Nutella Cheesecake

I’m Back!

An indulgent slice of Nutella Cheesecake with a side serving of homemade, vanilla bean ice cream!

In March 2009, I started a food blog at After a few months of surprised popularity, I purchased my own domain name only to lose it in 2014. I then changed my site back to Losing my domain name really affected my zeal for writing and publishing photos and recipes. Of course I continued to cook and take photos of some meals. However, I could never muster the energy to write or even face my blog again. Continue reading “Nutella Cheesecake”

Mint Oreo Ice Cream

Mint Oreo Ice Cream

Homemade Fresh Mint Oreo Ice Cream

I was going to blog about some yummy pancakes I had made the other day but once I sampled this Mint Oreo ice cream, I pushed that thought aside. I’ve made other GREAT ice creams such as traditional Vanilla Bean (also paired with Blackberry Cobbler), Vanilla Bean made with brown sugar, Milk Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Dough, Espresso and more; but this one is definitely my favorite flavor. Also, now that cold weather has taken over many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, I felt it best to share this recipe before it gets even colder.

Mint Oreo Ice Cream

With that said, I can eat ice cream in any type of weather. In fact, I remember craving a gelato al cocco (coconut) on a cold October day, and my boyfriend was shocked. However, I was comforted by the fact that there were other people in the gelateria eating gelato, and they weren’t tourists.Mint Oreo Ice Cream

I was inspired to make this ice cream after having tried the Mint Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream from Ben and Jerry. After taking one bite, I thought, “OMG, this is so good! I need to try making this at home!” LOL! Who else does that? Hello? Just me?

Mint Oreo Ice Cream

It starts with infusing fresh mint leaves with whole milk in a pot. Then you temper the eggs and add the cream. Chill the mixture before pouring it in the ice cream maker. Add in the Oreos. Enjoy as a soft serve fresh from the machine or freeze it for a few more hours like I did.

Mint Oreo Ice Cream

Don’t forget to check cout a plethora of other ice cream flavors such as vanilla bean (twice), espresso, milk chocolate, Mexican chocolate, gelato al limone, chocolate chip cookie dough, coffee, double chocolate, mint chocolate chip (w/extract), and this Mint Oreo Ice Cream!

So, if you’re in one of the cold regions of the world, bundle up, and make this ice cream today! If you’re in a hotter region, invite me over, and we’ll make it together! Hah!

mint base recipe adapted from the Vanilla Bean recipe

1 1/4 (300ml) whole milk
2.3 oz of mint leaves
4 large egg yolks, room temperature (save egg yolks in the freezer!)
1/2 cup (100g) granulated or caster sugar
1 1/4 (300ml) heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
30 Oreos, chopped (up to you how many you’d like in your ice cream!)

Put the milk and fresh mint in a medium saucepan, and heat gently to near-boiling point. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and allow the mint to infuse for 15 minutes.

In a separate, heatproof bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar, using a whisk or electric beater, until thick and pale. Gradually beat the milk into the egg mixture.

Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and continue stirring until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. (book’s instructions)
Pour the milk/egg mixture back into the saucepan, and stir the mixture until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. (this is what I did). This took about 5-10 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the heat; stir in the cold heavy cream and vanilla extract. Cover the surface of the mixture directly with plastic wrap or waxed paper to prevent a skin from forming. Allow the ice cream custard to cool completely by refrigerating mixture for 4 hours to overnight.

Once cold, churn mixture in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer soft-serve ice cream to a freezer container and stir in chopped Oreos (as many as you’d like! I used 2-2 1/2 rows). Cover the ice cream directly with waxed paper or foil, then the container top, and put in the freezer.

Copyright – Memoria James –

Dessert Braids: Nutella, Strawberry, and Banana/Cinnamon Roll

I’m back in the States.  After living for approximately two and a half wonderful months in Portugal, et al., you can imagine my reluctance to return here.  Still, I’d thought I’d muse about a few homeland items that I had taken for granted and truly missed that are not readily available in Western Europe (at least at the places I’ve visited):

I’m back in the States.  After living for approximately two and a half wonderful months in Portugal, et al., you can imagine my reluctance to return here.  Still, I’d thought I’d muse about a few homeland items that I had taken for granted and truly missed that are not readily available in Western Europe (at least at the places I’ve visited):

1. I missed dryers. I know that it is more economically friendly to hang out your clothes and to allow the sun to dry them, but I missed having my favorite pair of jeans washed and dried in about an hour as opposed to one to two days (on a sunny day). In fact when I was about to wash my clothes for the first time after my return to the States, my automatic reaction was to check the weather to make sure it wasn’t going to rain. Then I remembered that I had access to a dryer again haha.

2. I missed cold bottles of water at the grocery store and restaurants. Most places offer tepid water in Europe, and after walking all around the city, I was always craving a big bottle of cold water. They were mostly readily available in tourtisty areas, though. Anyway, to combat this “problem”, I would freeze and refrigerate 2-3 water bottles and take them with me around the city.

