Saturday, April 28, 2012

Forever Brownies

Forever Brownies - made April 23, 2012 from Baking Style by Lisa Yockelson
Yes, I like my brownies this fudgy
Yikes, it's been a busy week before, during and after work so I haven't had much time to bake or blog.  The only baking I did this week was so I wouldn't go to social occasions empty-handed.  I had a team lunch this past Tuesday and, in keeping with tradition, I always like to bake a little something for my coworkers and give them goodie bags to take home.  They get some homemade baked goods and I typically get to try out a new recipe so it's a win-win.  As always, my go-to baking of choice during the work week (when I'm more pressed for time) is brownies.  I can bake them the night before, cut them into individual-sized pieces the next morning, package them up and bring them to work to give away at the lunch.  Brownies are easy to make and don't take as much time to bake as other desserts when you need enough for several people.  Plus, I cracked open Baking Style again and was immediately captivated by all of the mouthwatering recipes in it.  And I mean all.  Okay, maybe, out of the 500-page book, there were 3 recipes I don't think I'd make.  But I want to make everything else.  And I just might.

For now, I started off with the very first recipe in the book.  You know I can wax poetical about any of Lisa Yockelson's brownie recipes because they're also so consistently good.  This one was no exception.  Rich, moist, fudgy.  Even plain, this stands on its own.  I didn't do any add-ins this time so I got a pure fudge brownie.  OMG.  Wow.  This is good.  Don't overbake it so you can get that fudgy texture. Use a rich dark cocoa and a good-quality unsweetened chocolate for maximum chocolate punch.  Cut into small pieces and savor each bite.  This one also goes into the category of "I'm going to run more miles at the gym because this is worth it" (for the record, last week I ran 10 miles but this week I upped it to 12 miles - totally worth it).  Fortunately, I did end up giving most of this away after I had a piece or I may not have ever been able to actually leave the gym if I ate more than that.

2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsifted bleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsifted bleached cake flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder (I use Pernigotti)
½ pound plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
5 large eggs
2 cups superfine sugar (regular granulated sugar is fine)
2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1.       Preheat oven to 325°F.  Line a 9 x 9 pan with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
2.       Sift the flours, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder onto a sheet of waxed paper.
3.       Melt the butter and chocolates together in the top half of a double boiler over hot, not simmering, water.  Whisk to blend and let cool to tepid.
4.       In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs just to mix.  Add the sugar and beat for 45 seconds, just to combine.  Blend in the butter-melted chocolate mixture, vanilla extract and corn syrup.  Resift the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture.  Whisk slowly to form a batter, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula to keep the batter even-textured.  Don't overmix.
5.       Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan.  Smooth the top and bake for 30-33 minutes or until just set and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs.  Cool for 2 hours or refrigerate until firm enough to cut.  Cut into (small) squares and serve.

What's cooking, love?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

ANZAC Cookies, I mean "biscuits"

ANZAC Cookies - made April 22, 2012 from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich

April 25 is ANZAC Day.  ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps and April 25 is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand which honors the members who served their countries.  We would call their edible namesakes "cookies" but in Australia (and probably New Zealand), they call them "biscuits".

The ANZAC biscuits I had in Australia were crunchy cookies with coconut, not quite a vanilla cookie but flavored with honey or syrup.  It's not normally my type of cookie since I prefer the thick, chewy, moist, melty-chocolate texture of a chocolate chip cookie but I did like ANZACs.  Of course, it didn't suck that I ate them while I was in Australia on the same day I held a koala and got my pic taken with one.  There aren't many recipes for ANZACs in the cookbooks I have (read: there were none) but I did find this one from Alice Medrich's book, the same one where I got the recipe for Alfajores.  (As an aside, I'm finding it a personal triumph that I haven't broken down and bought this book....yet.  I'm exercising some restraint.....for the moment.)

