First, I want to apologize for the one, not-so-great picture here. I was in a rush and just took the picture quickly before taking the whole batch to the beach. Little did I know, this cornbread would be unbelievably good. Corn bread this good deserves amazing pictures, but unfortunately my point and shoot camera doesn't quite do it justice (especially under rushed conditions).

I rarely like corn bread. I think regular bread is far superior and almost always choose that out of a bread assortment at a restaurant. Corn bread is dry, too grainy and falls apart into a million pieces when you try to take a bite. (Guess that's why people always eat it over a bowl of chili.)

Well, maybe all the other cornbread is. This corn bread is so moist it's almost like a cake.  It's got the slight grainy texture that comes from corn meal, but in this case it's just the right texture. I used corn meal from a mill in North Carolina so I actually ended up triple sifting it to make sure all the fresh corn pieces were out (the recipe requires double sifting). Other than the sifting, the whole recipe is a breeze.  The best part about this bread is the honey butter glaze. Each bite melts in your mouth. It almost seems too good to accompany just a plain ol' meal (hence why I grabbed little pieces throughout the day). Once again, Sherry Yard's book is proving to be fantastic. Your family, friends, etc. will love you for making this.

Honey-Glazed Spago Corn Bread
Recipe from Sherry Yard's Desserts By The Yard
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cake flour
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3 ounces (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1/2 cup buttermilk

For the glaze:
3 ounces (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup water

1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray the foil with pan spray.
2. Sift together the cornmeal, all purpose flour, cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt 2 times. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs. Melt the butter and immediately whisk into the eggs in a slow stream. Whisk in the oil, milk, and buttermilk. Whisk in the dry ingredients just until combined.
4. Scrape the batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan from front to back and continue to bake for 10 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
5. Make the glaze:  while the corn bread is baking, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the honey and water and whisk until blended.
6. When the cornbread is done, remove from the oven and poke holes all over the bread, about 1/2-inch apart, with a toothpick. Brush with the glaze and allow to cool.

I don't really have the right words to describe these cupcakes. It comes as no surprise that these are some of the best cupcakes I've ever tasted. Just look at how they are made: a chocolate chip cupcake stuffed with cookie dough, mini chocolate chips, cookie frosting and to top it all off, another cookie on top. How could you go wrong with that combination?

Well, being the cookie monster that I am (and having friends that are extremely similar) I decided to take this to the next level and make the cupcakes cookie monster cupcakes. It just seemed fitting for this recipe. I brought them to my friend's 20th birthday and they were a hit. After the first bite the birthday girl took she said, "Oh god, I think I'm going to end up having five more of these before the end of the night." Along with being one of the most delicious things I've ever made, they are also one of my favorite things because they were so cute! Tell me you can look at them without smiling...

That's what I thought.

You know those times when you want to make something better than all of the other recipes? A time when brownies just won't suffice because you really want to impress people. Well, this is when these cupcakes come in. These will blow people out of the water. I decorated them two different ways since cookie monster cupcakes obviously don't work for every crowd.  I liked both of the finished products, so take your pick! You'll be happy.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes
Recipe from Annies Eats
Yield:24 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (semisweet or bittersweet)

For the filling:
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tbsp. light brown sugar, packed
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
For the frosting:
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
3½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. salt
3 tbsp. milk
2½ tsp. vanilla extract
For decoration:
Tiny chocolate chip cookies
Mini chocolate chips

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners (24 total).  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and brown sugar.  Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  Stir together to blend.  Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl on low speed, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing each addition just until incorporated.  Blend in the vanilla.  Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners.   Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the cookie dough filling, combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until incorporated and smooth.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture has firmed up a bit, about an hour.
To fill the cupcakes, cut a cone-shaped portion out of the center of each cupcake.  Fill each hole with a chunk of the chilled cookie dough mixture.
To make the frosting, beat together the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until creamy.  Mix in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.  Beat in the flour and salt.  Mix in the milk and vanilla extract until smooth and well blended.
Frost the filled cupcakes as desired, sprinkling with mini chocolate chips and topping with mini chocolate chip cookies for decoration.

*For the cookie monster version:
White Chocolate Melting Disks
Semisweet Chocolate Chips
Chocolate Chip Crumbles

Dye frosting blue. Pick a frosting tip and use it to create a textured (fur-like) look on the cupcakes. Place semi-sweet chocolate chips, one-by-one, over an open flame for less than a second. Place on the flat side of a white chocolate disk. Repeat, placing two eyes on each cupcake. For the mouth, crumble up chocolate chip cookies and place in an organized fashion below the eyes. I think this looks better than using a half cookie for a normal mouth (after all, when was the cookie monster ever neat!).

