Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dark Chocolate Coconut Cookies

So, yes, I've been on a little bit of a bar cookie kick, lately. I actually still have another bar cookie that I made last week that I have yet to blog about. But, a couple of days ago... I decided I wanted something chocolate-y, rich and sturdy. Normally, I would just make brownies... but for some reason, I haven't been in a brownie mood lately.

I flipped through my recipes and came across this recipe that I found on a blog a few weeks ago. As I looked over the recipe, I thought to myself... now, this sounds perfect! Chocolate! Chocolate Chips! Pecans! Coconut! You can't go wrong, there, right?

I was imagining a big, chewy cookie... but the recipe called for all white sugar. So, I decided to substitute all the sugar for brown sugar. And, for someone that likes intense chocolate flavor these cookies would be great. But, I found myself wanting the cookie to be sweeter and chewier. A good cookie, indeed... but, next time I think I'll kick up the sugar a little more. I'm a sugar fiend. Try it if you're looking for a sturdy, chocolatey, substantial cookie.

Dark Chocolate Coconut Cookies
found at: Genesis of a Cook

2 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup large pecan pieces
1 1/8 unsweetened shredded coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and the sugar together until well blended and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat until well incorporated, then beat in cocoa powder.
3. Mix in flour, salt and baking powder until just combined. Gently fold in remaining ingredients.
4. Transfer dough to a clean work surface and gently mix dough by hand to ensure even distribution of ingredients. Divide into 12 equal portions and transfer on a sheet pan with parchment paper.
5. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Take care not to over bake. Let cool on rack.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

TWD: Mixed Berry Cobbler

This weekend, I went to Memphis to visit my best friends April & Greg and of course, their dog, Banner. I know that April loves fruit as much as I do, and since cobblers usually seem to be fairly easy recipes to make, I decided that I could just make this cobbler while I was there!

My fellow Tuesdays with Dorie participants had been talking all week about how their cobbler toppings just weren't that impressive. That it was kind of flavorless. So, what did I decide to do? I decided to use a different cobbler topping from Dorie's Recipe for Cherry & Rhubarb Cobbler and instead of ginger (which I didn't have) I opted for Cinnamon. Ummm.. lots of cinnamon. Too much cinnamon, in fact.

The berries (raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries) weren't super flavorful and the topping just turned out too dang cinnamon-y. Uggh. My bad on this one. Better luck next time.

Thanks to Beth of Our Sweet Life for this summery selection! Be sure to check out everyone else's cobblers at Tuesdays with Dorie!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cherry Pie

This past weekend, I took it upon myself to officially dub it as, Family Extravaganza Weekend. Aside from Father's Day, this weekend was also my Grandma's 89th birthday, as well as my brother Jason's birthday. Busy weekend, no? You could say that.

As has become customary, I asked Jason what he wanted for his birthday dessert. I had assumed that he'd ask for either a coconut cake or banana pudding. But, instead... he surprised me and willingly shared his selection with my dad. He chose Cherry Pie (which, is my dad's favorite dessert). I was pretty excited about this selection, because you see... Cherry Pie is probably one of the most favorite things that I make. And this Cherry Pie is a recipe that I came up with all on my own. Which makes it even more special to me. It's like my little baby.
Usually, I make a double crust and use an Emeril Pie Crust Recipe, but this time, I decided to try a pie crust recipe from my book Baking From My Home To Yours (which is incidentally on sale for 12.99 from Amazon right now!). And you know what folks? As much as I love Emeril, I gotta say... Dorie's pie crust was better. Tender and thick. And I made it without a food processor. Just me, a pastry blender and raw palms.

This time around, I decided to do things a little differently...
I decided to attempt a lattice top. Using this wonderful guide from Elise at Simply Recipes, I rolled my dough, cut my strips and started assembling the lattice top, using the instructions constantly.

And it turned out beautifully...

I brushed the top with heavy cream and then even sprinkled a little brown sugar on top to get a caramel-y color to the top. I then wrapped aluminum foil (that I had sprayed cooking spray on...learned that one the hard way, last time) around the edges of the pie, so they wouldn't brown too quickly. And away into the oven it went.