3. I missed some of my favorite fast-food and regular restaurants like Braum’s and Charlestons.

4. Easy access to certain ingredients like baking soda (in Portugal you purchase this item at pharmacies, not at grocery stores), pure vanilla extract, powdered sugar in large containers, Mexican ingredients, etc.

However, with all the missing that went on, there are considerably more reasons why my heart will forever remain in Europe, especially Italy, and why I wish I could find a way to stay there permanently.
For instance, I love how easy it is to travel from country to country for under 100 dollars, how easy it is to travel to said countries without the need of a car (thankfully, buses, trains, ferries, metros/subway trains, etc are readily available), and how free I feel when I discover and walk through new cities and countries.
I love hearing quotidian speech uttered by locals, expats, and tourists in various languages. I love the rising excitement I feel when I’m edging closer and closer to a new monument or church I’ve longed to see and had only seen in travel guides, magazines, books, or television. Oh, and that feeling I get when I round that last corner and am greeted instantly by beautiful arches or tall bell towers or unique architecture! It is so utterly thrilling and satisfying!
These indescribable experiences make it easier for me to ignore the petty negatives aforementioned, including the pesky, hard-to-find ingredients.
Speaking of ingredients, on a previous post I mentioned how I resuscitated a lifeless dough by adding fresh yeast afterwards. With the leftover dough, I decided to make a non-puff-pastry version of a Danish braidwith two different fillings: 1) Nutella with bananas and strawberries and 2) cinnamon, butter, and brown sugar (like a cinnamon roll filling).

Both turned out great; I thoroughly enjoyed the cinnamon version while my roomies devoured the Nutella one in fewer than 24 hours!

Dessert Braids
adapted by Use Real Butter

1 1/4 cups (296 ml) whole milk
2 1/4 tsp (8 grams) active dry yeast
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
6 Tbsp (85 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
5 cups (625 grams) all-purpose flour (not self-rising)

Dough instructions:
Heat milk over low heat until it reaches a temperature of 100-110°F or 38-43°C. Pour the milk into the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over the milk. Allow yeast mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Add sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt to the milk. Beat with a whisk or paddle attachment until combined. If using a stand mixer, switch to a paddle attachment, and stir in 1 cup of flour at a time until the dough is thick. Switch to a dough hook or turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth (5 minutes with the dough hook or 7 minutes by hand). Lightly grease a large bowl with oil, and place the dough in the bowl. Coat the entire dough ball with oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Set covered dough in a warm location to rise for 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

Braid creation:

No ruler? ¡No hay problema! 🙂

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Using a ruler or an everyday object (I used a pepper shaker), score the dough to create parallel lines. Next, using the ruler as a guide, cut the “legs” of the braids. Spread the filling of your choice within the parallel lines. Then fold over one leg over another from left to right or right to left until you reach the end. With a brush or back of a big spoon, spread some egg wash or milk wash tot he top of the dough to create a more golden crust. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. Allow braid to cool for 10-15 minutes before digging in!

Copyright – Memoria James –

OREO Chocolate Chip Pudding Blondies

You would think that with all the Oreo recipes I’ve been posting lately that I’m quite fond of these cream-filled, chocolate-flavored cookies. Ah, but you would be wrong, because while I do like to use them as crusts for pies, cheesecakes, and in other desserts, I’m not too crazy about them on their own. So why the plethora of Oreo-based desserts, you ask? Because all the well-intentioned recipients of said desserts are enamored with consuming these cookies in everything.

These blondies were supposed to be for my ex-stepdaughter’s (long story :P) birthday/graduation, but it never made it to her due to bad timing and mailing/shipping problems. The original recipe is for cookies, but I didn’t have time for that and wanted to send something more shipping- friendly. 

To make them more whimsical (because adding funfetti isn’t whimsical enough), I dotted the top of the blondies with more Oreo cookies. This addition also serves as a serving guide, albeit a generous one ;). Aesthetically I love how they turned out.

If you were unable to ship these to the intended recipient, where did they go? Did you eat them all on your own? Good questions! Thanks for asking

Let me share with you what happened: Actually I brought the pan of blondies to my office and offered some to two of my lovely colleagues. One of them said, “Okay, now this is the best dessert you’ve brought to the office.” (Mind you, she says that about every dessert I bring). While my colleagues were enjoying the blondies, a student of mine entered the office. Upon seeing my colleagues devouring these sweet treats, he forgot the purpose of his visit and immediately asked for a piece. He ate the slice while walking into the classroom, which caused another student to see it and want one for herself.  Once she discovered the location of the Oreo-based treat, she ran out of the classroom and grabbed a piece. Can you guess what happened when the next student saw the other two students swooning over their blondie slices? Yep, every single one of my students went into my office to get a piece. Fortunately, this class was my smallest, so there was enough for everyone

When I returned to my office after class, there was just an empty foil trail with crumbs sitting in the trashcan, so fortunately no temptation for me! As with the Oreo birthday cake, I didn’t try out these blondies, but they smelled amazing and looked very moist, buttery, and flavorful. Every single “taste tester” raved about them. 

