Monday, February 24, 2014

Frosted Brownies II

Frosted Brownies II

I had to repost this recipe with the main change being the type of cocoa used. I used to swear by Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate, and I technically I still do. I love the stuff; but it's gotten too expensive for me to use regularly. I can buy it from Amazon for a pretty good price, but then I'll have a three-pound container of it, and I'll make TOO many brownies. My waistline does not need that. 
At any rate, I may be one of the only people in the world who notices the difference between the Ghirardelli ground chocolate an other brands of cocoa powder. If you try this recipe here, I'm sure you'll be pleased. These brownies, as with the originals, have a great dense texture without being raw or gummy. They're thick, almost cakey, but not quite. To me, it's the perfect brownie texture, and they still have a deep chocolatey flavor. The frosting seals the deal for me, adding more sweetness and moist chocolatey goodness.
As you can see in the pics below, I only put nuts on part of the brownies. My intended audience is what helps me decide how much of the top will have nuts. This batch was just for the family, and although my one son prefers no nuts, he will still eat the nutted version. I bake the nuts on top instead of mixing them in for two reasons: #1 The flexibility mentioned already and #2 The nuts get slightly toasted on top so they have a toasty flavor along with a definite crunch. Mmmm...

Frosted Brownies II
    --Adapted from Ghirardelli

  • 2 eggs @ room temp. 
  • 1  cup granulated sugar 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 
  • ½ cup butter, melted & cooled 
  • 1/2 cup ground cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional) 
Preheat oven to 350°F. Using a spoon, stir eggs with sugar and vanilla. Add melted butter. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt with a whisk. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture. Spread evenly into a buttered 8” pan (or a pan lined with parchment paper or non-stick foil). Sprinkle nuts evenly over the top and press lightly with the palm of your hand. Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool. Frost with Cocoa Frosting (half a recipe of frosting covers one recipe of brownies) Cut into squares. Makes 16-20 brownies.

Cocoa Frosting

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons half and half 
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons ground cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut up 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In 2-quart heavy saucepan, heat half and half with butter, stirring until blended. Add cocoa and sugar, mixing with wire whip until smooth. Heat on medium-low until mixture is thick and shiny and runs off the spoon like syrup and the first bubble appears on the surface (160°F). Do not boil or overcook frosting. Cool 5 minutes, add vanilla. Place pan of frosting in a bowl of ice and water (or snow in the winter). Beat slowly with spoon until frosting holds shape. Frost cake. Refrigerate to set frosting. Makes frosting for and 8-inch layer cake.

Before frosting

Monday, February 17, 2014

Flavored Stabilized Whipped Cream

Lime-Flavored Stabilized Whipped Cream (Day 2)
I've had enough people ask me about using flavored gelatin to make stabilized whipped cream, that I finally decided to try it out today. I didn't frost anything with it--purely experimental.
I really wasn't sure how much of the powder to use, since it contains both sugar AND gelatin. I went with one and a half tablespoons, and the resulting flavor was rather faint--distinctly lime-flavored, but not strong at all. If you want to try adding another 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of gelatin powder, I would recommend microwaving the mixture after it sits and before you add the hot cream, just to make sure the sugar and gelatin completely dissolve. I don't think my gelatin and/or sugar were all the way dissolved, and you may even be able to see in my photos that there is a slight graininess.
If you like your whipped cream sweet, you'll want to either use the additional gelatin powder, and/or add 2-4 tablespoons of powdered sugar when you start whipping the cold cream, before adding the gelatin mixture. 
This recipe still needs tweaking, but I think it's safe to say, "Yes, you can use flavored gelatin powder to make a flavored stabilized whipped cream." As always, if anyone reading this tries it and has some tips, please leave a comment and let us all in on it.

I was going to wait until tomorrow to post this to see how it held up in the fridge overnight, but I ended up having a snow day today (Yay, Midwest winter weather!), so I let a bit of the whipped cream sit out for four hours (see photos below). 

Flavored Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting
     --adapted from cdkitchen

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flavored gelatin powder
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2-4 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)
1. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in small bowl to soften. 
2. Scald 2 tablespoon of the cream (this means you put the cream in a pan and bring it to a simmer on the stove); pour over gelatin, stirring until dissolved.
3. Refrigerate until consistency of unbeaten egg white. (This takes about 10-15 minutes.) Then, with a whisk, beat until smooth. 

4. In a stand mixer with a whip attachment, or with a hand beater, whip remaining cream and sugar just until soft peaks form; whip in the smoothed gelatin mixture, stopping to scrape the bowl twice. Whip until stiff peaks start to form, but be careful not to over beat. You will probably only need to whip it another 10-20 seconds before it's done.

Makes about two cups of flavored whipped cream

Recipe is easily doubled.

