Sunday, September 30, 2012

baked brownie

I believe that there is no such thing as a bad brownie, nor is there such thing as "the best" brownie. But there is such a thing as an extremely moist, perfect, delicious, melt-in-your mouth, oh-la-la brownie. Say hello to the Baked brownie.

The recipe comes from Baked NYC, a bakery specializing in All-American baked goods. They make pies, cakes, granola, confections-- however, they are most famous for their brownies. They describe their brownies a  "hovering blissfully between 'cakey' and 'fudgy'." 

I brought these in for the Club Fair to promote the Baking Club (everyone who signed up got to take whatever they wanted from our array of baked goods). Guess what went first? Not the double espresso cupcakes, not the pumpkin bread,  not even the gooey butter cookies! These brownies. My friend Erin ate three before I could even finished putting our poster up! Bewildered little freshman boys started asking for the recipe.  Even my merciless P.E. teacher cracked a smile after taking a bite out of these.


These are a favorite of Oprah, America's Test Kitchen, my school's soccer team, and the security guard on level 2. They are soon to be a favorite of yours too.

Do you have a favorite brownie recipe?
With love,
Erica

Ingredients
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch glass or light-colored baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.
3. Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.
4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve.
7. Store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrap with plastic wrap for up to 3 days. They also freeze quite well.

Recipe adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

banoffee bread


Erika of The Teenage Taste, Abby of Munchin' Mel, and I have started a new project called The Three Ingredient Challenge. Every month, we vote on three ingredients and a category (such as quick breads, cakes, brownies etc.) and see what we come up with! This months ingredients were hazelnuts, toffee, and cocoa. The category was quick breads, muffins and scones.


When we chose the category of quick breads, I knew I had to make banana bread.  I know, another banana bread recipe? Yes. But stay with me... this one is special.

This is not banana bread as you know it; this is banoffee bread, the love-child of mindbogglingly moist banana bread and sinfully delicious banoffee pie.

Banoffee is a clever little portmanteau of the words "banana" and "toffee." Banoffee pie is a big thing across the pond.  It's kind of like banana cream pie, but much better, and British. Two years ago my dad and I shared a big slice of banoffee pie in Leicester Square, and I will never forget it.  A buttery, slightly salty English shortbread crust, oozing with warm toffee and topped with an ungodly amount of whipped cream. The banana-lover in me was in heaven.

Alas, for some reason, it's still not socially acceptable to eat a big, gooey slice of pie in the morning. But this banana bread provides a loophole. Now I can have my gooey toffee, banana sensation for breakfast, snack, dessert, and just because.
Do you ever wish you could eat dessert for breakfast?

With love,
Erica

*note, the grocery store was all out of cocoa powder... but I used two out of the three ingredients. That counts right?! Once you taste this bread... you'll say it counts ;)

1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Heath bars, finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup well-stirred whole-milk plain yogurt (I used peach, because that is all I had)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan and line with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, microwave the butter until just melted. (Be careful and do this over medium power in short burst because it can explode or splatter and that is a big mess.) Or melt it in the preheating oven. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate chips and crystallized ginger and whisk well to combine. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the mashed banana, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla and stir to mix well. Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir gently with a rubber spatula, scraping down the sides as needed, until just combined. Do not overmix. The batter with be thick and somewhat lumpy, just make sure all the flour has been incorporated. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top.
Bake into the loaf is a deep shade of golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 mins to an hour. If the loaf seems to be browning too quickly, tent with foil.
Cool the loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 5 mins. Then tip out onto the rack, and let it cool completely before slicing (if you can wait that long).
The loaf freezes well wrapped in plastic wrap and again in foil to protect from freezer burn. Try it cold, sliced fresh out of the freezer.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

apple brownies



Last weekend, we bought some beautiful honeycrisp apples from the farmer’s market. They have been sitting on the counter, looking all shiny and pretty for the past few days. My dad loves apple pie, and now that it is officially fall, I felt that I should bake him one.
However, the thought of making a pie crust on a Tuesday night didn't excite me -- and the thought of using store bought crust for the first pie of the year made me a bit sad. So, I made these apple brownies -- and everyone was excited and no one was sad.

I clipped this recipe from the back of Living. I often find my recipes on Pinterest and other recipe blogs, so I always feel good when I bake something from a clipping or cookbook. It makes me feel a bit old fashioned, a bit rustic, a bit more self-sufficient. Plus, it helps with the "sticky keyboard" issues I often encounter.

