Wednesday, December 01, 2010

"Why aren't there walnuts in these brownies?"

Ingredients for Oat Brownies

Because they have oats, Granma.

Right before heading home for Thanksgiving Break, I realized I had half a dozen eggs in my fridge that were going to go bad. I could do the easy thing: borrow a skillet and make scrambled eggs for me and a couple other people for dinner. Or I could bake 6 eggs worth of things. There was like a pound of butter in the fridge, so it wasn't like I had to go to the store or anything like that.

I wanted to try something new, and since I have a giant container of oats (and by giant, I mean a measly 2lb container) I decided to try out Bruce Weinsten's Oat Brownies from The Ultimate Brownie Book. I didn't vary much up, and I think next time, I might add some cinnamon to these, though maybe that's just because I really like cinnamon. And because I'm running out of vanilla extract.

They were fudgy, chewy, and crispy, all at the same time, thanks to the oats. He calls for toasted oats, but I find that when fighting over a kitchen with a bunch of other people, that's not really possible. When I finally did get control over the oven, it wasn't all easy sailing, but that may have made them tastier. The fact that the oven kept getting opened and closed (someone needed to make toast while I was using the oven), and all the rapping caused the brownies to collapse into a wonderful chewy goodness. (If you haven't noticed, I'm a fan of chewy brownies over cake-like ones.)

Granma's the only person who seemed disappointed by these brownies, but I think that's because she was expecting these brownies. Maybe one day I'll post the 9x9 version of that recipe... Winter break?

Decorated Oat Brownie
Oat Brownies
from Bruce Weinstein's The Ultimate Brownie Book
makes a 9-inch square pan of brownies (which is sixteen to the average person)

1/2 cup (63 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter
2 ounces (66g) semisweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips in a pinch)
2 ounces (66g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup (218 g) packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (120 g) rolled oats (he recommends toasting them for 5-7 minutes, I omitted this step)

Position oven rack in lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour/line with greased foil/whatever your preferred method of "preparing" a 9 in. square pan; set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Place butter and both kinds of chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring between, until the chocolate is melted and stir until smooth and all evenly melted. Set aside to cool. (Or do this over a double boiler, removing from heat as soon as chocolate is melted. Butter will finish melting as you stir.)

In a large bowl, beat the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and eggs with an electric mixer (or, if you're working on your arms, with a whisk for about 6 minutes) until sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick and creamy. Beat in vanilla and cooled chocolate mixture. Beat until smooth and uniform, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

With a spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the oats. Then fold in the four mixture until just incorporated. Don't beat up your brownie batter. Pour the batter into prepared pan and gently spread to corners.

Bake for 20 minutes or until top is dry and a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs.

Set aside to cool on a wire rack for a while. Cut into desires number of pieces and enjoy!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Friendly Hello


I'm back at school now, as anticipated in my previous post. I have my own room, with paper thin walls, a new set of metro shelving around my desk displaying my bowls and pans to tempt me from my studies (and because I have trouble reaching the shelf in my closet), and three very sweet suitemates, one of whom has a whole host of food sensitivities.

But I'm not one to purposely exclude people, especially not in the first few days back, so I offered to look up some recipes and make some gluten-free cupcakes that we could deliver to our fellow residents of the building, and that she could enjoy.

So together (though it was mostly her, I just did the grocery shopping and provided the materials and recipe printout) we made vanilla cupcakes, and then, along with our other two suite mates, wandered the halls of our residence hall, meeting new people. Except I don't really remember anyone I met yesterday, which isn't a good thing... But hopefully people remember my suite mate's name, because she's running for res college president. So shh... it's too soon to campaign yet.

Gluten-free Vanilla Cupcakes
adapted from Cupcakes Take The Cake
makes around 80 mini cupcakes

2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups gluten-free rice flour all-purpose mix (I used 400 grams of Gluten Free Pantry All Purpose Flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 cup canola oil
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups of favorite frosting (if not homemade, make sure it's gluten free)
Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Place cupcake liners in mini-muffin pans. You probably don't own enough pans, so you'll probably need to bake the muffins in batches.

Beat sugar and eggs in large bowl of electric mixer at medium speed for one minute. Add flour, salt, baking powder, xanthan gum, oil, milk, and vanilla and beat at medium speed for about a minute, or until batter is smooth.

