bows, haha!

For the ears I bought the largest chocolate rounds I could find at Bulk Barn, they were all scratched up from sitting in the bin so I took a paint brush and used hot water to smooth the chocolate marks. It’s not necessary but it did help make the cupcakes look that much more professional! Hey, if you’re already doing all of this work, why not go all the way and make them perfect?!

My biggest tip is the wrappers. If you’re not buying cupcake wrappers from a professional baking store best bet is they aren’t grease proof. Meaning when you bake your cupcakes in the wrappers the colours will lose their boldness. All the dots and shapes just end up looking greasy and not pretty. So to try and avoid this use a double layer of wrappers when you’re baking each cupcake. That’s what I did with these polka dot wrappers; 2 wrappers for each cupcake.

Mini Mouse Cupcakes
 
Prep time
45 mins
Cook time
20 mins
Total time
1 hour 5 mins
 
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1¾ cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1⅓ cups full milk
Toppings
  • 48 chocolate rounds, from a bulk store
  • 24 royal icing bows, or sugared bows of some kind
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners and set aside.
  2. Using an electric mixer cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt until well incorporated.
  4. Alternate flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture, beat on low speed just until combined.
  5. Using an ice-cream scoop, scoop equal amounts into each muffin cup.
  6. Bake for approx. 18- 22 minutes or just until the tops start to spring back.
  7. Let cool on cooling rack.
  8. Make frosting (see recipe below).
  9. Using a star tip, pipe icing on each cupcake, use 2 chocolate rounds for the ears and place a bow in the middle of the ears.
3.4.3177

Vanilla Icing
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 5 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • ¼ - ⅓ cup whipping cream
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, using the whisk attachment - whisk butter and icing sugar, slowly add your whipping cream. Whisk until light and fluffy, add vanilla extract.
  2. Adjust icing to desired taste, by adding more butter, etc.
3.4.3177

Royal Icing to make bows
 
Author: Alie Romano
Ingredients
  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sifted icing sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons lemon juice or almond extract (optional)
  • pink/red food colouring
Instructions
  1. In a clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer, whisk egg whites until foamy (about 3 minutes), add lemon juice if using.
  2. Slowly add icing sugar.
  3. Raise the speed to medium - high until icing is thick and shiny. This should take about 4 minutes (If you feel the mixture is still too runny at this point you can add more icing sugar to help stiffen it up, just add a little at a time).
  4. Take out about half a cup of the white royal icing, set aside and cover.
  5. Now add a few drops of food colouring and mix icing until you reach your desired colouring.
  6. Add icing to piping bags and pipe bows on parchment paper, making 24 and few extra for good luck!
  7. Let air dry for at least an hour or two.
Notes
For easy piping of bows, print out a Mini Mouse bow template from the internet. Place under parchment paper and trace the bows with royal icing.

Royal icing is a bit of trial and error to find the consistency that you like (thick or runny).
Rule of thumb is one egg white to one cup of icing sugar. Remember when the icing is runny the icing will spread out.
Also the icing needs lots of time to air dry (I find leaving it overnight is the best).
3.4.3177

 

The post Mini Mouse Cupcakes appeared first on Baking for friends.

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