Now go forth and make these! Don’t forget to share with others (or hide and eat them in the closet, bathtub, car, [insert the safe place of your choice]). Let me know how they turn out

Oreos Chocolate Chip Pudding Blondies
adapted from Averie Cooks

  3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
  3/4 cup (150g) light brown sugar, packed
  1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  1 large egg, room temperature
  1 tsp vanilla extract
  1 1/2 cups (188g) all-purpose flour
  One 3.5-ounce (96g) packet instant vanilla pudding mix (not sugar-free and not ‘cook & serve’)
  1 tsp baking soda/bicarbonate
  1/4-1/2 tsp salt (if using salted butter, use the smaller amount)
  20 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped
  1 cup (175g) semi-sweet chocolate chips (fav brands: Callebaut and Guittard (see below))
  1/2 cup sprinkles (see below)
  9 whole Oreos for decoration

  1. In a large bowl or stand mixer bowl, cream room-temperature butter, brown sugar, granulated/caster sugar, room-temperature egg, and vanilla extract on medium-high speed for about 4 minutes.
  2. While the wet ingredients are getting to know each other, combine the dry ingredients in a smaller bowl. 
  3. Check on the wet ingredients by scraping down the sides of the bowl. Then add the flour, pudding mix, baking soda, salt, and beat while mixer is on low speed for approximately 1 minute. (I leave a few specks of flour in the mixture to avoid over-mixing and to get the dough ready for the mix-ins.)
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Then add the mix-ins: chopped Oreos, chocolate chips, and sprinkles, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. (DO NOT OVERMIX!)
  5. Transfer the dough to a bowl or the a butter/flour-sprayed pan and pat it out to form the blondies. 
  6. For decoration, add the 9 Oreos on top of the dough.
  7. Cover the dough with plastic/cling wrap, and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours or up to 5 days.
  8. Once the flavors of the dough have had a chance to meld together in the fridge, preheat oven to 350F, and bake for about 15-25 minutes or until edges have set and tops are just set, even if slightly undercooked, pale, and glossy in the center. DON’T OVERBAKE! 
  9. The blondies will firm up as they cool. Allow them to cool on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes before serving.
  10. The blondies will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months. 
  11. Unbaked dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 4 months, so consider baking only as many cookies/blondies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.


    Copyright – Memoria James –

    Oreo Birthday Cake

    If you’d rather indulge in Oreo truffle brownies, go here.

    In May, my family and I celebrated my cousin’s birthday. I love making sweet treats for him because he fully enjoys them, and I heard he sneaks in the kitchen to eat more of my creations. When I asked my aunt what cake she was planning to bring to the party, she stated that she was going to buy one from a grocery store but seeing that I was in town, I could make it if I wanted. . . and of course I volunteered! My cousin deserves more than a cake-mix/processed cake from a grocery store :).

    Because he loves chocolate, my aunt and I decided on a chocolate cake. However, the day before his birthday and the day after I had purchased all of the necessary ingredients, he revealed that he wanted a strawberry cake! As a compromise, I bought some fresh strawberries and put them on top of the cake.

    For the cake itself, I used my go-to recipe, which is same as the Black Magic cake recipe from the Hershey’s site. As always, I consulted the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa box, but I used coffee in place of the boiling water. buttermilk in place of milk, and added more vanilla extract. I also have used Pernigotti Cocoa (see link below cake recipe) when I have access to it, but any other cocoa powder is fine as well. For extra Oreo flavor, I also added Oreo halves to the cake batter!

    For the frosting, I made a regular white buttercream and added Oreo crumbs at the end. I piped something that resembled rosettes on the top with the same frosting and placed halves of Oreos and fresh strawberries over them. In the middle I piped in Chantilly or homemade whipped cream and then put Oreo crumbs on top. [SIDE NOTE: Please don’t use Cool Whip or an imitation whipped cream; whipped cream is too easy to make at home and tastes much better!]

    After my mom and I left the house with the cake, I decided to put some gummy worms (not pictured) on top of the crumbs as a homage to Oreo dirt cakes. Since the cake was for the party, I do not have any photos of the cakes’ innards :(. Also, I cannot tell you how it tasted because I was and still am on a strict diet; however, my family thoroughly enjoyed it and stated it was very moist. They also liked the surprise whipped cream topping. In fact, later that day my aunt called me just to tell me that after having eaten a second, big slice of the cake, I had received an A+ for my cake. That was nice to hear :).

    Anyway, if I ever make this cake again I think I will use whipped cream or a combination frosting/whipped cream in the middle of the cake as well. I hope you make this cake or a variation of it soon! It looked so amazingly moist and flavorful that I still think about it :D.