It was a delicious pie, if I do say so myself. And I am so excited that I gave the lattice top a try. It made for a much prettier pie that screamed "homemade with love!"

Happy Birthday and Happy Father's Day!Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough
- makes enough for a 9-inch double crust -

3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 ½ sticks very cold (frozen is fine) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces 1/3 cup very cold (frozen is even better) vegetable shortening (non-trans fat), cut into 2 piecesAbout ½ cup ice water

Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade; pulse just to combine the ingredients. Drop in the butter and shortening and pulse only until the butter and shortening are cut into the flour. Don't overdo the mixing—what you're aiming for is to have pieces the size of fat green peas and others the size of barley. Pulsing the machine on and off, add 3 tablespoons of the water—add a little water and pulse once; add some more water and pulse again; and keep going that way. Then use a few long pulses to get the water into the flour. If after a dozen or so pulses, the dough doesn't look evenly moistened or form soft curds, pulse in as much of the remaining water, or even a few drops more, to get a dough that will stick together when pinched. If you've got big pieces of butter, that's fine. The dough is ready and should be scraped out of the work bowl and on to a smooth work surface.

Separate the dough and shape the dough into two disks and wrap them. Refrigerate the dough at least 1 hour before rolling. (If the ingredients were very cold and you worked very quickly, you might be able to roll the dough immediately—you'll know: the dough will be as cold as if it had just come out of the fridge.) The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

Once the dough is fitted into the pie plate, refrigerate it again. If you don't have time for a longish chill, just keep the pie plate in the fridge while you preheat the oven.

Cherry Pie
2 cans of Sweet Pitted Bing Cherries (14.5 oz cans)
1 can of Tart Cherries
3 tbsp cornstarch
½ cup Dried Sweet & Tart Cherries (about 3 ozs)
¼ cup Granulated Sugar
1 tbsp Butter
½ tsp Almond Extract
Red Food Coloring
Cream or milk
Pie crust for a double crust pie

Strain syrup from bing cherries and reserve juice. Strain tart cherries and reserve it’s juice separately. Combine the bing cherries and the tart cherries in a bowl with ¼ cup of the sweet juice (save the leftover juice), 2 tbsps of the tart juice, and the cornstarch; stir to blend and set aside.

Combine 1 cup of the sweet juice along with 1 tbsp of the tart juice with the dried cherries in a large saucepan. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes on medium low heat to allow the dried cherries to plump up. Uncover and increase the heat to medium and simmer until mixture bubbles thickly and it has reduced to about ¾ cup, stirring occasionally (about another 10 minutes). Add your other cherry mixture to the saucepan mixture along with the butter and sugar and heat thoroughly over medium heat until mixture bubbles and thickens (about 3-5 minutes). After mixture has thickened, pull off heat and add almond extract and a few drops of red food coloring. Transfer pie filling to a medium bowl and let it cool completely.

After it has completely cooled, position a rack in the second to the bottom row in your oven and preheat oven to 400 F.

Roll our pie disk on a floured surface to 12 inch round. Transfer to a 9 inch diameter pie dish. Trim dough overhang to 1 inch. Put pie plate into the fridge while you roll out your top. Roll the top crust to 12 inch diameter. Spoon pie filling into bottom crust and then cover with top crust. Crimp edges decoratively (you may refrigerate pie for a little while at this point, if dough is very warm)and lightly brush the top and edges of the pie with cream lightly. (I also sprinkled brownsugar on top the crust). Make four slits in the top of the crust to allow the steam to escape (unless making a lattice top). Place aluminum foil strips around the edges of the pie to keep them from browning too quickly. Put pie on a baking sheet with a rim and place into the preheated oven.

After 25-30 minutes, remove the aluminum foil and continue to cook.Cook for about 50-55 minutes, until crust is golden.

Transfer pie to rack and allow to cool for 2 hours. Serve pie lukewarm or room temperature.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Cream Puffs with Crunchy Hazelnut Topping

Apparently, I’m a simple girl.

