26 July 2008

Bryce's Favorite Brownies

My boyfriend loves to eat. And when Bryce really loves something, he can eat ungodly amounts of it. I have seen this boy put away an entire pizza by himself, no problem. One of his favorite places to go out for dinner is Quaker Steak and Lube but only on a Tuesday night when he can gorge himself on all you can eat wings. Oh, and he's a 6 foot 5 [though he'll insist he's 6 foot 4 because, well, that's how tall Superman is] gangly boy and weighs about as much as I do. I don't think I need to say this, but I will anyway -- I'm jealous.
He's going to kill me for posting that, haha. I'd have to starve myself to be anywhere near that thin. Damn metabolism... Anyway, as I was saying, Bryce tends to eat disgustingly huge quantities of food when he really loves something. These brownies are one of those dear loves of his. I promise you that this boy could finish off the entire tray of brownies in two or three days. Unfortunately for him, my dad would fight him for these brownies.

Bryce's Favorite Double Chocolate Brownies
found at recipezaar.com

2/3 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided [honestly, I use 2 cups plus whatever I feel like adding]
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 13x9 inch baking pan.

In a heavy saucepan, bring butter, sugar, and water to a boil, stirring constantly until butter is melted and sugar is completely dissolved [this should take about 3 or 4 minutes]. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 cups of the chocolate chips, with a wooden spoon, until melted completely. Cool slightly and then beat in the vanilla. I used my amazing vanilla bean paste, but vanilla extract works just as well.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs. Once the chocolate mixture has cooled, gradually add the mixture to the eggs, beating with a wooden spoon until completely mixed.
Mix together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the egg/chocolate mixture and mix well to combine. Stir in the remaining chocolate chips. I like to use the itty-bitty mini chocolate chips, but regular ones or chocolate chunks would work, as well.

Spread your batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE! I usually go by eye on this, but you could do the little toothpick test for good measure. Let the brownies cool on a rack [in the pan, of course] and then cut into squares and promptly devour.

Now this time around, I used some of my new bakeware that I purchased at some kitchen outlets in Pennsylvania. I also used my mini cupcake tins and make, well, mini cupcake brownie things.

While it was fun to use my new pans and the cupcake-shaped-brownies were cute, everyone preferred the brownies baked in the 9x13 pan. When baked in the pan, the brownies are so much more dense and chewy which is how I prefer my brownies. Bryce agreed and also prefers the bar brownies because he can help himself to larger pieces of the dessert. Typical. Well I'm sure he'll be glad to know that I plan on making another batch of these decadent brownies before I head down to meet up with his family before we all leave for vacation.

22 July 2008

Hot Chocolate S'mores Cookies

I have so much blogging to do, it is absolutely ridiculous. Well...I guess it only seems that way. Anyway, about a little over a week ago I read about a cookie contest that was being held by our local library. I got ridiculously excited and knew I had to enter something in the contest. There was one small problem...entries were due the following day by 4:00. I, of course, wouldn't let that get in my way and hurried over to my laptop to find a quick, tasty, yet creative recipe. After searching through pages of bookmarked recipes I finally decided on a cookie I had made this past winter: the hot chocolate cookie. This cookie uses hot cocoa mix in place of cocoa powder, which gives them a distinct taste. I also wanted to find a way to make them less like a Christmas cookie and more like something that could be seem as "summery". Hmmm...chocolate...marshmallow...I know! Add some graham crackers! I crushed up some grahams and added the crumbs on top of the marshmallow and turned these into Hot Chocolate S'mores cookies.

Hot Chocolate S'mores Cookies
adapted from Land O Lakes, found at novice-baker.blogspot.com

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup instant hot chocolate mix [any flavor works, but dark chocolate has been my favorite]
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla
about 24 marshmallows, cut in half crosswise
about 3 full graham cracker rectangles [I hope that makes sense]

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa mix, baking soda, and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well combined after each. Mix in milk and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Using a teaspoon or a teaspoon cookie scoop, drop the dough onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are set [when touched lightly, and indentation remains and the cookie does not spring back], about 7 or 8 minutes. Remove and carefully place a marshmallow, cut side down, in the center of each cookie. I ended up cutting both ends of the marshmallows and then cutting down the middle, which provided me with a sticky surface for my graham cracker crumbs. If using the cracker crumbs, sprinkle on top of the marshmallow halves after placing them on cookies. Place back in the oven and keep baking until marshmallow begins to look puffy [about 1 to 2 minutes]. Remove from oven and let cookies sit on the cookie sheet for 1 minute before removing to cooling racks.

The cookies turned out great. Not quite...s'moresy, but very tasty. They have a very soft, cakey texture and are even better when they're eaten warm. Mmmm, gooey marshmallow. So how did they do at the cookie contest? Everyone got ridiculously excited when I brought them in, some declaring that I should already get first place. Talk about an ego boost, haha. I came back the next morning to check things out. I was a little disappointed...I didn't place in the top three. BUUUUT, I did walk away with a ribbon for the best decorated cookie. I had a lot of fun doing this and it was a fun first baking contest. Plus, all the money raised in the subsequent bake sale went to a foundation to help end childhood hunger.

What's up next? My boyfriend's favorite double chocolate brownies!