These brownies are a cinch to make -- I whipped these brownies up even faster than the chocolate version (dare I say these brownies are as delicious as my super-fudgy chocolate version?!). They are moist, tasty, and loaded with fall flavor. They have a flaky crust, just like chocolate brownies, but are full of soft crumbs and sweet apple chunks. Plus, these are super easy to slice and ea: no mess, no forks, no hassle - making them perfect for back to school bake sales.

I never understood the whole "bring-your-teacher-an-apple" phenomenon. Why do elementary teachers use the apple motif of everything?! After making these brownies, I finally understood. Bring some of these to class, and you will be the teacher's pet. Guaranteed. 

With love,
Erica



Ingredients
  • 1 stick salted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for dish
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 large firm-sweet apples (about 1 pound total), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (2 3/4 cups)




Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center position. Generously butter an 8-by-11-inch baking dish.
  2. Whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together butter, sugar, and egg with a mixer until pale, about 2 minutes. Add walnuts and apples, and stir by hand until combined. Add flour mixture, and stir until combined, about 30 seconds more.
  3. Spread batter in pan, and bake until golden brown and slightly firm, about 40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 30 minutes, then cut into 12 bars.
Bars can be stored in an airtight container up to 5 days.

Adapted from Martha Stewart's Living , October 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting


I can't get enough of fall baking, and nothing screams fall baking quite like canned pumpkin! I have been dumping it into bars, smoothies, cakes, loaves and everything else I can get my hands on -- because I know that before long, I will have to move on to gingerbread, peppermint and Christmas cookies.



I was planning on making pumpkin spice latte cupcakes; however, something didn't seem right about pumpkin cupcakes without cream cheese frosting. So I ditched the whipped cream frosting and used my absolute favorite cream cheese frosting recipe. I left the espresso powder in the cupcakes -- and it added a subtle, warm flavor to the finished product. The pumpkin, cinnamon, and clove create a tickling, spicy aroma that is uniquely autumnal.


I frosted them with a cute little swirl, and garnished each one with a candy corn. I plan on bringing these to my first baking club meeting on Thursday!
What's your favorite fall flavor?
With love, Erica


pumpkin spice cupcakes
 
2 2/3 Cups all-purpose flour
2 Tsp baking soda
2 Tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp espresso powder
1/2 Tsp nutmeg
1 Tsp cinnamon
1/8 Tsp ground cloves
1 Tsp salt
1 Cup brown sugar
1 Cup granulated sugar
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
1/2 Cup (1 Stick) butter, melted
1/2 Cup vegetable oil
4 Eggs
 
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 24 cupcake tins with paper liners.

Whisk the flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt together in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the pumpkin, both sugars. melted butter and the oil. Beat on medium-low speed until well incorporated and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in 2 additions, beating just until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly among the liners, filling each about 3/4-full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let the cupcakes cool for 5-10 minutes before removing them to the rack.

my favorite cream cheese frosting

  • 1/2 cup of shortening
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter @ room temp
  • 1 8oz bar cream cheese @ room temp
  • 1 Tbs. white vanilla extract
  • 2 lbs powder sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white vinegar

Instructions

Cream together shortening, butter, and cream cheese until nice and smooth. Add vanilla and vinegar into mixture and combine. Sift together sugar and salt, and slowly add to shortening, butter & cheese mixture. Make sure that all sugar is incorporated. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

crunchy strawberry wheatgerm pancakes


I know it's no longer strawberry season; however, yesterday my dad came home from the store with a big box of strawberries.

Weekend breakfasts are always a highlight of my week, and I tend to plan of them in advance. I was planning on making something autumn-y -- apple rings, pumpkin pancakes, gingerbread waffles... But that pint of strawberries kept calling my name. So I mixed it into these pancakes.

These pancakes are light and fluffy. Juicy strawberries are packed into every bite, and the hint of vanilla makes them taste like dessert! Despite their dessert-like appearance, these aren't overwhelmingly sweet (making them the perfect thing to pour maple syrup on!). Before flipping, I generously sprinkled each pancake with wheat germ. Not only does this up the health factor, but it adds a delicious crunch to each bite.


With love,
Erica


Strawberry Pancakes
Yields 4-6 servings

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 cup wheat germ (for sprinkling)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the flour with a spatula and pour in the egg, milk, vanilla, honey, and butter. Mix until just combined. Fold in the strawberries.
Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto a heated griddle, sprinkle one side generously with wheat germ, and cook each side until lightly browned. Serve hot with maple syrup and butter.



gingerdoodles


Today I wore long sleeves on my morning run, and leaves crinkled under my feet. It's getting cooler around here. When it starts to get chilly, nothing warms the heart quite like ginger and cinnamon.


