browned butter blondies

I got so excited when my most recent cookbook order arrived… Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Chocolate Epiphany, and Martha Stewart’s Cookies. AHHH!!! I LOVE THEM ALLLL!!!! So, jumping right in, I found these in Martha Stewart’s Cookies (also available on her website) and thought the browned butter would be the perfect twist on already decadent bar cookies for my former orchestra teacher, who is a great friend of mine, perhaps because we share the same great appreciation of food. 🙂

Despite the fact that you have to wait while the butter browns, for some reason, I’d much rather have that wait then the wait needed for butter to soften and cream. Who knows why, but I just really don’t like waiting for butter to soften and then having to cream it…so, any brownie or cookie recipe that says “melted butter,” and I’m all over it! (Plus, it usually results in an extra chewy or moist product anyway)

And success! He loved them! Or so he told me… hehe. I of course had to try them for myself, and although I do love the flavor, it was definitely too sweet for my tastes, so I would take out the 1/2 cup white sugar and maybe start reducing the brown sugar too. I changed the original recipe, as he is allergic to nuts, and I also had no toffee bits in my home… So, I switched to white chocolate chips and King Arthur espresso chunks. Perhaps that was why they were too sweet…no nuts to balance. Anyway, they were still much loved, so that is all that matters in the end.

Brown Butter Toffee Blondies
Martha Stewart

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Published in: on May 31, 2008 at 12:13 am  Comments (8)  

breakfast items: croissants and granola

In the past week, I made my own croissants and granola for the first time! Yes, two items on opposite sides of the breakfast spectrum… but both delicious! One being sinfully saturated with butter, the other being virtuously nourishing. One taking two days to produce, the other but 15 minutes at the most to measure and mix. Either way, both were fun and exciting, and most of all, yummy yummy.

Actually, although I usually eat croissants for breakfast (as I guess most do…), it worked out that it was most convenient to serve them during dinner time for my family. So that night, our dinner consisted of croissant, steak, and vegetables………stir-fried in lard. Needless to say, our arteries were hurting a little after. But, oh, the fresh and warm croissants!!!!! I was so scared to make my own croissants, I must’ve watched the Baking with Julia PBS video online like 5 times for each segment.

I actually used the Tartine recipe, because it gave quantities for active dry yeast, whereas the Baking with Julia recipe calls for fresh yeast. The Tartine recipe also seemed like it would provide a better flavor (don’t ask me exactly why I thought this, because I obviously don’t know the methods for making the most flavorful croissants…). That and going back and forth between two sets of instructions might’ve been the cause for the severe issues I had by the last turn and shaping of the croissants when my dough started to tear and butter peaked out everywhere…but I tried to suffocate the butter with as much flour as I could, and prayed that it all turned out okay.

But, what do you know! Out of the oven came buttery and flakey pastries that my family loves so much, with that great fermented croissant flavor. Actually, my family usually just buys a humongous tray of them from Sam’s Club…but hooray for me, they pronounced them as better than Sam’s. 😀 I still have half of the batch lying in my freezer, but I don’t know if I’ll make them again any time soon…but I did have to make them at least once!! Another summer baking project, checked off!

Now, onto the granola… it is Nigella Lawson’s “Andy’s Fairfield Granola” from Feast. (If you google, it will come up…sorry, too lazy to type it out right now) I wanted to make it as close to Nigella’s as possible, but alas, I wanted more to just make the granola and eat it. So, having no sunflower seeds, I tossed in some wheat germ instead, and instead of raisins, the last of my dried raspberries were used. I also used my new agave nectar in place of brown rice syrup. The applesauce gave it an amazing aroma while it was baking.. ahhh. All in all, twas a delicious granola, although it’s probably hard to screw up granola.

Published in: on May 26, 2008 at 9:43 pm  Comments (1)  

butterscotch brownies with cream cheese mousse

I love showering my friends with baked goods… They probably think I’m a really generous friend, but really I’m just a selfish baking fiend looking for excuses to bake way more than my household can consume on its own. But alas, everyone benefits from this system! So, in honor of my dear friend Sarah returning home, I made her these butterscotch type brownies that I found in Lora Brody’s “Growing Up on the Chocolate Diet” called “Surfer Squares.” I had a bag of butterscotch chips lying around and instead of just simply having them be a mix-in for blondies (as delicious as those are), I wanted to find a new way to use them, and Brody has you melt them along with chocolate chips to make the brownie batter…. yum!