12 July 2008

Pina Colada Muffins

I believe I first saw this recipe at BakeBakeBake. It sounded like such a delicious muffin and knew I would have to try it. Lo and behold, a couple days later our counter top was littered with some overripe bananas! Perfect! I made these muffins Monday evening and I found it incredibly funny that I woke up that morning to find a version of these muffins posted on Cathlin Cooks. I loooove her blog. She always has great recipes and pictures, and makes an effort to healthy-fy [I love making up my own words, don't I?] her baking.
I changed up this recipe to fit my own preferences, but the original can be found here.

Pina Colada Muffins

1/2 cup applesauce

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoons rum
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup honey

2 large eggs
2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple
shredded coconut [mine was sweetened]

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare muffin tins.
In a large bowl, beat together the applesauce, brown sugar, vanilla, and rum. In a separate bowl, combine mashed bananas, eggs, and honey. Add to the sugar mixture. Beat until thoroughly

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir into banana mixture, then add the pineapple.

Spoon the batter into muffin cups and top each muffin with coconut [yum!].

Bake muffins for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and cool in tins for a few minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.

These muffins are delicious! Absolutely delicious! They are so, so moist and flavorful. The whole wheat flour provides a different, heartier texture that I really do enjoy in this muffin. You can't even tell applesauce was used in place of the butter and I think it helps provide additional moisture to the muffin. If I could change anything about the recipe, I would perhaps add more pineapple and DEFINITELY add more coconut. I find it a little funny that I want to pile these up with coconut when maybe a year or so ago I would have screamed at the thought of coconut being in my food. Ahh, how things change.

01 July 2008

Fourth of July cupcakes

I have been dying to bake lately. Seriously, aching to bake. It's sad and makes me think that I have a problem, but I make myself feel better by telling myself that baking is a passion of mine and it's okay to feel those urges. Right? Right. And now I sound like I'm talking about a million other things that are definitely not baking. Anyway, these urges led to me begging my mom to let me bake something. We're all about to go away for a few days to celebrate the Fourth of July, so the parents really didn't want me baking a ton and then having to worry about eating it all, which is not good for our little weight loss plan, or taking them along with us. After much discussion [or a few minutes of me begging and pleading and being generally pathetic] it was agreed that I could bake a half batch of cupcakes. I was elated, which is very sad. Now, a month or so ago I found some cupcake liners with red, white and blue stars on them, along with sprinkles in said colors. This led to my obviously brilliant idea: make red velvet cupcakes for the Fourth! Now...if I could just find a good recipe to use...

Allrecipes.com is fabulous. I used it to find a great scone recipe for Mother's Day and it didn't fail me this time around, either. I picked this recipe, followed the alterations suggested in the first comment, and then made some of my own. I also cut the recipe in half because of previously said circumstances. Boo.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

based on a recipe from allrecipes.com

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 ounces red food coloring
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce
2 cups sugar

2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon white vinegar

Okay, let's make these suckers. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare your cupcakes pans. Make a paste of cocoa powder and food coloring, and set aside. I ran into some problems here. I had hardly any liquid red food coloring and had to bust out my Wilton frosting gel. Well...I didn't make much of a paste. More so a clumped up mess of cocoa powder and gel stuff. I figured, oh w
ell, we'll see how this goes later, and moved on. Oh, I also tossed my vanilla in there in hopes of it helping with the "paste". No dice.

Combine buttermilk, salt, and vanilla [or just buttermilk and salt if you already put vanilla somewhere else...]. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine oil, applesauce and sugar and mix until well combined. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in cocoa mixture. Mine left some lumps behind but I was able to work some of them out. Then I got frustrated and gave up on that. Beat in buttermilk mixture alternately with flour, mixing just until incorporated. Stir together baking soda and vinegar, then gently fold into the cake batter. I guess you don't really need the vinegar since there is buttermilk in the mixture, but I did it anyway.

Pour into pans and bake for 25 minutes or so. Make sure they're done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean bladdy bladdy blah. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Well, they look okay. I can see a few little lumps in there, but nothing too scary. The texture is okay. I'd prefer something...cakey-er? But it's good! It's really good and I'm just being a complainer. The flavor is pretty mild and delicious. I couldn't pick up much of a cocoa flavor but I don't know if you're actually supposed to considering I've never had red velvet. Sad, I know. Anyway, the real star of this post is the frosting. I want to bathe in this frosting. I want to put this frosting on everything.

1 cup milk
5 tablespoons flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a saucepan, combine the milk and flour. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Now, I wasn't sure how thick this meant, but you'll know. It gets really, really thick. Set aside to cool completely. Cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy, then stir in cooled milk mixture. Beat until icing reaches a nice spreading consistency.

Now, lately I've been thinking about how I need to find the perfect frosting and I had a very specific taste in mind. I must have had it a long time ago, because I can't place where or when I tasted it, but I knew what I was looking for. This frosting is it. It's perfect and I can't really think of how to describe it other than that. It's smooth, silky, and sweet, but not too sweet. I know I failed miserably at that, but you really have to try it for yourself. I'm in love with it.

So how did rest of the family feel? Well, let's see a sort of "before and after" showing how many cupcakes I had last night and how many I had this morning.



Well I don't think we need to worry about them going bad! Dad at two last night and I'm assuming he took another this morning. Now, it takes a lot to get an enthusiastic reaction out of my dad when it comes to food. These did it. He wouldn't stop raving about how it's the best cake he's ever had and the best frosting because of the consistency and how it wasn't too sweet. My sister ate two last night and her eyes were about bulging out of her head while doing so. I almost gave up all self-control and ate two last night. So yeah, I recommend these to anyone and everyone. They will not disappoint, especially the frosting.