Thursday, March 31, 2011

Minty Brownies



This is one of Matt's favorite desserts and what he wanted for his birthday. I usually make them with boxed brownie mix, but this time I took a whack at making the brownies myself using this recipe: http://www.joyofbaking.com/brownies.html. I chose this recipe because it said the result was a nice cross between fudgey and cakey. I am not sure where I found the idea to make these, I am sure it was on the back of the bag or something, but you make brownies and just after they come out of the oven, you put Andes Candies on top to melt and then form a nice solid chocolate mint crust. I usually get a bag of Andes Candies baking chips, but the store was out, so I got a bag of Andes Candies and chunked them up myself. I also usually make this in a 9x13 pan, but the brownie recipe I liked called for an 8x8 pan and Matt is on a diet, so I decided this size would be more appropriate for a birthday treat. I used semisweet chocolate chips for the 5 oz chocolate but did not add the optional chocolate chips.

The Verdict: Matt liked them very much. The brownie recipe was true to it's word, they were a nice combination of fudgey and cakey. They were also very rich and sweet. It is a very simple dessert that always turns out great. 

Brownies
Adapted from:  http://www.joyofbaking.com/brownies.html

5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place the rack in the center of the oven. Butter (or spray with a nonstick cooking spray) an 8 inch square pan.  Melt the chocolate and butter in a large stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder and sugar.  Next, whisk in the vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Finally, stir in the flour, salt and chocolate chips (if using).  Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a little batter and a few moist clumps clinging to it. Do not over bake. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature or chilled. These freeze very well.

Makes 16 brownies.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

This is one of Matt's favorites.  This recipe uses all whole wheat flour, no white flour, so it is ideal for Matt's diet.  I have been using this recipe for quite a few years now and it turns out really good.  I make two larger pizzas instead of four small ones as the recipe calls for.  One suggestion, if your oven isn't exaclty clean and you don't turn it up to 500 degrees often, beware of burning off some debris.  

The Verdict:  The crust is crisp on the outside, doughy on the inside as it should be.  It also has a nice chewy texture and a great wheat flavor.   

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Adapted from:  http://www.wolfgangpuck.com/recipes/view/47382/whole-wheat-pizza-dough

Ingredients
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1/4 c lukewarm water
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 3 3/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 c cool water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch salt
 


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Peanut Butter Pie


My sister-in-law loves Peanut Butter Pie, so I went on a quest to find the most appetizing looking PB pie recipe.  I found this one:  http://www.whatwereeating.com/recipes/killer-peanut-butter-mousse-brownie-pie/.  I chose this recipe because the "crust" was made of brownie and chocolate and peanut butter are perfect together. 

This was the first time I made a brownie from scratch.  Why you ask?  Well, brownie mix just always seemed easier and I never had a brownie made from scratch that actually tasted good, they are usually dry.  This brownie is a very nice combination of moist and chewy as a brownie should be.  It is also nice and chocolaty.  The recipe called for 4 oz of dark chocolate.  I just used a Special Dark Hershey bar.  It worked just fine and Matt ate the leftover chocolate ;)

I was a little intimidated by the peanut butter part of the pie because of "rules" you had to follow in order to keep the mousse from deflating.  The recipe calls for very/extremely cold whipping cream, I just used refrigerated whipping cream and it seemed to work great.  I folded it in gently as per the instructions and put it in a quart size Ziploc bag, which was plenty big enough.  When both the brownie and mousse were chilled as per the instructions, I cut the corner of the bag of mousse and piped it on the top of the brownie.  I think you could have just as easily put the mousse in a container and spread it on top of the brownie, but if you are unable to spread icing evenly, this is a good way to keep your mousse spreading consistent.

I took this pie with me to Pittsburgh and was afraid it would not travel well due to it needing to stay chilled, but I put it in a cooler with some ice and it made just fine.  I did omit the ganache because it would have made a mess during travel as the pie did move around in the container.  I also used 6 regular sized peanut butter cups rather than 10 miniatures.  

The Verdict:  This is a very rich and sweet pie, every chocolate peanut butter lovers dream.  The different textures were nice, the creamy mousse, the chewy brownie, and the peanut butter cups.  My sister-in-law was pleased with my choice of recipes for her birthday ;)

Killer Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie
For the Brownies:
4 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 stick butter, cut in cubes
1 tbsp instant espresso or coffee (optional)
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 fingered pinch of salt
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
For the Peanut Butter Mousse:
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter, (do NOT use natural or crunchy!)
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp milk
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold
For the Ganache:
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
10 mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, roughly chopped

