Archive | October, 2012

Hurricane fare: Sandy-Swirl Brownies

31 Oct

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those of you not living under a rock might have heard of a little thing called Hurricane Sandy, which just wreaked havoc on NYC and surrounding areas.  Luckily my Bed-Stuy neighborhood is just about the safest place to hunker down and myself and most of my friends faced no real damage.  Some of us didn’t even lose power.  However, with the shutdown of mass transit, work was called off yesterday and today at the museum where I work.  As a result I’ve been going a little stir-crazy and decided to channel that into a Sandy-inspired baked good.

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This recipe is the result of incorporating an old standby for the main melt-in-your-mouth brownie component (adapted from one included in this amazing cookie cookbook) and some on-the-spot improvisation for the remainder.  Because of that, I approximated a lot of the ingredients and quantities, but tried to be as accurate as possible in providing the recipe.  I should mention that I’m not exactly a perfectionist baker most of the time, which is why I don’t spend a lot of time attempting soufflés or french macarons.  I choose more forgiving options.  That said, I’ve done enough baking at this point that I know when I can afford to be more haphazard with my measurements and last-minute additions (for example, I rarely level off my flour or spices when measuring, and have taken to sprinkling sea salt on just about everything I bake).  But anyway, all of that makes it a little hard to describe what I did clearly, which is why I included shots of most steps in the above slideshow.  Now please, batten down the hatches and open your trap for…

Sandy-Swirl Brownies: 

Chocolate brownie:

 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I use Baker’s baking squares)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup thin pretzel sticks, broken in bits (optional but strongly encouraged*)
 
*Don’t trust my pretzel photo because I only had large puffier pretzels at my disposal.  I lightly crushed them but they were still not the desired consistency in the end.  I don’t anticipate problems if you use the thin variety.
 
White chocolate swirl:2 ounces white chocolate chips (about 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 egg white
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes (Probably? Adjust to your liking, I added a couple handfuls to the desired lumpiness)

For the chocolate brownie:

Using a double-boiler, melt butter and chocolate together (I use a metal bowl set over a small pot of simmering water).  When melted and smooth, remove from heat and add sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Stir to combine.  Add eggs and mix thoroughly (all of this can be done by hand using a wooden spoon).  Finally add the flour and mix vigorously until well-incorporated (the batter should start to pull away from the bowl slightly).

For the white chocolate batter:

Add butter and chips to a glass dish and melt together in 30-second intervals in the microwave (60-90 seconds total).  Stir in sugar completely, and then egg white.  Lastly, stir in flour and coconut.  It should be about the same consistency of the chocolate batter, but lumpier from the coconut.

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly spray an 8 x 8 cake pan.  Pour about half (or a tad less) of the chocolate batter into the pan and spread in an even layer.  Sprinkle the pretzel bits over the brownie batter in the pan.  Add a few dollops of the white chocolate batter to this layer, and then pour the remaining chocolate batter over the top (try to smooth it gently so that the pretzels and white chocolate underneath are not visible.

Now add the remaining white chocolate batter to the top in scattered dollops (no need to be precious about it).  Using a toothpick and starting in the center of the pan, gently swirl the dollops around and outward to create your “hurricane”, repeating the motion as needed to achieve the desired effect.

Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Inaugural post: Baked Pumpkin Donuts with Apple-Butter-Cream Frosting

28 Oct

First of all, welcome!  I have decided to join the ranks of food bloggers who just can’t keep their kitchen antics to themselves.  As usual, I’m jumping on the bandwagon late.  This is probably either the height of the trend or the downward slope, but regardless, I hope to bring some goodies your way!

This first recipe is my first surrender this season to another trend you may have heard of: PUMPKIN EVERYTHING.  I’m one of those weird people that doesn’t care much for pumpkin pie, but give me any other baked good with pumpkin mixed in, and I am so on board.  The recipe below was an experiment from the dough (the yeast variety, baked) to the frosting (made from homemade apple butter), and they came out beautifully.

