We've been on a brownie kick lately, I think I've made 3 different recipes in the past few weeks. They're one of the few treats I never have to worry about giving away, I can always count on Shane to devour them. This particular batch was one of the last things I baked before the storm and though we had plenty of non-perishable food on hand, these were the most popular snack choice. I hadn't had a chance to photograph them so we had to save a few, and they definitely teased us from the counter.
They're super fudgy and decadent with one of my favorite characteristics of brownies, a crackly top. Since I think just about anything with chocolate benefits from the addition of peanut butter, I folded some mini peanut cups into the batter, but you could definitely skip them or substitute nuts if you want. After I'd finally taken a few pictures, Shane decided to see if they'd be even better topped with chocolate ice cream and chocolate syrup. I think the answer was a resounding yes :)
In other news, our good friends still don't have power at their house thanks to Hurricane Irene, so last night we invited them to stay with us. It's been a long time since we've had a slumber party and I was reminded how much fun they can be! Instead of having to work alone in a quiet house this morning, their son, Jude, kept me company. Isn't he the cutest (even half asleep)?
Someday I'm sure Jude will love brownies but for now he seems pretty content with oatmeal and pureed fruits and veggies.
Peanut Butter Cup Truffle Brownies
from Bake! by Nick Malgieri
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
10 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cup mini peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 13x9 baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on opposite sides to lift the brownies out. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
Add the butter to a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Melt the butter, and continue to heat until the butter sizzles. At that point, add the chocolate to the pan and gently shake the pan to submerge in the butter. Turn off the heat and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the brown sugar, flour and salt just until evenly combined. Add two of the eggs to the mixer and beat just until incorporated then scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining two eggs, again beating just until incorporated. Mix in the vanilla.
Whisk the butter and chocolate mixture until smooth then add to the bowl of the stand mixer. Stir to incorporate with a rubber spatula. Fold in the chopped peanut butter cups.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the brownies cool completely in the pan. The brownies will be easiest to cut if you stick them in the fridge overnight.
It is so nice to be back to blogging today! I hadn't intended for things to be so quiet over here the past few days, but Hurricane Irene had other plans.
Sunday morning I woke up fairly early, about 6:30, and went downstairs to survey the damage and start getting breakfast ready. The storm's effects had begun to be felt overnight and we have two fairly large trees in our yard that we knew might be in trouble if Irene's winds were as strong as the forecasts were predicting they might be. At that point, damage was minimal - just some downed branches, but nothing major. I got to work on making pancakes (more on those later this week) but mid-way through my efforts, we lost power. Fortunately, we have a gas stove, so I was able to finish cooking breakfast, though I did have to break out a flashlight as there wasn't much natural light to work with.
I hunkered down with my pancakes and eventually, when I got bored of sitting in the dark alone, went to wake up Shane. When he came down we again surveyed the damage, and that's when we noticed that the tree in front of our house had developed a large crack in one of its trunks, and was swaying dangerously in the wind. Fortunately, it didn't appear that it would fall on our house if it did go down, but still, not good. We went outside to check it out, and within no time, many of our neighbors had come over to help us figure out what to do. Irene's worst was still to come, and this particular tree's branches weave in and out of our power lines, so we really didn't want it to take them out if/when it fell.
In the end, the guys worked to secure the cracked trunk with a chain, using another trunk for support while I snapped pictures with my iPhone :) It was pouring, and we were all drenched, but thanks to the help from our neighbors, the task was accomplished! The quick fix seemed to be working!
Shane and I spent a large part of the day staring out the window watching the trees that surround the house bend at completely unnatural angles, just waiting for something to happen. The one in front of our house continued to sway (there was a bit of slack in the chain) but I'm happy to say it held! The only major incident in our neighborhood was a tree that fell on a house, but luckily it didn't seem to do much damage.
Our power was out for the rest of Sunday, and Monday morning we awoke and discovered we were still without power. We were hearing reports that it could be days or even the end of the week before it was restored. Water was starting to drip from our freezer, so we went out in search of ice last night (we visited 6 or 7 stores, but no luck at any of them). As we were heading home, we began to notice lights on in the houses near ours and we were beyond excited when we pulled into the driveway and saw a light on in our house too!! Power was back after about 36 hours - yay! We know we're lucky, many of our friends and family are still without electricity, and a lot of people sustained far worse damage than we did.