Flavored Stabilized Whipped Cream at 8:00 A.M.
Same whipped cream after sitting at room temperature (69 degrees) for four hours.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Crunchy Caramel Chocolate Chip Pecan Shortbread Cookies

 Crunchy Caramel Chocolate Chip Pecan Shortbread Cookies 

These little gems were born of a mistake, or rather, my inability to figure out on the first try how high a temperature to go to when I make caramel. Grrr. I have my candy thermometer in some boiling water right now to see if it's the thermometer's fault. I thought 240 degrees was the magic number, but that doesn't work sometimes. I probably need to try 230-235 again sometime soon, but I think I might need to use up my big bag of crunchy caramel crumble first. 
Anyway, I almost threw out the crunchy caramel, but somehow got the idea instead to grind it up in the food processor. What I ended up with was a half filled gallon sized zip top bag of Crunchy Caramel Crumble. Eaten with a spoon it tastes pretty good too. When I put it out to my Facebook and Instagram friends, I got some other good suggestions on what to do with the stuff. I have enough to implement all of the ideas eventually, but for now, I'm making these.
I've already made two batches of these cookies because I love them so much. They are a variation on the Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookie recipe I also have here on this blog, but the addition of the crunchy caramel crumble takes them to a new, even more delicious level. I prefer mine cooked to a deeper golden brown than what most people might like--it takes them to a slightly crunchier texture, rather than the tender feel of cookies with only slightly browned edges. Because the caramel crumble is made up of half pecans and half caramel, the cookies get infused with even more pecan flavor along with the distinct caramel flavor too. Love it.

Crunchy Caramel Chocolate Chip Pecan Shortbread Cookies

  • 1 cup butter,softened, but cool
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 ¼ cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ½ (heaping) cup chocolate chips, or, better yet, 12 Dove Dark Chocolate Promises, chopped
  • 1 cup Crunchy Caramel Crumble (see recipe below)
· Preheat oven to 325°F.
· Cream butter and sugar.
· Add vanilla and egg. 
· Sift dry ingredients together and add to mixture.
· Stir in nuts, chocolate chips or Dove Dark Chocolate chunks, and the caramel crumble.
· Drop tablespoon sized balls onto parchment-lined baking sheet (I used a cookie scoop), and press to flatten with a cookie stamp or bottom of glass dipped in flour or sugar. 
· Bake at 325°F for approximately 18 minutes.
· Remove to wire rack to cool.  Then store in an airtight container.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

The crumble

Crunchy Caramel Crumble
    --If you don't want to go to these lengths to get this crumble, I think you could sub 1/2 cup toffee baking chips and 1/2 cup pecans and grind them together to make a slightly different crumble. I bet it will still taste good though.

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ tsp coarse salt
  • 2 cups lightly toasted pecans
  • seeds scraped from a 1-inch segment of vanilla bean pod
1. Line an 8 x 8 inch baking dish with non-stick aluminum foil or parchment paper. Evenly spread 1 1/2 cups of the nuts in the bottom of prepared pan. Set aside.
2. Place remaining half cup of nuts and vanilla bean seeds in a small bowl and set aside.
3. In a large heavy saucepan, combine cream, corn syrup, sugar, brown sugar, butter, and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often.  Once it comes to a boil, cook without stirring until mixture reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer. (This is where I have my "problem." I think this temperature is too high for nice soft, chewy caramel, but I can't say for sure. This is what I did to get my crunchy caramel.)  Remove pan from heat.  Add remaining half cup of nuts and vanilla seeds, stirring well to combine.  Pour into prepared dish and run the spatula through the nuts to make sure caramel seeps into all crevices.  Allow to cool for 1-2 hours.
4. Once caramel is hard, cover with foil and then drop the pan's bottom onto a concrete surface to break the caramel up into manageable size pieces.
5. Process crunch caramel chunks in batches a food processor. Process until you get a coarse sand texture. Store crunch caramel crumbs in an airtight container. It makes a lot.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Mini Cake Mix Scones

Mini Cake Mix Scones
Dressed up for Valentine's Day
I've had this white cake mix in my cupboard for a couple of months, just waiting to be made into some mini cake mix scones. I finally had the opportunity to make them the other morning when my school had a delayed start due to cold weather (yeah, it was maybe two degrees warmer after the two hours...). At any rate, I wanted to make these on a day I could take them to work or somehow share them because it makes a LOT of mini scones. Forty-eight to be exact. I did eat two of these, and that was plenty. I love them, but maybe too much. Better to have them out of the house. 
What I like about these is that they have all of the flavor of a yummy white cupcake, but without the sweetness. Their texture is that of a tender scone; and the butter and cream just make them all that much better. The sprinkles just make them look super cute.
The scones were gobbled up well before lunchtime at my school, and it made my teacher friends very happy. 
Oh, and I do have the recipe for the full size Cake Mix Scones on this blog too. It's really the same as the recipe here except for cutting the 12 scones into fourths. I could have just put a picture with the modification on that post, but I really wanted to feature these cuties all on their own.