One thing I will say by way of warning is that in an effort to cut the calories a bit, I baked these donuts, and I can’t pretend I don’t wish I had fried them.  It’s not that they weren’t good, but a baked yeast donut is essentially a dinner roll dressed up as a donut.  It’s a lesson I had to learn, and next time I will fry away and let these be the decadent treat they are meant to be.  If you’re comfortable with frying, have at it!  Now, without further ado…

 

 

 

 

 

Baked Pumkpin Donuts with Apple-Butter-Cream Frosting:

*adapted loosely from multiple sources (dough adapted from this Smitten Kitchen recipe; apple butter adapted from this Martha recipe)

Dough:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, but 2% or whole would be great, warmed (if you have to yank your finger out when you touch it, let it cool a bit)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from 1 .25-ounce or 7 gram envelope yeast)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
1/4 cup (packed) light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cups pumpkin puree (I used canned)
1 large egg
Oil for coating rising bowl

Melt your butter.  In a separate bowl, combine your warmed milk and yeast and set aside. After five to seven minutes, it should be a bit foamy.

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine flour, sugars, salt and spices. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. Add yeast-milk mixture, pumpkin and egg and mix until combined. Switch mixer to a dough hook and run it for 5 minutes on low.

Scrape mixture into a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 1 hour in a draft-free place; it should just about double.

Meanwhile, line the bottom of a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and butter or spray the paper.

After the dough has risen, dump/scoop/smoosh it onto a very well floured surface and flour the top of it well. With a rolling pin, roll the dough as close as you can into a square (we’re going to cut it evenly into 16ths), it should be about 1/2-3/4 inches thick.  The dough is very soft so cut your square in 16 even-ish pieces, very gently, with a serrated knife.  Then cut the hole, preferably using a small round cookie cutter or utensil of your choice*.

*This is the point where I should mention that I don’t have a donut cutter shape to cut out the dough, which is why I opted for squares and then cut the hole out by rotating a thin-edged spoon around the middle.  It was an annoying process, but the final product did not suffer for it if you don’t mind the less traditional shape.

Place the donuts on your prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes. (A second rise always makes me impatient, but this one is especially worth it since the donuts will plump up and largely hide any imperfections that arise from the previous dough cutting step)

When the 45 minutes are almost up, heat the oven to 350°F.  Bake for 20 minutes or until puffed and golden (my oven runs a little hot and I wish I had checked them a couple minutes earlier)

Allow to cool most of the way (if you can possibly wait), and frost.  They are best day-of or the next day, but I stored mine in the refrigerator for about a week and after a few seconds in the microwave they are still an awesome treat.

Frosting:

4 ounces butter, softened
4 tablespoons apple-butter (recipe below)
1-2 cups powdered sugar (I always start with less and add more to taste)
Few drops vanilla extract (optional)

Mix butter, apple-butter, and vanilla together and slowly add powdered sugar (an electric hand-mixer is best to eliminate clumps).  Feel free to tweak quantities to your liking.

*This frosting recipe is my own concoction and is the result of my having made the apple butter the previous weekend and subsequently incorporating it into EVERYthing, with great success.  The apple butter also makes a great topping by itself.  If you don’t have the time to whip up a batch, you could find store bought, or substitute the apple butter with maple syrup, or use another frosting or glaze of your choice.

Apple butter:

8 apples of your choice (I used half McIntosh, half Granny Smith)
1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar (this is less than most recipes would call for but I personally don’t think you need to add much to the natural sweetness of the fruit)
Few drops vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon apple pie spice or cinnamon

Peel, quarter, and core apples. In a food processor, finely grate both apples and cranberries (in batches if necessary), then transfer to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Stir in dark-brown sugar, salt, and spices. Cover and cook on high, 4 hours.

Transfer mixture to processor or blender (in batches if necessary) and process until smooth. Return to slow cooker, and cook on high, uncovered, until mixture is thick and browned, about 4 hours (stirring occasionally).  Warning: the smell in your kitchen is completely intoxicating and will fill your house.  Sorry.  Also, if you’re wondering about the cranberries, I couldn’t help throwing those in and am glad I did.  They add an extra tartness without distracting from the overall apple spice flavor.

Let mixture cool. Transfer to airtight containers and refrigerate, up to 3 weeks, or freeze, up to 3 months.  I stored mine in one large spaghetti sauce jar in the refrigerator, but it did not last 3 weeks…

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