Friday, January 4, 2013

The Baked Brownie

I needed a special brownie for a special occasion, and let me tell you: this is the brownie.

I don't think I've ever tasted a brownie so rich or so fudgy in my life. I'm a believer in the Baked Brownie!

But it definitely needs ice cream because this thing is RICH. Hmm. What's with the ice cream flavor?

Half Baked?

Here, is this more obvious?

This was taken at 20 weeks preggers, aka, when our little nugget was half baked. I'm 39(!!!) weeks at the time I'm actually typing this and have a much bigger basketball under my shirt now. :)

Exhibit A
We had our parents over for the big gender reveal (boy, by the way), and this was the dessert we served them. Whether it's a special occasion or a night in front of the TV, please consider making this your new go-to brownie! Thanks to Miss Menagerie for alerting me to it!

The Baked Brownie
makes 24 (but I prefer fewer (but larger) brownies at size "go big or go home")
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
2 T. dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 oz. dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 t. instant espresso powder
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 t. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 glass or light-colored metal baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.

Put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. (Longtime blog readers will know that I prefer using a good nonstick saucepan on low, stirring constantly.) Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey. ("An even slightly overbaked brownie is not a Baked Brownie.")

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve.

Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Scones

To say I was not happy about my 30th birthday was the understatement of the century. (Flashback to July, by the way!)

But so is saying I have the best hubby on the planet.

In short, while he shooed me away to a massage, he planned, cooked for, and threw an amazing surprise tea party. And it was no small feat! There were games (Sheryl Jeopardy, which included sound effects, buzzers, Daily Doubles, and Audio Daily Doubles; and pin the cane on Sheryl—not as happy about that one!), prizes from Godiva and Baskin-Robbins (enough for multiples when there were inevitable ties), and my favorite—all the food was labeled like I would have done. :) He even invited out-of-town friends (back in February!), some of whom actually came! The craziest part is that he took off of work the day before to prep it, but in order to not raise any eyebrows, he left the house in his work clothes as usual then spent the entire day at his parents' house making tea sandwiches (chicken salad, egg salad, cucumber mint), picking up an ice cream cake from my favorite ice cream shop at the only far-away store left in our area, and baking scones.

Not just any scones.

He got a recipe from a coworker, baked them on his day off about a week before the party while I was at work, then fed them to me as a test batch, saying his coworker made them. Wow! That coworker could bake!

Yeah, he made them and they were awesome. Here, finally, is the recipe.

Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Scones
makes 16 scones
4 c. all-purpose flour
3 T. sugar
4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cream of tartar
3/4 c. cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg, separated
1 1/2 c. refrigerated hazelnut nondairy creamer*
1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
Additional sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cream of tartar. Cut in butter until crumbly with pasty blender or rub the butter into the flour with your hands. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolk and nondairy creamer together; add to dry ingredients just until moistened. Stir in chocolate chips.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead 10 times. Divide dough in half. Pat each portion into a 7-inch circle; cut into eight wedges. Separate wedges and place on a greased baking sheet or Silpat.

Beat egg white with a fork; brush over dough. Sprinkle with additional sugar. Bake at 425 for 15–18 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with butter, clotted cream, or jam.

*Don't like hazelnut? The fun part is swapping out the hazelnut nondairy creamer for other flavors. Get creative!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Passover Apple Cake

I made this cake for my ILs' Seder last year, and other than being too stuffed (matzo! soup! potato kugel!) to really enjoy it, I'll definitely make it again. Next time, I think I'll use some brown sugar and matzo meal for the top "crust" just to finish it off with more of a topping.

Passover Apple Cake
adapted from Jewish Home Cooking
1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 t. ground cinnamon
3/4 t. ground nutmeg
3/4 t. ground ginger
3 large eggs
1/3 c. vegetable oil
3/4 c. matzo cake meal
5 medium apples, such as Golden Delicious or Crispin, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 5 cups)
1/3 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8-inch-square baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Mix together nuts, 3/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in a medium bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat eggs on medium speed until well combined. Beat in remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, until mixture is thick and foamy. With the mixer running, slowly pour in oil. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Stir in matzo cake meal.

Pour half of the batter into prepared cake pan. Sprinkle over half of the nut mixture, half of the apples, and raisins (if using). Pour over remaining batter and top with remaining apples; sprinkle over remaining nut mixture.