I added extra instant espresso and took out the nuts and marshmallows. I was afraid I had overbaked them, so I cut out a square to taste, because I am paranoid and obsessive like that. Although a bit too crunchy on the outsides, they tasted great: the same rich chocolateyness that you love about brownies, but the butterscotch chips gave them a twist that makes them slightly different than normal brownies.

Well, now that my pan of brownies was missing a corner, and I had also confirmed the sides were too crunchy, I decided to cut off all the edges, and then, to make them even more delicious (and to take away from how it was a tad too sweet), I made a cream cheese mousse topping with Kahlua and a delicious vanilla bean paste I got from Trader Joe’s. I put the cut out brownie into a glass container, slathered the fluffy cheesecake mixture on top, and voila, a classy brownie dessert to give as a gift. Sarah loved them! (And so did my family, who ate the cut out sides and leftover mousse) The combination of brownie and topping was not too sweet, but oh so creamy and dreamy and chocolatey and… mmmm I’m almost sad I gave them away.

Surfer Squares
Adapted from “Growing Up On the Chocolate Diet” by Lora Brody

6 oz butterscotch chips (I might try to reduce this next time, it was a bit too sweet)
6 oz chocolate chips
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
4 tbsp butter
1 extra-large egg
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp instant espresso dissolved in a few tbsp of hot water (Although next time I would use more!)

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF, butter an 8-inch square pan.
2. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, sugar, and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until chips and butter melt and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat, add the egg, and stir to mix well.
3. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into the mixture and stir to mix.
4. Stir in the vanilla extract, dissolved espresso powder.
5. Spread into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. (Try checking around 20)
6. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Cream Cheese Mousse

1/2 cup whipping cream
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp powdered sugar
Added to taste: vanilla bean paste, Kahlua

1. Beat the cream cheese (with a rubber spatula is fine) until smooth, mix in 1 tbsp powdered sugar.
2. Add the Kahlua and vanilla bean paste, if using. (I would definitely recommend it!!!) Set aside.
3. Whip the heavy cream until it starts to form soft peaks, then add the remaining 1 tbsp powdered sugar, then whip until heavy peaks form. (Essentially, whipped cream.)
4. Now, you need to combine the two mixtures! I found manually using the whisk attachment from my mixer to be most effective, so add the whipped cream in two batches to the cream cheese, whisk together, and refrigerate for around 10 minutes so it can set up a bit.
5. Slather on top of brownies, or really, use for anything, because this stuff is delicious!!

Published in: on May 22, 2008 at 7:38 pm  Comments (1)  

lavender lemon pound cake: home, at last!

Whew!! Finals finally over, moving out finally over…….and now, back in the good ole STL. I have basically been bumming around at home, which is strange after the hecticness of end of semester. Of course, the first thing I wanted to do when I got home was… bake! Ah, to be reunited with my lovely kitchen full of supplies and ingredients. I haven’t participated in a Sugar High Friday (created by The Domestic Goddess) in quite some time, since the days of my old blog I used to own, but now that I’m home and baking-able again with a new food blog going, I wanted to jump right in!

For this edition of Sugar High Fridays hosted by Tartelette, I was a little concerned because citrus is not my family’s favorite flavor, with the tartness of lemon items not truly appreciated. However, I had been eyeing the recipe for Lavender Lemon Pound Cake from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming, and it seemed like such a wonderful springy, homey cake, and I bought dried lavender a long time ago and never gotten around to using it (this happens for many other ingredients besides lavender……), so I decided it was perfect for this event. Plus, I am a little late for doing something for my mom for mother’s day, and this cake seems incredibly mother-y for some reason…

I ended up not going with the recipe from The Last Course though… because for Chowhound.com, the dessert cookbook of the month is Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert/Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts (I love Alice Medrich! I have made many things from Bittersweet and Art of Low-Fat Desserts, all of which have turned out great. Can’t wait to make things from Pure Dessert!), and I wanted to knock two out with one baked good, so I took her Cranberry Pecan Cake recipe from Lowfat Desserts and adapted it with Lavender Lemon flavors for the ultimate in a fresh and springy cake with the ability to feel somewhat healthy when eating it for breakfast. I even used a new Earth Balance 50/50 butter/vegetable oil blend stick, which said it was “great for baking!” so I put it to the test. 🙂 I also used lemon oil instead of zest because we don’t keep lemons around in our home and it’s a lot less effort than going out to buy lemons and zesting them and what not.