    Oreo Birthday Cake:
    slightly adapted from Hershey 
    yields 10-12 servings
    • 2 cups (400g) sugar
    • 1-3/4 cups (219g) all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup (89g) cocoa powder (dark or regular)
    • 2 tsp (10g) baking soda
    • 1 tsp (5g) baking powder
    • 1 tsp (5g) salt
    • 2 large eggs, room temperature
    • 1 cup (237ml) buttermilk, room temperature (in Italia, si può prendere il latticello direttamente dal caseficio)
    • 1 cup (237 ml) strong, hot black coffee OR 2 tsp instant coffee/espresso + 1 cup boiling water
    • 1/2 cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
    • 2 tsp (10ml) vanilla extract
    • MIX-IN: 15 Oreo/chocolate, cream-filled biscuit halves (one row)

    1. Heat oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease and flour 12-cup fluted tube pan (I use baking spray (see below)), two 9-inch round baking pans.
    2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl or stand mixer. 
    3. In a glass, measuring cup, stir together the room temperature eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract.
    4. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients, and with a mixer, beat everything together on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. 
    5. Next slowly pour in the HOT espresso/coffee (batter will be thin) and mix for 1-2 minutes. Do not overmix.
    6. Stir in the Oreo halves into the mixture by hand and make sure you have combined everything well.
    7. Pour batter evenly into prepared pan.
    8. Bake 30 to 35 minutes for round pans or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. 
    9. Let the cakes cool in their pans for 10 minutes. 
    10. Loosen cake from side of pan and remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely (2-3 hours) before frosting. 
    (At this point, I normally wrap the cakes well with cling/clear wrap (separately!) and allow them to rest overnight in the fridge or on the counter. I make the frosting and decorate the next day.)
    Oreo Buttercream
    full recipe (for cake and decoration)
    feel free to halve this recipe if you plan to use more whipped cream or want less frosting
    • One pound (4 sticks/453g) of butter, room temperature
    • 6 cups (750g) of powdered sugar
    • 1 Tbsp (15ml/g) of vanilla extract
    • Crumbs of ~15 Oreos or chocolate cream-filled biscuits (crush in a food processor or in a Ziploc bag)
    • 4-6 Tbsp (60-90ml) of milk or heavy cream, room temperature

    1. In a stand mixer or large bowl, whip the softened butter for about 1-2 minutes.
    2. Next, add in the powdered sugar one cup at at time being careful not to get sugar everywhere!
    3. Once all the powdered sugar has been incorporated, add in the vanilla extract and cookie crumbs.
    4. Last, pour in a few Tbsp/ml of milk or heavy cream until the frosting is smooth enough to frost the cake without causing the cake to fall apart :).

    Chantilly/Whipped Cream
    The recipe amount below is for the top of the cake. If you’d like to use more, then double the recipe.
    • 1 cup (237ml) of COLD heavy cream
    • 1 tsp (5ml/g) of vanilla extract (clear or regular)
    • 2 Tbsp (10g) of powdered sugar

    1. If you have time, place the mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for at least 5-10 minutes so that the whipped cream will come together faster.
    2. Once the bowl and beaters are ready, pour in the cold, heavy cream and beat it until you begin to see “slightly firm” ripples. Stop the mixer and see if there are slightly firm peaks (but NOT firm just yet).
    3. Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract as the cream continues to mix. Then mix everything until you form firm peaks.
    4. Do not overmix or you’ll make sweet butter and buttermilk!

    Cake Decoration

    To decorate the cake, I piped shells at the bottom of the cake rosettes on the top with the Oreo buttercream. Next, I used a cake decorating triangle (see below) to create the lines on the side of the cake. Then, I piped concentric circles of whipped cream in the middle. I carefully poured in crushed Oreos over the whipped cream and added 7-8 Oreo halves (4 whole Oreos broken in half) and 7-8 strawberries (stem removed) over the rosettes. Last, I added in a few gummy worms coming out of the Oreo-covered whipped cream.

    Copyright – Memoria James –

    Oreo Truffle Brownies

    Many adults have fond, childhood memories of being awakened on Saturday mornings by comforting smells of a special, homemade breakfast lovingly made by a parent or caregiver. In the southern part of the United States, a special breakfast may be comprised of bacon, buttermilk biscuits (and sausage gravy), pancakes, coffee, and/or orange juice.

    As a child, I, on the other hand, was awakened on Saturday mornings, not by the intoxicating smell of a home-cooked breakfast, but by the loud, grating sound of the smoke alarm, which always indicated that my mom was attempting to partially follow yet another recipe. I say “partially” because my mom used to halve part of a recipe and kept the rest as is. For example, she would halve the amount of eggs and sugar called for, yet she would include the full amount of dry ingredients, which would yield, needlessly to say, a disfigured, unpleasant, inedible treat

    One day my mother found a recipe for Magic Muffins on the side of a Malt-O-Meal box. Once I heard the timer (read: smoke alarm) go off, I woke up and jumped out of bed to see what this week’s culinary “masterpiece” would be.

    Entering the living room, I saw my mom in the kitchen with her back turned, and she was talking under her breath. Then she held up and inspected her latest creation while the sunlight beamed on it proudly. From where I stood it looked like a small, brown, round, hard rock muffin with steam sashaying slowly out of it. Upon hearing my gasp or snicker (or both), she turned around quickly with an embarrassed look on her face. With feigned pride shivering in her face, she exclaimed, “LOOK! I made magic muffins…but I think they came out a little hard.” After five minutes of joint laughter, she decided to hurl the hockey puck muffin against the wall — it left a small dent that is probably still there to this day.