Transfer cake to oven and bake until the sides of the cake pull away from the baking dish very slightly and topping begins to caramelize, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove cake from oven and let stand for several hours until completely cool, before cutting. Keep cake covered tightly with plastic wrap for up to 2 days, as the flavor improves with age.

Next year, in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

10 Years: Toll House Cookie Pie

Ten years ago tonight, a guy I sort of liked and I went to a local restaurant in our college town to pick up dessert after our Thursday evening commitments. (Ah, college.)

Of course, we go to pick it up and—I was only 19—there was a bouncer at the door. Being one of the few restaurants-turned-night-clubs in our college town, we hadn’t even considered this SNAFU. But I think I batted my eyelashes, we begged explained that we merely wanted to order dessert to go, and scurried through the door. 

Inside was… interesting.

You see, not only had it turned into a night club scene, but Thursday night + bar + college town + Valentine’s Day = ...sorority mixer. Desperate, drunk, dateless women were everywhere. The bar was packed full of college girls who very clearly wanted one last chance to snag a Valentine’s Day date. Somehow, we managed to squeeze our way to the bar and order what I’m certain the bartender was not expecting—one Toll-House cookie pie to go please? (I’m sure more eyelash batting ensued.)

We waited for what seemed like forever—and because the night hadn’t been awkward enough for two people who had only just started to get to know one another, a sorority girl managed to spill the entire contents of her beer on my guy’s pants.

I think we had a good laugh once we escaped. We enjoyed our pie in a to-go box in the safety of his apartment.

The restaurant has since had two name/ownership changes, but it will always be Biltmore to us. We’ve never invested much into Valentine’s Day, but 02/02/2002 was our first kiss (I bet the groundhog didn’t predict that!), and the whole month of February has always held special significance for us. We stopped celebrating our dating anniversary once we got married in 2007, so imagine my shock and excitement to come home from the gym on 02/02/2012 to a homemade Toll House cookie pie—that my husband rushed home from work to bake for me after Googling the recipe. He even added the nuts, which he hates. I think he’s a keeper.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Toll House Cookie Pie
(adapted from this link)
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
2 large eggs
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened (I used salted; if using unsalted, add 1/2 t. salt)
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. (6 oz.) semisweet chocolate morsels
1 c. chopped walnuts
Vanilla ice cream, to serve

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Beat eggs in large mixing bowl on high speed until foamy. Beat in flour, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in butter (and salt, if needed) and vanilla. Stir in morsels and nuts. Spoon into pie shell.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm with ice cream, if desired.

(Also see one of my very first posts for the very similar Bourbon Walnut Pie.)

**pictures to come later this week... time to start dinner before he gets home!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Five-Layer Bars

Well, hello there.

Long time no type.

It's been so long, even Blogger looks different.

In a rush for a quick dessert suitable for a big game, potluck, or tailgate?

It should come as no surprise by now that I like stuff in my chocolate
Five-Layer* Bars
Adapted from Epicurious
1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, melted
2 sleeves graham crackers, crushed
1 c. sweetened flaked coconut
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. butterscotch chips

(*other toppings: pretzels, fleur de sel, potato chips, etc.—who's counting?!)
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (I used fat-free)
2 c. pecans, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch pan and line with parchment paper, allowing enough overhang on the long side to lift the bars from the pan.

Place the melted butter and graham crackers in a bowl and combine well. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and press into an even layer to form the crust.

Sprinkle the coconut evenly over the crust. Sprinkle the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and any other desired toppings over the coconut. Pour the condensed milk evenly over the chocolate chips. Sprinkle the pecans evenly over the condensed milk layer. Press the layers down lightly. Transfer to the oven and bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes.

Set aside to cool completely and cut into 24 pieces. 

Gooey goodness

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Coconut Chocolate Chip Frozen Custard

In college, I was introduced to Serendipity. The movie first, then the ice cream shop. (It was Thanksgiving Day 2001 and two hungry piccolo players who just marched in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade were just trying to eat at ANYWHERE THAT WAS OPEN, but the wait at Serendipity was just too long. My Thanksgiving dinner ended up being cheesecake from some random diner and I don't even like cheesecake. But I digress.)

When I heard that a Serendipity was opening in DC, it was high on my list of places to visit and we ended up going on my birthday. I'll probably stick to the frrrrozen hot chocolate next time (the sundaes were 90% whipped cream, which is not my favorite), but two ginormous lunchtime sundaes sure was a funny sight to see!