So, now that we're all caught up, let me finally tell you about the food. I'm sharing this linguine with clam sauce today because it is the meal that made our dark Sunday night a whole lot brighter. I'd first made the dish earlier last week and we both loved it. It's a super simple weeknight meal, but packs a lot of flavor for so little effort. Yes, it is made with canned clams, but they're very tender in this dish and, bonus - they're cheap. When we were trying to decide what our dinner options were without power on Sunday, I realized this linguine with clam sauce was made entirely on the stove top, and since I was an expert at lighting the stove with a match by this point, dinner came together in no time. As we ate by candlelight in our dark kitchen, it almost seemed like a romantic date night and it sure beat eating Ramen or baked beans :)
Linguine with Clam Sauce
from Big Bowl of Love by Cristina Ferrare
1 lb linguine
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups flat leaf parsley, loosely packed and finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 (6 1/2 oz) cans minced clams in clam juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
lemon wedges, for serving (optional)
Cook the linguine in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente according to the package instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds. Add the oil and heat for 1 minute. Add the garlic, parsley and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, just until the garlic is fragrant and golden, about 30 seconds. Don't walk away, the garlic can burn quickly and if it does, it will be very bitter. Stir in the clams and their juice and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and cover. Set aside while the pasta finishes cooking.
Drain the pasta then add it back to the pot you cooked it in. Pour the sauce over the pasta and add the lemon juice. Toss to coat, then serve garnished with lemon wedges.
I'm not the kind of person who freaks out when a weather system approaches. You won't find me at the grocery store grabbing milk and bread at the first report of a blizzard in January. Now butter and sugar? That's an entirely different story - how else am I going to spend the long snowy days if not in my kitchen working on baking projects? Anyway, as news of Hurricane Irene first began to spread, I pretty much ignored it. Since weather forecasts can change so much over the course of a few days, I don't tend to pay much attention until storms get close. Reports in the past 24 hours, however, have me thinking it might at least be wise to grab some water and a flashlight (and brownie baking supplies). As of now, the eye of the storm is projected to pass slightly west of us, but close enough that we'll definitely have some severe weather, and if we do lose power, I'll be kicking myself for not being at least a little prepared.
None of that has too much to do with these cupcakes. Unless you think a drink would calm your nerves in the wake of an approaching hurricane. In that case, these cupcakes will be right up your alley. Chocolate and coffee flavored cupcakes topped with both Kahlua buttercream and Bailey's buttercream - sounds good, right? They are quite boozy, definitely more so than any cupcake I've made in the past (even the margarita cupcakes). I was nervous to send them to work with Shane because, frankly, I wasn't sure it was appropriate :) He did take them, though, and they were a hit. The Kahlua buttercream was my favorite part of the recipe for sure. I'm not a huge fan of Bailey's and it's pretty strong here so I would probably play with the recipe next time to mute that flavor a bit.
Quick note - I shared quick instructions below for swirling the two frostings on the cupcakes, but if you guys want more detailed instructions with accompanying photos, let me know and I'll put together a tutorial in a separate post soon.
adapted from The Curvy Carrot (cupcakes and Kahlua buttercream originally from Worth the Whisk)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup coffee, at room temperature
3/4 cup Kahlua
3 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
4 tablespoons Kahlua
2 tablespoons coffee, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
Whisk the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Combine the coffee and Kahlua in a measuring cup.
Add the egg whites to the the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-low speed until foamy. With the mixer still running, gradually add the granulated sugar. Once incorporated, increase the mixer to medium-high speed and continue beating until stiff peaks form - the egg whites should be glossy, not dry.
Transfer the egg whites to another bowl and clean out your mixer bowl (or use a second bowl if you have one). Fit your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, and cream the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the coffee/Kahlua mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the egg whites.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners, filling each about 2/3-3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cupcakes cool for 5 minutes then remove them to the rack to cool completely.
To make the Kahlua buttercream: Beat the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (it will look almost sandy). Add the cocoa powder, Kahlua and coffee and beat to incorporate. Once the frosting comes together, increase the mixer to medium-high speed and beat until smooth and fluffy.
To make the Bailey's buttercream: Beat the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (it will look almost sandy). Add the vanilla extract and Bailey's and beat to incorporate. Once the frosting comes together, increase the mixer to medium-high speed and beat until smooth and fluffy.
Pipe the buttercream* onto the cupcakes and garnish with chocolate curls, if desired.
*To achieve the swirled frosting: I added the Kahlua buttercream to one disposable pastry bag and the Bailey's buttercream to another. I snipped the bottoms from each of them, then inserted them in a 3rd disposable pastry bag that was fitted with the tip I wanted to use for piping.
Makes 20-24 cupcakes
Even though there's still technically another month of summer left, I am already mourning its end. The once gorgeous summer produce is starting to look questionable at the store. If I'm up early or outside in the evening, I can feel the crisp fall air starting to creep in. The days are getting shorter too. Have I told you guys my least favorite part of fall/winter? No, it's not the snow (I kind of like it actually); it's the long, dark nights. Sunsets at 4 pm have always made me feel sort of depressed, like there's just no way that could be all the light we get for the day. I know, if you live somewhere that's seen a record number of 100+ degree days (like my friend Di, who's in Texas) you probably think fall can't get here fast enough, but me, I wouldn't mind another 3 months of summer. Am I alone??
