Category Archives: Desserts

[fantastic] cocoa brownies

Deb wasn’t kidding when she titled these, “the best cocoa brownies.”  For the last few years, I have been a tempered chocolate snob. Cakes, cookies, biscotti… all of them have come from a chocolate recipe.

Let me tell you, that attitude is out.the.window. Gone. Because these brownies are THAT good.

That easy, too- one bowl! 

I made very few changes:  I personally love a subtle molasses flavor in my chocolate treats, so included dark brown sugar. I also doubled the salt, and instead of vanilla I used coffee liqueur.  I figured that a small amount of delicate vanilla might get lost under the rich texture and taste, whereas coffee would play a strong supporting role.  I definitely suggest it if you’ve got it in your liquor cabinet (and you should- White Russians are one reason for the season). Otherwise a teaspoon of leftover coffee or made with instant coffee granules would work nicely.

Cocoa Brownies
adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet

10 T. unsalted butter
3/4 c. white granulated sugar
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
3/4 c. + 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/2 t. salt
1 t. coffee liqueur
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 c. all-purpose flour

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.

Place the butter in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Add the sugars, cocoa, and salt.  Stir once the butter begins to melt. Continue stirring as the butter completely melts and the ingredients come together. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. [It may look gritty (photo belongs to Smitten Kitchen), but will it smooth out once the eggs and flour are added.]

Stir in the coffee liqueur with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.  Add the flour and stir until well combined, and then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon.  Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter; 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me 30 minutes. Let cool completely.  Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

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Sourdough Chocolate Cake

I made this cake for my love on our first wedding anniversary.  Not only was it pretty and quite rich and delicious, there was actually a little thought and symbolism behind it.

Because the way I see it, our sourdough starter is a sort of pseudo-first child. We began our starter shortly after we moved into our first house together. And it started with three very basic ingredients- flour, water, and love. (Okay, so it was flour, water, and a nearly-neglected Amish friendship bread bag-o-mush picked out of the office breakroom. Which could be similar to love, to some people.)

We fed and watered our sourdough. We let it bubble and breathe. We stirred it gently with a wooden stick. We baked some of it every weekend, more and more excited as it became sourer and sourer.

And as we adopted a cat, tore down a garage, built a new garage, adopted a second cat, bought new furniture from a real furniture store (not a thrift store) for the first time… we nurtured our sourdough. It brought us closer together.  Really. It did.

Hence the cake. It was really delicious. And topped with love. And ganache.

Sourdough Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Sourdough Jack’s Cookery, via Orangette

1 c. thick sourdough starter
3/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 c. milk at room temperature
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. coffee liqueur
1 t. ground cinnamon
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 t. salt
1-1/2 t. baking soda
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Leave a cup of starter out overnight (this is called proofing).

Preheat oven to 350 (or 330 with convection). Cream the sugars and butter until fluffy, then beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in starter, milk, vanilla, liqueur, cinnamon, and melted chocolate. Beat with an electric mixer or a muscled arm for two minutes.  Sprinkle the salt and baking soda over the top of the batter and then fold in gently. Fold in flour until batter is smooth. Pour into buttered and floured pan. (I used an 8-inch round springform; Mollie used a Bundt pan.)

Bake until cake springs back when pressed lightly and a cake tester comes out clean, 35-60 minutes, depending on the type of pan you use. Cool; frost or sprinkle with powdered sugar; serve to your love; savor the moments.

Basic chocolate ganache
Be sure your cake is cool to the touch before frosting with ganache, as it’s very sticky and can crumb up easily if the cake is warm.

8 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
3/4 c. heavy cream
2 T. butter
1 T. coffee or chocolate liqueur

Roughly chop the chocolate into small pieces, and place them into a medium glass bowl. Heat the cream and butter in a saucepan just until it begins to boil on the edges. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk carefully until all of the chocolate is melted. Whisk in the liqueur. Allow the ganache to sit for a few minutes before frosting.

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Filed under Desserts, Marriage

home + easy apple cake

Home.  It took awhile, but finally the place where I live feels more like home than any other “home” I’ve had.

My parents, brother, and I moved into their current house when I was about 14. We were old enough that there are no childhood memories of playing make-believe with my brother or hearing Santa on Christmas Eve in that house.  Still, until recently, I felt most “at home” snuggled up in a quilt on my parents’ living room floor, with N and my brother and mom and dad in front of the TV.

It took awhile for N and I to make our first house feel less like a storage unit. But slowly, the little things– knickknacks that find their windowsills; smells that become familiar and welcoming; my cats sleeping on my lap; and most importantly, my husband beside me– make me feel like I’m at home.

This apple cake did the same thing.

Quick Apple Cake
from Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax

Serves 8 (or fewer!)