Uhh, is there even any ice cream under there??
Anyway, years ago, my mom bought me the Serendipity book, but, without an ice cream maker, all I could do was drool on the pretty pictures. Well, fast forward 10 years and even with an ice cream maker, all I usually do is drool on the pretty pictures. :) But, if you like coconut cream pie and have an ice cream maker, I highly encourage you to MAKE THIS, adapted from that book. It tastes like summer and the guts of a coconut chess pie (which we were obsessed with while on our honeymoon even though it was possibly here that the waitress stole our credit card number then bought three airline tickets... small price to pay, right?). Mom already designated it as her requested birthday dessert for later this month!

Coconut Chocolate Chip Frozen Custard
Makes one generous quart
1 c. unsweetened coconut milk
1 c. milk (I used 2%)
3 large egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. light cream
1 t. vanilla extract
3/4 c. sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

Combine coconut milk and milk in a medium nonstick saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside.

Combine yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until thick and pale yellow, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

Temper the eggs by adding half the milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture and quickly whisk until blended. Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the remaining milk mixture in the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, 5 to 10 minutes. Be extremely careful not to overheat, as it is very easy to curdle egg yolks—the correct consistency will be ruined.

Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the cream. Pour the mixture into a clean bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, add the vanilla extract and freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Five minutes before ice cream is finished churning, add coconut and mini chocolate chips. Remove the ice cream with a spatula and eat immediately or store in a plastic container in the freezer. (If ice cream is too soft, store in a plastic container in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours before serving.)

Farewell, summer!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Classic Blueberry Pie

I'd like to let you in on a little secret: pie crusts terrify me. I guess part of it is that I'd rather eat a cake or brownies or ice cream than a temperamental pie. Also, when I think of pie, I think of fruit more than I think of chocolate (and chocolate pies, to me, deserve an Oreo or graham cracker crust anyway).

But it's time to get over my fear. I'm not going to improve if I only make one pie (spoiler: pumpkin) a year. Of course, a hot summer kitchen isn't really pie crust's best friend, but nothing says July 4th more than pie.

This recipe is from Annie, my new favorite blogger. Christina, however, gives a beautiful tutorial on the lattice pie crust. Never fear though, this pie is perfectly delicious with a standard double crust, as long as you make holes in it for the steam to escape (cutting holes with festive cookie cutters always brings it to the next level). My only change is that I have had success with Martha's pie crust and didn't want to change it up. I also used this "by hand in a bowl" method (but not the recipe) to avoid overmixing the dough in the food processor, and, let's be honest, to have one less appliance to clean. :)

Classic Blueberry Pie
2 rolled-out rounds basic pie dough
¾ c. sugar
3 T. cornstarch
½ t. finely grated lemon zest
¼ t. salt
¼ t. cinnamon
4 c. blueberries
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
1 T. water

Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan with one of the rolled-out dough rounds. Set pan aside in the refrigerator until ready to fill.

To make the filling, in a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, salt, and cinnamon. Place the blueberries in a large bowl, sprinkle with the lemon juice, and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the berries and toss to distribute evenly. Immediately transfer to the dough-lined pan. Dot with butter pieces. Either follow instructions for a lattice crust or place the remaining dough round on top of the pie and trim the excess from the bottom and top rounds. (Roll excess dough into shapes like mini pretzels, dust with cinnamon sugar, and bake alongside pie on a cookie sheet for 10–12 minutes... husbands love these but get made fun of if they bring them to the office in their lunch.) Crimp the dough rounds together to seal the edges. Be sure to cut vents in the top crust to allow steam to escape during baking.

Refrigerate the pie until the dough is firm, 20–30 minutes. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375°. In a small bowl, beat the egg and water with a fork to make an egg wash. Brush onto the top crust just before baking.

Bake the pie until the crust is golden and the filling is thick and bubbling, 50–60 minutes (55 was just right for me). Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely to set, 1–2 hours. Serve at room temperature or rewarm in a 350° oven for 10–15 minutes just before serving. Delicious served with vanilla ice cream.

Note: If fresh blueberries are unavailable, use frozen blueberries (without thawing) and increase the baking time by 10–15 minutes.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

I'm about to do something crazy.

From time to time, I share a recipe that is against my belief system. What belief system is that? "Vanilla is ick." Oh, that.