Ginger has that nice, sharp bite that reminds me of crisp, fall air.
Cinnamon has that warm, homey quality that reminds me of thick, woolen blankets.
When put together in the form of a cookie, they become an unbelievable hybrid of pricklygingersnaps and doughy snickerdoodles. Behold the gingerdoodle. 


The strong flavor of a molasses ginger cookie is countered by the soft, sugary flavor of the snickerdoodle. After being rolled in cinnamon sugar, they are baked until crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. All I want to do is cuddle up in some blanckets, brew a pot of tea and devour some of these soft, chewy cookies for a while.


With love,
Erica

P.S. These would be great cookies to make for the holiday season! They are festive and stay chewy for days!


Snickerdoodle Dough
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon cinnamon + 3 tablespoons granulated sugar for rolling cookies in

Cream together shortening and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and mix well, until creamy. Add flour, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar and mix until combined. Dough will be a little of crumbly, but it'll come together when you roll it into balls.

Combine cinnamon and 3 tablespoons of sugar in a small bowl and set aside for rolling dough in.

Gingersnap Dough
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup granulated sugar for rolling cookies in

Cream together shortening and sugar. Add molasses and egg and continue beating. Add flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger and mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Put 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl and set aside for rolling dough in.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease baking sheets with no-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Roll a small amount of gingersnap dough into a ball and toss in granulated sugar. Roll a small amount of snickerdoodle dough in a ball and toss in cinnamon-sugar.

Place both doughs together and gently roll or squeeze together (it worked best if I kneaded the snickerdoodle dough in my hand a few times before rolling both doughs together since it's a  thicker consistency).

Place on baking sheets and bake for 9-11 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes before moving to cooling racks.

Source: A Year of Cookies.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

everyday vita: an apple a day keeps the doctor away!

Packed up a batch of Izy's coffee cake for mom to take to work.

Made a batch of "Erin" cookies (named after my friend who inspired me to bake these) for my math class. Chocolate chip cookies stuffed with double stuf oreos!

Went running with Veda -- it's starting to feel like fall. (best running song = Gold and the Pager by The Cool Kids)

I made Orangette's Apple Tarte Tatin!

Today during my free period, I got a delicious apple+cinnamon waffle at the greasy spoon near school.

apple triangles

When I was in elementary school, I always ate breakfast in the car.
Some of my staples were oatmeal, microwave french toast sticks, and croissants. But my favorite were always apple turnovers. 

My dad would always pick up a box of four at the grocery store bakery. I loved the sweet, cinnamon apples and the coarse, grainy sugar crystals dusted on top.  I loved them so much, that today I made a simple take on them.
I made mine with crisp, delicate phyllo pastry, and filled them with fresh, cinnamon applesauce from the Farmer's Market. If you wanted to get fancy with this recipe -- you could add some freshly diced apples to the sauce. But today, I wanted to keep things simple.

These are flaky, buttery, and delicious. Since they are bite-sized, I can eat four or five in a sitting, and that's totally acceptable. The warm cinnamon-apple flavor is perfect for fall, and reminds me of dad's apple turnovers that I used to eat in the car on the way to school.

With love,
Erica




Ingredients:18 sheets frozen phyllo pastry, thawed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup apple sauce
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar


Preheat the oven 375°F.  Stir the cinnamon into the apple sauce.
Cut phyllo sheets in half horizontally and cover with a damp towel.
Lay 1 sheet on your work service and using a pastry brush, brush with butter then sprinkle with sugar and follow with 2 more sheets {cover the remaining with a damp cloth}.
Slice lengthwise into 3 strips.
Place a heaping teaspoon of apple sauce at one end and fold into a triangle as you would a flag.
Arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

Adapted from Oh Joy!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

peach ginger muffins

If you look carefully, you can see peaches rolling around in the back of most of my recent photos. These peaches led to this, this, this, and two peachy banana breads. These peaches also led to these cute little peach ginger muffins... and we still have a bunch rolling around on the counter.

These soft, fragrant muffins have the most amazing ginger streusel that packs a delicious crunch into every bite. The sharp, spicy ginger contrasts so nicely against the sweet, plump peach chunks. What makes these muffins even more delectable is the addition of brown butter. Just like in my peach shortbread bars, I browned the butter before adding it to the batter -- giving the muffins a rich, dark, nutty flavor.

These are perfect for breakfasts, snacks, and (my favorite) eating standing up over the oven. These peaches are ripening by the second -- if any of you have any other peachy recipe ideas, shoot them my way!