I’ve never had a chocolate éclair, a cream puff, or any other fancy dancy pate a choux. (I never even saw this phrase till this week and I’m still utterly clueless to how it’s pronounced).

I’m not a big bread pastry type of gal in general. I’m very picky about my donuts, etc… Basically, it boils down to one thing… Sugar. I like sugar. And lots of it. This totally explains my love of milk chocolate. So, for this reason… the only donuts I’ll even entertain eating are Krispy Kreme… and you know why? Because it’s basically pure sugar.

Mmmm.. sugar.

So, initially I was worried about liking this recipe that was chosen by Caroline of A Consuming Passion for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. But, when the actual dough came together super, super easy, I started to get excited. I halved the recipe and made éclairs and cream puffs.

Instead of making peppermint filling, I made Dorie's Chocolate Pastry Cream...which for me, turned out to be just like a chocolate pudding. (Is that what Pastry Cream is supposed to be?) And out of sheer laziness, instead of making a glaze... I opted to heat up a little crunchy nutella (world market brand) and spread over the top.

These turned out alright. Not my favorite thing, but at least now I've had one. And the recipe was actually super easy, although, I thought my arm was going to fall off whipping the pastry cream.

Monday, June 16, 2008

S'more Pie

The first time I had S’mores, I was getting ready to graduate college. I mentioned this fact yesterday while at my parents house for the Family Extravaganza weekend. My mom insists that I had S’mores in my childhood. She claims, at some point while we were camping.. . we had S’mores. But, let’s be honest here… I would most definitely remember the first time I had a S’more. I can guarantee you that.

So, yes, my first S’more was when I was 21 years old. There was a campfire involved… and I believe there was even a guitar… And there was lots of bossing underclassman around the park to find more sticks to keep the campfire burning. Ahhh… college life.

Anyway… Let’s just say I have some catching up to do with the ole S’mores concept.

Enter this Pie.

I’ve been trying to figure out the perfect time to make this pie… and luckily, the time came sooner rather than later. This weekend was a big weekend in my family… My brother Jason celebrated a birthday on Saturday, my grandma turned 89 on Sunday and it was father’s day! Throw in the U.S. Open final round (well… it was the final round, although the outcome is still unknown) and it was a Sunday packed full of family and celebrations.

As customary… I asked my brother what he wanted for his birthday dessert. He chose a cherry pie. Which was perfect because for one, I’ve been craving cherry pie, and two, cherry pie happens to be my dad’s favorite dessert, so I was able to kill two birds with one stone. Or… two occasions with one pie, rather. (More on the cherry pie later this week).

This is all fine and dandy, except for my brother Mike. You see, Mike is more of a chocolate lover… less of a fruit lover. So, I knew I’d have to make something else as well, that he could eat for dessert. And that’s when I thought of the S’mores Pie. I think this pie more than made up for his less than perfect birthday cake I made a few weeks ago....

It came together very easily. I didn’t make homemade graham crackers or homemade marshmallows. But, I did make the crust and the filling and then added marshmallow fluff to the top and broiled it for a few minutes to brown up a bit.

Not being a bittersweet chocolate fan, I actually used all semi-sweet chocolate in the filling and next time I make this.. I might use half semi-sweet and half milk chocolate. What can I say? I’m a sugar fiend.

This would be an awesome July 4th dessert. Quick (I made the pie the day before, chilled it and then just topped it off with marshmallow fluff and broiled it before serving), easy, and extremely tasty.

A slice also makes for a tasty breakfast… even cold, fresh from the fridge. Or, at least that’s what I hear.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hazelnut Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, I know everyone and their brother is sick of hearing how I was in Oregon last month for a week. So, I’ll spare you the details, except… the one thing I wanted to buy while I was there… (well besides a UofO track t-shirt, chocolate covered hazelnuts and pinot noir) was hazelnuts. Fresh Oregon Hazelnuts. Yum.