I decided I would put this in a separate post because I didn't want to bog down the banana split post. There's enough going on in those pictures alone to make someone a little woozy, might as well spread out the recipes. This chocolate ice cream is the third flavor I've tried out with my ice cream maker. I'm not going to lie, watching what goes into this ice cream is enough to make you swear off all cream based foods forever. Eight egg yolks, really!? Yes. And you know what? Those eight egg yolks contribute to a deliciously rich and creamy ice cream. Ice cream-1, Sarah-0.

I have a lot of chocolate ice cream recipes I've bookmarked that I'll hopefully be trying in the upcoming weeks. This one was excellent and really easy, but I don't think I'll be able to resist adding extra ingredients next time. I'll admit, I even added a little cinnamon and espresso powder to this. Next time, I'm thinking cookie/brownie bites and fudge. Mmmm. Enjoy.

Chocolate Ice Cream
Recipe from The Other Side of 50 (adapted from Alton Brown)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Dutch process)
3 cups half & half
1 cup heavy cream
8 large egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla

Place the cocoa powder along with 1 cup of the half-and-half into a medium saucepan over medium heat and whisk to combine. Add the remaining half-and-half and the heavy cream. Bring the mixture just to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and remove from the heat.

In mixing bowl beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually beat in the sugar, occasionally scraping down the beaters and sides of mixing bowl. Temper the cream mixture into the eggs and sugar by gradually adding small amounts, until about 1/3 of the cream mixture has been added. Pour in the remainder and return the entire mixture to the saucepan and place over low heat. Add in the pinch of salt and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon and reaches 170 to 175 degrees. Pour the mixture through a mesh strainer and into a container and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Cover container and refrigerate for 4-8 hours. (I refrigerated mine overnight.)

Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's directions. This should take approximately 25 to 35 minutes. Serve as is for soft serve or freeze for another 3 to 4 hours to allow the ice cream to harden.

I think it's safe to say that the banana split is the mother of all ice cream sundaes. As if I wasn't crazy enough about bananas, peanut butter and chocolate, I have now put them into one monstrous ice cream sundae. I love that Foodbuzz is doing a banana split challenge in the first place, but even better, they are donating money to charity for each post submitted. Uh, hello? Doing what we all do anyways and having it go to something other than our waistline, count me in.

"Foodbuzz will also donate* $50 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund for every Banana Split post by a Featured Publisher created & uploaded to Foodbuzz before 12PM PST on Friday, July 16th."

For all of you featured publishers who have not yet entered, now is your chance! 
So, how do you do a banana split? There's the question. Everyone likes a little something different. For example, Paula Deen has pineapple juice in a number of her banana split recipes (eck.). It's also supposed to have a perfectly red marachino cherry on top and whipped cream. But aside from banana/chocolate and strawberry/chocolate, I don't do fruit and cream mixtures. I didn't end up adding whipped cream, though I am sure it would've been great. I honestly just didn't have room for it. I decided for this banana split I would pile on as many of my favorite things as possible, and even try a few new things while doing it.

So here it is, my banana split sundae deconstructed.

It starts out with one and a half bananas. The first I sliced lengthwise and placed it in the dish, wrapping it around the edges. In the middle of the bananas I put three large scoops of homemade chocolate ice cream (which I'll get to in a little bit). Next, I melted peanut butter with a half tablespoon or so of butter and drizzled it over the top. I know, peanut butter is fattening enough as is, and now I'm adding butter? Hush. Banana splits are not a sundae to think about nutrition with. Actually, no sundae is a sundae to think about nutrition with. Moving right along, I added two arlettes to each side of the sundae. I found the arlette's recipe in Sherry Yard's Dessert's by the Yard (amazing book for those of you who haven't read it) and decided these crispy little cookies would be perfect. They taste exactly like palmiers (or elephant ears as I always called them). For the final touches I sliced up the half of banana and put three slices on top. The remainder can be placed into any spot looking a little bare, and finally, I sprinkled mini semi-sweet chocolate chips on top.

The result: heaven.

I encourage everyone to play around with your food and make the banana split of your dreams. I don't really think anything is off limits as far as banana splits go. Throw on whatever. And, most importantly, take the guilt factor out of your brain for one day and eat up!

Recipe from Desserts by the Yard

1 8x6 or 8x8-inch sheet all-butter puff pastry. 1/8-inch thick, chilled
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup confectioners sugar

1. Place the sheet of puff pastry on a work surface and brush with the beaten egg white. Dist evenly with granulated sugar. Roll up the dough lengthwise (starting with the 6-inch side if working with a rectangle) very tightly, like a jelly roll, and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, until firm or overnight. 
2. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees, Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the rolled-up puff pastry and cut into very thin slices, about 1/8-inch thick. Place the slices on the baking sheet and return to the freezer. Chill for 15 minutes.
3. Place the confectioners sugar in a bowl and use some of it to dist your work surface. Dip a pastry disk into the confectioners' sugar and roll out into an oval shape, pressing down firmly with your rolling pin. Flip the disk and roll out again to a paper-thin 4-inch-long oval. Place on he parchment-lined baking sheet, and when the tray is filled, place a second piece of parchment over the arlettes.
4. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 12 minutes, or until the cookies begin to look golden. Remove the pan from the oven, lift off the top parchment and discard, and using a metal spatula, flip over each arlette. Rotate the pan from front to back, return to the oven, and bake for another 6 minutes, or until the arlettes are a deep golden color. Remove from the oven and slip the parchment off the baking sheets onto a rack to cool the cookies. (These arlettes can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.)