Make the Brownies:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a round 9" cake pan with greased parchment paper. Spray the sides of the pan with cooking spray.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Place the chocolate, butter and instant espresso into a non-reactive heat proof bowl. Place bowl w/ ingredients over the boiling water. Stir constantly until the chocolate and butter have completely melted then remove bowl from heat. Cool slightly.
Add the eggs to a mixing bowl. Whisk. Next add the vanilla, salt, sugar and brown sugar to the bowl. Whisk thoroughly. Add the chocolate butter mixture then whisk again. Gently fold in the flour to the brownie batter until just combined. Over mixing will result in tough brownies!
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Place into a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted 3" from the edge of pan comes out with only a few crumbs. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack, at least 1 hour.
To remove from pan, carefully slide a knife around the edges to loosen. Place a a plate over the brownies then invert the pan. Brownies should easily flip out. Peel off parchement paper.
Make the Mousse:
While the brownies are baking/cooling prepare the mousse.
Place the peanut butter, cream cheese, vanilla and milk into a large mixing bowl. Beat by hand or w/ an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar. Beat until smooth. Set aside.
Place whipping cream into a separate mixing bowl. Beat until whipped cream holds stiff peaks. This is most easily done using a stand mixer or electric beater but can be done by hand, just be sure that the cream is extremely cold before whipping.
Working in four batches, gently fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture to form a light, airy mousse. Over working the mousse will cause the whipped cream to deflate so use a light hand! Scrap the mousse into a piping bag w/ a large round tip or into a gallon-sized sealable plastic bag. Place the mousse into the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour before piping.
Assemble the pie
Carefully place the brownie onto the plate you wish to serve/store the pie in.
Remove the mousse from the fridge. Cut about 1/4 inch of the bottom corner off of the sealable plastic bad if you don't have a piping bag. The plastic bag will act as your piping bag. Evenly pipe the mousse over the brownie in large spirling cirles beging on the outside and ending in the middle. Use all of the mousse. With a rubber spatula, smooth out and the top surface of the mousse. Place the brownie and mousse into the refrigerator. Chill for at least 30 minutes before finishing.
Make the Ganache
While the layered brownie and mousse are chilling, make the ganache. Place 1/3 cup whipping cream into a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add the chocolate. Let chocolate and cream sit for about 3 minutes. Whisk until smooth and shiny. Leave at room temperature until ready to finish pie.
Finish the pie:
Remove the pie from the fridge. Sprinkle the chopped Reese's cups evenly over the top of the pie. Drizzle with ganache. This pie must be served chilled or the mousse will deflate. Pie may be stored in the fridge for upto 3 days. It freezes well and can also be eaten straight from the freezer. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Irish Brown Bread


I decided to make an Irish dinner for St. Patrick's Day.  I made Guinness Stew and Irish Brown Bread.  I found this recipe online and chose it over Irish Soda Bread because I don't like cooked raisins.  This bread had oatmeal, whole wheat flour, and yogurt.  I used greek yogurt because I could get it in a reasonably sized container and it worked just fine.  Make sure you let it get pretty brown because it makes a nice crusty bread.

The Verdict:  This bread was awesome!  It had a nice crunchy crust and a great taste and smell.  It was also very easy to make and looked great :)  

Irish Brown Bread  
http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=10000000522965
  • 1  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 2  tablespoons  sugar
  • 1  teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  cold butter or margarine
  • 2  cups  whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4  cup  regular or quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1 1/2  cups  plain nonfat yogurt
  • Milk

Preparation

1. In a bowl, mix all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until mixture forms fine crumbs. Stir in whole-wheat flour and oats.
2. Add yogurt; stir gently. If mixture is too dry to hold together, stir in milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, just until dough holds together; it should not be sticky.
3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and knead gently 5 times to make a ball. Set on a lightly greased baking sheet. Pat into a 7-inch circle. With a floured knife, cut a large X on top of loaf.
4. Bake in a 375° oven until well browned, about 40 minutes. Cool on a rack. Serve warm or cool.
 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Cookies

 


I had two bananas that were getting a bit too ripe for my liking and I wanted to make an item for my MOPS meeting with ingredients I already had in the cupboard because I hate making multiple trips to the grocery store.  After much research and indecision, I chose this recipe:  http://bakingbites.com/2009/05/peanut-butter-banana-oatmeal-cookies/.  I started out looking for a oatmeal banana cookie and after reading a bunch of reviews for different recipes, I decided to add peanut butter to the mix.  After reading the reviews of this recipe, I added chocolate chunks to half the cookies (I doubled the recipe). 

The Verdict:  These were a big hit at MOPS and I found them to be pretty good.  I loved the texture, they turned out nice and chewy and moist with a crisp bottom.  There was a good balance of ingredients, you get a good PB flavor, a hint of banana, and sweet chocolate with the chocolate chunk cookies.  There was also the perfect amount of oatmeal, just enough to make the cookie chewy but not enough to dry it out.  I began calling them "Elvis cookies."  There was quite a bit of sugar in these, so they were pretty sweet.  If I make them again, I may reduce the amount of sugar or use a less sweet PB.  