If I try to look on the bright side, the arrival of fall means I'll probably start cooking again. Despite the summer heat, I still bake most days, so I rarely want to turn on the oven to cook at night too. That means a huge majority of our meals have been grilled this summer. I've flagged a ton of recipes to try this fall when I'm back to cooking more often, and this was one of them. Shane and I were both so eager to try this manicotti we simply couldn't wait. Comfort food is one of my favorite things about fall and winter, and this manicotti is nothing if not comforting. Cheesy, meaty filling stuffed inside of pasta noodles and topped with a rich, meaty sauce and more cheese! If you scan the ingredient list you'll notice there's pepperoni in the meat sauce, which I thought was really interesting. It's used to add some spice and more flavor to the sauce, and we thought it did the trick. Though the recipe is a bit of work, it'll probably feed your family for a few days (we had it for dinner 2 nights as well as lunch one day) and reheats really well, so I think it's worth it.
Baked Manicotti with Meat Sauce
from Cook's Country (also see on Cookies with Boys)
1 yellow onion, chopped
6 oz sliced pepperoni
1 lb 85% lean ground beef
1 tablespoon tomato paste
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 (28-oz) cans crushed tomatoes
3 cups ricotta cheese
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded provolone cheese (I used all mozzarella)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
16 no-boil lasagna noodles
Preheat oven to 375 F with a rack in the top third of the oven.
Combine the onion and pepperoni in the bowl of your food processor and pulse a few times until the mixture is coarsely ground (it shouldn't be mushy). Add the ground beef and pulse a few more times until the mixture is well combined.
Set a large saucepan over medium heat and add the beef mixture. Brown the meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Use a slotted spoon to transfer 1 cup of the meat mixture to a paper towel-lined plate and reserve. Add the tomato paste, garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan and cook for about 1 minute, just until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the tomatoes and stir to combine. Let the sauce simmer until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
While the sauce is simmering, add 2 quarts of boiling water to a 13x9 baking dish. Drop the noodles in the water and soak until pliable, about 5 minutes. Remove to a kitchen towel to let dry. (Pour the water out of the baking dish so you can use it for assembling the manicotti.) In a large bowl, stir together the ricotta, 2 cups of the mozzarella, 1 cup of the provolone, the egg, salt, pepper, basil and reserved meat mixture.
Spread 1/3 of the meat sauce over the bottom of your 13x9 baking dish. Working with one noodle at a time, lay it flat on your work surface and add a heaping 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture to one end. Spread in a cylindrical shape, then roll the noodle tightly around the filling. Place, seam-side down, in the baking dish. Repeat with all noodles - you should have enough of the cheese mixture to fill all 16. Top the manicotti with another 1/3 of the sauce then cover the pan with foil and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling around the edges of the pan. Remove the foil and top with the remaining mozzarella and provolone cheese. Bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Let the manicotti cool for 15 minutes before serving.
**The meat sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated. I only used 2/3 of it for the manicotti (which is reflected in the instructions above) but the original recipe did call for using all of it. It just seemed like overkill to me.
We pretty much always have chocolate on hand at our house in case a craving hits. Whether it's a bag of M&M's or a batch of freshly baked cookies or brownies, there's always at least one option available. Dessert is rarely optional here :) I crave salty and sweet snacks equally, so I tend to mix things up, but for Shane it's all about the chocolate. When I saw this milk chocolate ice cream with brownie bits over on Annie's site, I knew it had his name written all over it. Plus, although I've made plenty of homemade ice cream this summer, not a single one has been a flavor Shane enjoys. He would get his hopes up every time he saw me pull the ice cream maker out, only to have them dashed when he heard what I was up to. I figured it was high time to make a batch for him.
If you're a chocolate lover, you can't do much better than this ice cream. You start by baking a batch of super fudgy, dense brownies. Luckily, only half of them are folded into the ice cream, so you don't have to exercise too much restraint as you cut them into pieces! The brownie pieces are the perfect mix-in for the smooth, creamy milk chocolate ice cream. Even better - the brownie bits stay chewy in the freezer so no worries their texture will become too rock hard to enjoy. For some reason, however, my ice cream didn't freeze as solidly as I would have liked. I'm sure there was some baker error involved, but regardless of the soft serve texture, Shane still loved the ice cream. It was the perfect dessert, especially when served over one of the leftover brownies!
Milk Chocolate and Brownie Ice Cream
from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz (also seen on Annie's Eats)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
8 oz milk chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
To make the brownies: Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on opposite sides so you can lift the brownies out afterward. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
Add the butter to a medium saucepan and melt over medium-low heat. Reduce the heat to low and add the chopped chocolate. Whisk until melted and smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sugar, the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla. Mix in the flour and salt until well combined. Fold in the chocolate chips with a rubber spatula.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the center is just barely set. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan. Use the foil to lift the brownies out and cut half of them into small pieces for the ice cream. (You only need half of the brownies for the recipe.)
To make the ice cream: Set a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add the milk chocolate and cream and stir occasionally until melted. Remove the bowl from the pan and set a mesh strainer over the top.