Scoop batter in prepared baking pan. Place pans in center of oven (or in top and bottom thirds and rotate halfway through baking(, and bake for about 15 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for a few minutes, remove from pan and cool completely before icing with frosting of your choice.

Share and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summer's Almost Over Again?


I can't believe how much I've neglected my blog over the summer, but come to think of it, I've also neglected the kitchen. Between being busy surrounded by baked goods all day, not knowing when/who would be around for dinner, and being pretty tired after spending the day in 80º+ weather, I just never really cooked or baked much, all summer.

But that still doesn't excuse this neglect. There were things baked, there were things eaten. There were tasty salads that my dad whipped up from leftovers (can those ever be replicated though?). There was an almond pound cake I decided to bake in my 6" cake pan, with a batter-filled center that fell out-yet I managed to save it and it turned out quite delicious. There was my birthday cake, and adventures in making meringue buttercream that I ended up not using. There was a disgusting looking cake that was tasty to celebrate my friend's Notre Dame acceptance. There was my failure of a cake for my dad, that was eventually turned into a week of trifles. There was lots of smoky grilled salmon, courtesy of my dad.

But that still left me, somehow, with a blog with no posts since the beginning of June. It's the end of August practically, and I'm sitting in the waiting room while my mom's car gets serviced. And soon I'll be back to using a dorm kitchen, carrying my supplies up and down stairs, and making (and keeping) friends through their stomachs.

But I'll stop with my regretful babble. Because I have a recipe for you. It's kind of a tres leches cake, but I doubt it's very authentic, considering it's adapted from an old recipe from Cooking Light.

But it was a hit, despite being cut into 24 fairly small, yet rich, pieces, and served with some blueberries on the side. And the torched meringue top (sure, a broiler would've been easier, but where's the fun in that?) added a nice little twist as well, at least aesthetically, that is.

Tres Leches Cake
serves 12 (unless you make small pieces, in which case, 24 not-very-hungry people)

For the cake:
7 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup all purpose flour

For the milk mixture:
1 cup half-and-half
1 can (12-oz) evaporated milk (fat free or 2% work fine)
1 can (14-oz) sweetened condensed milk (fat free works fine)

For the meringue topping:
3 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease and flour a 9x13 pan. (I'm usually a fan of metal pans, but in this case, a pyrex dish might work better. I transferred mine to one after baking when I realized that it made more sense with the milk mixture.)

Place egg whites and salt in a large mixer bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add 2/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Place egg yolks and vanilla in a large bowl (most stand mixers won't be able to mix this amount, so whisk by hand or use hand beaters); beat until thick and pale. Fold 1/3 of egg white mixture into egg yolk mixture. Gently fold 1/3 cup of flour into egg mixture. Gently fold in another 1/3 of the egg whites. Fold in remaining 1/3 cup of flour, followed by the rest of the egg whites.

Spoon batter into prepared dish. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack.

For the milk mixture, combine the half-and-half, condensed milk, and evaporated milk in a 4 cup measuring cup, or bowl. Pierce all over the top of the cake with a fork, and pour the milk mixture slowly and evenly over the cake. It will be soaked, with milk mixture sitting on top a bit. Let it absorb for about 15 minutes or so.

For the meringue topping, beat 3 egg whites with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Combine 1 cup sugar and 1/3 cup of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 238°F. Beating the egg whites at high speed, pour the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over the egg whites. Stir in the extract. Spread over cake.

Refrigerate cake until ready to serve. Just before serving pop under the broiler for 10-15 seconds (keep an eye on it) or until the top is just lightly browned, or use a small torch and gently torch the top of the cake. (This step isn't necessary, but fun.)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bourbon Chocolate Layer Cake


Parents out of town. House to myself. Speakers set up. Saturday. Booze.

I'm not your typical teenager. Because all that added up to a layer cake for a family friend, not a crazy party. It was a variation of a cake I made for my RA's 21st birthday, the Chocolate Bourbon Cake from Simply Recipes. Only, instead of a bundt cake, I made a layer cake. Two 9 inch bourbon chocolate cake layers with whipped cream with a hint of bourbon in between and all around, and covered in a rich chocolate ganache.

I'll be honest, I don't know what it tasted like all together, but from the wonderful thank-you voicemail I receiver on Sunday night from the birthday boy, I can only imagine that it was tasty.