The cake turned out quite nicely, especially with the glaze on top. I figured out the reason why I love glazes like that on top of baked goods is because it reminds me of biting into a glazed donut, mmm. I think I may have overmixed it a bit so it was a tad on the dry side…but the flavors I was really pleased with, and my mother loved it as well!! To have my non-lemon loving mother love this cake was pretty much the stamp of approval for this recipe. 🙂

Lavender Lemon Pound Cake
Adapted from “Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts”

Alice Medrich had some crazy mixing instructions, that I don’t think really improved the texture, and perhaps might have led me to confusion and overbeating the batter anyway… Also, her recipe originally called for an 8-cup tube pan, so feel free to use that as well.

2 cups cake flour (8 oz)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 whole egg
1 egg white
5 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon oil
2 tbsp dried lavender
1 cup sugar
1 cup nonfat yogurt

6 tbsp powdered sugar
3 tbsp water
1/4 tsp lemon oil

1. Have all ingredients at room temperature, preheat oven to 350ºF, line a 9×5 inch loaf pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, whisk the whole egg and egg white together. Set aside.
3. Beat butter for about 1 minute with the lavender (I didn’t actually do this, but realized I should have afterwards). Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat on high for about 3 minutes. Dribble eggs in slowly, about 1 tbsp at a time, beating constantly for about 2 minutes. On low speed, beat in a third of the flour mixture. Then add half of the yogurt, and then beat in half of the remaining flour. Last, add the rest of the yogurt, the vanilla, and lemon oil, and beat in the rest of the flour.
4. Scrape into prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until knife inserted comes out clean. Cool for 10-15 min on a rack. Meanwhile, whisk powdered sugar, water, and lemon oil together to form a glaze. Unmold the cake, brush the glaze over the top and sides until all glaze is used. Cool, or serve warm, it is good that way too!

Yum!

Published in: on May 16, 2008 at 1:10 pm  Comments (8)  

Crepes! Crepes! Crepes!

Yay, this past Sunday we took a nice walking trip down to Center City’s La Creperie Cafe to stuff our bellies full with these light and tender pancakes:

My other crepe experiences in Philadelphia consist of Houston Hall’s Creperie and the Crepewalk food cart on Penn’s campus.  I was actually really excited about the crepes in Houston Hall before because it was humongous and nearly exploding with indulgent nutella, strawberry, and bananas.  However, with each order, I got more and more tired of the heavy and overbearing pancake that was trying to pass as a crepe.  The Crepewalk’s crepe is an improvement, but not enough (esp. due to my poor experience with the man who runs the truck.)

But that’s where La Creperie Cafe comes in! I ordered the most classic of “Les Classiques,” Gâteau de Crêpe au Jambon: Ham, Swiss Cheese, Spinach, Mushrooms & Garlic.  It was exactly what I was looking for…with all the simple flavors combining to form my favorite crepe experience yet.  My friends ordered more daringly from the “Les Tentanes: Very Creative Mix” portion of the menu with LOrientale, with a creative mix indeed of Couscous, Chicken Breast, Dry Raisins, Olives and also Merguez et Fromage, featuring their lamb sausage.  While these were certainly more exciting than my own crepe, personally I loved mine the most.  Plus, I have found that I just don’t care for couscous.  Who needs tiny little grains?? Especially in their crepe. Not meeee!

And of course, following up our savory crepes with dessert crepes was a must.  La Finale with Flambé Banana in Rum, Strawberries & Coulis de Chocolat called out to me, and was indeed a great finale.

Also ordered at the table were Le Fraisier: Strawberries, Sugar, Rum & Whipped Cream, and Oh La LaBananas with Nutellla, Grand Marnier and Whipped Cream (which I actually wished I had ordered… I always fall for nutella and choc/hazelnut).  

Some bites of crepe had a delicious, crunchy-sugar topping, as if they bruleed the top just slightly.  As delicious as these dessert crepes were, I think we mainly agreed that the savory ones shined more here than their dessert ones.

La Creperie Cafe has revived my perspective and love of crepes, and now, I set out for crepes from Beau Monde, the recently spotted crepe cart on Drexel’s campus, and hopefully if all goes as planned, France when I study abroad there next spring! 😀

La Creperie Cafe

Published in: on May 5, 2008 at 9:54 pm  Comments (1)