Because you melt the butter mixture, the dough is quite warm after you mix in all the other ingredients.  It was more like a stiff batter than a cookie dough.  But it does firm enough as it cools that you can shape into logs as the recipe directs.  I laid them out on wax paper, shaping as they cooled and left them on the counter to cool some more before doing a final shaping then rolling the wax paper around each log, putting them in a ziploc freezer bag and placing them in the freezer overnight.

I really liked how these cookies (sorry, biscuits) turned out.  They had a perfectly crunchy texture complemented by the vanilla flavor and the coconut provided some chewiness.  This is one cookie biscuit I wouldn't really underbake because I do think you need to bake it enough for it to become lightly golden and get that nice crunch typical of an ANZAC biscuit.  Another good recipe from Alice Medrich - if this keeps up, I may need to stop borrowing this from the library, give in to the inevitable and just buy the darn thing.

1 cup (3.5 ounces) rolled oats
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons golden syrup or honey (I used maple syrup)
1 cup (4.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (3 ounces) unsweetened dried shredded coconut

1.    Place the oats in a blender or a food processor.  Process just until the oats are coarsely ground but not powdered; set aside.
2.   Combine the butter, sugar, water and golden syrup in a large saucepan and warm over low heat until the butter is melted.  Add the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, coconut and oats all at once and stir until the flour is completely incorporated.  Divide the dough in half and form two 8 by 2-inch logs.  Wrap the logs in foil and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
3.   Preheat the oven to 325⁰F.  Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
4.   Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it soften at room temperature for 15 minutes.  Slice the dough ¼ to 3/8” thick with a thin serrated knife, pressing the edges of the cookies together if the dough crumbles a bit, and place the slices at least 1 inch apart on the parchment-lined cookie sheets.
5.   Bake for 14 to 17 minutes, or until golden brown all over.  Rotate the sheets from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.  Cool the cookies completely before stacking or storing.  May be kept in an airtight container for at least 2 weeks.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Brownies with Salted Caramel

Chewy Brownies with Salted Caramel - made April 20, 2012 from Absolutely Chocolate by the editors of Fine Cooking

One of the things I love about getting inspiration from other foodie bloggers is coming across new baking ingredients I hadn't tried before or, in some cases, had never even heard of until I read about how someone used it for baking.  And, thanks to my amazon obsession patronage, I can usually find it there and wishlist it to remind myself to order it or try to find it locally (Trader Joe's, Sur La Table, World Market and Williams Sonoma are good sources for instant gratification).  My amazon wishlist used to be full of books; now it's full of ingredients I want to try or have already tried and would reorder:

Salted Caramel (luckily, I found a jar at Trader Joe's)
Biscoff Spread (TJ's also has a knockoff version called Speculoos Cookie Butter)
Chocolate Peanut Butter
Black Cocoa Powder
Coconut Oil (bought it on amazon, have a recipe teed up which uses it)
Fleur de Sel
Pearl Sugar
Almond Butter

To dress up this brownie, I dropped dollops of salted caramel between two layers of brownie batter.  I love caramel brownies.  I'm picky though in that I always put the caramel within the brownie and am careful to cover it all with brownie batter.  While it's always pretty to see swirls of caramel atop a brownie, the reality is when caramel is exposed to high direct heat, it'll bubble and cook further.  When your brownie cools, the caramel hardens and sometimes becomes too brittle or chewy to really enjoy. You don't want that.  Also remember when you bake with caramel within your brownie, it makes it more moist - you have less risk of overbaking but you also don't want to underbake too much or it'll be too gooey rather than perfectly fudgy.  I've made that mistake more than once and while it's not the end of the world, I'd still rather have it be less goo and more brownie.

This was a great brownie recipe with the fudgy texture I prefer in my brownies.  I think I could've had a heavier hand with the salted caramel layer but otherwise, this turned out really well.  Cut the pieces small though as they're pretty rich.  I had one and that filled my chocolate quotient for the day.