Combine the milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and heat just until warm. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl. Slowly add the warm milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour back into the saucepan and set over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (about 170-175 F on an instant read thermometer). Pour through the strainer into the chocolate mixture and stir to combine.
Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled (overnight is good). Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Stir the brownie pieces into the ice cream, transfer to an airtight container and store in your freezer.
When I'm deciding whether to make a recipe, it's not uncommon for me to do a Google search to see how other bloggers have fared. I like reading their reviews, and if it's something I've never made before, I really enjoy seeing their photos to get a sense of how the finished product might look. Sometimes I'll search for a blogger's photo even if the author has included one in the book since it tends to be more representative of the result I can expect in my kitchen.
As I was making this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe - golden brioche loaves, selected by my buddy Margaret of Tea and Scones - I began to sense it might not be going all that well. The first sign of trouble - the dough wasn't behaving as Dorie described (did anyone else find their dough never pulled away from the sides of the bowl?). I forged on before I burned out the motor on my mixer, and the dough did rise, so I had renewed hope. After a stint in the fridge, I shaped half of the dough into a loaf and it rose again. Things were looking up! In the oven, though, my loaf became misshapen and sort of sunk in the center. Before taking it out, I checked the internal temperature with an instant read thermometer to verify it was baked through, and it was. Once removed from the loaf pan, I confirmed my loaf looked nothing like the beautiful photo Dorie shared in the book. Off to Google I went to find blogger photos.
What I didn't expect to see in the results was a post I'd written about Dorie's brioche loaves over 3 years ago. Not only did I have no memory of making them, but somehow I was able to produce a better looking loaf of brioche back in my novice days than I can currently. Call it beginner's luck, I guess! :) In any event, though my loaf wasn't pretty this time, it was still delicious. Rich and buttery, but so light in texture. What I'm most excited about is the other half of the dough in my freezer, which I'll turn into another batch of ooey, gooey sticky buns sometime soon...
Many thanks to Margaret for hosting this week. She shared the recipe for the brioche loaves on her blog today, or you can find it on pages 48-50 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
Monday already? How can that be? We actually had a really good weekend that included, among other things, a trip to Trader Joe's, a wedding shower, and meeting up with friends at our local ice cream shop for a treat. Our weekends are packed solid for the remainder of the summer, that always seems to be the case come August, doesn't it? As much as I enjoyed the weekend, the time flew by too fast, and we were so busy I didn't have an opportunity to do any cooking or baking. I'll be remedying that first thing this morning! There's bread in the works, along with boozy cupcakes and a plan for dinner that's actually coming together before 5 pm :)
Even though I haven't baked in quite a few days, my backlog of draft posts is plenty long so I scanned through to find something to share today. I remembered I'd promised more blueberry lime recipes when I posted these cupcakes last week, so this pound cake was an obvious choice. It was part of my baking marathon last month when I spent the holiday weekend at Shane's parents' house. I think it was actually the last thing I baked, meaning it was sitting on their counter waiting to be devoured when they arrived home from their trip. I don't make pound cakes much because often I find them too dry or bland, but I loved this spin with the sweet blueberries and tart lime. There's cream cheese in this version as well, which adds richness to the cake and keeps it incredibly moist for days after it's baked. I halved the recipe (sometimes I feel like a broken record, it seems I say that in every post) and baked in a 6-cup pan without any problems. It'll likely become a recipe I pull out every summer when blueberry season rolls around!
Blueberry Lime Pound Cake
from Fine Cooking
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/3 cups (10 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking power
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons lime zest
6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
4 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups (about 13 oz) room-temperature blueberries
1 cup (4 oz) confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 12-cup bundt pan with cooking spray with flour.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and lime zest. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until fragrant.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar/zest mixture and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the egg yolk. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl then beat the batter on medium speed for about 20 seconds, or until smooth and light. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the blueberries.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Tap the pan against the counter to eliminate air pockets. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes then turn the cake out and set on the rack to cool completely.
To make the glaze: Place the confectioners' sugar in a small bowl and whisk in the lime juice, a few teaspoons at a time, until you have a thick, but pourable consistency for the glaze. Drizzle over the cake; let the glaze set before serving.
Well, after nearly two and a half years, this is the final recipe from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. It's hard to believe our group has baked through the entire book, but here we are. From the very first selection, honey beescotti, to this week's hot pepper gingerbread muffins, it's been so much fun trying the variety of recipes in the book and along the way, I've also made some great blogging buddies. We'll be sharing one more post next week recapping some of our favorite recipes from the book. I won't lie and say I've loved every thing I've made, but there have been many, many keepers and I'm eager to put them all together in one place for easy reference for you guys and myself :)
It's sort of funny that this week's recipe was gingerbread muffins. Though I'm not ready to say goodbye to summer yet, we are heading in that direction, and in the past few weeks I've heard so many other people say they're ready for fall baking. With an assortment of warm spices and molasses in the muffins, as well as maple syrup in the butter, this recipe definitely screams fall. The muffins also called for ground white and black pepper, as well as cayenne, hence the "hot pepper" part of the title. I halved the recipe and left out the black and white pepper (I've tried them in other baked goods, and didn't enjoy them). I wound up with 8 muffins which domed so nicely in the oven.
