Tag Archives: chocolate

A-Game Brownies (with Brown Butter!)

As in, I have an exam, and I’m gonna bring my A-game… right after I make these brownies.

This recipe requires brown butter, which adds a new dimension of richness to baked goods. Or sauces, if you’re French. It’s pretty easy to make, but you have to be vigilant. You simply melt butter over medium head in a saucepan, stirring, until it browns and smells sorta nutty. And then you add cocoa, sugar, eggs, mint, and a bunch of other things, stick in the oven, and BAM!– brownies. Of the highest caliber.

This recipe is based on the one I found over here, although I made significant changes.

Ingredients

10 tablespoons (that’s 1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter

2 teaspoons water

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

3/4 cup cocoa powder (unprocessed, and better quality will yield better results)

1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp mint extract

almost 1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 eggs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup chopped up chocolate, or semisweet chocolate chips

Make It:

Preheat oven to 325.

Brown the butter as described above. Remove from heat, and mix in sugars, water, extracts, salt, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. Stir vigorously for several minutes until it’s smooth. Mix the eggs together in a bowl, as if you were making scrambled eggs, and then stir them into the saucepan mixture. Mix everything up well! Add the flour. Mix some more. Add the chocolate. Mix some more. There’s a lot of mixing involved… worth it. Promise.

Line a square 8-inch baking dish with foil and grease the foil. This will make cutting up the brownies WAY easier because you can just lift them out of the pan and onto a cutting surface. Pour batter into dish, bake for 25-28 minutes. They’ll cook in the center as they cool, which will make them nice and chewy.

Well done. Now I gotta study!

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Making Friends With Crepes

So there’s a crepe restaurant here in Charlottesville. And everybody loves the crepe restaurant. Except me. I’m not really all that into crepes.


See? Everyone but me.

I had them in Paris, back in the 90s, and they were fine, I guess– lackluster pancakes, really. I just wasn’t all that enthused. But now, it’s 2011, and I have some leftover melted chocolate from the strawberries, which I’ve mixed with peanut butter. Which would be really good on… crepes.

We’re going to get liberal with this recipe from Alton Brown.

Ingredients:

1 egg

1/4 cup plus a splash more of milk

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup flour

1-1/2 T butter, melted, plus extra for the pan

1 T sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Make Em:

Mix all the ingredients in a blender, then let the batter sit in the fridge for an hour. (Mr. Brown says this will keep the crepes from tearing.) Then heat up a nonstick pan and coat it with butter. Pour batter into the pan like you would pancakes, flipping and cooking on each side. This should make 6-7 crepes.

Crepes can be served with lemon and powdered sugar, or strawberries, or banana, or plain, or whatever. You can also make them savory, with sausage or spinach… I mean, it’s flour and an egg, right? It goes with everything. I’m serving mine with sliced strawberries and chocolate/peanut butter sauce.

Yum! I may just like crepes after all.

Do you have a food that you never really liked until one day, you just… did? What is it?

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Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

Strawberries were on sale at the grocery store, and I got a little overzealous.

Like that time I went apple-picking:

I have a tendency to buy more fruit than I can reasonably eat. Luckily, the amount I can reasonably eat increases tenfold when I dip the fruit in chocolate.

Ingredients

Strawberries. Or: pretzels, marshmallows, banana…

Bittersweet chocolate.

Make It

Rinse the strawberries well and then pat dry with a paper towel. The drier they are, the better the chocolate will stick. What you really want is for the chocolate to form a shell that snaps open when you bite down. For this you need decent quality chocolate. I’ll touch on that in a second here.

Heat up the chocolate in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, use the microwave at 50% power, stirring every thirty seconds until your chocolate is melted. Although I am a little in love with my double boiler…

Grab your strawberry by the green part (Stem? No. Leaves? Erm, kinda.) and dip into the chocolate, swirling a bit to coat all sides. You want the top third uncovered, because it looks nice and because it’s easier to handle. For the sake of presentation, you should probably just eat all the ones that fall all the way in and have to be fished out with a spoon…

Place the dipped berries on a parchment paper sheet and let dry in the fridge for an hour or so.

Now, a word on chocolate: I swear by Ghirardelli’s bittersweet chocolate chips. The Nestle stuff, or the supermarket brands, aren’t high enough quality and they just sort of gum on the strawberry, so you don’t get that crispness. They also don’t taste particularly good– and this is chocolate, people! It’s an indulgence, so it should be tasty. That said, I don’t think it’s worth springing for Lindt or more expensive stuff for baking– I guess Ghirardelli just hits my threshold for chocolatey excellence.

What sort of chocolate do you like to bake with?

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Road Trip Food Part Deux: Poppy Chow

So since I burned the muffins, I need SOMETHING to bring for my friends on the trip. My buddy John is letting me have full reign of his couch for the weekend, Miss Alisha is going to be my partner in crime for the Charleston leg, and then my good friend Jamie will be hosting on the way back.

I was considering rice krispie treats when I came across THIS.

Game Changer.

 

Nobody loves Puppy Chow quite as much as my college family, so this, I expect, will be well-received.

