Granola

I haven’t bought cereal in almost a year.  Well, that’s not quite true.  I still buy the occasional box of rice puffs to make yummy chocolaty dessert bars (would you like a post on those?…let me know in the comments).  But for breakfast-eating purposes, cereal has been permanently stricken from the shopping list.  I love deleting items from my shopping list in favor of homemade!  And this recipe is awesome because it’s hubby-approved, kid-approved, and even inhaled by friends’ kiddos who are way pickier than mine.

I modified my recipe from several I’ve tried via friends’ blogs and Pinterest.  This one makes a nice big batch, and it’s versatile because I don’t add any nuts/fruit – you just toss whatever you like on top of your bowl.  Hubby is not a dried nuts/fruit fan.  Sinner.  He usually eats his granola on top of some agave-sweetened yogurt.  Plain and simple, and pretty yummy.  This is how I like to enjoy it: with a few almonds and cranberries on top.

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My boys like it any ol’ way, but I think their favorite is with fresh blueberries.  Try it!  You’ll like it, and have one less boxed-food in the cart!

GRANOLA

Ingredients
6 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup flaxseeds
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. brown sugar*
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 tsp. vanilla

*You can sub coconut sugar for part or all of the brown sugar, if you’re a sugar-limiting type.  I tried it this last time for the 2 tbsp and it still came out delicious.

Method
You will need two bowls – a big one and a medium sized one.  Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.  Mix all your dry ingredients (oats thru salt) in the big bowl.  Mix honey, coconut oil and vanilla in the smaller bowl.  I love the way the honey+coconut+vanilla looks and smells.  It is smooth, pudding-y and divine.

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Now, pour your honey mixture over the oat mixture, and stir to combine.

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Spread it all out on a half sheet baking pan.  If you’re using a standard aluminum pan, coat it with nonstick spray or use parchment paper.  I have a silicone-coated half-sheet pan that is my current best friend in the kitchen.  No greasing needed, and silicone being a natural material is safe for your body (unlike Teflon).  Everything I cook on it (cookies, potatoes, granola, pizza…basically everything that needs a shallow baking surface gets thrown on this pan!) literally slides right off. It is a thing of beauty, tellyouwhat!

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Bake for 20 minutes, then gently stir.  Bake another 15-20 minutes.  Warning: your house is going to smell like heaven.  Exactly like heaven.  Your family will flock, drooling, to the kitchen and ask “what’s for dessert?” when in fact you are cooking up breakfast.  Mark my words!

When it’s done, remove from the oven and allow to cool overnight.  I always make this recipe after my kidlets have gone to bed, and then just let it cool in the cracked-open oven all night long.  Night time is usually when I make cookies, brownies, etc. so you can understand my poor husband’s confusion when presented with this lovely smell.

When completely cool and crunchy, pour the granola into a canister.  It keeps…well…far longer than it lasts in our house!  We gobble it down in under a week.

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Yum, yum.  Is it breakfast time yet?

Mocha Mudcake

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Come to mama.
Ok, disclaimer: I am not an artsy foodblogger.  No professional quality photos here (yet anyway).  But rest assured: even without all that dazzling photoshoppy goodness, the cake depicted by this too-dark, sorta-shiny, phone-camera picture is completely, one hundred percent drool-worthy.
Do I have your attention?
All right then.
This cake was an afterthought – a result of some leftover batter from baking a large triple-batch for my bestie’s wedding.  More on that later.  Much later.  When her professional photos come in, to be exact.  But for now, mocha mudcake.  The cake itself is more like a giant brownie.  Mudcake is dense, rich, and not clean to cut (be ye forewarned).  But it is by far my favey-fave chocolate cake to eat.  As a bonus, this cake can be easily made gluten free.  You have no idea how many delighted ladies (at Bible study, at their doorstep, and at the wedding) wanted to tearfully hug me when they discovered I was serving gluten-free cake.  Who knew a little non-wheat flour could mean so much?  Well, it does.  If you serve gluten free cake, keep tissues in your apron pocket.  Just sayin’.

Now, for the filling.  Since I wanted to adorn the outside all ruffly with swiss meringue buttercream, I filled the cake with rich dark chocolate ganache. The combination of dense cake, velvety ganache filling and cloud-like buttercream was so. so. good.  Add to the SMBC a bit of melted chocolate, strong brewed coffee and a splash of amaretto, and well, you’d better just get a fork and skip the plates altogether.  Right?  Right.  No, no, it is much more blessed to give than to receive.  Pass out some forks and share with your friends.

For this recipe, I need to give credit where credit is due.  You will see me reference Jessicakes quite a lot on this blog.  Jessica is my biggest cakespiration – and an amazing momma of three as well.  And she happens to go to my church.  What a lucky girl I am!  I have learned so much from her blog, tutorials, and kind responses to my crazy hairbrained questions.  Next, there’s Dyann Bakes.  You will really want to spend some time with her when you make your first (and second, and twelfth) batch of swiss meringue buttercream.  She is like having your sweet aunt Mildred beside you in the kitchen (if you have an aunt Mildred, which I don’t), reassuring you every step of the way.  And she’s adorable.  Really, go check her out.  K?

Now, finally.  Your recipe.

THE CAKE: I got this recipe here, from Jessica.