    It isn’t entirely my mother’s fault for not knowing how to cook; in fact, now that I’ve taught her how to resist the urge to NOT follow or (to completely) halve recipes, she is able to make more dishes, including homemade bread!

    Anyway, the story goes that my grandmother was an excellent cook who provided large, hearty portions of yummy, irresistible meals to the table every day, such as spaghetti and meatballs (which I learned is an unheard-of combination in Italy). When my grandmother cooked, she liked peace and quiet in the kitchen, so every time one of her six children offered to help her, she would quickly dismiss them by telling them to go play outside.

    As a result, only two out of the six children are considered good cooks, and their spouses actually taught them how to cook. Then as for me, I learned how to cook from food blogs, FoodGawker, and my tendency to follow recipes to the letter before making creative, personal changes to them.

    Once I became comfortable in the kitchen, I began improvising by adding different ingredients or by using different pans or presentation of the finished product, as I did with these Oreo Truffle Brownies!

    I found the recipe for these delectable brownies on Pink Parsley and made a HALVED portion. At the last minute, I decided to place the brownie batter in a 9″ (23cm) springform pan instead of an 8×8 (20x20cm) or 9×9″ (23x23cm) baking pan. Just by baking them in a springform pan, these brownies looked more like an elegant cake. To provide a contrast of flavors and for aesthetic reasons, I added frozen raspberries to the edge of a slice. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the tart, bright berries with the sweet, deep, rich, chocolate flavor of the brownies.

    These brownies are a more complex version of Oreo truffles (remember the popular balls of crushed Oreos and cream cheese?). The base is a brownie with Oreo truffle and ganache layers on top. Although I halved this recipe, I had to make another batch of the Oreo truffle layer in order cover the brownie. Also, I had some ganache leftover so you can make individual truffles with it (chill it first!) or make a third of the ganache recipe (if you’re halving the brownie recipe).

    These Oreo Truffle Brownies make Oreo Truffles seem lackluster! 😉 While they take longer to make and require the oven, they taste and look like an expensive, elegant, overly tedious dessert. I accidentally cooked the brownie layer longer than Pink Parsley did. I thought I had ruined it, but I actually liked the contrast of the dense, chewy, cake-like brownie with the other, more silky layers.

    Oreo Truffle Brownies
    HALVED and adapted from Pink Parsley who adapted it from Chef in Training via Good Thymes & Good Food


    1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
    1 cup (57g) granulated sugar 
    2 large eggs 
    1-2 tsp vanilla extract (o 1-2 bustine di vaniglia) (I like extra vanilla!)
    2/3 cups (83g) all-purpose flour
    1/4 cup (30g) of cocoa powder (I used Pernigotti)
    1-2 tsp coffee or espresso powder (to enhance chocolate flavor; optional)
    1/4 tsp salt 

    OREO TRUFFLE LAYER (I ended up making the full recipe):

    30 Oreo cookies or chocolate wafer cookies/biscuits
    6 oz (170g) cream cheese, softened to room temperature 


    1/2 cup (118ml) heavy cream or half-and-half
    5 oz (142g) semi-sweet chocolate chips

    1. Preheat oven to 350° F/180°C and line a8x8-inch baking pan or 9″springform pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on the two long sides. Spray with baking or cooking spray and set aside.
    2. In the bowl of a stand or electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk flour, cocoa, coffee/espresso powder, and salt in a separate bowl and set aside. To the butter and sugar, add 2 eggs one at a time and vanilla extrace. Mix well, scraping down the bowl, as necessary. Add dry ingredients, and mix everything until just combined. Do not over mix!
    3. Place batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes (test with a toothpick; there should be just a few crumbs attached).  Transfer brownies to a wire cooling rack and allow them to cool completely.
    4. Meanwhile, make the Oreo truffle layer. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse cookies and the cream cheese together until combined. You may need to stir things around between pulses.
    5. Once brownies are completely cool, spread the Oreo truffle layer over brownies with an offset spatula, clean hands, or the bottom of a cup. 
    6. To make the ganache, heat the cream in small saucepan over medium heat until it is simmering or simply microwave it for 30-45 seconds.  Meanwhile, place the chocolate chips in a medium heat-proof measuring cup or bowl.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes.  Whisk the cream and chocolate together until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  
    7. Pour the ganache over Oreo layer and spread with an offset spatula. Chill in the refrigerator until fully set.  To slice and serve, lift the brownies out of the pan using the foil overhang, then use a sharp knife to cut into small squares. If using springform pan, simply remove the edges and serve! These brownies taste good cold and warm!

    Copyright – Memoria James –

    Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg Double Chocolate Brownies

    Peanut Butter Brownies

    Reese’s Peanut Butter Brownies

    It’s funny how I made these Peanut Butter Brownies almost exactly a year ago. I know it was about a year because Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs were on sale in time for Easter, and I decided to use these eggs in a brownie recipe that I had made 2 or three times previously.

    Peanut Butter Brownies

    By this time, I had decided to make these Peanut Butter Brownies recipe my go-to recipe for brownies. So, I no longer needed to try other brownie recipes after having enjoyed these Peanut Butter Brownies consistently, and with the Reese’s peanut butter cup/egg add-ins, I was in love for sure.

