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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dark chocolate toffee brownie cups

Last weekend my friends E & G invited a few of us over for their newly opened roof deck on the 45th floor of their apartment building.  Since I need a lot less of a reason to bake, I gladly offered up some homemade treats for the event.


I wanted something transportable (I was going over straight from work) but also something tasty.  And I didn't want to make cookies (I don't know why; it could've been those time intensive Brookies I made recently).  So I opted for brownies, but then figured that brownies baked in cupcake tins would be even easier, so I went with that.  I found a recipe for a dark chocolate brownie, and then added a good helping of toffee bits (leftover from those Peanut Butter Monster Cookie Bars), because toffee makes just about everything better.


These brownies are uber rich and chocolate-y -- just the way I like them!!

Dark Chocolate Brownie Cups with Toffee Pieces
I got the brownie recipe from here, but then left off the ganache and added in toffee...but I can't wait to make her original recipe, too!

Ingredients:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp coffee or water (I used water, since I didn't feel like making a pot of coffee for 2 Tbsp)
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder or dark cocoa powder (I used dark, since that's my favorite!)
1 tsp instant espresso granules/powder (optional, but it is recommended)
3/4 cup flour

Heath toffee bits, about 1/3 to 1/2 cups....I started with 1/3 cup but then kept adding without actually measuring it, so 1/2 cup is my best estimate

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.
If making cupcake brownies, line a 12 cup cupcake tin with waxed cucpake papers (I used regular white paper liners and the brownies stuck a little bit.  Waxed liners would probably work a little better, but there's really no harm in using regular papers if that's what you have/want)
If making a tray of brownies, line a 9x9" pan with foil and then spray the foil with cooking spray.

In a large microwave safe bowl, melt the butter.
I do mine in 30 second increments so that the butter doesn't get too hot and/or splatter all over my microwave.
Let the butter cool a little, so that it won't scramble the eggs.
Add the eggs, sugars, vanilla, and coffee.
Whisk to combine.
Add the cocoa powder and instant espresso, if using.
Whisk until it is all incorporated and is smooth, and there are no lumps.
Add the flour and stir until it's just incorporated, making sure to not overmix.
Add the toffee bits and fold in with a rubber spatula, a few times only to make sure the pieces geet mixed in, without overmixing.

If making brownie cups, use an ice cream scooper to fill the cups, about 2/3-3/4 of the way full.  I had enough for just over 14 brownie cups.
If baking a tray of brownies, pour the batter into the prepared pan/
Smooth the top lightly with a spatula to make the top as flat as possible.

Bake for 25-29 minutes (for brownies, about 19-22 minutes for brownie cups, but watch them closely to make sure they don't burn), or until the top is just set but isn't jiggly in the center.  Inserting a toothpick in the center and checking to make sure it comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs (but no batter).

Allow brownies to cool completely in the pan,

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Peanut butter monster cookie bars

About ten days ago -- actually, MORE THAN TEN WHOLE DAYS AGO!! -- I decided to make some peanut butter monster cookie bars.  I just felt like having a yummy, chunky bar to bite into.  But just one.  I wanted to be good on my diet, so I planned to give most of them away (and for once, I succeeded!!).


I thought I had written a blog post on these already -- I had definitely talked about them enough on facebook, but alas, there is no post here.





So, without much ado, but definitely much belated, here are these delicious (and easy!!) Peanut Butter Monster Cookie Bars!

Peanut Butter Monster Cookie Bars
From Averie Cooks

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (heaping) creamy peanut butter (the original recipe says to skip homemade or natural since they're too runny, but I used Skippy natural and it worked just fine)
1 cup flour
1 cup peanut butter M&Ms, plus a few extra for the top
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, chunks, or a combination (I used a mixture)
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/3 cup toffee bits

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Line an 8x8" pan with foil.
Spray foil-lined pan with cooking spray.
Set aside.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter.
I did mine on 30 second intervals, to make sure it didn't get too hot.
Let cool for a few minutes, so that you don't scramble the eggs when you add them.
Add the egg, brown sugar, and vanilla.
Whisk until smooth.