I ended up buying some the morning I left at the Portland Airport. And... I know what you're thinking... hazelnuts at the airport?? But, there is this cool store in Oregon called conveniently... "Made in Oregon" where everything they sell is stuff produced in Oregon. Cool, huh? I went to one of these stores in Newport and didn't pick up any hazelnuts, thinking I'd go somewhere later in the week that would have a bigger selection. Turns out. I didn't. So, the Made in Oregon store in the Portland Airport had to do. I’ve had these hazelnuts sitting in my cabinet for a month now and I’ve vigorously searched for the right recipe to use some in. Finally, one day on Cookie Madness, Anna posted a recipe with Hazelnuts that she got from this website. I perused the website and decided on these cookies. Oatmeal, Toffee, Chocolate Chips and Hazelnuts... I mean, you can't go wrong there, right?

These cookies are delicious! I used Heath Brickle Bits instead of Heath Bars cut up, so I added more chocolate chips to the recipe. I must disclose, also, that I added probably a quarter cup more sugar than the recipe called for, because my nuts were salted (ha ha).

These cookies turned out chewy with a little crisp and the hazelnuts and the toffee really go well together. A definite winner.

Hazelnut Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Just when you thought I was done with the ooey, gooey bar recipes…

I’ve had this recipe for awhile… Cookie Baker Lynn's blog is one of my favorite blogs to check out. I have bookmarked a bunch of her tasty looking recipes, but this is the first that I’ve gotten around to making. The first and not the last, I might add.

Blondies… I realize that the toffee bar recipe I made last week is named a blondie. But, it’s technically not. No, it’s not really cakey or brownie-like (well, maybe it was supposed to be, I just didn’t cook it enough). This is what a real blondie is. Rich, buttery flavor with the sturdy-ness of a brownie. (I mean, isn’t a blondie just a brownie without chocolate?).

These blondies are absolutely delicious! I honestly don’t feel the need to ever try another blondie recipe again.

Again, I underbaked these… I’m beginning to think it has to do with my oddly sized 7x9 inch glass dish that I’ve been using. But, honestly.. that’s fine with me… I can always use some gooeyness with my blondies.

Make these blondies if you are in the need of a comforting sugar fix and want something other than chocolate. You won’t be disappointed.

(Recipe linked above).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

TWD: La Palette's Strawberry Tart

This week, for Tuesdays with Dorie, Marie of A Year from Oak Cottage selected Dorie’s La Palette’s Strawberry Tart. Yay! An easy, refreshing recipe that incorporates a summer fruit!

When I was growing up… we grew strawberries (well, at least for 3-4 years). It was great to have fresh strawberries, but man.. picking them sucked. Luckily, I was young enough, where I wasn’t expected to hunch over in the garden and pick the strawberries. All I was expected to do was sit around and not get into trouble (too much). Ahhhh… to be a young child again with low expectations for your actions.

I guess my maternal grandma grew strawberries too (though, I don’t remember) because, she almost always had strawberries that had been sliced and sugared till they formed this delicious strawberry syrup and she’d freeze it all in a little Tupperware container. She’d take one out and thaw it to go on hot biscuits for breakfast. Yum.

Strawberries are one of my favorite fruits and with them being so good for you, I was so excited to try this simple dessert.

So, this recipe is supposed to be made in a tart crust. You make the crust and bake it completely, then spread some strawberry jam on it and cover that with fresh cut up strawberries! Easy!

I decided to half the tart dough recipe though and I rolled it out and cut out little cookie sized dough rounds and baked those off. So, I essentially had very hard shortbread cookies.
The only thing I had to buy was strawberry jam…I went to my neighborhood Harris Teeter and perused the jam aisle. I was getting ready to just pick up a jar of Smuckers Strawberry Jam when I saw this near the top of the shelf…
Trappist Rhubarb Strawberry Preserves.