However, I have been known to befriend people with other belief systems. Several years ago, my husband asked if I could make vanilla cupcakes with white chocolate frosting for a coworker of his. It's apparently her favorite combo. In fact, I almost added the recipe to this blog, but later thought better of it. Why is that? Other than the (plain! vanilla! boring!) obvious, I have never really tasted these cupcakes. I had a tiny bite of one, but gave the rest to my husband and went to the freezer for some chocolatey ice cream instead. The frosting is too sweet. The cake is too un-chocolate. I considered eating one topped with chocolate sauce, but what is the point?

Don't get me wrong. I'm told that these are delicious cupcakes. Better than delicious. When the aforementioned coworker took a new job elsewhere, I was asked to make the cupcakes again. I was told that she had four of them. Then saved two for the next day. When my husband saved one for his old boss, she replied with an e-mail. Subject line: "OMG." Of all the (by my standards) delicious things that I have prepared for his coworkers, this is what the people want. I'll just go have another scoop of chocolate peanut butter ice cream, thankyouverymuch.

I wasn't even inspired to take nice photographs or to decorate them with a piping bag. So, sorry. Vanilla just doesn't deserve that.

Everyone's Favorite Vanilla Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
(adapted from Martha via Magnolia Bakery, and frosting from Diana's Desserts)

2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 c. sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 c. milk
1 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth and creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla, and scraping down sides of bowl in between each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about three-quarters full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

"Help us! We're plain! Not even chocolate can save us!"

Transfer to a wire rack to cool in tins for 15 minutes. Remove cupcakes from tins, and cool completely on rack. Once cupcakes have cooled, use a small offset spatula to frost tops of each cupcake. Serve at room temperature.

9 oz. white chocolate, chopped (or use chips)
12 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 1/4–3 1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar (to taste)
1/2 c. milk
1 t. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler or good nonstick pot on low. Stir until smooth. Let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth and creamy. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, and alternate with the milk, beating until fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and salt and beat until smooth. Stir in the cooled melted white chocolate. If necessary, refrigerate until firm enough to frost the cupcakes, about 30 minutes.

Frost cooled cupcakes with an offset spatula.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chow Mein Easter Nests

I cut this recipe out of a magazine in 1998. Truly. The Bagel Bites coupon on the back of the recipe expires 6/30/98. :) Hey, better late than never! These are so adorable, so simple, and pretty tasty too. It's basically Rice Krispie treats made with chow mein noodles!

Chow Mein Easter Nests
makes 12
2 c. miniature marshmallows
4 T. butter
one 6-oz. package (4 c.) chow mein noodles
jelly beans or other egg-shaped Easter candies

Butter or spray a 12-cup muffin tin.

In a 2-quart saucepan, combine marshmallows and butter; cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until melted (6 to 8 minutes). Add noodles and stir until very well coated.

With buttered fingers, press mixture on bottom and up sides of each cup of prepared muffin pan. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or until firm.

Remove from cups; fill with candies. These would be adorable as place settings on each plate at your Easter brunch!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Brownie Pudding

I'm here. Nothing is wrong with your Google Reader. I haven't had time for baking let alone blogging, but this recipe is worth the wait—promise.

What I love about it is simple: the ingredients will be in your cupboard already, you throw it together in minutes, it feeds a crowd (or two adults... I'll say it took four nights to polish off, though only we know the truth...), and it's molten goo. It's perfect for Valentine's Day, but here are a few other suggestions to share with your sweetie.

Brownie Pudding
adapted from Ina Garten via Annie's Eats
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter—use the wrappers to grease the dish
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 c. sugar
- 3/4 c. cocoa powder
- 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 t. vanilla extract
- 1 T liqueur of your choosing, optional (chocolate, Irish cream, hazelnut, etc., would all be divine)
- Ice cream, for serving (mint chocolate chip went very well, but I'd otherwise choose vanilla)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly butter a 2-quart oval baking dish. In a small bowl, melt the 2 sticks of butter in the microwave and set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed until thick and light yellow in color, 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sift or whisk the cocoa and flour together in a medium bowl and set aside.

When the egg/sugar mixture is ready, reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla, liqueur (if using), and the cocoa/flour mixture. Mix only until just combined. With the mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter and mix again until just combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. (Next time, I'll throw caution to the wind and not use a water bath... just stick it in the oven as usual.) Place it in a larger roasting or baking pan. Add enough very hot tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish and bake for 1 hour. The center will appear underbaked, but that's exactly how it's meant to be.

Serve with ice cream—I chose to serve it warm right out of the oven, but it's pretty dangerous cold straight out of the fridge for breakfast too. (Just being honest here.)

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