Classic Fudgy Brownies

This recipe is my take on Katherine Hepburn’s famous one, which can be found here, here, here, etc. It is so easy to make and the results are incredible – fudgy, chocolatey deliciousness.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 2 squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  • Note: I do not like nuts in my dessert, so I leave out the walnuts, which many versions include.

Directions

  1. 1. Melt together 1 stick butter and 2 squares unsweetened chocolate in the microwave in 20-30 second bursts. Just check and stir after each round.
  2. 2. Stir in 1 cup sugar, add 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla, and beat the mixture well.
  3. 3. Stir in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  4. 4. Bake the brownies in a buttered and floured 8-inch-square pan at 325°F for about 40 minutes. (I just spray the pan with a lot of Pam spray before I begin mixing the ingredients.)
  5. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then put in fridge until ready to cut and serve. This makes the fudginess come to life and intensifies the flavor. They are also quite easy to cut. Enjoy!
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The Ultimate Blueberry Muffins

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In the mood for a breakfast treat that you can pretend is healthy? Blueberry muffins should do the trick! I’ve made this recipe a few times to rave reviews and hope you like it.

The recipe is based off of a famous muffin from a now-defunct department store, and can be found on many different recipe sites. The recipe below is the King Arthur Flour one, with my italicized notes and photos.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract  (Kirkland always works)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice (this is entirely my addition, and can be skipped if you don’t have any)
  • 2 cups flour  (King Arthur is good, but any flour will do. Next time I may try whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup milk (I
  • 2 1/2 cups blueberries (I’ve used both fresh and frozen, and both work fine)
  • 1/4 cup sugar, for topping (this is optional, especially if you are pretending to be healthy)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin; or line the tin with papers, and grease the papers.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until well combined.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl and beating well after each addition.
  4. Beat in the baking powder, salt, and vanilla.
  5. Add the flour alternately with the milk, beating gently just to combine. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
  6. Mash 1/2 cup of the blueberries. Add the mashed and whole berries to the batter, stirring just to combine and distribute.
  7. Scoop the batter by the heaping 1/4-cupful into the prepared muffin pan.

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  1. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon granulated sugar atop each muffin, if desired. It’s traditional — go for it! (Again – optional)
  2. Bake the muffins for about 30 minutes, until they’re light golden brown on top, and a toothpick inserted into the middle of one of the center muffins comes out clean.
  3. Remove the muffins from the oven, loosen their edges from the pan, and after about 5 minutes transfer them to a rack to cool.
  4. Yield: 12 muffins.
  5. Enjoy!!

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Chewy. Chocolate. Espresso. Cookie. YES

Giada’s double chocolate and espresso cookie recipe is not to be missed. I followed her recipe almost exactly and the results were amazing – chewy, chocolatey, delicious.

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Ingredients (my notes are italicized)
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (I used Ghiradelli chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup dark chocolate-covered espresso beans (I used Trader Joe’s)
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (go ahead and double this)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. (I’m lazy and do this in the microwave – 20 seconds, stir, 20 seconds, stir, etc. until nice and smooth.)
In the bowl of a food processor, finely chop the chocolate covered espresso beans (still lazy, so just used my mixer – made a bit of a mess, but worked fine).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the chopped espresso beans, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. (I used the mixer bowl that already had the chopped beans.)
In another medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, water, and vanilla extract.

Gradually add the dry ingredients and stir until thick and smooth.

Fold in the melted chocolate. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Using a cookie or ice cream scoop, scoop level 1/4 cupfuls of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets.

Bake until slightly puffed and the tops begin to crack, 18 to 20 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheets and serve. (Taste great frozen too!)

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The World’s Greatest Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie

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I have never met a cookie like this, and I’ve met a LOT of cookies! The thin crunchy outer layer, the soft, gooey inner layer, the sink-your-teeth-in-deliciousness, the peanut butter-chocolate combination – it is just amazing. (I love this pairing so much I used it for my wedding cake!) Often times peanut butter cookies are dry and taste like peanut-flavored cardboard, not a decadent treat. After making these several times, I see no excuse why anyone should ever have to eat one of those again. Also, the chocolate chips are my addition entirely. I think they make a huge difference (I’ve made test cookies without as well – still great, but not next level)

My friends and family go absolutely nuts for these cookies. I don’t think it’s possible to eat just one. There’s no point in making anything but a double batch because they go so quickly – I took the liberty of doubling the recipe below). I always try to sneak some into the freezer – they taste incredible frozen too.

