Thursday, January 22, 2009

Four-Day Weekend Blondies


It's like a Friday afternoon. Only better, because it's three fifteen and I've been home for FOUR hours. Granted, my mom thinks I should be medicated and on the couch knocked out by Nyquil, but I'm full of energy. Sniffly, yes, but energetic. And with hands that have been washed far too many times today.

But that's what let's me bake. Well, I guess not exactly, but it's how I keep from worrying about killing anyone. Or at least giving them a cold. If I feel a sneeze coming, I run out of the kitchen. So far, this plan is working. I hope.

Today I baked with levkar for the first time. And the brownies turned out surprisingly moist, not unlike butter-laden brownies.

But this is not that recipe. Oh no, far from it. This is a recipe that I think Paula Deen might approve of. Actually, probably not, because it only has one stick of butter, and no nuts. And there are dried kumquats! The kumquats are optional, because I'm not sure where you would find them, other than crazy shops in Chinatown with a variety of dried/preserved fruits to sample and choose from. There were at least three kinds of kumquats, varying in salty sweet tartness. I'm sure dried apricots could be nice, though the recipe didn't originally have any dried fruit, it was just a suggestion at the end of the recipe for modifications (which also included crystallized ginger, adding extracts, nuts, etc.)

Time on my four-day weekend is ticking away, so I think I'll cut to the chase:

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Blondies (with kumquats!)
Adapted from Cream Cheese Blondies in Bruce Weinstein's The Ultimate Brownie Book, p.124
makes 24 2x2" blondies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
1 large egg yolk, at room temp
6 ounces white chocolate, chopped (about 1 cup)
4 ounces dried kumquats, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 9x13 inch pan with foil (optional) and butter. Set aside.

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

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, cream cheese, granulated sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed (or, I'd recommend a stand mixer, my hand mixer wheezed a bit at the beginning) until the sugars have dissolved and the mixture is smooth and thick, about 4 minutes, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. (Weinstein recommends 8, but 4 seemed to be fine.)
Add the eggs one at a time, allowing the first to be incorporated before adding the second. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla.

With a spoon or spatula, stir in the chocolate chips and chopped kumquats (if using). Stir in flour mixture until just incorporated. Spoon batter into prepared pan, spreading gently to corners.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top is light brown and toothpick or tester comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Set the pan on a rack to cool for at least 30 minutes.

Cut blondies into 24 pieces. Serve immediately or let cool completely before storing. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A Winter Break Adventure


What? You say that doesn't look like a winter adventure?

And I'll be honest, there is nothing adventurous about rice krispy treats dipped in chocolate and sprinkles, or even making them. But the adventure is what led me to even consider making them, inspired by what I saw in the dessert case at Foodlife.
I'm sure dipped rice crispy treats on sticks are common. I'd just never seen one before, and it seemed like a neat concept. Other than the jaw pain I endured today trying to eat one straight out of the fridge (please, learn from my mistakes.)

I realize I still sound like a bore. But foodlife was not a part of the plan at all. It was merely that my friends and I decided we wanted to go ice skating, so I suggested we make it even cooler since the weather was warm (yes, 40 degrees is warm) we go ice skating in Millenium Park. Two hours later, we were on our way there. And pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn't too crowded.

And then there was a slight problem. An hour-and-a-half long problem that is. At 6:30 at night, ice skating is popular. There was a long line that we somehow failed to notice, attributing to onlookers or just ignoring. So ice skating was postponed.

The next day, arriving half an hour before the rink opened proved to be a much quicker solution. And three hours later we were off the ice and ready for lunch. Which is when I saw the rice crispy treats on a stick dipped in chocolate and then dipped in coconut. Mmm...

Neither my friend nor I were hungry enough for dessert, so when I got home, after making a nice fish dinner that, in order to be cooked perfectly, was eaten cold, made my version of the treats, sans sticks. I ran out of coconut, but it is my favorite of the toppings I used.

Dipped Rice Crispy Squares
makes 36

1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 oz) butter
1 (10.5 ounce) bag marshmallows
6 cups cripy rice cereal (Rice Krispies)
6 ounces milk chocolate (or semi-sweet)
1 to 2 cups assorted things to dip (shredded coconut, chopped nuts, sprinkles, etc.)

Line or grease a 9x9 square pan.
Melt butter in a heavy pan over medium heat. Stir in marshmallows, stirring until melted. Remove from heat and stir in cereal. Press into prepared pan and chill for 30 minutes.

Cut into squares (6x6, or other size). Melt chocolate, either over simmering water on the stove, or in the microwave on medium in 30 second increments until melted. Dip squares into chocolate and then coconut. Set upright on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Repeat for remaining squares.
Chill until set.