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup mashed banana (from 1 sm/med)
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats (not instant)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together sugars and butter. Beat in egg until smooth, then mix in the peanut butter and mashed banana. Working by hand or with a mixer on low speed, blend dry ingredients into the peanut butter mixture. Stir in the oats.
Shape dough into tablespoons and place on baking sheet, flattening each slightly with your fingers.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies just begin to turn golden around the edges.
Cool on a wire rack.
Makes approx 2 dozen.
  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Texas Sheet Cake

Yes, I made my own birthday cake ;)  I made a Texas Sheet Cake which is a thin chocolate cake with a fudgey layer of icing.  I used my aunt's recipe and this recipe http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/texas-sheet-cake-v/Detail.aspx because the steps in my aunt's recipe were not very detailed.  The recipes were pretty much the same, except the amount of each ingredient in the icing was slightly different.  My aunt has been making this for years and we all love it.  The last time I had it was at my wedding shower, so I figured it was time for me to give it a try.  Both recipes say to mix the dry ingredients with the sour cream and eggs.  I am not sure I will do this again as it makes the batter lumpy and you end up with little lumps of flour in the cake.  Other recipes mixed these ingredients in a different order and I will try to keep wet and dry separate and then mix them together get a better mix.  I also used the Texas Sheet Cake V recipe for the icing because I was not sure how much powdered sugar was in a "box" of powdered sugar.  Also, that recipe had more cocoa in it which is fine by me.

The Verdict:  I love this cake.  The cake has a light chocolate flavor and the icing has a wonderful fudgey crust with a great fudge flavor.

Matt's Verdict:  Fantastic ;)  

Aunt Rita's Recipe:

2 c flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 c sour cream
2 c  sugar
2 eggs
1 t baking soda

Mix in bowl and set aside.

Mix in pan:
1 c butter
1 c water
5 T cocoa

Bring to boil and mix with flour mixture.  Pour into greased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 20-25 min, and cool.

Icing:
Into a bowl put; 1 box powdered sugar and 1 t vanilla.  In pan mix 1/2 c butter, 1/3 c milk, and 3 T cocoa.  Bring to boil and mix all together.  Put icing on cake while it is warm.

Texas Sheet Cake V:
http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/texas-sheet-cake-v/Detail.aspx

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  •  
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10x15 inch pan.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Beat in the sour cream and eggs. Set aside. Melt the butter on low in a saucepan, add the water and 5 tablespoons cocoa. Bring mixture to a boil then remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly, then stir cocoa mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing until blended.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  4. For the icing: In a large saucepan, combine the milk, 5 tablespoons cocoa and 1/2 cup butter. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Stir in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla, then fold in the nuts, mixing until blended. Spread frosting over warm cake.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cake Class Result

I took a fondant and gum paste class and this cake decor is the result.  I think I did pretty good since this is my very first time using gum paste and fondant.  The flowers are made of a mixture of gum paste and fondant and the rest of the cake is fondant.  The design is my own :)

Scones!


These are my favorite things to make.  I wanted to make a brunch item for my MOPS meeting, so I made these.  My usual is the regular chocolate chip recipe.  This time, I decided to try making a new flavor, so I made chocolate scones.  These are very easy to make and don't require a lot of time.  Differences in the recipes are the regular chocolate chip scones use buttermilk and the chocolate scones use heavy whipping cream and eggs.   I did not use the heart shaped cookie cutter with the chocolate scones as instructed in the recipe, I just made wedge shapes as I do with the chocolate chip scones.  Also, this time, I made the scones smaller by splitting the dough and making two circles rather than one.  I cut them the same way as I would the large scones. 

The Verdict:  I love the Chocolate Chip Scones and have been making this recipe for years.  They taste best served a warm enough to melt the chocolate chips, so I put them in the microwave for a few seconds before serving.  The Chocolate Scones were very good and I will definitely make them again.  They are best served warm, also. 

Both recipes are as follows:  

Chocolate Chip Scones

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3  buttermilk

For Tops of Scones:
1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place rack in middle of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. (The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.)  Stir in the chocolate chunks (or chips). In a small measuring cup whisk together the buttermilk and vanilla and then add to the flour mixture. Stir just until the dough comes together (add more buttermilk or flour as necessary). Do not over mix the dough.
Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead dough gently four or five times and then pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches round and about 1.5 inches thick.  Sprinkle top with brown sugar and rub into top of round.   Cut this circle in half, then cut each half into 4 pie-shaped wedges (triangles). Place the scones on the baking sheet.
Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
Makes 8 scones.

Chocolate Scones

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups  all purpose flour
1/4 cup Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chunks or chips
1/3 cup white chocolate chunks or chips

For Tops of Scones: 
1 large egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl whisk together the whipping cream, egg, and vanilla extract. Set aside. 
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chunks (chips). Add the cream mixture and stir just until the dough comes together (add more cream and/or flour as necessary).
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead a few times. Shape the dough into an 8 inch circle.  With a 2 1/2 inch heart shaped cookie cutter, cut into scones. Gather any scraps together, knead, and then cut out more scones. Brush excess flour from the bottom of the scones, and place them on the baking sheet. Make an egg wash of one well-beaten egg mixed with 1 tablespoon milk and brush the tops of the scones with this mixture.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until they are firm around the edges but a bit soft in the center. A toothpick inserted into the center of a scone will come out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Can serve with clotted cream or softly whipped cream.
Makes about 10 - 2 1/2 inch heart shaped scones.