I had a muffin for breakfast today with a smear of the orange maple butter, and it was delicious - very moist and spicy, with just a tiny kick of heat from the cayenne. The butter was really fragrant from the orange zest and had a touch of sweetness from the maple syrup, it complemented the muffins perfectly! A big thank you to Karen of Karen's Cookies Cake & More for not only hosting this week's muffins, but also tackling the administrative duties for our group for quite some time. She shared the recipe for the muffins on her blog this week if you'd like to try them.
When I was planning my menu a few weeks ago, I came across these grilled cheese sandwiches in a recent issue of Fine Cooking. I was immediately on board. The most basic grilled cheese sandwich made with so-so bread and a slice or two of American cheese is pretty delicious in my book, so this amped up version was bound to be a home run. The sandwich starts with thick rustic Italian bread, hearty enough to support the fillings but still tender, even when toasted until golden brown. There are not one, but three kinds of cheese in play, and one of them happens to be my very favorite (Gruyere!). The original recipe called for fresh tomatoes and salty prosciutto and while the tomatoes sounded fantastic, I'm not big on prosciutto. Instead, I swapped it for an even more appealing option - bacon! Finally, when the sandwiches have finished cooking, the toasty bread is infused with garlic flavor by rubbing it with cut garlic cloves. A simple step that adds so much!
I wasn't sure Shane would be interested in this recipe, so I planned to make it for lunch last weekend. We often do our own thing for lunch on weekends so I figured it was the best time. When he heard what I was having, though, he wanted in on it :) We skipped the tomatoes on his sandwich of course. These were such a big hit that we wound up having them a second time that weekend. I hadn't purchased any fontina, so the first time we made the recipe we used only Gruyere and Parmesan. The sandwiches were delicious, but just for fun, we tried adding cheddar to the mix the second time and liked them even more. The other change we made on our second attempt at the recipe was upping the bacon from one to two slices (always a good decision) and throwing an extra slice of tomato on too. That's the nice thing about this recipe - it's almost more of a guide than a recipe. You can alter the ingredients to suit your tastes or to work with what you have on hand, and the result will still be just as good. My lunch struggles have been well documented on this blog, but I'm pretty sure I could easily eat this sandwich (or some variation on it) every day and be perfectly content!
Garlic-Rubbed Grilled Cheese with Bacon and Tomatoes
adapted from Fine Cooking
8 slices bacon
3 oz (about 1 1/4 cups) grated Gruyère
3 oz (about 1 cup) grated fontina
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
8 1/2-inch-thick slices Italian bread
2 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 to 2 large cloves garlic, halved and peeled for rubbing
Cook the bacon in a heavy-bottomed skillet until browned and crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off the grease from the pan and wipe clean.
Combine the cheeses and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Lay 4 slices of the bread on your work surface, and distribute half of the cheese evenly among the bread. Top the cheese with 2 slices of bacon and then 2 or 3 slices of tomatoes (enough to cover the cheese and bacon). Evenly distribute the remaining cheese among the 4 sandwiches. Lightly butter one side of the remaining four slices of bread, and put them on top of the sandwiches, butter side up.
Heat your heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Place the sandwiches butter side down in the pan and cook on the first side until the bread is golden brown and toasted. Meanwhile, butter the top slice of bread on each sandwich. Flip the sandwiches using a spatula and continue to cook on the other side until the bread is golden brown. You can use the spatula to compress the sandwich as it cooks on the second side. Remove the sandwiches from the pan and immediately rub both sides with the cut side of a garlic clove. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.
Makes 4 sandwiches
I confess, I'm often easily swayed by peer pressure. When a particular recipe starts popping up all over my favorite food blogs and receiving rave reviews, you can almost guarantee I am going to try it. That's especially true when it's a dessert recipe and even more so when s'mores are involved (which you've probably noticed we sort of love around here). I don't always blog about these recipes because, let's face it, when they're already on 10 other blogs, do you really need to read about them on mine too?
Occasionally, I will break my own rules and share an already popular recipe and that's just what I'm doing today. I have a few reasons for deciding to do so. First, there are quite a few variations of these s'mores cookies floating around the internet, and I'm not lying when I tell you I've baked almost every one of them. I had less than stellar results with quite a few of the recipes - the cookies spread way too much and were completely flat, and though some people might dig flat cookies, they're not our thing. This is the version that was consistently best for me, which brings me to my second motivation for posting this recipe today. The next time Shane requests these cookies, I didn't want to have to guess which version of the recipe I'd used. I blog for a lot of reasons, but one of the big ones is to have a record of the recipes we love. I can barely remember what I ate for lunch 3 days ago, so without this blog I would never be able to keep track of all the recipes I try. Shane also loves to scan through the archives and rediscover old favorites, and these cookies are sure to fall into that category.