Add the peanut butter, and with a whisk, incorporate until smooth.
Add the flour and stir until just combined, being sure not to overmix.
Add the add-ins (M&Ms, chips and chunks, and toffee bits).
Fold until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the pan.
With a spatula, smooth the top to make it flat.
Place a few of the peanut butter M&Ms on top, since it'll make them look extra pretty :)

Bake for about 24 minutes, or until the top is set.
Inserting a toothpick in the center is a good way to check -- it should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs.  If there is batter, they are undercooked and need to bake longer.
Allow them to cool in the pan for at least a half hour, before cutting them.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Halloween preview

I know I've said it before, but I don't love Halloween.  Mostly cause I don't love getting dressed up. While creative in almost every aspect of my life, I completely lack creativity when it comes to a Halloween costume.  If forced to dress up in the past, I always went with "doctor" - I just wore some scrubs and flung my stethoscope around my neck so as to look authentic.

But you know what I do like about Halloween?  The adorable treats I can make!  This was exacerbated Labor Day weekend when I stumbled (ok, ok, I intentionally went there.  I had a great coupon burning a whole in my pocket) into the craft store Michaels and left with a thorough - albeit expensive - haul of Halloween supplies!

Check it out...this is just a sampling of my new goodies:


October will be full of Halloween treats -- my goal is to get you at least one Halloween treat a week during the month of October!!

Happy Halloween!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Brookies (half brownie, half chocolate chip cookie)

B's and my week long vacation got postponed this week.  While I had been looking forward to it, I know it was for the better (knowing that it has only been postponed and not canceled also makes it better).  Something else that makes it better?  The little escape we planned for the end of the week!


I had thought that I'd take two days and go into work and help out, since it's the pre-school rush at the office, but when I called in to tell them that the trip was postponed yesterday, they told me to -- get this -- take the days off as planned!

So what to do with a SURPRISE day off?!  With literally NOTHING on the agenda?!  Honestly, I don't think this has ever happened to me.  I spent most of yesterday afternoon coming up with scenarios of what I could do with today (and tomorrow, but that's a whole other day!), but B kept telling me to "relax" and "have a day for yourself," but frankly, I don't know how to do either of those things...


But one thing I do know how to do is bake!  And with a whole bunch of free time today, bake I did.  "Brookies" -- half brownie, half chocolate chip cookie -- to be exact, because they sounded fun and I wanted to bake cookies.  Cause see, while I have two surprise days off, Wednesday morning I'm boarding a plane for a place which will warrant wearing a bathing suit AND being in public (in said bathing suit).  And I really shouldn't be wearing bathing suits in public.  Especially if I will be baking (and eating) for two days beforehand.  So cookies are also great to freeze and give away -- two huge bonuses!!

Brookies
from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Ingredients:

Brownie Cookie Dough:

1/3 cup butter (5 1/3 Tbsp)
1/ cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp cocoa (I used regular cocoa and I feel like the brownie batter looked kinda anemic -- and less chocolately than the original recipe.  I would try dark cocoa powder next time for an extra chocolately punch)
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:

2/3 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cups light brown sugar
12 Tbsp (1.5 sticks) butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips (mini size preferred) -- I used regular, since that was all the store had, and they were fine!

Directions:

Make the brownie cookie dough.
In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter and chocolate chips together, at 1 minute intervals, stirring in between, until smooth and combined.
Stir in the sugar.
Whisk in the eggs and vanilla and mix until thick and well-combined.

Stir in the cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt until no streaks remain.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Make the chocolate chip cookie dough.
In the bowl of an electric mixer or with a handheld electric mixer, cream together the butter and the two sugars until smooth.
Blend in the eggs and vanilla, mixing for 2-3 minutes until the batter is light in color.
Stir in the flour, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips until no dry streaks remain and chocolate chips are evenly distributed.

Mine was super soft, probably since the butter was really soft as it's been hot out.  
I had to refrigerate my chocolate chip cookie dough for a while to make it easy to roll into balls.
I scooped it into 1 tablespoon scoops and refrigerated that way, then when I was able to roll them into balls, I went onto the next step.

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Line baking sheets with silpat liners or parchment paper.
Set aside.