4 ounces (1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter; more for pan
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
Scant ¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4 ½ ounces (1 cup) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)

1.       Position a rack in the middle of the oven; heat the oven to 350⁰F. Butter an 8-inch square pan, line the pan bottom with parchment, and then butter the parchment.
2.       Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium metal bowl, set over a pan of simmering water.  Let the chocolate cool slightly before stirring in the sugar, salt and vanilla.
3.       Add the eggs one at a time, stirring each time until blended.  Add the flour and cocoa and beat until the mixture is smooth, 30 to 60 seconds.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top is uniformly colored with no indentation and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost clean, with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 35 to 45 minutes.  Set the pan on a rack until cool enough to handle.  Run a paring knife around the inside edge of the pan, and then invert the pan onto a flat surface and peel off the parchment.  Flip the baked brownie back onto the rack to cool completely.  Cut into squares.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Vanilla Sugar Cookie Cake - 4th time's the charm

(Revamped) Vanilla Sugar Cookie Cake - made April 14, 2012

Okay, I think I might have finally conquered this recipe, albeit it's my fourth attempt.  Two things I did differently from the last recipe: I cut the flour by 1/4 cup and shaved 3 minutes off the baking time. My modified recipe is below.  It's still not as fluffy as a "real" cake but it was definitely more moist - yay.  But I think I'm done with this cake for awhile :).

Vanilla Sugar Cookie Cake
1 cup butter, softened
1 8 oz. block cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (optional)
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 inch cake pan with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste (if using) and eggs and beat well.
3. Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, mixing until well combined.
4. Spread mixture evenly onto prepared pan. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until golden brown around edges and toothpick inserted in center comes out barely clean. Do not overbake.  Cool and frost.

Vanilla Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
2-3 cups confectioners' sugar
2-3 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter until creamy.  Add confectioners' sugar, milk and vanilla extract and beat until smooth.  Adjust amounts of confectioners' sugar and milk until desired taste and consistency is achieved.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Brownie Cups with Salted Caramel and Nutella Crunch

Brownie Cups with Salted Caramel and Nutella Crunch - made April 13, 2012, brownie recipe from Baking Style by Lisa Yockelson

I had leftover brownie batter from the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownie recipe so I used my new toy dessert shell baking pan to make brownie shells.  I love this new pan because the possibilities are endless for the "filling" for the well in the center.  You can fill with chocolate mousse, caramelized pecans or almonds, custard, ice cream, coconut cream pie filling, and the list goes on.

This time around, I went with a salted caramel layer inside then filled the rest of the cavity with my nutella crunch recipe. I only had 4 brownie shells to fill so I only made a little of the nutella crunch (melted a handful of chocolate chips, added a scoop of nutella and poured in just enough Rice Krispies to bind together). You get both taste contrast of the dark chocolate brownie shell with the sweet/salty caramel and the texture contrast with the crunch of the nutella crunch topping.  The nutella crunch does set when it cools so if you want it a little softer, use more nutella than chocolate chips and/or serve before it cools completely.
Brownie Dessert Shell

Fill with Salted Caramel
I used the salted caramel from Trader Joe's

Top with Nutella Crunch Topping
Grab a spoon and dig in
What's cooking, love? Featured on Cast Party Wednesday

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies - made April 13, 2012, recipe adapted from Baking Style by LisaYockelson and Susanna's Kitchen blog

I got the inspiration for this brownie from another blogger (click on link above for Susanna's Kitchen) but her recipe lists a box brownie mix.  I think I'm physiologically incapable of making brownies from a box mix.  In fact, I'm pretty sure of it.  But whenever I need a foolproof brownie recipe (from scratch!), I turn to Lisa Yockelson's baking books.  I still haven't really been playing with her latest book, Baking Style, until my baking challenge is complete but since she's such a good source for excellent brownie recipes, I couldn't resist cracking it open again.

