Tunnel of Hazelnut Fudge Cake | Pork Cracklins

Remember that old timey Tunnel of Fudge cake? Invented in the 60s by a woman who entered it (and came in second place) into the Pilsbury Bake-Off, it’s a simple chocolate Bundt cake that magically creates a ribbon of fudge in the middle of the cake as it bakes. It’s also the cake that’s responsible for the popularity of the beloved Bundt pan.

The original recipe calls for Pillsbury’s Double Dutch Fudge Buttercream Frosting Mix – a product that’s no longer in production. But no matter, because in true Baked fashion this is a twist on the original, which also included walnuts in the recipe.

This is more like eating undercooked brownies than cake – which isn’t a bad thing. Instead of walnuts, the Baked recipe uses hazelnuts. Not my favorite, but it works. I think it would be lovely with walnuts or almonds instead.

This cake instantly gets points for simplicity – dump, stir, bake. It’s so easy, especially if you’re lazy like me and use Trader Joe’s pre-roasted, mostly skinned hazelnuts. Even if you toast your own raw hazelnuts, I think you could leave the skins on.

I left the cake in the lunchroom at work.. came back an hour later, and it was gone. I think they liked it.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Chocolate Cheesecake Muffins | Pork Cracklins

I like these muffins, don’t love them, but they’re pretty good. They’re intensely chocolate, with a hit from a generous amount of chocolate chunks in the batter. I’d almost venture to call these a cupcake. They’re close, but don’t have the fuss of needing frosting.

There’s a surprise inside, too, which I think is the best part – a cheesecake filling. The filling is also spiked, with chunks of milk chocolate that add melty, creamy bits to the dense cream cheese.

My muffins turned out fine, other than a few of them cratering on top. And I think I used too much filling in them, because I had enough for a dozen muffins, but then I still had enough chocolate batter for six more straight chocolate muffins. No matter, the chocolate ones are good too – especially when, as suggested in the recipe headnote, they’re sliced and lightly toasted.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Candy Bar Cookies | Pork Cracklins

This is an ironic cookie. It’s the best way to describe an elegant looking little cookie that surprises you with a candy bar inside. It’s highbrow meets lowbrow, and it works really well.

The cookies are simple to make. The dough is kind of sandy and initially kind of a pain to work with, but it turns out to be very forgiving. It’s a little messy, since the candies need to be smooshed into a ball and then wrapped up in the dough before baking, but it’s all chocolate so it doesn’t matter.

I dipped some in white chocolate, some in dark. I love how they look like little petit fours. I served some to friends that came over for cocktails, and the rest went to work, where they were quickly gobbled up.

I wasn’t as creative as my fellow bakers, though. They tried all sorts of different candies inside these cookies – I just went with the recommended Mounds and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Word is, candies with a lot of caramel don’t work as well because the caramel just melts all over the place. I thought the ones with peanut butter cups were really good – and the ones with Rolos sound great, too.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Chocolate-Chunk Pumpkin Bread Pudding | Pork Cracklins

Larry is thrilled that it’s September and time for the start of Fall desserts – apples, pumpkin, cinnamon and spice and everything nice. I, on the other hand, still do not like pumpkin. But I’ll make an exception for this bread pudding.

When I first saw the title of the recipe, I imagined a typical bread pudding, except with pumpkin, including raisins and soggy bread. Shudder. But no! In typical Baked style, this is a surprising and delicious twist on the classic.

I should note that a time commitment is required – there’s not a lot of hands-on work, but the recipe starts with making bread. That’s right – the bread pudding starts out with a pretty-tasty-on-its-own pumpkin bread that’s not too sweet and is studded with chunks of chocolate. I recommend making just the bread even if you don’t want to make the bread pudding.

There’s more pumpkin in the custard; this is where it starts to seem suspiciously like pumpkin pie to me, but I soldier on. What comes out of the oven is deep brown, hearty, and delicious. The bread stands up very well to the custard, and the chocolate is a delightful surprise. Maybe it’s still a little too much pumpkin for me, but Larry really likes it. It doesn’t suck – that’s about as enthusiastic as I can get for pumpkin.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Crunchy Peanut Butter Banana Bread | Pork Cracklins

When I saw this recipe, I was skeptical. Does the world really need yet another version of banana bread? Maybe not, but after I tried this one, I’m leaning towards yes.