Bourbon Chocolate Layer Cake
cake from Simple Recipes
frosting and ganache from
The Cake Book by Tish Boyle

For cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (242 grams) all purpose flour
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/4 cup instant coffee or espresso (I used 2 Tablespoons of each)
1 cup bourbon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

For whipped cream filling/frosting:
1/2 cup (57 g) confectioner's (powdered) sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon bourbon whiskey

For chocolate ganache:
8 ounces (227 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream

To make cake layers:
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease 2 9" round cake pans. For easier removal, grease and line bottom with parchment as well.

Place instant coffee in a 2 cup measuring cup and pour boiling water up to the 1 cup line. Stir to dissolve. Stir in bourbon and salt; set aside to cool.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy and not grainy. Add eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, baking soda, and chocolate.

Add 1/3 of the whiskey mixture, followed by 1/2 of the flour mixture. Alternate the whiskey and flour, stirring or beating after each addition, with remaining whiskey and flour.

Divide evenly between prepared pans. Bake in oven for about 35 minutes, or until top is dry and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with one or two crumbs attached. Or clean.

Let cool in pans 15 minutes. Turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.

To make whipped cream:

In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and 1/2 cup of the cream until smooth. Place pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Allow to boil for about 15 seconds. Remove tthe pan from teh heat and let cool completely.

Once it cools, using the whisk attachment of an electric mizer, beat the remaining 2 1/2 cups of heavy cream with the vanilla extract and bourbon at medium-high speed until the cream begins to thicken and the whisk leaves a train in the cream. Add the cooled cream and cornstarch mixture and beat until stiff peaks.

To make chocolate ganache:
Place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a gentle boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for a minute. With a whisk, whisk the cream and chocolate until smooth. Let sit at room temperature until ready to use. If making far in advance, up to a week, refrigerate and warm to a pourable consistency. If the ganache is too cold before using it, place bowl over a bowl of simmering water, whisking until slightly warmed.

To assemble the cake:
Place to squares of parchment paper on a cake plate with the center crease across the diameter. Place the first cake layer face up on the plate. If overly domed, level the layers first.

Cover with about 1 cup of the whipped cream and spread to the sides. Top with other cake layer. Top with another cup of whipped cream and frost the top and sides of the cake. Freeze for about 5 minutes and then frost with remaining whipped cream. Freeze for 15 minutes.


Remove the cake from freezer and pour the chocolate ganache over the cake. Using an offset spatula, cover the cake with the ganache. Place in the fridge until set, and remove the parchment from under the cake.


Keep refrigerated until about 30 minutes before serving.

Friday, June 04, 2010

A Pretty Disappointment


Last week I picked up the most recent issue of Cooking Light along with some groceries. I can't exactly carry my computer on the train with me, and cookbooks are too heavy, so something else would have to keep me entertained and help me come up with ideas during my three hours of commuting, though only maybe an hour of it is available for reading. I mentally kept track of the recipes that looked interesting, took ideas from some and followed others quite carefully, such as the Herbed Ricotta Tart. And tonight's recipe, the Peach Soup with a Shrimp and Crab Ceviche.

Now, I'm sure this recipe could be tasty. And I did halve it, not very well. And maybe the peach skins imparted an unpleasant bitterness, but I normally don't mind the extra fiber or the added texture.

Simple recipes require tasty ingredients. There isn't anything to mask the flaws, and therein may lie my problem. The shrimp was a little tough (pre-cooked and found in the freezer), the crab was crabby (my dad's description) and an overpriced disappointment, and the limes were bitter. But of course, I failed to taste the lime juice, really couldn't do anything about the crab meat at that point, and despite some salt, and the peaches sweetness, the bitterness overwhelmed the dish.

Fortunately, the night was saved by Wednesday night's leftovers from Klay Oven. And the chips and salsa my dad ate when he first got home and I was running behind on dinner due to bad planning, and getting home only an hour before him.

So, my summer continues, busy with work, and experimenting with dinners. And so far I've learned, just because it's pretty, doesn't mean it's tasty.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

The KFC Double Down Adventure: By Ashleigh

This is a stick-up! I want everyone to put their forks in the air slowly and hand over your good taste.