I found this one and almost didn't make it because I didn't have black cocoa powder and I didn't know if all that corn syrup would make the brownies too sweet.  Ha, should've known her recipe wouldn't let me down.  I substituted Pernigotti cocoa for the black cocoa and this brownie was fabulous.  Considering how jaded my brownie taste buds are, it's saying something when this meets my picky palate. It helps that the Pernigotti cocoa is such a dark cocoa so I think that offset the sweetness of the corn syrup and sugar nicely.  This did make a lot of batter though and because I was using it as a base instead of a standalone brownie, I didn't want it that thick.  So instead of a 9 x 13 pan, I divided the batter between a 8 x 8" pan, a 9 x 9" pan and 4 of my dessert shell cups (what I did with those dessert shell cups to be posted later).  You can still make the brownies as directed in the original recipe below and they will still be fantastic "plain".

However, for that extra bit of decadence, I highly recommend making these as Susanna's Kitchen did.  Remember how I'm indifferent to peanut butter and don't really like cheesecake?  As standalone treats, that's still true.  But put all those components together in this brownie and you have pure delicious decadence.  One of those "it's worth the calories and I'll run more miles this week" kind of brownies. The brownies are moist and fudgy, the peanut butter cheesecake layer complements rather than overwhelms the fudgy brownie layer and the milk chocolate ganache on top adds to the texture and flavor.  Plus, really, you can't go wrong with Snickers on top.  I opted to use Snickers rather than peanut butter cups because I had more Snickers than Reese's on hand.  Go with your favorite.  Then run like the wind.

My modified directions:
Make the brownie batter as directed below.  For a 9 x 13 pan, you might want to make only 2/3 of the recipe.  Or else plan to bake the brownies in 2 9 x 9 pans.  Spread the brownie batter evenly in the pan(s).
Make the peanut butter layer per the link below and divide evenly between the pans, spreading smoothly over the brownie layer.  Bake 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs.  Do not overbake.  Let cool completely.
Make the ganache by melting the milk chocolate chips and heavy cream together and whisking smooth.  Pour over the cooled brownies and spread in an even layer.  Top with chopped Snickers or Reese's peanut butter cups (or both) and press slightly to adhere in the ganache.  Chill until set; cut and serve.  These brownies can also be frozen, well wrapped in plastic and stored in freezer bags.

Peanut Butter Layer and Topping

Brownie layer
1 ½ cups unsifted bleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder (I use Pernigotti)
¼ cup unsweetened alkalized black cocoa powder (can substitute unsweetened cocoa powder)
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ pound plus 4 tablespoons (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 large eggs
1 ½ cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 ¼ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 teaspoons vanilla extract

1.     Preheat oven to 325°F.  Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
2.     Sift the flour, cocoa powders, baking powder and salt together onto a sheet of waxed paper.
3.     Melt the butter and chocolates together in the top half of a double boiler over hot, not simmering, water.  Whisk to blend and let cool to tepid.
4.     In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs just to mix.  Add the sugar and beat for 1 minute, using a whisk.  Add the light brown sugar and beat for 1 minute to combine. Blend in the melted butter-chocolate mixture, mixing just until incorporated.  Blend in the corn syrup and vanilla extract.  Resift the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture.  Whisk slowly to form a batter, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula to keep the batter even-textured.
5.     Pour and scrape into prepared pan.  Smooth the top and bake for 35-40 minutes or until just set and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs.  Cool for 2 hours or refrigerate until firm enough to cut.  Cut into squares and serve.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Caramel Bits

Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies - baked April 14, 2012

Remember the Chocolate Chip Cookie Tarts that I made from The Sweet Spot's blog?  I had some leftover dough so I baked it off today and brought them to a family get together.  Turns out they're pretty good as regular cookies too.  Make sure not to overbake them.  These are best when the edges are golden brown and the middles are just barely baked.  They'll fall in the middle and set when they cool.  If they're overbaked, they'll be dry and more cakey than chewy.