Ingredients
250g (1 cup + 1 Tbsp) butter, chopped
200g (7oz) dark chocolate
2 cups sugar
1 + 1/3 cups of strong coffee/espresso
3/4 cup plain flour
3/4 cup self-rising flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder (use good stuff!)
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Method
Add first four ingredients into a saucepan and heat on low until melted and sugar is dissolved
Allow to cool for 10 minutes
Sift all flours together and add to cooled liquid, beating gently until incorporated
Add eggs and beat gently until incorporated well.
Pour mixture into greased+floured cake tins and bake at 350 degrees for appropriate time (mine always seem to need more time than the recipe calls for, but I have an old, cranky oven – my 6″ tins take about 35 minutes).  Watch for the cake to begin to crack on top, check it with a toothpick…when it comes out nearly clean with just a few moist crumbs, it’s done!
Another awesome thing about mudcake is you can make it ahead – up to 3 days ahead – and let it sit wrapped at room temperature before filling/frosting/serving.  It is even better when the flavors are allowed to gel together.  Very nice feature for a multitasking mama like me!

Now, to make this cake gluten-free: 
Sub GF flour for your 3/4 c. plain flour
Sub 1 tsp. baking powder + 1/4 tsp. salt + flour to fill 3/4 c. for your 3/4 c. self rising flour
Add one extra egg.  Voila – gluten free and just as delicious as the original (if not more so)!
If you’re wondering what type of GF flour to use, I have always relied on Bob’s Red Mill all purpose GF flour.  But use whatever you like best.

THE GANACHE: Also learned my ganache-making method via Jessica, from Inspired by Michelle.

Ingredients
One part heavy whipping cream
Two parts extra dark chocolate (chopped in pieces, or chocolate chips – but make sure it’s good stuff.  I like Guittard)

Method
I’m giving you ratios here, not amounts, because you only need a little bit to fill a 6″ cake like the one I have pictured.  But ganache freezes beautifully, so feel free to make a nice big batch and save some for a future cake endeavor later.  Or just spoon some out from the bowl for a midnight snack.  All the best bakers do it.  Wink wink.
Put your chocolate bits into a glass microwaveable bowl.  Make sure your bowl and utensils are bone dry – a drop of water will cause your chocolate to seize, and this is very, very sad.  Pour your heavy cream over the chocolate.  Microwave for 2 minutes, then remove the bowl and allow to sit for a little bit.  Wiggle and spin your bowl on the countertop to gently incorporate the cream throughout the slightly heated chocolate.  Microwave again for 2 minutes.  Allow to sit a minute before stirring with a rubber spatula.  Repeat this process until all your chocolate bits are completely melted, then whisk vigorously for several minutes until very smooth.  Allow your ganache to cool slightly before covering (otherwise you’ll get condensation).  Then continue to cool, covered, until it is a spreadable consistency.

THE BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients
One part liquid egg whites (6 oz.)
Two parts sugar (12 oz.)
Three parts unsalted butter (18 oz.)
4 oz. dark chocolate, melted and cooled
2-3 TBSP strong brewed coffee
Splash of amaretto

Method
Make your buttercream as directed by the lovely Dyann Bakes.  At the end, beat in your melted chocolate and ever so gradually and carefully, your coffee and amaretto.  Overdoing the liquid in SMBC will cause it to break, so just go by teaspoonfuls at a time.

ASSEMBLING YOUR CAKE

Smear a little ganache on a cake board, plate, etc.  Place your first layer of mudcake on top.  Fill with a thick layer of ganache, add your second layer of cake.  Press the cake down to even it all out; scrape off any excess ganache (and eat it; you know you want to).
Chill for a few minutes in the fridge, then apply a thin crumbcoat of your mocha buttercream.  Chill a few minutes more while you fill a pastry bag (fitted with a petal tip) with the remainder of your SMBC.
To make the ruffles, first score out even vertical lines around your cake so the ruffles will line up and look even.  Then, using your pastry bag, line up the petal tip fat-side in, skinny-side out from the cake.  Go back and forth, back and forth from bottom to top of each vertical column to make ruffles.  Try to end at the top going the same direction every time.  When you’ve done all around the sides, you can do a spiral of ruffles on top, or my favorite way – a fan of ruffles as pictured.  I recommend scoring again before you start so they are all about the same width.  Alternatively, you can just spread all the frosting with an offset spatula, rustic-old-fashioned style, or do a scallop pattern (I will explain this in a later blog post), or whatever frosting method that tickles your fancy.  I like ruffles because they’re cute, and they mean a LOT of frosting.  And frosting = happiness.

I think that about covers it – did I miss anything?  Comment and let me know if you have any questions.  This is my first official blogged recipe, so go easy on me, friends!  🙂

All for His glory,
Monique

Ephesians 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

These words are the core and foundation for this blog.  I have wanted to get back into blogging for quite some time, but didn’t know how to pull all my seemingly-unrelated passions together.  Finally, this verse popped into my head.  Created unto good works.  I love a Creative God.  I serve a Creative God.  I am created in the image of a Creative God.  Therefore, any good works I can muster up are a loving response to my Creative God.

I’m an eclectic girl.  I teach, stitch, write, draw, paint, garden, bake, and design.  I’m looking forward to sharing a smattering of these passions of mine with you – one lil’ workmanship to another.  I hope we have a lot of fun here together.  Stay tuned, friends!

in His image,
Monique