With love,
Erica

Ingredients
  • 6T unsalted butter
  • 1/3c milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1t vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2c  all-purpose flour
  • 1/2c sugar
  • 1 1/2t baking powder
  • 3/4t salt
  • 2 cups diced peaches (about 2 peaches)
  • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, diced
  • 1t ground ginger
  • dash of cinnamon
Crumb topping:
  • 3T cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2c all purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 Tbs sugar
  • 1t ground ginger
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line or butter 12 muffin tins.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter melts, let it continue to cook, watching carefully all the while. It will start to slowly (then very quickly!) brown. When you see dark solids starting to fall to the bottom of the pan and notice a rich, almost caramel-like aroma rising from the butter, remove it from the heat. (You may need to transfer it to a new container to cool so that it does not continue to cook in the residual heat of the pan. Be careful as once it’s properly browned it can burn very quickly). Don’t worry about the darker brown grains at the bottom; they are part of what gives the butter the distinctive flavor. Allow the browned butter to cool somewhat. (It does not need to completely cool, but should be cool enough that it does not cook the eggs when you mix the wet ingredients together).
  3. Stir the dry ingredients together (except for the peaches and ground ginger). Stir the wet ingredients together, and add to the dry. When mixed, gently fold in the peaches and chopped candied ginger. Fill 12 muffin tins.
  4. Make the crumb topping: Mix the flour, sugar, and ginger together and then rub the butter pieces into this mixture with your fingers. Sprinkle evenly on top of the filled muffin tins.
  5. Bake 25 minutes if using fresh peaches. Remove from oven, and cool slightly before removing from muffin tin. Enjoy!
From Honest Cooking

Monday, September 17, 2012

best cinnamon coffee cake

When Izy and I first started e-mailing, I asked her what the best thing she ever baked was.
She sent me the recipe for this coffee cake. 


 I can't believe that I didn't make this coffee cake until now (the recipe has been floating around my kitchen counter for months). But I can believe that this is the best coffee cake I have ever eaten. 


It is a rich, golden cake swirled with sweet ribbons of cinnamon, and topped with a crumbly cinnamon streusel.  I wish you could have smelled my kitchen when it came out of the oven. It smelled like heaven as the warmth of cinnamon and butter filled my house.

With love,
Erica


Streusel Topping
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
½ cup butter, softened

Cinnamon Sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
¾ tsp ground cinnamon

Cake
¾ cup butter, softened
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup buttermilk (yoghurt works too)
1/3 cup milk

1.        Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2.        Make topping by combining the flour with the brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Mix in the softened butter and use your hands to combine until the mixture is crumbly and has the consistency of moist sand.
3.        Make the cinnamon sugar that will go in the middle of the cake by combining the light brown sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl.
4.        In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars with an electric mixer for 1 minute. Add the eggs, oil and vanilla and mix until fluffy. Add the buttermilk and milk and mix well.
5.        In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Combine this dry mixture with the wet mixture and mix well.
6.        Spoon half the mixture in a 9 x 13 inch greased, floured baking pan. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the batter and pat it down into the batter. Spread the rest of the batter over the cinnamon-sugar (you may need to moisten your hands with warm water/ oil to be able to spread it out)
7.        Sprinkle on the streusel topping evenly over the batter.
8.        Bake for 50-55 minutes or until the edges just begin to turn light brown. Cool and slice into 12 pieces.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

pumpkin spice bread

Yesterday I woke up, and things felt different. The air was crisp, the sky was cloudy, and the air smelled a bit like spearmint.  It was the first morning of autumn. I have been waiting for this day for a while now. The kind of cool crisp day that requires a chunky sweater and a warm scarf.  I bought the first can of canned pumpkin of the year. Fall baking has officially begun. 

I wanted to kick off my fall baking with the quintessential pumpkin loaf. This recipe is by no means original, but it is arguably the best. With a whopping 5000+ five star ratings on All Recipes, this pumpkin bread is a surefire winner. It makes your house smell like pumpkin-cinnamon heaven. It's great eaten warm with a pat of butter and a drizzle of honey. It's also divine when eaten standing up out of the freezer. 

This bread stays moist for days and keeps well in the freezer (it tastes even better after it sits for a day or two). Therefore it's perfect for autumn gift giving. Toss together a few extra loaves to give to friends, neighbors, colleagues, classmates, family, frenemies, hygienists, strangers, dog walkers, teachers and anyone else who may like a slice of fall. 
Happy Autumn!

With love,
Erica


 Ingredients
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  •  
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7x3 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.