A public service announcement on the caramel bits: you can find them in 11-oz bags at Target in the baking aisle. (Not sure if grocery stores sell them too since I rarely buy groceries at a real grocery store anymore but they might.)  I mention this because I've had at least 2 friends bake recipes from my blog that use the caramel bits but they couldn't find them so they ended up buying (some kind of) caramels and cutting them into bits.  In theory, that should work too but you don't want the super-chewy or hard caramels that will become really hard after they're baked and cooled.  Not to mention cutting up caramels into bit-size pieces is much too time-consuming.  Much easier to head to Target and fork over $2 for the bag of caramel bits and save yourself the time.

Friday, April 13, 2012

French Toast Bread Pudding

French Toast Bread Pudding - made April 7, 2012 from Small Batch Baking by Debby Maugans Nakos (book #208)

I haven't forgotten my baking challenge; I've just been getting distracted by all the recipes I've been pinning from other blogs :).  But I'm close to being done and I'm looking forward to wrapping it up.  This is one of the last books I need to bake from and since I was disappointed by how my last bread pudding experiment turned out, I tried this one as it seemed like what I was getting at with my snickerdoodle bread pudding attempt.  This one had you cutting the bread into cubes (challah works best, I like the one from Trader Joe's), drizzling with melted butter, tossing with cinnamon sugar and baking in the oven for a few minutes to "stale" or crisp the bread.  Then you soak it in the custard mixture and bake.  This turned out really well.  The top gets crisp (don't overbake) for a nice texture contrast and inside is the perfect bread pudding/custard combination.

Funny thing about bread pudding is it looks unremarkable in appearance.  But, taste-wise, it's one of my favorite desserts.  Probably because bread is my kryptonite more than sugar is and bread pudding incorporates one of my favorite breads: challah.  The nice thing about it is I can make it in small portions and enjoy it in moderation.

I changed the recipe directions slightly based on my past experiments with bread pudding and what I think would work better.  The key is giving the bread enough time to soak in the custard. Otherwise the bread pudding can come out too dry.  It's also better to err on the side of having less bread than too much or there won't be enough custard to soak in and again the bread pudding will be dry.  Lastly, of course, don't overbake.

For the Bread
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups stale soft-crusted French bread or challah
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Pudding
1 large egg
Yolk of 1 large egg
¾ cup whole milk
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.     Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray 2-3 ramekins lightly with nonstick cooking spray.  Place on a baking sheet and set aside.
2.     Prepare the bread: mix together sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Spread out the bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle the melted butter over  them; toss to coat.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar and toss to coat.  Bake the bread, stirring the cubes once, until lightly toasted, 12-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.
3.     Make the pudding: whisk the egg, egg yolk, milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla in a medium-size mixing bowl.  Add the bread cubes and stir to coat the bread.  Press down on the bread lightly with a wooden spoon to submerge it.  Let the mixture stand, pressing on the bread occasionally to keep it submerged until the bread is saturated, about 15-20 minutes.
4.     Spoon the mixture into the prepared ramekins, dividing it evenly between them.  Bake until the puddings are puffed and set, about 30-35 minutes.  Remove from the oven, transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and let them cool for 10 minutes.  Unmold onto serving plates and serve, garnished with confectioners’ sugar and/or maple syrup if desired.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Toffee and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Toffee and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies - made April 6, 2012 from That Skinny Chick Can Bake! blog

Super quick post as I'm short on time this week.  Made these cookies from That Skinny Chick Can Bake's blog (and she really can :)).  Mine didn't come out with the same appearance as hers, probably because I like to underbake my cookies, but I really liked these.  It's a nice brown sugar cookie with white chocolate, toffee and coconut add-ins.  The edges were crisp and the middles were chewy, always the hallmark of a good cookie in my book.  Click on the title for the recipe.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Chocolate Chip Caramel Toffee Cookie Cups

Chocolate Chip Caramel Toffee Cookie Cups - made April 4, 2012 from The Sweet Spot blog