Larry and I aren’t big peanut butter fans (I don’t like peanuts in general). This is a pretty standard banana bread, but with the addition of peanut butter and chocolate chunks, it’s transformed into an additive sweet treat.

I used crunchy peanut butter and liked the texture of the bread. If you really like crunch, you could add in more chopped peanuts. If not, go with creamy peanut butter. I had some issues with the texture in the middle – that all too common crater down the center of the bread that never seems to get enough time in the oven. Next time, I’ll bake it a bit longer until I’m sure the middle has fully baked.

The bread would also be great with almond butter, or really, any other nut butter (I’ve got some hazelnut butter in the fridge). I’m curious to see how it turns out with a natural nut butter, since I used Skippy Super Chunk. Don’t judge. I firmly believe it’s the very best peanut butter for baking, sugar and stabilizers and all.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Chocolate Banana Tart | Pork Cracklins

This is a pretty quick tart, with layers of chocolate and raw bananas, topped with caramelized bananas and buttery brown sugar caramel. It’s too bad it’s not prettier.

The tart wasn’t trouble-free. There are a few steps – make and bake the crust, make the ganache, slice bananas, caramelize bananas, finish off the caramel. My caramel got very gloppy and the butter started to separate out. I think the ganache overpowers the flavor of the caramelized bananas (which are the best part).

I could have eaten just the caramelized bananas. They’re delicious, but mine got pretty soft in the time it took to get them somewhat brown.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Chewy Chocolate Mint Cookies | Pork Cracklins

Flat, flat cookies. They drive me crazy, and these little chocolate mint morsels are no exception. They’re not a bad cookie – very chocolate-y and intensely minty. If you don’t like mint, you can leave it out and add nuts or another flavor.

These are a make-ahead sort of cookie. Like most cookie doughs, it benefits from some time chilling in the refrigerator. In my case, it was in there for a couple of days. I had other things on my plate: the annual Netflix Waffle Day was last week, and my coworker and I were busy making puff pastry (16 pounds) and frangipane (6 quarts, and yes, we waffled puff pastry!).

After waffle day was over, the cookies bake off in just 10 minutes. The dough is just as quick and easy to make, too, but I’m not sure this is a recipe I’ll revisit.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Vanilla Bean Malt Cake | Pork Cracklins

This is a lovely little Bundt cake. I already have a bias towards Bundt cakes – so simple, and not fussy at all – but this one is small enough for a 6-cup bundt pan. It’s perfectly sized.

The cake is quick to make, so I whipped it up at the last minute the night before we left on a camping trip to Yosemite. It’s a good cake for camping or a picnic.

If you’re not a fan of malt, just leave it out. There’s plenty of flavor with the vanilla and a hint of Bourbon. The buttermilk makes for a moist crumb.

My only beef with the recipe is the glaze – it comes out way too thin, and I needed to add quite a bit more powdered sugar to get it to the right consistency. I suggest starting off with half of the milk at first, and thinning as needed.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

La Yapa Cocktail | Pork Cracklins

In Part II of this series on rye, I mentioned that I was going to write about an unusual cocktail that includes balsamic vinegar. I turned to a drink developed by the bar manager at Peels in NYC, the New York Shrub. It sounds odd, but makes sense – cocktails are best with a hit of acid to balance out the sweet and bitter flavors. In order to intensify the vinegar, it’s first boiled down into a syrup. Lemon juice adds brightness, and a bit of simple syrup as a counter to the tart vinegar. The result is a dark, delicious drink that’s perfectly balanced. The rye plays beautifully with the balsamic vinegar – it’s become one of my preferred flavor pairings. Bold and unique, I could drink this every night. I think it lends itself more to a cold night, but there’s something refreshing about the bracing tartness of the vinegar.

Next I returned to an old favorite, the Stone Fence. Actually, this is adaptation of an adaptation of a Stone Fence. I’ve taken some liberties. In Part I, I mentioned how I tend to think of rye in terms of winter flavors. This is the embodiment of that idea. With reduced apple cider, maple syrup and a ginger garnish, this drink almost demands a to be consumed on a cold night in front of a warm fire. As much as I love it, it’s best saved for another season. One of the reasons I wanted to make it now is to compare how the Templeton Rye performs in a more traditionally rye-based cocktail versus something less customary.