The reason the piece in the picture looks so wonky is because we suddenly were eating the last two pieces and I realized I hadn’t yet taken a picture!

The recipe calls for thin slices of apple, but I cut my slices slightly thicker with a shorter rectangle shape, and we loved the definite commitment to apple vs. cake.

3 medium-sized apples, peeled, cored and chopped into bite-sized (about 3 cups)
1 t. lemon juice
3/4 c. plus 3 tablespoons sugar
2 t. cinnamon
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 t. good vanilla
1/2 t. salt
1 c. sifted all-purpose flour (sift in salt)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a pie or cake pan. Toss the apples in the pan with the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the cinnamon. Spread apples evenly in the bottom of the pan

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook until lightly golden, about 7 minutes. Watch carefully and stir to avoid burning. Pour the clear, browned butter into a medium bowl, leaving any sediment or foam in the pan.

Stir the 3/4 cup sugar into the butter with a spatula or spoon (not a whisk). Gently stir in the eggs and vanilla; stir in the salt and flour until blended. Spoon the batter evenly over the apples and spread into a layer. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake until lightly golden and crusty, 35 to 45 minutes.

The recipe suggests serving with vanilla ice cream, but eating a warm slice with fresh softly-whipped cream made me go all melty on the inside.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Desserts, Fall

Apfelstrudel

I made this last weekend for part of our Oktoberfest meal. I made it easy by using a pre-packaged puff pastry, but an ambitious individual could certainly make their own puff pastry in addition to making the filling. We served this with plenty of fresh whipped cream, and it only lasted 2 days between the 2 of us!

Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)

1 puff pastry sheet
3 T. raisins
2-3 T. golden rum or bourbon
3 medium green apples, about 1.25 pounds
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. butter, separated (3 T. butter + 5 T. butter)
3/4 c. fine bread crumbs
1/2 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped

Set puff pastry out to thaw according to directions. You’ll want it chilly but malleable when it comes time to roll out.

Combine raisins and rum in a small bowl.  Peel, core, and slice the apples into quarter-slices about 1/4 inch thick. Place them in a large bowl and add sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg; toss and set aside.

In a large pan, melt 3 T. butter on medium-high heat. Add the bread crumbs and stir to coat; continue to stir while the crumbs toast, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.

Heat oven to 400 F.  Melt the remaining 5 T. butter. Roll out the puff pastry sheet to approximately 9 x 13 inches. (I did this on parchment paper that was generously floured.) Brush half of the melted butter onto the puff pastry. Sprinkle and pat the bread crumbs on top of the buttered pastry.

With the long edge positioned left to right, sprinkle the walnuts down the center of the pastry from top to bottom, in a column about 4 inches wide. On top of the walnuts, place the sugared apple slices compactly and somewhat stacked. Pour the raisins, rum and all, over the apple slices and distribute evenly.

Wrap the edges of the pastry over the top of the apple column, which may require some flour, stretching, and patience. Pinch the ends closed best you can. Brush the remaining melted butter over the top of the strudel, and make a few slices across the top to vent and for aesthetic.

Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the top third of the oven for about 30 minutes, until pastry is golden brown and baked through.  Let cool at room temperature for half an hour or longer before dusting with powdered sugar and carefully slicing with a serrated knife.

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Filed under Desserts, Fall

Blueberry-Lemon Crumb Bars

I found these listed merely as blueberry crumb bars, but when made with an entire lemon, I think the lemon deserves to be included in the title!

What a great “crumb” recipe. Really. The blueberry filling is simple and straightforward: tart, fresh, and nothing earth-shattering. But the crust… ay de mi. Even with all the lemon zest, it’s not “too” lemony, particularly once cooled to room temperature. It’s just right. Perfect, even. :)

Because I can’t ever leave anything alone, I will be making these again, but probably with strawberry and rhubarb and reducing the lemon juice in the filling. Despite the numerous bags of rhubarb in the freezer, it’s still growing out behind the garden- lucky me!

Blueberry-Lemon Crumb Bars
from Smitten Kitchen

Deb’s note- These are easiest to cut once chilled, and store even better in the fridge than they do at room temperature–something unusual for cookies!

1 c. white sugar
1 t. baking powder
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. cold butter (2 sticks)
1 egg
1/4 t. salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 c. fresh blueberries (2 pints containers)
1/2 c. white sugar
4 t. cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

In another bowl, stir together the 1/2 c. sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

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Filed under Cookies, Desserts, Summer

Double cookie dough ice cream

Sounds too good to be true, huh?

I love cookie dough icecream, but the thing that bugs me is that it isn’t cookie dough-y enough. The vanilla base is often blah. And I am not the only person who thinks this! Lucky for us, Annie at Annie’s Eats put a cookie dough icecream and bits of cookie dough together to form … bliss. A strong force the likes of which has not been seen in my freezer before. Captain Planet?!