I finally remembered the pan I bought at Sur La Table was called a dessert cup pan.  Basically, it looks like a 6-cavity muffin tin but instead of a muffin shape, there's a dome in the middle of each cavity so that when you fill it with batter or dough, bake and invert the baked product, you'll end up with a well in the center of each one. Which is perfect for something like this - a chocolate chip caramel toffee cookie cup with a nice little dip in the middle to cradle a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  I used the recipe from The Sweet Spot's blog (click on the recipe title to go to the recipe) but any chocolate chip cookie recipe will do.  Just let it cool for a few minutes in the pan first though before you invert or else the cookies will be too hot and could fall apart.

I like to serve these when they've been 10-12 minutes out of the oven and are still warm but not hot.  It won't be too hot to melt the ice cream on contact but the caramel bits and chocolate chips will still be melt-y enough to add some gooeyness.  It's not bad at room temperature either, which I discovered, all in the name of research.....after a 4-mile run at the gym (there goes that workout, haha).  So yummy.  And if you don't have a dessert cup pan, never fear, you can bake these in any ramekin or even muffin tins and follow the same principle.  Just don't forget the ice cream.

Editing to add: since there was some interest in the dessert pan I used, here it is on amazon - Dessert Cup Pan

  The Sweet Spot What's cooking, love?

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Apple Cobbler - made April 2, 2012 adapted from Perfect Light Desserts by Nick Malgieri

I almost didn't put up this post.  It wasn't very good and I didn't want it to take up space on my blog, lol.  But I don't just put up the good recipes, I put up all recipes I try and critique them honestly so I will compromise, admit I made this and keep it brief.

"Real" cobbler, as opposed to crisps, fools, grunts, etc is typically defined by having biscuit dough baked on top.  In culinary school, we made a terrific cobbler and my favorite part was the dough baked on top which was more like a pie dough than a biscuit dough.  Not so with this one.  The dough part was definitely more like a biscuit, heavier and less sweet than what you'd use for a good strawberry shortcake and not as good as or flaky like an actual biscuit.  It was just bread-y without being good bread.  Nah.

Cobbler Topping
2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
Sugar for sprinkling the top crust

Fruit of your choice for cobbler, lightly sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  3. Beat the egg and combine with the buttermilk.
  4. Pour over dry ingredients and mix with rubber spatula (do not overmix).
  5. Drop large spoonfuls over fruit mixture in ceramic baking dish and smooth top.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until topping is a golden color and the fruit is bubbling.
  7. Serve warm with ice cream.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sweet Buttermilk Banana Cake

Sweet Buttermilk Banana Cake - made March 31, 2012 from Go Ahead Take a Bite's blog

Remember when I said the days are going by too fast and wow, it's already April?  That goes double when I see expiration dates on my perishable ingredients, including buttermilk that I always seem to race to use before it expires.  I mark how fast the time flies by how quickly those expirations come and go.  I had pinned this recipe (click on the recipe title to go to the original recipe itself) shortly after getting on Pinterest as I knew "someday" I would be in the position of having to use up buttermilk and I'd need some recipes to test out on a dime.

I love banana cake and am still on a quest to make one that's similar in texture to my favorite banana cake from Icing On the Cake Bakery in Los Gatos, CA.  Theirs is so fluffy.  Seriously, I want to get a job there just to learn how to make their banana cake.  (Obsess much, yes, I do).

I changed two things from this recipe though.  The original recipe called for shortening.  I don't know why but I'm always reluctant to use shortening in cakes.  I prefer butter for more flavor.  The weird thing is I have no hang up about using oil in cakes.  But if I can substitute butter for shortening, I do.  And I did.  I also went with a standard cream cheese frosting because that's my preferred frosting with banana cake.  I thought this cake was pretty good.  It was moist and the texture was similar to a pound cake although not quite as dense.  Still not the fluffy texture of Icing on the Cake though so my quest continues.  Although maybe I would've gotten fluffier results if I had used shortening?  I may have to try it again and stay more faithful to the original recipe.