Portion both sets of dough into tablespoon-sized balls.
It may help to lightly grease your hands with cookie spray is the brownie dough seems to sticky.

Grab one chocolate chip cookie dough ball and one brownie ball and press them together and use your hands to gently form each into a cookie shape, flattening and turning to smooth the edges, and form a flattish but still thick cookie shape (they'll spread out while baking).

Refrigerate the brookies (unbaked) for at least 30 minutes -- they can be kept in the fridge for up to a day.

Bake the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.
Bake for 10-12 minutes (mine took 9 minutes) until the chocolate chip cookie side is just very sightly browned and the brownie side looks set - they should still be soft and slightly underbaked, if anything.
Remove from the oven and let cook on the pan for 1-2 minutes before scooping onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

(I ended up with a little extra chocolate chip cookie dough, which I could've made into cookies, but instead I ate the dough.  Because it's good and I was hungry, and at that point, a little lazy, too ;-))

Blueberry bundt cake

My friend E's mom lives in Maine and she came down this weekend with a load of lobster meat for a delicious lobsterfest!  B and I were supposed to be away but due to a change in plans, we ended up actually being in the city for it.  Once we found out we'd be able to attend, I offered my baking services to E.  I was thinking beach-themed cupcakes, lobster-shaped cookies, and lobster and other beach-related chocolate lollipops, but was really up for anything.  E thought a blueberry dessert would be fun keeping with a "Maine" theme -- and I couldn't agree more!


So I set out to find the perfect blueberry dessert.  At first I thought blueberry shortcake, which them changed to blueberry biscuits with vanilla ice cream and blueberry sauce, and ultimately ended with a blueberry buttermilk bundt cake served with vanilla ice cream.  (Admittedly, the thought of blueberry cupcakes also (briefly) passed through my head.).

This cake was delicious (and super easy to make, too!), and went perfectly with our delicious lobster lunch that came straight from Maine!



Blueberry Buttermilk Bundt Cake
From Food Network

Ingredients:

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
3 cups plus 2 Tbsp flour
2.5 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups blueberries (about 1 pint -- mine was a bit more than 1 pint)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F
Generously butter a nonstick 12 cup bundt pan -- I used Pam for Baking -- it works like a charm!
Whisk 3 cups flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat 2 sticks butter, granulated sugar, and vegetable oil in a bowl with a mixer on medium-high until fluffy, at least 5 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
Reduce mixer speed to low.
Beat in the eggs 1 at a time.
Beat in vanilla.
Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk, beat until almost incorporated.
Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture and the remaining buttermilk.
Beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until just combined.
Add the remaining flour mixture and beat for 30 seconds.
Finish incorporating the flour by hand to avoid overmixing (mine was a little "overmixed" and it was fine!)

Toss the blueberries with the remaining 2 Tbsp of flour in a small bowl.
Spoon 1/3 of the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
Sprinkle half the blueberries on top, then cover with another 1/3 of the batter.
Scatter the remaining blueberries on top and then cover with the rest of the batter.
Smooth the top.
Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes (mine took 55 minutes).

Transfer to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes in the pan.
Run a small sharp knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake (I didn't have to since I used the Pam, the cake popped right out.  Literally.).
Invert the cake onto the rack to cool completely (I inverted mine onto a cardboard cake round, since I needed it on there to transport it to the Lobsterfest.)

*I served mine with vanilla ice cream, since I think that vanilla ice cream and blueberries are a perfect summer dessert!!  I was also going to make some homemade blueberry sauce but got too lazy...*

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mini blueberry scones

I bought some blueberries the other day for a blueberry dessert I'm making over the weekend.  I was good to go.  Delicious, plump, sweet blueberries sitting in my fridge.  You can imagine how long that lasted!?!


They were calling to me, as most fresh fruit always does, but especially in the summer.  They were saying things like "bake with me" and "I'd go great in a scone" and "don't I look delicious?"  Eventually I succumbed, and decided to make some mini fresh blueberry scones with them.  And of course, I snacked on the remaining blueberries that didn't make it into the dough!