RECIPE (barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen, italicized notes and photos my own)

Ingredients

img_96683 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use at least 2 teaspoons)
3 1/2 cups  smooth peanut butter (This is the equivalent of two 16 oz. jars, so just scoop the whole thing in. Earth Balance is the way to go (this is NOT the place to use something natural or crunchy. Smooth, sweet, creamy goodness makes this cookie)
Coarse-grained sea salt, to finish (just a few twists from my salt grinder works nicely)                                      (1 12 oz. bag of good semisweet chocolate chips – I’m a fan of Ghirardelli

 

 

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the light brown sugar and eggs until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla extract, then the peanut butter until smooth and completely incorporated; you shouldn’t be able to see any ribbons of peanut butter.

If you’d like to get those pretty striations across the top of the cookies, chill the dough by freezing it in its bowl for 15 minutes, stirring it once (so the edges don’t freeze first).

Fold in chocolate chips.

If you’re not obsessed with these markings, you can scoop it right away. Scoop or spoon the dough into balls. Place on prepared pan. For the tallest final shape, place the tray in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking.

I like to use the 1 tablespoon scoop – it’s just the right size. The domed shape is really important for the crunchy outer layer. I prepare 3 trays (2 rows of 4 – these don’t really spread) and stick them and the bowl of dough in the fridge (my freezer is always full!) for at least 20 minutes. I turn the oven on once these are chilling in the fridge, and the timing seems to work out well. Then as I take more cookies out of the oven, I scoop chilled dough and pop them right in the oven.

Sprinkle the dough balls lightly with coarse-grained sea salt just before baking. Bake smaller cookies for 14 to 15 minutes and larger for 18 to 20. (14-15 seems to be the magic number for me).

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When finished, cookies should be golden at edges. They’ll need to set on the sheet for a minute or two before they can be lifted intact to a cooling sheet. Trust me, you should let these cool completely before eating so the different textures (crisp outside, soft inside) can set up.

Do ahead: You can definitely make the dough in advance and either refrigerate it for a couple days or freeze it longer. However, if I were going to freeze it, I’d probably go ahead and scoop it first. You can bake them right from the freezer.

My Final Thoughts

If you bake one thing in your life, please make it these cookies. Your loved ones will love you more. Your boss will give you a promotion. You will get amazing parking spots. Life will be beautiful..

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A Few of My Favorite Things: Baby Gear Transportation Edition

I had a few requests for baby gear advice this past week, and some dear friends specifically wanted to know about car seats and strollers. Here is some info. I hope it’s helpful for everyone with a baby on the way!
Infant Car Seat: Chicco Keyfit
 
Everyone I know gets this carseat. It has great safety ratings and is easy to use. It snaps in and out of the base with ease, and you can also put it in a car that doesn’t have a base. We put a base in each of our cars and still use it one for travel. It comes in lots of different patterns too. 🙂
Main Stroller: Uppababy Vista
This is pretty much the be all, end all of strollers. It’s very well designed and durable. It comes with a bassinet, which is great for the first few months as another place to nap. It is a small, cozy place and babies love it. We kept the bassinet in the living room unless it was on the stroller. When the baby outgrows the bassinet, then you can switch to the chair with seatbelt. It has a sunroof so you can see the baby when out for a walk, which I think is a very nice feature. This stroller folds up and fits in the trunk no problem. It is a bit heavy though.

What baby gear do you love/hate? Why? Let me know!

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Easy Cheesy Bread with Olives and Sundried Tomatoes

If you think you can’t bake bread, think again. This cheesy, crusty deliciousness is a piece of cake (haha)!

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You can impress your guests, satiate for family, and pat yourself on the back with ease. I love the smell of it baking – warm, savory, wholesome. My husband loves this bread so much, and seems to have an endless capacity to eat large amounts of it. He asks for it often, and even likes to make grilled cheese with it.

Recipe from the New York Times, italicized notes and pictures are my own

IngredientsIngredients.jpg

  • Olive oil, for greasing pan
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use whole wheat)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise (I hate mayo, but make an exception for this recipe!)
  • 1 large egg
  • cup milk
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated (I used Manchego, and probably went slightly over 1 cup – there’s really no such thing as too much cheese, right?)
  • 3 tablespoons pitted, chopped kalamata olives (I went for about 4 tablespoons. I don’t actually like olives, but everyone else does, so I figured that I should give them what they wanted. Plus, I had to open a whole can to make this, so had plenty left over).
  • ¼ cup sundried tomatoes (this is not in the original recipe at all – entirely my creation)

Preparation

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, egg and milk. Fold the wet mixture into the dry until just combined. Fold in the cheese and olives (and sundried tomatoes!).