Poppy Chow

9 cups plain popcorn (I popped mine from kernels in a little oil on the stove)

1 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup peanut butter (I used creamy but crunchy could be interesting)

1/2 stick butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup powdered sugar

Make It:

Prepare your popcorn. I find that stove-top popcorn is a bit more resilient than the microwave stuff, but I also recognize that most people don’t have popcorn kernels in the house, so work with whatcha got.

Melt the peanut butter, chocolate chips, vanilla, and butter together in a double-boiler, or the microwave (at 50% power to avoid burning the chocolate.)  Douse the popcorn in said chocolately goodness. Mix in powdered sugar so it looks like this:

Lay it out on a baking sheet to firm up, then scarf it all down– erm, divvy it into bags with a little ribbon for your amigos.

The thing is, now that I’ve blogged about this, it will be expected once I show up, so I can’t eat the whole thing on the drive. Maybe just a little…

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Road Trip Food: Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Or, Why You Should Use Muffin Pan Liners

It’s Spring Break, and I am going to be doing some road-tripping. This calls for two things:

1) I have to eat all the perishable food in my house and

2) I need something to eat on the drive!

So, recipe one: chocolate chip banana muffins, which will knock out my bananas AND the yogurt in my fridge. Nice.

This recipe is a modification of the one found here.

Ingredients

1 egg

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup skim Greek yogurt

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 very ripe bananas, mashed

a handful of semisweet chocolate chips

If you aren’t familiar with my philosophy on chocolate chips, it’s that you should eyeball it until you think you’ve added enough. Everyone’s got a different chocolate threshold!

Make ‘Em:

Preheat your oven to 350, and prepare a muffin pan with liners, or just grease the pan. More on that part later.

Combine the egg, yogurt, and vanilla. Add the sugars, then stir in the remaining dry ingredients. Fold in bananas and chocolate chips. Pour into pan, 2/3 full in each well.

Bake 20-25 minutes. You can use the toothpick test if you aren’t sure.

… Except, this left me with burnt muffins!

Gotta eat around the burned shell.

All of my muffins were burned black on the bottoms, and I think it’s because I greased the pan instead of using liners. I had read that this was preferable, but now I’m arguing for the opposite: bring on the colored paper liners.

The good news is, these were still edible, and in fact quite scrumptious. Except I can’t bring myself to share them because they look like they’d be bitter… hmm. More for me, and lesson learned.

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Dad’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

My father, who is recovering from a successful tussle with oral cancer, is one of the best bakers I know.

Although he is currently unable to eat (due to the side effects of the cancer therapy) he is constantly cooking and baking. Preparation is one half of the food ritual, after all– even if he can’t taste the final product, Dad still gets to be involved with the food. To make basic ingredients into something sublime. Interestingly, although generally pretty solid to begin with, many of his most-used recipes have become even better while he’s been unable to taste them. We’re very excited for his mouth to recover so he can enjoy his baked goods as much as we do.

This is my Dad’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies. It’s Tollhouse, perfected. Enjoy.

Ingredients

2 sticks of unsalted butter

1.5 cups brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups flour (sometimes I use some whole wheat flour, but he uses 100% all-purpose)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

chocolate chips, to suit (I generally throw them in by the fistful until I’m satisfied. Maybe 1-1/2 cups?)

chopped walnuts or pecans, optional, and to suit (Again with the fistfuls. Maybe 1 cup. Be sure you only include chunks of nut– the powdery, dusty remnants have a way of making you cough when you bite into them in the cookie, and in general mess up the cookie’s smooth texture.)

Step One: Put the brown sugar in a mixing bowl. (I love my Kitchenaid mixer, which was inherited from the grandmother and is significantly older than I am. You can do this with a hand mixer, but it’s going to take a while.) Melt the butter in the microwave until you can break it into clumps with your fingers. Add these clumps to the bowl and turn the mixer on to combine.

Step Two: Walk away. Seriously. The butter and brown sugar should be mixed at a fairly high speed for 10 minutes or so, so that they combine and change color and become fluffy. This is what makes the cookie so good! If you’re doing this with a hand mixer, be patient.

It should look like this when it's ready.

Step Three: Add the eggs, combine. Add the vanilla, combine. Add the dry ingredients. Recipes often say to mix them together beforehand so you don’t get pockets of salt, and I think that’s good advice, but I don’t usually do it. Haven’t had a problem so far.

Step Four: At this point you should have a lovely dough. Now I add the chocolate chips and nuts until it’s where I want it. Some people like more, some less. Keep in mind that this dough is less sweet than classic Tollhouse dough, so you might want to up your chocolate quotient.

Step Five: Preheat the oven to 350. Stick dough in the freezer for a while (30 minutes?) so it’s stiff when you drop it by large tablespoons onto the greased baking sheet. Oh yes, these are pretty big, fluffy cookies. Bake for 8-12 minutes, keeping a careful eye so the bottoms don’t burn. Let cool. Enjoy.

No wimpy cookies here.

If the cookies seem slightly undercooked at 12 minutes, take them out anyway. They’ll continue to cook as they cool, so you’ll get perfectly soft insides. These freeze pretty well, too– I like to throw a bag in the freezer in case of an emergency.

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