    Peanut Butter Brownies

    Although my brownies were cooked a bit longer than the original, fudgier brownies found on How Crazy Cooks, they were still so fudgey, yet had a crackly top on them! I love how they naturally formed two layers in the oven. Please try these brownies with or without the Reese’s peanut butter candy; you won’t regret it!

    Peanut Butter Brownies
    Oops! Who took a bite out of that brownie?! Not me! *teehee*
     Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies
    adapted from How Crazy Cooks


    1/2 cup (113 g) butter

    1/3 cup (39 g) dark cocoa powder
    1 cup (225 g) sugar
    3/4 teaspoons vanilla
    1/4 (2 g) teaspoon salt

    1 (8 g) teaspoon espresso or coffee powder (optional; to enhance chocolate flavor)
    1/4 (2 g) teaspoon baking powder
    2 whole large eggs
    1/2 cup (63 g) all-purpose flour

    1/4 cup (78 g) chocolate chips

    1 1.2 oz package (4-6 eggs) Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs

    1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. 
    2. Spray an 8×8 baking dish with non-stick/baking spray. For easy brownie removal, line the bottom and two sides with parchment paper/foil, leaving some overhang. Spray the parchment/foil.
    3. In a medium saucepan, melt the  butter on the stove or in the microwave for 30-45 seconds.
    4. Whisk in cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla, salt, espresso/coffee powder (if using), and baking powder. Mixture will have a grainy texture.
    5. Working quickly whisk in the eggs one at a time.
    6. In order to avoid the add-ins (peanut butter cups, chocolate chips, nuts, etc.) from sinking to the bottom of the pan, stir the add-ins and flour together in a small bowl.
    7. Add the flour/add-ins mixture to the saucepan with the wet ingredients.
    8. Mix the two together just until combined. Some lumps and/or streaks of flour are fine. Do not overmix!
    9. Pour brownie batter into the lined 8×8 baking dish.
    10. Bake at 350/180 for 45-50 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out with no raw batter. Do not overbake.
    11. Let brownies cool in the pan at least 15 minutes. Then use the parchment paper/foil to lift them out of the pan. Slice into squares and serve.

    *Store any leftovers in an airtight container and eat within 2-3 days. For longer storage and to prevent diet sabotage :), freeze the leftover brownies by wrapping them well (and separately) with wax paper or foil and freezer bags/containers. Frozen brownies last up to 4-6 months!

    Copyright – Memoria James –

    Mexican Chocolate Cheesecake

    Mexican Chocolate Cheesecake

    Doesn’t this Mexican Chocolate Cheesecake look tempting? For the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences of my university hosted a celebratory luncheon where each department within the college was required to bring a certain type of dish. The languages department was in charge of desserts. I eagerly signed up and scribbled simply “cheesecake” below a scanty list promising a batch of chocolate chip cookies, a gluten-free dessert, and a plate of brownies all on behalf of my fellow colleagues.
    For days I pondered over what type of cheesecake I would deliver. It would have to be unique, department-related, and more complicated than necessary, because that’s how I prefer to make display desserts in the midst of this processed-food culture in which I reside. Then I finally opted to allow the less-popular Mexican chocolate cookies I had stowed away in the freezer to guide my choice – a cheesecake with the cookies as a base, cinnamon and ancho chile-infused cheesecake and Chantilly/whipped cream, and a Mexican-chocolate ganache. Cinnamon and ancho chile were in every single layer. I was going to add a mousse layer, but because I was in the middle of grading exams and other assignments, I thought it’d be wise to provide a “simpler” cheesecake for the masses.
    I had ignored the inner voice that told me to cut and freeze the cheesecake the night before delivery. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow my conscience in hopes that the people at the dean’s office would take good care of it. After reluctantly relinquishing my cheesecake to the secretary and kindly instructing her to store it in the refrigerator, in the back of my mind I knew something unfavorable was going to happen to my little labor of love. . .
    Mexican Chocolate Cheesecake: Before the piping

    The event started at 11am; I finished teaching by 12:15 noon. Throughout my class I wondered how the cheesecake had turned out and if there would be any left upon my arrival *hah!*. I rushed to the Thanksgiving luncheon and scanned the large auditorium for the dessert table. Since I did not immediately locate said table, I made my way to the savory items provided from other departments within the college, which were comprised of casseroles in crockpots and 9×13 baking dishes and turkey in foiled, roasting pans. As I meandered toward a table to relax and eat, I spotted the dessert table in the back of the auditorium. Not wanting to appear overly anxious, I decided to enjoy the main course meals before checking on my cheesecake and the other sugar-laden creations supplied by my colleagues.

    Piping done!

    Upon completion of the main course (which was pretty good by the way!), I nervously headed toward the back of the room. After passing over mostly store-bought desserts in their plastic containers and bakery price tags, a mushy-looking, unappetizing cake, and overly spread cookies, I resolved that my cheesecake was not there. I looked over the desserts again desperately looking for anything that resembled my cheesecake and finally found it. It was the mushy looking, unappetizing cake I had passed over the first time around.