Ah, so this blog is a usually bastion of fine desserts and food, but here to bring some REAL CLASS is I, the ubiquitous Ashleigh, bringing you the wonders of the ultra-classy KFC Double Down. But really, this entry will be about the ridiculous lengths taken to acquire this gold-standard of fast food ridiculosity and how the DD is really just the culmination of a thousand of years of globalized oppression brought on by the…ahem. Nothing to see here! Moving on.

fb-4115It all started with some ITG (In the Groove, the slightly more difficult and apparently more awesome version of DDR). No, actually, it started with Colin picking my friends (Mar and Agent Tsai) and me up from the 40, but really, who needs to know that? (Except now you know all of the characters in this little drama, see that was clevar.) So, we went to the arcade, owned some noobs at Ski Ball, got owned at ITG (except for Colin.) and decided to leave when the locals decided to cut in line and take off their shirts BEFORE playing.

I never thought I’d be thankful for douches but…I have a new found appreciation for them, as Axe-drenched tornado warnings. No sooner than we had buckled our seat-belts, the tornado sirens went off. Me, being a hardened Kansas veteran of many severe storms, determined, since the sky was not yet green, that we should go find a KFC anyway and watch the radar as we went. It was a great idea, and was working until Susan (the GPS) started taking us right into the middle of the storm. And then the sky turned green. And then we made a U-turn. Colin suggested that we go home and so Mar pushed the correct buttons on the GPS and we were off. As this point, my brain switched into full storm-excitement mode aka OMG I LOVE STORMS OMGOMGOMG THIS IS SO AWESOME mode ™. I was just staring at the sky, taunting my friends back home via text (who were super jealous), and occasionally offering reassurances to the team (yeah, we’re a team now). So, I didn’t really watch where we were going. I did start paying attention when we started crossing the river.

Me: “Hey Colin. I thought you lived near the university.”
Colin: “yeah, I do. Why?”
Me: “Uhm, we’re crossing the river.”
Colin: “#$@!”
Me: “Hey Mariam, did you press the ‘home’ button on Susan?”
Mar: “Yessss…”
Me: “Well, Colin’s from New Hampshire.”
Mar & AT: “…”

So they say everything happens for a reason, and in this case, by getting turned around in ghetto East St. Louis, we managed to avoid the worst of the storm AKA death by tornado. By the time we made it back across town, the sun was shining, the freeway was slightly flooded, and KFC was looking fantastic.


Susan decided not to be a jerk and guided us to the objective of the day. Too exhausted to brave the unsanitary confines of the restaurant, we opted for the drive-thru and the relative comfort of the apartment, which brings me to the food part of this blog.


The KFC Double Down, as you might know, is a “bunless” sandwich that consists of cheese, “Colonel Sauce” (mayonnaise, for real), and two pieces of bacon between two pieces of fried chicken. I’m probably going to shock the whole blogosphere by saying this, but it’s really not that gross. Honestly, if you slapped the whole thing between two buns, we’d have a double chicken burger with bacon. Which IS disgustingly disgusting, but it’s not the harbinger of doom that everyone’s been freaking out about. The most horrible thing about it was that it was incredibly salty, just like KFC’s fried chicken. I was genuinely disappointed in the lack of greasy-monstrosityness. As far as taste goes, it was very salty, so it was “good,” meaning that the four of us ate it rather quickly and guiltily. Sadly, the bacon and sauce were buried between the chicken breasts, and only a hint of cheese managed to squeeze through. In a way, this blog entry is like the Double Down, in that the two anecdotes that encapsulate the point of the entry are greater and more delicious than the objective.

We couldn’t subsist on a few bites of fried chicken alone after a long day of being storm chased, so we decided to take Agent Tsai (a Canadian) to Steak ‘n Shake, because “they don’t have those in Canada.” So, battle-scarred and hungry, we piled into the Subaru and told Susan to take us to the nearest SnS (but not before we gawked at a full double-bow rainbow for five minutes). Well, Susan decided to be a complete wanker and direct us to a Steak ‘n Shake that DID NOT EXIST. It was like the Twilight Zone, but unlike the Twilight Zone, we didn’t receive a somewhat twisted moral lesson or become trapped in some sort of inter-dimensional rift, I just yelled at the GPS and we found one that actually existed. Not quite as awesome, but I digress. Steak ‘n Shake, was well, steak(ish) for the half that couldn’t have a shake. The other half had shakes, but no steak. Did that just blow your mind? Because it really shouldn’t. I had the Frisco melt, which was a SNS burger on sourdough with “Frisco sauce” (just a crude imitation of the perfection that is In-N-Out’s Special Sauce). It was pretty good, although I really wasn’t paying attention to it; I was really hungry, and jealous of Mar’s mocha/vanilla shake. (Curse you lactose intolerance!) I think the ice cube sculptures were the best part of the meal…no, our waiter aka “Robo-man” was the best part. I think he might have been lobotomized. Because of lactose-challenged status of half of our group, we decided to seek dessert elsewhere.