See chocolate ice cream recipe here

What's not to love about an Oreo cookie? I mean, really, it's one of the most classic and delicious cookies there is.  I actually really like all of the interesting flavors they have come out with now (especially "uh-oh" aka Golden Oreos), but plain chocolate with white frosting is still my favorite. I won't complain if that comes in the double-stuffed variety, though.
I thought the write-up of this recipe on Sugar Cooking really said it all. Not only did she say this was one of the few recipes she ever repeats, she also said she gets requests for these all the time (even one from the nutritionist at her husband's gym!). So, of course I had to try them out.

The best thing about these, other than the fact that they are AMAZING, is how easy they are.  Simple ingredients. Simple steps. Big results.
Sorry if that last part reminded you of Papa Johns/some odd weight loss shake, but it's really just the best way to describe these. My one piece of advice is that I didn't believe the recipe when it said to make teaspoon sized balls of dough so mine ended up being giant (not necessarily a bad thing), but I definitely will follow the size directions next time. I can't decide when these cookies were the best. They were amazing right after they cooled down and I put the icing in them, but the next day they got a little less chewy and a little more Oreo-like which was great as well. You all must try this recipe! Apparently it's already been around the blogosphere many times and I'm a little late, but if you haven't tried it yet, now is the time.

Homemade Oreo Cookies
Recipe from Sugar Cooking (adapted from the original recipe on Smitten Kitchen)

For the chocolate wafers:
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa*
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar**
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
For the filling:
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.
  2. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
  3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
  4. To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
  5. To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream. Dunk generously in a large glass of milk.

I always feel a bit iffy about pound cakes. I find that more often than not they are too dense and dry for me which means they need a hefty serving of whipped cream or ice cream to get rid of that issue. Not that a little lot of whipped cream or ice cream is a bad thing, but I'm not really an ice cream and cake person. I know, I know, it's weird (especially considering how much I like the ice cream and cake song). I like them both individually so much that I just find together one messes with the other. Alas, I made blueberry pie ice cream and I decided to pair the ice cream with this pound cake.
Little did I know this was a disaster in the making. Turns out, I don't always take care of things as well as I should. Typical of a 20-year-old, right? Well,  on the way back home from college I guess I decided my tube pan doubled as storage space, so in went whatever various trinkets I had around my apartment. Until I put this pound cake in the oven I still thought this was a brilliant use of space.
It didn't take long before the burning smell started wafting through the house and I realized the pan's bottom had been bent significantly in the moving process. Whoops. Pound cake batter was everywhere. Another problem was that this is a cold oven pound cake so not only did I have to clean up all of this mess, I had to get the oven back cold before attempting again. On top of everything we only had one tube pan, so a Target trip had to be made. On the bright side, I wasn't making dessert last minute for once in my life and I had just enough time to repeat the pound cake process all over again. What a disaster.
In the end, this pound cake was even better than my great grandmother's recipe. It must be because it was passed along from another grandmother so it's got that loving touch that no one but a third or fourth generation seems to be able to master. Needless to say, it was worth the trouble. I think I'll try to bypass all the troubles next time anyways.

Cold Oven Pound Cake
  • Ingredients
3 sticks (1.5 cups) butter
3 cups sugar
6 eggs (Cold)
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 cup whole milk (VERY Cold)
1 teaspoon vanila extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

  • *eggs and milk should be cold right out of the refrigerator (not room temperature)

    Prepare large tube pan by either spraying with bakers spray (and wiping gently with a paper towel to remove excess) or greasing with soft butter & dusting with flour.

    Set aside.

    Cream butter and sugar together.

    Beat in eggs, one at a time.

    Beat in flour, one cup at a time, alternating with milk.

    Add vanilla extract and almond extract.

    Beat on medium-high to high speed of hand mixer for two minutes, scrapping down sides of bowl.

    Carefully pour batter evenly into tube pan – use all that is in the bowl (a rubber spatula will help).

    Place on middle rack in COLD oven and bake at 275F. for 2 hours.

    Check it towards the end in case your oven cooks fast or slow.

    Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a cake rack on the counter for about four minutes.

    Run a dinner knife around the middle and edges.

    Turn cake out onto dinner plate and then upright onto a cake plate.

    Let the cake cool before cutting – best to use a serrated knife, at least while cake is somewhat warm.