These s'mores cookies are almost a riff on traditional chocolate chip cookies. Graham cracker crumbs replace some of the flour in the recipe and in addition to the chocolate chips in the cookies, mini marshmallows and chopped up Hershey bars are pressed into the tops and give them all the flavors of classic s'mores. The cookies are on the thin side, but thick enough that they have crisp edges and chewy centers. I also found that refrigerating the dough for 15-20 minutes before baking made them ever so slightly more thick. Yesterday I visited my neighbor with a few of these cookies and she was just as big a fan as we were. It's very easy to understand why this recipe is so popular :)
adapted from Cookie Madness
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 7-8 whole crackers)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup mini marshmallows (approximately, I didn't exactly measure how many I used)
2 Hershey Bars (or other milk chocolate bars), coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk the graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking soda, and salt together. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and beat just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake for 9 minutes (I did 1 tray at a time), then remove from the oven and quickly, but gently push a few marshmallows and a couple of pieces of chocolate into the top of each cookie. Return the cookies to the oven and bake for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until the edges are set. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
Nearly two years ago I took the plunge and attempted to bake with zucchini for the first time. The result was a chocolate zucchini cake that was loved by just about everyone who tried it (even Shane, and that's saying something!); it was also one of the most popular recipes on this site for a while. In the oven, the zucchini became undetectable so if you didn't know any better you would have thought you were just eating a really moist chocolate cake. When I found myself with some extra zucchini recently, I remembered that cake. I was tempted to make it again, but I was craving cupcakes and rather than convert the old recipe (which I'm sure would have worked fine, I'm just averse to making the same dessert recipe more than once), I found a new one.
This recipe is really quick to throw together so I had the batter in the oven within minutes. As it baked, I contemplated whether I'd frost my cupcakes with cream cheese frosting or chocolate buttercream. When the cupcakes came out of the oven, though, it became apparent that they were more muffin than cupcake. They weren't as light and fluffy as I like my cupcakes to be, and they had a coarser crumb. I can't say I was completely surprised - as I spooned the batter into the muffin pan I noticed it was quite thick, but since zucchini has so much moisture I thought maybe they'd still bake up with a fluffy texture. Lest there be any confusion, as muffins, these are terrific! If you're not averse to eating chocolate for breakfast, they're a perfect on the go option. If you are, consider them an afternoon snack. I liked them best warm so I recommend 10 or 15 seconds in the microwave if you're not eating them immediately. Maybe even spread with a little bit of peanut butter - yum :)
Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins
from Gourmet, September 2009 (via Epicurious)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 lb zucchini, coarsely grated (about 1 cup)
6-oz semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla on medium speed until thick and creamy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared liners. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the muffins cool for 5 minutes before removing them to the rack to cool completely.
Makes 10-12 muffins
When a friend heard I was making a big pot of clam chowder in the middle of summer she thought I was crazy. I know most people associate soups with cooler weather; they're so often a big bowl of comfort on a snowy winter day. For the most part, I do too. I rarely crave a hot bowl of soup on a day when the temperatures climb near 90. There are exceptions to every rule though, and for me, chowder has always been a part of summer. When I was younger, we'd gather at my grandparents' house on the 4th of July and my grandfather would make Manhattan clam chowder (a tomato-based chowder) and the most delicious clam cakes. Those clam cakes were legendary - I really should find that recipe and attempt them next year, though I'm not sure I could ever do them justice. If you've ever vacationed in Rhode Island in the summer (particularly in the southern part of the state) you've probably driven by any number of clam shacks and seen the long lines. Chowder and clam cakes are a staple of summer living here. There's even a Rhode Island style clam chowder, which has a clear broth, as opposed to the cream or milk-based New England clam chowder. The New England version is my favorite, so when I came across this recipe in a recent issue of Cook's Country, I had to try it.
While you can no doubt spend hours making a great clam chowder - shucking the clams and making your own stock - this is a quick and easy version. From start to finish it'll take you less than an hour. I was apprehensive about buying clams for the first time, but when I got to the store it was a complete non-issue. At the seafood counter I found fresh chopped clams, at a relatively inexpensive price too! I'd definitely recommend skipping the canned clams here if you can. The chowder is thickened with crushed crackers, which dissolve into the soup as it cooks, as well as by mashing some of the potatoes for extra body. Though it seemed strange, it worked perfectly. The chowder was thick and creamy, with lots of flavor. Shane and I are rarely able to resist a bowl of New England clam chowder when we see it on the menu somewhere, so I love that we can make it at home any time we want now, even in the middle of summer :)
New England Clam Chowder
from Cook's Country, September 2011
4 slices bacon, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
3 8-oz bottles clam juice
2 cups water
1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
20 saltines, crushed
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 lb chopped clams, rinsed and drained
1 cup heavy cream
Add the bacon to a large saucepan set over medium heat and cook for 7-8 minutes, or until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off the grease, leaving only 1 tablespoon in the pan.
Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Mix in the clam juice, water, potatoes, saltines, thyme and the bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.
Transfer 1/2 cup of the tender potatoes to a bowl and mash until smooth. Add back to the pan and stir to incorporate. Reduce the heat to low and add the clams, cooking for 3-5 minutes, or until they're cooked through. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the heavy cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If desired, sprinkle with reserved bacon as you serve.
Ever since fresh blueberries came into season around here, I've been obsessed with the blueberry-lime flavor combo in baked goods. I've made at least 3 recipes incorporating the two ingredients, and loved each of them for different reasons. The only problem is I've yet to share any of them with you! I realized if I didn't get on it soon I'd be posting about them in October or November, long after fresh blueberries (the good ones, anyway) would be available in some places. Plus, no one would care about blueberries at that point because we'd all have moved onto that most beloved of all fall baking ingredients - pumpkin :)
I baked these cupcakes for a friend's birthday last month and since it was just he and his wife who'd be sharing them, I halved the recipe and wound up with six. The cupcakes were really moist and fluffy, so there won't be any confusing them with muffins. I even had problems with some of the liners separating from the cupcakes after being stored overnight, which generally only happens to me when a cupcake is super moist. A whipped cream topping would be great on these cupcakes, but I went with cream cheese frosting instead - not only because it's delicious, but because I find it holds up better over time than whipped cream. Cream cheese frosting is one of my favorites, but the lime flavor in this one made it so irresistible I had to hide the tiny amount of leftover frosting from myself in the freezer. It was the perfect match for these fruity cupcakes.
One quick note on the frosting - I had some trouble achieving a pipeable consistency. The frosting was runny initially, so I wound up adding quite a bit of extra confectioners' sugar, which I've reflected in the recipe below. Next time I might just use my go-to cream cheese frosting instead and add the lime flavoring.
Blueberry Cupcakes with Lime Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Annie's Eats (who adapted the cupcakes from Martha Stewart, frosting from Confections of a Foodie Bride)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
3/4 cup cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Zest of 1 lime
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
1 cup fresh blueberries
8 oz. cream cheese
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon lime juice
Zest of 1 lime
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
To make the cupcakes: Whisk 3/4 cup of the all-purpose flour, the cake flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, toss the blueberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and lime zest - rub together with your fingertips until fragrant. Add the butter to the bowl and cream on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the vanilla and lime juice. With the mixer on low, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat just until incorporated. Gently fold the blueberries into the batter with a rubber spatula.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cool the cupcakes for 5 minutes before removing them from the pans to the rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the lime juice and zest. Add the confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until completely incorporated. Increase the mixer to medium-high speed, and beat until fluffy. Frost the cooled cupcakes, and garnish with additional blueberries.
Makes about 14 cupcakes
With all of the baking I do, I am VERY rarely tempted by the sweet treats available at the grocery store. Whether it's prepackaged crackers and cookies, or the pastries sitting in plastic containers in the bakery section, I know a homemade version is pretty much always going to be better, even if it requires some extra effort on my part. But those giant soft sugar cookies with the too sweet frosting? They're my kryptonite. I bought them all the time when I was in law school and then mindlessly snacked on way too many while I crammed for exams. Those cookies haven't made it into my grocery cart in quite some time (years probably) but they always catch my eye and I consider it for just a moment. Needless to say, I was totally stoked when this homemade version started showing up on different blogs in my Google Reader.
Do you want to know how much I loved these cookies? They were such a big hit that as soon as I tried the first one I knew I wasn't sharing them with anyone. If you stop by this site regularly you know that I usually mention offering the things I bake to friends/family/neighbors/etc. Not these cookies though; Shane wasn't interested in trying them either, so the whole batch was for me (well, technically a half batch since I halved the recipe). They're soft and cakey in texture, with a buttery, sweet flavor - pretty much exactly as I remember the store-bought ones, only 100 times better! Mine have now lasted for 5 days, and while the frosting looks a little worse for the wear, the cookies taste as good as they did on day one. Speaking of the frosting, I let mine get too thin and was then too impatient to fix it so it sort of ran down the sides rather than sitting neatly on the top, as I'd have liked. No worries, I'll gladly make this recipe over and over again until I get it right :)
Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
from Annie's Eats (who adapted from Hostess with the Mostess)
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
5 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
7-8 tablespoons milk (plus more, as needed)
food coloring (optional)
To make the cookies: Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture a little at a time, beating just until combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Measure about 1/4 cup of dough for each cookie (I used a scale - it was about 55-60g per cookie). Roll the dough into balls then place on the prepared cookie sheets and press to flatten just slightly (seriously, just a little - they'll spread as they bake), spacing them at least 2 inches apart (I baked 6 per sheet). Bake for 12-13 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are just set. Don't overbake or they won't have the soft texture you want. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool on the sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to the racks to cool completely.