    Instead of being cut with a sharp knife, it was mutilated by a dull, butter knife that was not wiped between slices. Upon consumption of my first bite, I quickly realized my cheesecake had not been refrigerated, so it was very warm as if it had never spent the night in my fridge. Quiet tears yearned to leak out of my eyes with each bite I took of my little, mushy cheesecake. I reflected on how much effort I had put into the cheesecake and was thankful I had not added a mousse layer. I then reminded myself to be better prepared for such things to happen by cutting and freezing cheesecakes before delivering them to people who may not be accustomed to homemade, culinary creations.

    The Aftermath

    On the positive side, my colleagues said they enjoyed the cheesecake. Also, when I finally remembered to pick up my (unwashed) springform pan and cake carrier from the dean’s office (almost 2 weeks later!), the secretary paused her phone conversation to tell me “your cake was REALLY good.” 🙂 Just that one sentence erased all the anxiety and dismay I had felt upon seeing and eating my mutilated cheesecake haha. I’m already looking forward and am prepared for the next luncheon :).


    First layer: Mexican-Chocolate Cookies for the Crust layer

     2 1/4 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
    1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    2 teaspoons cream of tartar*
    1 teaspoon baking soda* (I used 3 tsp of baking powder in place of the cream of tarter AND baking soda)
    1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    1 3/4 cups sugar
    2 large eggs, room temperature 
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon chile powder (I used ancho chile powder. Make sure there is no salt or garlic in it!)
    If not refrigerating the dough, preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, baking soda (or just baking powder in place of the cream of tartar and baking soda), and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Next, add eggs and beat to combine. With mixer on low or with a spoon, gradually add flour mixture and beat until combined. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour for better cookies.
    In a small bowl or a sealable bag, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, and chile powder. Using heaping tablespoons (or 25-26 grams of dough), form balls of dough and roll in cinnamon/chile/sugar mixture. Place, about 3 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are set in center and begin to crack, about 10 minutes (for a soft cookie, bake for 7-8 minutes), rotating sheets halfway through. Let cookies cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze the dough for months. I crushed about 15 cookies in the food processor to create crumbs. Next melt one Tablespoon of butter, mix it with the cookies, press the mixture in the springform pan, and store in the freezer while preparing the cheesecake filling.


     Second layer: Tall and Creamy Cheesecake (my go-to recipe forever and ever amen!)

    HALVED & adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

    1 pound (two 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
    2/3 cup granulated sugar
    1/4 teaspoon salt (I always use kosher salt)
    2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
    2 large eggs, at room temperature
    2/3 cup heavy cream (or sour cream or combination)

    Put a kettle or pot of water on to boil. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Working in a stand mixer (or large bowl with hand mixer), preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft for about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt, and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition to yield a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and stir in the heavy cream or sour cream.

    Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter should fill only half of the pan. Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour the the boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. (I pour half of the boiling water before putting in the pan to reduce my chances of dripping water in the cheesecake.)

    Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, at which point the top will be lightly browned and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven’s heat, and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
    After 1 hour, carefully pull the roast pan/springform pan setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster—be careful, there WILL be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
    When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours or overnight. 


    Third layer: Mexican-Chocolate Ganache

     QUARTERED and adapted from

    1/4 cup heavy cream

    2.25 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut semi-sweet chocolate)
    1-2 tsp cinnamon powder

    1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
    1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

    Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat (or microwave it for 30-60 seconds). For stove option, heat cream just BEFORE it boils. Place the chocolate in the cream, and remove from heat. Stir the mixture until smooth. Stir in the cinnamon and ancho chile powders and vanilla extract. Allow the ganache to cool for about 15 minutes before pouring the mixture on top of the CHILLED cheesecake.

    Release the springform pan. With an offset spatula, smooth the ganache while starting at the center of the cake and working outward. Keep in mind that the cold temperature of the cake will cause the ganache to firm up quickly, and you may have to pour more on top to make it spread evenly.

    Topmost layer: Cinnamon and Ancho-Chile Chantilly or Whipped Cream

    1 cup COLD whipping, heavy, or double cream
    1/4 cup powdered sugar (or fine or granulated sugar if you don’t have powdered)
    1-2 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
    1/2 – 1 tsp of vanilla extract (clear vanilla extract is best in this case, but I didn’t have it on hand)
    For decoration: piping bag with tips, chocolate shards, cinnamon, ancho chile powder
    Chill bowl and beaters in the freezer at least 5-10 minutes before making the Chantilly. Pour the cream in the chilled bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients when the cream becomes more voluminous. Continue whipping until the cream forms firm peaks. Do not create butter by over-mixing!
    Final Preparation: Scoop the Chantilly/whipped cream into a piping bag with a 1M star tip or any other tip you have. Sprinkle shards of chocolate and more cinnamon and ancho chile powder on top to showcase what type of cheesecake you are serving :). Enjoy!
    Copyright – Memoria James –

    Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies: A Comparison of Two Recipes

    A comparison of Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies: adapted version of Everyday Food Magazine on the left/Cooking Channel on the right.