Even though it was like 5 bucks for a little jar, I had to have it. And folks, I could easily take a spoon and eat this entire jar without batting an eyelash. This stuff is like crack.. The monks are surely getting by with their chastity vows because of these preserves. SERIOUSLY.
Overall, I really liked this dessert. It was light and refreshing and you could easily keep some frozen dough rounds in your freezer and pop them in the oven whenever you have some particularly yummy strawberries. The tart dough is VERY crunchy though. And for whatever reason, I’m kind of a soggy food girl. I know, it’s weird. I like plain untoasted bread for my hamburgers and sandwiches and I like nachos after they’ve had the queso sitting on them for awhile and the chips are all soft and soggy. Weird, right? I made up a couple of theses and put them in the fridge, hoping that they would sog (is sog a word? According to spell check, it is not) up some. But it didn’t. Still, very delicious.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Chocolate Coconut Dream Bars

Boo - Ya. Look at me. I think this is the first week ever that I've posted every day Monday-Friday. After this week, you may not see me for about a month while instead of spending time baking, I'll be spending time running my ass off to burn all these calories. Literally.

I kid, I kid. (Well, about the not baking part, at least).

Today, I bring you... another bar recipe. But, this isn't your typical bar recipe. And by typical bar recipe I mean: get a bowl out, throw a bunch of stuff in it, whiz it around with the hand mixer, plop it into a pan, and bake it. The end. Thats my typical bar recipe.

This recipe is a little more involved (not much). You make a simple crust, bake it off and then add the filling and bake it again. Easy, just requires that extra baking step. Unfortunately for me, I forgot the salt. And some of you may think... oh, big deal, she forgot the salt. But it is a big deal. It is a huge deal. When I took the first bite, I immediately realized I forgot the salt. I used to always skip salt in recipes... but, it really does make a difference. It makes the sweet flavor pop or whatever. I can't describe, just don't ever leave out the salt, ok?

At first, I wasn't too crazy about this recipe.

But, now, after eating almost the entire half batch I made... I like it. It's very chocolatey. The coconut adds some good texture and flavor. And the crust is sturdy and crunchy. But not too crunchy.

Coconut Dream Bars

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Toffee Pecan Blondies

Sometimes… sometimes you just get that craving for something gooey, chocolatey and sweet. I get this craving most… when I watch Russell Crowe (dressed in 1970s attire, no less) strut his stuff as a tough, womanizing cop/attorney. So… it goes without saying… that after watching American Gangster… I was ready for some gooey, chocolatey, sweet stuff. I dunno… it probably had more to do with hormones than with Russell Crowe, but whatever.

The thing is… when I get this craving… not just any ole thing will do. No…. for this particular craving, it typically has to be in bar form. And it always has to be easy, because I’m lazy and unmotivated when I’m dealing with a craving.

This Recipe fit the bill. It took me a long time to find it. Actually, now that I think about it… I should just set up a separate tabs in my recipe collection based on these cravings… there would be a Daniel Craig tab (all things brownie-ish and substantial), an Edward Norton tab (all things creamy and decadent), and.. an Eric Bana tab (yummy salty and peanut buttery things). Okay, enough with the man tabs (but... it is an idea).

So, this recipe was very gooey (I definitely underbaked these bars) and really sweet. I added the optional chocolate chips in the recipe (of course). But, I found that the toffee bits were just kind of wasted in the recipe. I didn’t really get any flavor from them. I don’t know, maybe they melted in and contributed, but I think next time, I might swap something else out for the toffee bits. Something like butterscotch chips, or more chocolate chips.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

David Lebovitz's Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve been holding out on you…

And for that, I apologize.

It’s not because I’m trying to keep a recipe away from you… that’s not it at all. It’s more because I’m afraid you’ll think of me as a one trick pony. I mean, how many chocolate chip cookie recipes can a girl try?

So, to be sure… I made this recipe 4 times in one week. And while, one time, the cookies came out kind of thin (because I made them too small, I think), they’ve been delicious and easy everytime.

Please… don’t groan. It is another chocolate chip recipe, but this one is a really, really, really good one! And I’m not the only one who thinks so!

David Lebovitz, I thank you, sir. These cookies are delicious.