I was not so impressed with David Lebovitz’s cookie dough recipe. I KNOW, RIGHT?? How could I not love it?!? Call me heathen. But alas… I think it can be improved. Which gives me all the more reason to make this again, soon. :)

Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Ingredients:
For the cookie dough: (alternately, use pre-made cookie dough from the store or your favorite recipe)
5 T. salted butter, melted (or unsalted butter plus ¼ tsp. salt)
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/3 c. flour
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2/3 c. mini chocolate chips

For the ice cream:
3 T. unsalted butter
2 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. dark brown sugar
4 egg yolks
Pinch of coarse salt
2 t. vanilla extract
1½ c. whole milk (can use 1-1/3 c. skim milk and fill to 1-1/2 c. mark with cream)
3/4 c. mini chocolate chips

Directions:
To make the cookie dough, stir together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until smooth.  Mix in the flour and vanilla; make sure the dough is room temperature, and then add chocolate chips.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until firm. (It will seem too buttery, but is better once it’s been refrigerated.)

To make the ice cream, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Continue heating, stirring often, until the butter is a deep golden brown color, being careful not to burn it.  Whisk in the heavy cream and heat until simmering.  Meanwhile in a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and the egg yolks until pale and fluffy.  Once the cream mixture is warm, add a small amount of it to the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Slowly whisk in the rest of the cream.  Mix in the salt.  Return the egg-cream mixture to the saucepan, reduce the heat to medium-low, and heat until just slightly thickened and the temperature reads 170-175˚ F on an instant-read thermometer.  Immediately remove the mixture from the heat and pour through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl.  Stir in the vanilla extract and the whole milk.  Cover and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Once the mixture is chilled, freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Chop the disk of cookie dough into small chunks.  With about one minute left in the maker, throw in the chocolate chips and the chunks of cookie dough just to mix in.  Store in the freezer in an airtight container until firm.

Source: cookie dough from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, ice cream adapted from Joy the Baker

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Filed under Desserts, Summer

CE: Carrot-walnut breakfast cake

I am practicing to be a Grandma. Which is to say, I knit; I talk to my cat; and I always bake something when people are coming over to my house, no matter the occasion.  (Because grandma-hood has very little to do with actually having children, right?) I had a friend call and ask to crash on our couch for the night. Sure, absolutely- I’ve got just the enough time to whip up a quick bread and vacuum!

I had carrots; I had walnuts. I quickly decided that a breakfast carrot cake was in order, with a streusely top and loaded with toasted walnuts. I found a recipe that looked divine, but required overripe bananas… and because bananas are evil, they generally aren’t in my house. I found multiple recipes that called for an entire cup of sugar… and only 1 cup of grated carrot. Sorry, that’s not how *my* carrot cake is gonna roll.  In the end, I relied on good ‘ol Betty Crocker, but cleaned her up. 

Finally, a word on breakfast cake- how is this anything but a GREAT idea?? It’s a healthy quick bread that made a modest amount of batter, perfect for an old milk-glass cake dish. Perfection. Do not doubt it.

 

Carrot-Walnut Breakfast Cake

3/4 c. sucanat or natural brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 T. oil
¼ c. unsweetened applesauce
1 ½ c. whole-wheat pastry flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. pumpkin pie spice
2 c. shredded carrots
1/2 c. toasted walnuts

Topping:
1/2 c. sucanat or brown sugar
1/3 c. toasted walnuts
1/2 t. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Grease or line a cake pan or loaf pans.  Whisk eggs and sucanat together until bubbly and yellow, about 2 minutes.  Whisk in vanilla, oil, and applesauce.

Sift together flour, powder, salt, and spices. Mix into the wet ingredients with a spoon or spatula, just until mixed. Fold in carrots and walnuts. Let rest a few minutes.

Mix together the topping ingredients in a small bowl. Pour batter into prepared pan, and sprinkle with topping.  Bake for 30-35 minutes for cake pan, or 50-60 minutes for loaf pan. Check with tester/toothpick to make sure middle is baked through.

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Filed under Breads, Breakfast, Clean Eating, Desserts

CE oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

I. Need. A. Cookie. NOW.

Don’t lie- you’ve been there.  Everybody has experienced that kind of a day. The kind where you want to grab a package of E.L. Fudge double-stuffed cookies on the way home and just sit on the couch, watching old Grey’s Anatomy re-runs, while you eat 4/5’s of the package.  Not that I’ve ever done that.

I’m trying to stay away from packaged “junk-food,” rationalizing that if I reeeeally want something badly enough, I should have to make it myself.  Especially when you can substitute some healthier items… flax seed or applesauce for oil, whole wheat flour instead of bleached, natural sugar cane instead of white sugar.