I did 2 (well, technically 3) things different from this original recipe.  First off, I left out the orange zest.  Because frankly, I HATE (yes, I know that it's a strong word, and yes, I still want to use it) orange zest.  That's it, I don't have to go into it more.  Secondly, I made them mini.  Because all baked goods are cute in mini.  (And I wanted to try them when they came out of the oven, but it was after 11 p.m. and I frankly didn't need an entire scone.)  Lastly, the original recipe called for tubinado sugar, but I had demerara sugar, so I used that instead.

These were light and crumbly and delicious!  I had to walk out of the kitchen because I kept popping them in my mouth as I cleaned up afterwards.  They're delicious and super easy to make!

Bakery Style Blueberry Scones
From Pinch of Yum

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder (yes, a whole Tablespoon!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp orange zest -- I left this out and I thought that they were still delicious!!
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into very small cubes
1 large egg
1/2 cup cold cream, plus more for brushing the tops of the scones
1 cup fresh blueberries
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling the tops of the scones

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400F.
Stir the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer (or just a mixing bowl).
Add orange zest, if using.
Add the butter.
Mix ingredients with an electric mixer until fine crumbs form.

With the mixer on low, add the egg and heavy cream in a slow stream.
Mix until a thick, stuff dough forms.
Add the blueberries and mix until just incorporated -- I used a spatula and folded them in, since I didn't want the blueberries to break in the mixer.  According to the original blog post, "If some of them break, that's okay - you'll get those pretty juice drops down the side.

Flour your hands.
Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and place on a floured work surface.
Roll into a rectangle about 1 inch thick --  I just used my hands and flattened the dough into a rectangle.
Cut into 8 triangles, and pull the triangles apart from each other -- Or, do what I did, and use a small biscuit cutter - or a larger one if you want - and cut out smaller scones.
Brush the tops of the scones with some heavy cream.
Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
Bake for 18-20 minutes (my mini ones took 9 minutes) or until golden brown and firm to the touch.
Sprinkle again with turbinado sugar for extra texture.

Enjoy warm.
Store leftovers (if there are any....) in an airtight container for 1-2 days.

NOTES: Parchment paper helps prevent the scones from burning on the bottom.  For lighter scones, be sure to keep the butter as cold as possible throughout the process.  Stick the dough in the fridge for a few minutes if its getting too warm and soft.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Banana bread crumb cake

Two years ago I walked into a bar with my friend E and sat down next to a handsome guy.  I'll spare you all the sappy stuff, but I'm sure you've figured out by now that that handsome guy I was sitting next to was B!

I have to say,

It's been an amazing two years!

Since this year the date falls on a Sunday -- and one that I'm not working on! -- I decided I'd bake up a nice treat for us to celebrate the occasion.  B never got to try the heavenly banana cake I made for Mother's Day, and recently he suggested I make some banana bread when I asked -- annoyingly, I'm sure (and not for the first time) -- "What should I bake?"  He also raves about the crumb cake muffins I made when he had a visitor in town this spring to just about anyone who will listen.


So when, scrolling through my Facebook feed, I saw a post for this Banana Bread Crumb Cake, I knew I didn't have to look any further for what I was going to bake!!  And when I mentioned it to B a few days beforehand, he was overly ecstatic -- so then I knew for sure that I had chosen the right recipe!  Luckily I remembered to pick up bananas that night so that they had time to ripen before I planned to bake the cake.



Banana Bread Crumb Cake
From Cookies & Cups

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk

For the Crumb Filling and Topping:

1 cup cold butter, cubed
2 cups light brown sugar
2 cups flour

For the (optional) Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp milk

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Set aside.

In a large bowl mash the bananas until they become liquified.
Mix in butter until combined.
Then stir in sugar, eggs, and vanilla until mixed well.
Stir in milk and flour until combined.

Prepare crumb filling/topping.
Combine all the ingredients together, cutting them together with a fork or pastry cutter until a coarse crumb forms.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan.
Top with 1/3 of the crumb mixture.
Cover the filling with the remaining batter.
Top with the remaining crumb mixture.

Bake for 50-55 minutes until the center is set and a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes.

* If desired, mix the powdered sugar and milk together.
Drizzle on top.

Cake can be served warm or at room temperature.