Recipe Notes: I’ve been on a kick lately where I’ve been using Ghiradelli’s Milk Chocolate Chips, but for this recipe, I use Ghiradelli Semi-Sweet. Also, make sure you make these cookies big. Three times I’ve made these, I’ve double my cookie scoop for the cookies and they turned out perfect. One time, I just used one scoop from my cookie scoop and they thinned out significantly.
They are very chewy, with the right amount of crisp that you would expect from a chocolate chip cookie.

Great Chocolate Chip Cookies from David Lebovitz's Great Book of Chocolate

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

1/2 cup (120 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar

8 tablespoons (1 stick) (115 grams) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) pieces

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups (200 grams) semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup(130 grams) walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped

Adjust the oven rack to the top 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 300F (150C). Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the sugars and butters together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda. Stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Scoop the cookie dough into 2-tablespoon (5cm) balls and place 8 balls, spaced 4 inches (10cm) apart, on each of the baking sheets.

Bake for 18 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Make about 20 cookies.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

TWD: French Chocolate Brownies

Fruit? Good.
Chocolate? Good.
Fruit and Chocolate together? Not good.

Or so I used to think. You know how it is… it’s hard to shake your childhood palette sometimes. In my head, some things just aren’t supposed to go together and to illustrate that… I present the following evidence…
Russell Stover’s Boxed Chocolates.

Oh sure, they are innocent looking enough, with all the deliciously draped milk and dark chocolates. But beneath that luscious, silky chocolate… lies potential secret grossness. Oh, sure there are a couple in there that have caramel in them.. (my bet was always on the milk chocolate square shaped ones… and I was usually right) and there are a few nutty type ones that were good. But, the majority of these are filled with yucky orange, strawberry, lemon, or raspberry creams. Presenting a tastebud game of roulette that I could never resist, but always regretted (sounds eerily familiar to the vegas roulette, no?).

Whenever I hear of chocolate and fruit, I think back to those chocolates.

There was one exception though. The cordial cherry. For whatever reason, a chocolate covered cherry got a free pass in my culinary world. My argument would be that the chocolate didn’t actually touch the cherry… the syrupy goodness served as a buffer between the two.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve slowly warmed up to some fruit and chocolate marriages. For instance… chocolate covered strawberries. While, I’d probably enjoy them more, if they were separately on their own, I do like chocolate covered strawberries and will eat them happily.

So, when I first saw that Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook chose something called French Chocolate Brownies, I was initially very excited. Yum. Brownies. Then I read the recipe…


… oh yeah…apparently lots of people do (raisinetes. duh). And then I realized… my palette has grown, but it hasn’t grown quite that far yet. So, instead of raisins, I subbed dried cherries. Problem solved. .
The only other issue I had with the recipe, is that while I do love rum, rum doesn’t love me. In fact, it hates my body so much, that I can have one rum and coke and about 15 minutes later… well… I’ll just leave it with the comment, that I need a ponytail holder close by. I realize that by baking with rum, I’d not have a problem… but, I didn’t want to make a special trip to the liquor store to buy a mini bottle of rum (basically, because instead of leaving with just the one mini bottle of rum, I’d presumably leave with 5-6 bottles of wine, some tequila and maybe some vodka, oh yeah and hopefully I wouldn’t forget that mini bottle of rum. Okay, you’re right, I would). At first I thought, well I’ll just plump the cherries in some water and skip the flambéed part. But, I started snooping around in my cabinets and fridge looking for a sufficient cherry plumper. That’s when I saw the unfinished bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon sitting on my counter. People drink wine with chocolate, don’t they? So, that’s what I used instead of rum.

These brownies are what I would call sophisticated brownies. These are the type of brownies that you’d bake for your significant other’s snooty sister that lives in some up and coming chic neighborhood outside of Seattle or Chicago or Austin or something. You know what I mean… these are pretentious brownies. They present a multi-leveled flavor buffet for your palette. I think it has more to do with the cinnamon than anything else. I’ve never had cinnamon with chocolate, and the jurys still out on whether or not I actually like the two together.