These are pretty dang good for “diet” healthy cookies, except for one point: they’re fugly. Seriously. Once you get past that, they’re great! I looooove the dark chocolate chips, and the fact that the sucanat and vanilla combined make them taste a bit like cookie dough.

CE oatmeal chocolate chip cookies [aka Fugly Cookies]
adapted from The Cleaning Eating Mama

Note: This is clearly irrational, but there is something … pretentious?… in my mind about writing “organic” in front of every.single.ingredient. Use organic when you can, as much as you can, for a plethora of reasons.  But if you can’t afford or find organic honey or oats or whatever, this recipe will still go on. :)

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar or natural sugar cane
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 1/4 cup whole-wheat (pastry) flour
  • 1  cup oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup chocolate chips
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F.  In a large bowl, add applesauce and sugar and mix until creamy. Add egg, vanilla, honey and oil. Mix well.

    Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Slowly add the dry to wet, mixing until moist. Mix in the oats, and if needed, add more oats or flour to get your preferred consistency.  Add the chocolate chips at the end.

    Drop by spoonfuls onto a parchment paper-lined cooking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

    Serves: About 2 dozen cookies (if you don’t eat any batter! I got 22 cookies :)


    And finally, the most impressive part of this cookie-  the nutrition information:
    only 85 calories and 2.5 g. fat, with 2.5 g. protein,18 g. carbs, and 2 g. dietary fiber per cookie!

    YES! You can have your cookie without falling off the bandwagon!

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    Filed under 30 min. or less, Clean Eating, Cookies, Desserts

    [sorta healthy] Rhubarb Muffins

    The rhubarb recipes aren’t going to disappear anytime soon. This and spinach are the only things edible growing in my yard for the moment.

    N has decided to be a muffin person. By that I mean that he has mentioned several times that he would happily eat a muffin every day if they were available. “Fluffy, moist goodness,” I believe was his exact quote. And these muffins are the ones that inspired said quote… they’re delish. Trust me.

    Rhubarb Muffins
    Adaptation of my grandma’s sour cream muffins recipe

    1-1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
    1/2 c. AP flour
    3 t. baking powder
    3/4 c. brown sugar
    1 t. cardamom
    dash of salt
    1 egg
    1/2 c. applesauce
    3/4 c. yogurt (I used strawberry- could use vanilla, plain, lemon, blueberry…)
    3 T. melted butter
    1 T. milled flax seed
    2 c. chopped rhubarb sprinkled with a little sugar (~ 1 T.)

    Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, cardamom, powder, and salt. In a small bowl, mix together the egg, applesauce, yogurt, butter, and flax seed. Make a small well in the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ingredients, and fold together only until blended with a spoon or spatula. Fold in rhubarb.

    Spoon into muffin tins with paper liners or sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for ~20 minutes, until the tops feel springy and not batter-y when poked.

    Optional:
    2 T. melted butter
    2 T. sugar
    1/2 t. cardamom

    Mix together the sugar and cardamom in a small dish. Once the muffins are cool to the touch, lightly roll the tops in melted butter and let the excess drip off; then roll in the cardamom-sugar mixture. Adds a subtle sweet-and-crunchy top to offset the tender tart center. Mmm. :)

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    Filed under 30 min. or less, Breakfast, Desserts, Spring, Summer

    Rhubarb-Strawberry Crispy “Crumble”

    Spring is here! Spring is here!

    How can I tell? Yesterday, I had enough rhubarb to make a small dessert! Yes!

    I guess this is more of a crisp, as opposed to a crumble… I adore having oats in the topping, but I did use a small amount of baking powder. Gourmet says that a crumble is merely the British equivalent of a crisp. A bit more research indicates that they are practically the same thing, but us Americans like to add oats to the toppings of our crisps.

    Any way you call it, this was delicious. Especially topped out of the oven with fresh whipped cream.

    Topping:
    1/4 lb. butter (one stick)
    1/4 c. brown sugar
    dash of salt
    1 c. flour
    1/2 t. baking powder
    1/3 c. oats

    Filling:
    1 c. rhubarb, chopped
    1 c. chopped strawberries
    1/3 c. sugar (I used brown sugar)
    1/2 t. cardamom

    Combine all the ingredients for the filling ia pie pan or 8×8 baking dish. In a medium pot or bowl, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar and salt and whisk; stir in flour and baking powder until combined. Fold in the oats- you may have to use your fingers to get them mixed in and get a crumbly consistency.

    Crumble the topping over the filling and sprinkle with sugar – I love the look of sparkly sanding sugar on top. Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes, or until topping is golden brown. Serve with icecream or whipped cream.

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    Filed under 30 min. or less, Desserts, Spring