Mini Cake Mix Scones

  • 2 cups white cake mix
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, cold, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup rainbow nonpareils
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons half & half or whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon nonpareils for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Place cake mix and flour in a large bowl. Add cold butter chunks and cut in with a pastry blender or two knives, until mixture looks like coarse meal. Stir in 1/4 cup nonpareils.
On a work surface, sprinkle some flour and get large knife ready to cut scone dough.
Lightly beat the heavy cream with the 2 eggs in a small bowl. 
Pour liquid into dry ingredients and mix quickly with a silicone/rubber spatula until almost completely combined. Before the nonpareils bleed too much, turn dough out onto the floured work surface. Knead dough lightly so it holds together (your fingers will get quite gooey). 
Cut dough in half and one at a time, form each half into a disk about 3/4-inch thick. With your large knife, cut into 6 equal wedges. Cut each of those wedges into four triangles by cutting a little triangle out of the tip and then three from the remaining long piece. Place wedges on parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Move wedges around so they are evenly placed.
Bake at 400 degrees for 8-9 minutes, or until they start to brown on the bottom.
Remove from oven and move scones to a cooling rack to cool. Allow scones to cool almost completely before attempting to glaze.
Prepare glaze in a medium bowl by whisking together the powdered sugar, vanilla, and half & half/milk. Drizzle glaze over scones and then sprinkle with nonpareils, if desired.
Makes 48 mini scones
Hopefully you get the idea of how to cut them somewhat evenly.

Carnitas II

Carnitas taco with guacamole and cilantro & onions. So so good.
Crisp and tender carnitas

I have another recipe for Carnitas on this blog, but I really think I like this version better. Even the leftovers taste better. Its beauty is in its simplicity--only two ingredients. It's been a while (like a week) since I did this, so I'm not even sure what my complete process was. I know it involved looking up recipes on Pinterest  and then finding Center Cut Cook (a fantastic food blog, by the way), and adapted what she did there to my purposes and time allowances. Looking back at her recipe, I only used her method for the second round in the oven, but I got the idea from her.
Anyway, one of the awesome things about this recipe, besides being delicious, is that you can do almost anything with the leftovers, since it's only seasoning comes from the chicken broth. You can make pulled pork sandwiches or taquitos the next day without worrying about overpowering flavors.
I like it. I'll be doing this again soon.

    --Adapted from CenterCutCook

  • 3.5 to 4 pound pork shoulder roast, boneless
  • 2 cups chicken broth
Preheat oven to 280 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place roast in a covered roasting or baking dish or Dutch oven. Pour chicken broth over roast, cover with foil, and then place cover on top. 
Place in the oven and roast for 6-7 hours.
Remove roast to a plate and then pour the juices into a medium saucepan. Allow juice to settle and skim off most of the fat off the top. Do not discard the fat immediately, but reserve it in case you think you need it in the next phase of cooking.
Turn oven up to 400 degrees. Heat the juices over medium heat until liquid is reduced by about half. You want to have about a half cup of liquid, but if you have a lot of liquid even after reducing, you may want to just use 1/2 cup of it.
Shred or cut the roast into chunks. It's fine and good to have uneven sizes. Place cut/shredded meat onto a nonstick cookie sheet or open roasting pan. Pour about 1/2 cup of reduced juices onto the meat. 
Roast the meat on the cookie sheet for about 20 minutes or so, until it gets crisp here and there and seems to be sizzling in its own fat.
Remove from oven and place in a serving dish.
Serve with tortillas (flour or corn--I like corn for carnitas), guacamole, and salsa or onions & cilantro. And maybe some Mexican rice.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Banana Nut Bread

Simple Banana Nut Bread
How have I had this blog this long and not posted a recipe for banana bread? Oh, maybe it's because I rarely make it. Although I feel pangs of missed banana bread opportunity every time I throw away browned bananas, I just don't seem to take the time to make it. 
Since I'm tired of the Coconut Double Chocolate Almond Flour Cookie pic on there right now, I thought this was an easy way to put up something new. Unfortunately, I can't locate my go-to banana bread recipe I got from a friend way back when, so I had to go to I found a recipe that called for lots of bananas and very little sugar. Healthy, right? Perhaps, but I think the half cut of butter offsets any health benefits of reducing the added sugar. Overall this is a nice banana bread. Moist, just sweet enough, and relatively dense. I think I'll try my next slice warmed up with some butter. Mmm. On my way to do just that right now.

Banana Nut Bread
    --adapted from

  • 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (plus more for greasing pans)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 1/3 cup mashed overripe banana
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour one large or two medium sized (7 1/2 x 4 inches) loaf pan(s). Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Mix in eggs, vanilla, and mashed banana until thoroughly combined.
  • Stir in flour mixture just until combined. Fold in 1 cup walnuts. Pour batter into pan(s) and sprinkle top with remaining nuts.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool about 5 minutes before removing from pan and placing on a wire rack to cool completely. When bread is completely cooled, slice and serve. Place leftovers in an airtight container or baggie, or wrap in foil and freeze.
Makes one large loaf or two medium loaves.