Try these brownies sometime when you are looking to serve something that looks simple, but tastes different. I might make these again sometime, especially as a dessert for a wine tasting party or something.

Be sure to check out everyone elses over at Tuesdays with Dorie.

French Chocolate Brownies
- makes 16 brownies -Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden

1 1/2 tablespoons water

1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.
Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.
Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they're even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!

Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Butter Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

I have taken it upon myself to dub myself as the official special occasion baker of the family. I don’t really think anyone minds so much. My mom is the only one who enjoys cooking and she’s not one for following recipes or trying out new recipes… she’s more of the “cooking” type, I suppose.

So, as the special occasion baker, I asked my brother whose birthday was Thursday, what he wanted me to bake for his birthday. My brother, Mike is one of the smartest, most creative people I know. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of knowledge that is floating around in that head of his. He’s always been that way, too. But, aside from that… aside from the intelligence and creativity, he has a huge heart. And while it’s great to be smart and talented… having a big, open heart with lots of love to give is what I look up to the most in my big brother. For his birthday dessert, he simply asked for a yellow cake with chocolate icing. No problem.
The thing is… yellow cake is a color of cake… not a flavor! So, I waffled between a vanilla cake (which typically turns out white in color) and a butter cake (the more traditional yellow color). I finally decided on a butter cake after finding this recipe.

The icing… well, that was interesting. I wanted to make a buttercream. But, for whatever reason, like a dumb ass, I just made the recipe on the back of the Hershey's Dark Cocoa Box. Once I made it and tasted it, I decided that this wasn’t the frosting that I thought I was making… No, I wanted to make this frosting. But, I couldn’t find this recipe in my folder. This is one of those times that instead of being glad that I don’t have a computer at home…. I was quite frustrated. So, I had to find another buttercream recipe and decided to try one of Dorie’s buttercream recipes: Chocolate-Malt Buttercream. Except… I couldn’t remember if my brother liked Malt (incidentally, he does), so I left the malt out. I ended up using the dark frosting for decoration.

Anyway… long story short… This cake and frosting was a miss. The cake was dry and tasteless and the frosting was sweet and gritty (from the brown sugar). I think that not using the malt, made the frosting have less flavor, I should’ve amped up the chocolate since I was leaving the malt out.

I’ve not had a lot of luck with cake textures. It seems that I do well with chocolate cakes, they are usually pretty moist, but for whatever reason, I can’t get a really moist cake texture from any other cake. The cakes previously had still been good, but honestly… not as good and moist as a boxed cake. Which seems so weird to me. Homemade should be better, right?

The worst part is that when you bake for a special occasion you want it to be something really great. So, it sucks that my brother’s cake wasn’t really all that great. I’m not quite sure if it was the recipe or me (though, let’s be honest… the cake recipe was a 5 star recipe on Southern Living…. It must have been me), but I’m not giving up on cakes just yet.

Happy Birthday Mike! I’m sorry your cake kind of sucked.

Also…. As a side note, my blog also had a birthday of sorts… May 23rd was the one year anniversary of my blog! C-R-A-Z-Y!

For the Chocolate-Malt Buttercream

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup malted milk powder
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup boiling water
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted, butter, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
To Make the Buttercream: Melt the chocolate with half the brown sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from the heat.

Whisk the malt powder and cocoa together in a small bowl, pour over 3 tablespoons of the boiling water and whisk until smooth. Whisking the melted chocolate gently, gradually pour in the hot malt-cocoa mixture and stir to blend—it should be dark, smooth and glossy; set aside.

Working with the stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining brown sugar and beat for 2 to 3 minutes more, until well blended. Beat in the salt and vanilla extract, then reduce the mixer speed to low. Scrape in the chocolate mixture and mix until smooth. Still working on low speed, gradually add the confectioners' sugar. When all the sugar is in, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for a couple of minutes. Lower the speed and add the remaining tablespoon of boiling water, then increase the speed and give the frosting another quick spin. It will be light and should be thick enough to use immediately. If it doesn't hold its shape, beat it just a bit more.