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3. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

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4. Bake until golden and firm, 40 minutes. Let bread cool in the pan for 5 minutes (Yesterday I let it sit much longer because, well, life, but if you can do 5 minutes, do it. Your consistency will be much better that way).

img_9603Run a knife around the edge of the pan and over turn onto a wire rack (or a plate). Cool 20 minutes (or not) before slicing and serving.

My Final Thoughts

Interestingly, my mom, sister, and I all make this recipe a bit differently, and the results can be rather dramatic. That’s one of the many wonderful things about baking – you can start with a recipe, but you can ALWAYS make it your own. You can make this soft/gooey (all purpose flour, bake less) or crunchy (whole wheat flour, bake longer) – your choice.

 

My husband just walked in the room and said “I’m going to eat the olive bread now. Yum.” He doesn’t know I’m in the midst of writing this post.

What other ingredients do you think would be good in this?

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Carmelized Chocolate-Covered Almonds

I am a HUGE fan of Smitten Kitchen. My husband is a HUGE fan of chocolate covered almonds with a hint of salt. When I saw that Smitten Kitchen had a recipe for these, I of course had no choice but to make them.  The process takes a bit of time and effort, but is pretty straight forward.

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Recipe from Smitten Kitchen; my notes are in italics and the pictures are mine

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky salt
  • 12 ounces AKA 1 bag (SK calls for 8 ounces, but I always think more chocolate is better) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, chopped, or 1 1/3 cups chocolate chips
  • Approximately 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sanding or coarse sugar or sprinkles to coat (This felt like way too much for me – I had a lot left over. I think you could start with 1/4 cup and see how it goes).

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To coat almonds in caramel: Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside. Have potholders handy, either on your hands or close by; you don’t want your skin anywhere near melted sugar. Agree!

In a heavy-bottomed 3 to 4-quart saucepan, bring sugar and water to a simmer. Add almonds and stir to coat them in the syrup.

Very brief instructions: You are going to simmer the almonds in the sugar syrup over medium heat until it caramelizes. (Just keep stirring. When you think it might be done, it’s not. It takes awhile, but once you get through the bubbly phase, you can tell the extra time is worth it.)

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Stir in salt and spread almonds in a single layer on prepared sheet, separating them as much as possible. (Another thought – I may try to make the caramel separately and then pour it over the almonds to see if it preserves their crunchiness. This method made them a bit soft – not too soft, but definitely a difference from the typical almond experience.)

Set in freezer — or, outside, if it’s really cold — for a few minutes until cold and hard. This will take all of 5 minutes in the freezer. Break caramel into individual nuts; don’t worry about rough edges. (I used the fridge as my freezer was full. I therefore waited longer – maybe 15 minutes or so.)

You can go ahead and use this parchment or baking mat-covered tray again. Place cocoa, sugars, sprinkles and any other coatings in individual bowls. Have a few forks around to help roll the almonds through it.

To coat caramelized almonds in chocolate: Melt chocolate 3/4 of the way in a large bowl, then stir to let it melt the rest of the way using the residual heat in the bowl. (Again, I used more chocolate. I also recommend using a large, shallow bowl if possible or pouring the almonds in in small batches. The almond surface area to melted chocolate ratio is key to getting a good coating.)

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Pour caramel-coating almonds into melted chocolate and stir several times to coat evenly. Use forks to pluck almonds one by one out of chocolate bowl and drop into coating of choice. Roll almonds until coated and spread out to set on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining almonds. (I found this a little cumbersome and ended up dumping small amounts of cocoa on the sheet of chocolate drenched almonds and rolling them all around.)

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img_9583Once again, you can set these quickly in the freezer (or outside, on a very cold day), this time give it 10 to 15 minutes. (Again, I used the fridge, and waited longer).

My Final Thoughts

Interesting note: my husband and I liked these MUCH better the next day. There’s something about letting flavors settle overnight that really makes an impact. I’ve found this with cakes so many times, but never expected it to apply here too!

These would make a great gift – hostess, holiday, potluck, etc. They could also be used to decorate cakes. Of course, eating them by the handful is always an option (and the preferred one). Great frozen too (but what isn’t?).

Have you made anything similar before? If so, how did it turn out? Let me know!

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