    El día de los muertos

    A Comparison of two Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies recipes. For El Día de Muertos (The Day of the Dead), I’ve made Pan de muerto (Bread of the Dead) in the past. This time, however, I decided to make Mexican Chocolate Cookies for my students because the cookies were portable and pleasant hybrids between Mexican and U.S. desserts. I tried out two recipes: 1) a heavily adapted version from Everyday Food Magazine on Martha Stewart’s website and 2) a recipe from the Cooking Channel website. While both recipes yielded delicious cookies, one was clearly better than the other. Before I reveal the winner, let’s talk about the pros and cons of each recipe and its end product.

    Continue reading “Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies: A Comparison of Two Recipes”

    White Chocolate Crumb Muffins

    White Chocolate Crumb Muffins.

    Wow. I haven’t updated in more than a month! Things have been pretty rough for me here in LA because I hadn’t found a job even after submitting 10-20 applications a day and 3 interviews. To make matters worse, I will have to move out of my girlfriend’s house very soon because she is allowed to have only 3 people in her rental home. I will have to live in my car if I don’t start earning money soon! After having worked so hard in school for so many years, the thought of living in my car is a terrible one. Fortunately, I just landed a job teaching Spanish online for Oklahoma public schools (if you knew my family background (most of them live in OK), you would understand the irony in all of this). I will be teaching 7 hours a day as a substitute until I get my emergency certification to teach in Oklahoma while still residing in California (ah, the power of the internet and Skype). Anyway, I just hope you all can keep me in your thoughts and prayers while I go through this difficult time.


    I thought that I’d inform you all that I started an online business called Online Language Tutor! For months, I have been thinking about starting this business but was afraid it would fall through. I still have that fear, but I have decided to keep moving forward, start small, and unofficially advertise it to you all first. I first shared this idea of online tutoring with my mother, and she was excited about it and agreed to be my (very) silent partner. I allowed the idea to marinate a little and almost gave up on it. However, a few weeks later, Marly from NamelyMarly emailed me and asked me to help her out with some Spanish grammar questions her personal tutor was unable to answer. After happily helping her out, she suggested I start an online tutoring business without even knowing I had already formulated the same idea. Anyway, because I enjoy and miss teaching Spanish on a one-to-one or two-to-one level, I thought that I would provide a tutoring service for anyone interested in learning or retaining Spanish, English, or a beginner’s level of Brazilian Portuguese.

    I plan to offer online tutoring via Skype to anyone around the world and in-person tutoring to those in the Los Angeles area. The website I created is extremely rudimentary due to lack of funds. However, I hope to buy a true domain for it and all that jazz once my business improves. I’m also still working on the business registration and all the other stuff to make my business legit. My mom, a PhD-holding English professor, plans to help with editing and proofreading papers for anyone interested as well (as you can tell, she didn’t proofread this post LOL). Please check out my website, and provide any suggestions via email. Also, if you know anyone who would be interested in my tutoring services, please let them know about Online Language Tutor. I have also added a link to my site on this blog.


    I have been cooking and baking a little here in LA, but I never get around to taking photos because 1) the lighting in this house is bad, and 2) my girlfriend and 2 daughters (along with many other guests) are pretty impatient and unaccustomed to people taking photos of food for long periods of time. Now that I’m with my girlfriend, I’ve realized why I was so addicted to blogging. The act of blogging and cooking was a filler of the void I felt without my girlfriend. Even though we are still adjusting to each other, I don’t feel as empty anymore and many times, I forget to blog or even look at Google Reader. I’m sure that will change once I find my own place.


    Anyway, I made these muffins before moving to California. The original recipe called for regular chocolate chips, but I only had white chocolate leftover from Guittard’s generous package, so I used those. The muffins were good on the first day and improved in taste the next. The interior was very soft, and the white chocolate had a very subtle taste. I liked the crumb on top of the muffins. Next time I make these, though, I will use regular chocolate. If you’re considering making these muffins, I suggest you do the same and just follow the recipe.


    (White) Chocolate Crumb Muffins

    from 300 Best Chocolate Recipes by Julie Hasson

    1/2 c powdered or icing sugar
    1/2 c AP flour
    1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/8 tsp salt (I used kosher)
    1/4 c unsalted butter, melted

    2 c AP flour
    3/4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used white chocolate but would’ve preferred chocolate)
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp salt (I used kosher)
    3/4 c granulated sugar
    2 large eggs, room temperature
    3/4 c milk (I used buttermilk)
    1/2 c vegetable oil
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    ground cinnamon (for the top of the muffins)

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C)

    ASSEMBLE TOPPING: In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Then, whisk in the melted butter until crumbly. Set topping aside while you prepare the batter.

    BATTER: In another medium bowl, combine the flour, chocolate chips, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl or mixer bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla extract. Stir in the dry ingredients just until combined. DO NOT OVERMIX!!

    Spoon batter (or use a small ice-cream scoop) into prepared muffin tins/cups. Sprinkle the topping over the batter and add extra ground cinnamon.

    Bake for 22-24 minutes or until puffed and golden. You may also use a toothpick or knife to test its doneness. Allow muffins to cool for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

    Copyright – Memoria James –