Cream Cheese Frosting
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 ounces (4 tablespoons or 1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 cups confectioners' sugar

Cream the cream cheese and butter together until well combined.  Add vanilla extract.  Add confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until frosting is the taste and consistency desired.  Use immediately.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Nutella Rice Krispies Easter Baskets

Nutella Rice Krispies Easter Baskets - made March 31, 2012, inspiration from Chef in Training and Will Cook for Smiles blogs

Easter snuck on me this year.  Actually, all the special occasion days have: pi day (didn't make a pie), St Patrick's Day (didn't make anything green), Mardi Gras (no King Cake - okay, I probably wouldn't have made one anyway but still....), and so on.  It didn't help that we've had rain off and on for the past 3 weeks and it's been more winter than spring whereas winter was more spring than winter.  So my seasonal timetables are all messed up.  And now it's April.  Yikes.  Okay, I am surfacing long enough to realize ahead of time that Easter is this Sunday.  When I was a kid, we didn't do the whole Easter bunny/egg hunt thing at my house.  Easter was more about Jesus and dressing a little more nicely on Easter Sunday in new spring clothes.  As an adult, Easter is still about Jesus for me but I also enjoy a good chocolate egg here and there, primarily the Cadbury mini eggs with the hard shell coating and milk chocolate inside.  I also like the Cadbury caramel eggs with the liquid caramel inside a milk chocolate shell.  Alas, however, I am indifferent at best, dislike at worst, all other Easter candy.  The ones I'm indifferent to are all the candies you can get at any other holiday except at Easter, they're pastel colored and egg shaped.  But Peeps?  Oh no.  They're marshmallows without rice krispies.  And dyed marshmallows at that.  Plus they come in weird shapes.  I don't enjoy the visual of sinking my teeth into a gummy, stretchy, dyed bunny head or a baby chick; no real self-respecting bunny or chick would actually be any of those colors nor would I bite their heads off either.  Sorry, Easter bunny, not in my kitchen.

But I do like to pay homage to my annual bag of Cadbury mini eggs.  Last year for Easter, I made Chocolate Easter baskets using pretzels coated with chocolate to form a mini basket for my favorite Easter candy.  This year, I took inspiration from two different blogs, Will Cook for Smiles using the rice krispie treat recipe to form baskets and Chef in Training's blog for the nutella addition.  This is a really simple and easy recipe to make.  For the basket shape, I used a pan I got from Sur La Table that makes a well in the center.  But you don't need any fancy pans to make baskets.  If you don't want to freeform shape baskets by hand, turn a mini muffin tin over and shape the warm rice krispie mixture around each cavity.  Then gently slip off when they've set a bit.  You can also use a regular size muffin tin if you want a bigger size basket. If you have kids, this is a fun recipe to make with them, especially for little ones.

Click on the blog links above to go to the original posts - I've made some slight modifications to the recipe and instructions below as I found that adding the nutella into the melted marshmallow/butter mixture almost made the mixture seize and made it difficult to incorporate enough rice krispies into it.  So I suggest warming up the nutella first to get it to blend more easily without having to cook the marshmallow mixture more than necessary.  If you overcook the marshmallows, your Rice Krispie treats will get too hard when they cool.

5-6 cups Rice Krispies (I never measure, just add however much you can get in there)
1 10.5 ounce bag mini marshmallows
1/4 cup butter
1 cup Nutella
  1. Melt butter and mini marshmallows over low heat until just barely melted, stirring constantly. 
  2. Warm Nutella in the microwave at 30-second intervals until it's liquid but not too hot.  Add to the barely melted marshmallow mixture and stir to incorporate.  Take off the heat and add Rice Krispies.
  3. Work quickly to form the baskets using a turned-over mini muffin pan.  Shape gently, let cool and turn right side up.  When completely cool, fill with your favorite Easter candy.