For my last rye experiment of the night, I made Imbibe Magazine’s La Yapa. This is a return to a more tropical-themed drink, with falernum and grenadine. Bracing Fernet Branca gives it a bit of a bite, but it works fairly well – I’m becoming convinced that Templeton Rye has an affinity for bold, unusual flavor pairings. I like this drink less than the previous two, but more than last night’s Two Stone.

A last variation on rye cocktails is to batch up several servings, and then place it in an oak barrel for a period of time. I won’t go into too much detail here, since I wrote about the subject at length previously in my post on a Barrel-Aged Vieux Carre. The primary guidelines for barrel-aging cocktails are that they shouldn’t include citrus juices, and the smaller the barrel, the less time it should spend aging (it’s a good practice to taste the progress daily). I can say that three months after bottling the aged cocktail, it’s still terrific. And it’s great to be able to pour myself a drink without having to go to any more trouble than popping open the bottle and pouring.

After all of this experimentation with Templeton Rye as the starring ingredient in cocktails, I can’t help but think it would also be wonderful as a supporting flavor in low-alcohol cocktails – with a primary base of port, or sherry, or vermouth. I can’t wait to get back into the kitchen for more investigation.

Given the name of the blog, I can’t end this series without mentioning the Templeton Rye Heritage Pork Project. They raised Duroc pigs, which were fed a diet spent grains from the Templeton mash. The pigs were slaughtered this summer, but I hope they continue the program because I’d love to do a backyard pig roast.

If you’re interesting in learning more about the history of Templeton Rye, I recommend picking up a copy of Gentleman Bootleggers: The True Story of Templeton Rye, Prohibiiton, and a Small Town in Cahoots.

Other posts in this series:
Rye Cocktails, Part I
Rye Cocktails, Part II

Disclaimer: The folks at Templeton Rye provided me with a bottle of their product for experimentation. All opinions are my own.

Up to Date Cocktail | Pork Cracklins

Yesterday I wrote about two simple, spirit-forward cocktails using Templeton Rye. I was excited about the outcome of both drinks. Today I’m taking a different and more unusual approach, pairing the rye with Sherry in two different cocktails.

I’m a little bit obsessed with Sherry and am always trying to find ways to highlight it in a cocktail. It’s a bit of an odd ingredient for cocktails, as it’s more often sipped on its own. I wondered how it would work with rye – would the flavors clash in a fight for dominance, or would they meld into something delightfully drinkable?

It turns out, it depends on the drink. I used an Amontillado Sherry in both drinks for consistency. First, the Up To Date, a classic cocktail from the 1916 edition of Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks. This drink pairs equal amounts of rye and Sherry with Grand Mariner and bitters. I love this combination. Neither spirit is dominant – instead, they’re harmonious and are enhanced by the addition of the Grand Mariner. This is a very drinkable cocktail, like a Manhattan but more interesting.

My second experiment was the Two Stone. Like the Up to Date, it’s also a riff on a Manhattan, but emphasizes the rye over the Sherry. It also includes an orange liqueur in the form of Orange Curacao instead of Grand Mariner. As much as I love rye, I didn’t love this drink. It wasn’t balanced, and the flavors didn’t play as well together when the rye was matched with an equal amount of Sherry.

I think the learning here is that Rye and Amontillado sherry, while a seemingly unusual pairing, work well together, particularly when used in equal amounts. I would expect to need to experiment with that ratio when using other types of sherry, such as Oloroso, or Manzanita, or even the sweet Pedro Ximinez. From now on when I see Rye and vermouth in a drink, I’m definitely going to try swapping out the vermouth with Sherry to see if I like the outcome.

Part three of this series will cover more cocktail variations using Templeton Rye, including a crazy pairing of rye with balsamic vinegar. In a cocktail! Stop in tomorrow to learn more.

Other posts in this series:
Rye Cocktails, Part I
Rye Cocktails, Part III

Disclaimer: The folks at Templeton Rye provided me with a bottle of their product for experimentation. All opinions are my own.