To make the frosting: Combine the confectioners' sugar, butter, vanilla and milk in a large bowl, and whisk to combine. If necessary, you can add more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you have the consistency you want. Add food coloring, if desired, and whisk to combine. Frost the cooled cookies with an offset spatula. Top with sprinkles if desired and set aside to let the frosting set. Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
I've been trying to get into the habit of meal planning for years now. I know how to go about it, so that's not the problem. The issue is forcing myself to make the time to sit down and go through my cookbooks and magazines to decide on recipes and make a grocery list. I've been getting better - meaning maybe 2 weeks a month I'm able to make it happen. When I do, I realize how awesome it is and wonder why it's such a struggle to do it more often! I save so much time at the grocery store when I have a list and I'm not just wandering the aisles trying to come up with meal ideas on the spot. Plus, I'm saving money since I have a plan for every ingredient I buy and throw away far less food. The real benefit, though, at least for me, is that dinners are much less stressful when I wake up knowing what we're having that night as opposed to scrambling to put something together at the last minute.
If you asked Shane, these burgers would probably be the best thing to come from my recent meal planning efforts. We cooked them earlier this week, darting in and out to the grill between rain showers that were passing through the area. Minced bacon is incorporated into the burger patties themselves, making them juicy and rich. Served on homemade rolls with grilled zucchini on the side, they was an awesome meal. As much as I enjoyed the burgers, the real star of the show for me was the bacon onion balsamic jam. It was the perfect combination of savory and sweet and I'm already thinking of other ways I could use it! These burgers are pretty giant (more than 1/3 lb each before cooking) and I couldn't finish mine, so the only change I'll make next time is to divide the meat mixture into a few more, slightly smaller patties.
Bacon Burgers with Bacon Onion Balsamic Jam
from Fine Cooking
Bacon Onion Balsamic Jam
4 thick slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 thick slices bacon
1 1/2 lb 85% lean ground beef
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 hamburger buns (I made mine with this recipe)
To make the jam: Cook the bacon in a large skillet set over medium heat until browned but not yet crisp, about 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan.
With the heat still on medium, add the onions to the pan with the bacon grease. Season with kosher salt and pepper then cover the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the cover, add a splash of water and use a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits from the skillet. Replace the cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 7-10 minutes, or until the onions are softened and just starting to take on some color. Add the vinegar, mustard, 1/3 cup water and the bacon to the pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer and continue cooking until the liquid has thickened and been mostly absorbed, about 2-4 minutes.
(You can make the jam up to 2 days ahead - store in the refrigerator and reheat gently before serving.)
To make the burgers: Mince the bacon with a sharp knife. In a large bowl, combine the bacon, ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Gently mix until combined, but don't overwork. Divide into 4 equal portions, and form each portion into a burger, about 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Use your thumb to make an indentation in the center of each patty (this will keep the burgers from puffing and swelling in the center as they cook).
Preheat your grill to medium-high heat (400-450 F). Oil the grates lightly (I use the tongs to hold a paper towel that's been dipped in oil and rub it over the grates). Place the burgers on the grill (the side with the indentation should be facing up) and cook for about 4 minutes, or until grill marks form on the bottom. Flip the burgers and cook for about 4 more minutes (for medium), or until they are cooked to your desired doneness.
Grill the rolls lightly, if desired, then serve the burgers on the rolls topped with the jam.
Makes 4 burgers
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie is hosted by my buddy Nancy of The Dogs Eat the Crumbs. I had the pleasure of meeting Nancy last fall when Dorie was in my neck of the woods signing copies of her newest book. Nancy flew up here and stayed with me for a night so we could drive down to Connecticut to see Dorie. Long story short, it was a lot of fun (I blogged about it here) and confirmed that Nancy's as thoughtful and kind as you'd expect after reading her blog. She's one of the few TWD'ers I've met in person but after having baked with so many of you for so long, I hope there are other get-togethers in the future!
When I saw that Nancy had chosen carrot muffins my first instinct was to turn them into cupcakes by adding a giant dollop of cream cheese frosting on top. Oh, and leave the nuts out because I kind of hate walnuts. But I knew that would only lead to trouble (the kind where you justify 2 cupcakes for breakfast because they have carrots in them), so instead I made the recipe exactly as written (nuts and all). We were meeting Shane's parents for lunch the day I made them and I knew they'd appreciate a muffin stash for their freezer.
For whatever reason, my muffins baked up pretty flat, which is always sort of a bummer. I think I probably overfilled the tins. Regardless, I picked around the nuts to try a few bites of one, and really enjoyed it. The muffins were lightly spiced and not too sweet, with lots of texture from the carrots, raisins and coconut. Shane's mom emailed me yesterday to say they were loving them too so I'm glad I resisted the urge to turn them into dessert. Many thanks to Nancy for hosting this week! She shared the recipe for the muffins on her blog today, or you can find it on page 14 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.