Well, yours truly had a “brilliant” idea that we should procure a dessert-only reservation at Harvest. A couple of older, more knowledgeable college students had informed me that Harvest had excellent desserts, and had been there in casual wear. So, running with that information, we made reservations (that should have been our first clue) and finally made it there after becoming lost AGAIN. (Incidentally, Susan was grounded for a few weeks.) So, the amazing desserts thing was correct, but the casual wear? Let’s just add this experience to the awkward-things-Ashleigh-has-dragged-her-friends-into list. However, our waitress was wonderful, courteous, and kind. She suggested the bread pudding which everyone, except for Agent Tsai, ordered. I am not exaggerating when I say that this dessert was the best thing I’ve eaten in St. Louis, and possibly the best dessert I’ve ever had. It was warm, not too chewy, and the cream complimented the sweet vanilla bourbon sauce perfectly; the currants were an added bonus. It was a golden and glorious ending to our gastronomic adventure (that was only supposed to last a few hours by the way). Unfortunately, there are no photos of this wonderful dish, as we were all too cowed to whip out our cameras.

So thus ends my tale of April 24, 2010, despite its supreme ridiculousness, probably one of the best days of my freshman year. There’s something wonderfully relieving, de-stressing, and dare I say it, enjoyable about engaging in a good bout of insanity. (yeah, I just screwed up that parallelism. English teachers the world over just face-palmed) Many thanks to Colin for providing transportation and enabling the whole adventure, to Mar for letting me hijack this blog, and to Agent Tsai, for being a bulwark of stoicism in the midst of the storm. (aka silently panicking in the backseat. Well, to be fair, Mar was assisting, and Colin was “passive-aggressively” panicking, although I suppose he had a reason, being the driver and all.)

FUN FACT: This blog entry is longer than my last music history essay over 17th-century madrigals. Mar, this is how much I love you.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kitchen, Knife, and Rootstock?


Since I've gone to school my mom keeps mentioning restaurants to me that I've never heard of, whether they be new restaurants or restaurants they'd just never been to before. One of those restaurants, Rootstock, I heard about from both my mom AND one of her friends via twitter. I ate there with my parents back on December 29th, and, thanks to the contents of our fridge at the time, decided I'd write down the description of one of their flatbreads that sounded tasty and try to recreate my idea of it the following evening:
Prosciutto, garlic herbed sheeps milk cheese, arugula, brandied cranberry vinaigrette & pistachio


I never did get around to giving it a try, despite buying cranberry juice, pizza dough, and having serrano ham, manchego, and arugula in the fridge. (I never said it was going to be exactly the same thing, considering I don't actually know what exactly it is.)

Well, now, 135 days later, I've finally given it a try. Only without the prosciutto. And, okay, not really the same thing at all, but it was still tasty. The dressing was quite sour and strong (I liked it), and I served it with another idea from Rootstock's menu, via their website. This description: Black Earth organic burger, bacon-scallion aioli, red onion, Fiscilini cheddar, w/ mezclun greens & house pickles

Well, that translated into mini bunless burgers, and the use of a few shortcuts. No homemade aioli - yogurt was used instead, but the red onions were sauteed in lard (I know, I can't even believe I just said that. What happened to me in college?).


All in all, it was probably a bit adventurous for my first night back in a kitchen. But hey, there's always take-out if nothing turns out edible.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

an idea a month in the making


So on April Fool's Day, I met my friend for dinner and he brought up the idea of putting nutella into brownies. Much to his surprise, I told him that I'd seen recipes for such a thing before, and we planned to meet again to bake some soon.

Soon is a relative term, and the semester is now almost over, and it wasn't until reading week that we were able to find a mutually agreeable time to bake the brownies. Which aren't just nutella brownies, they're nutella cheesecake brownies from alpine berry.

Her recipe is surprisingly simple, and extraordinarily rich. I didn't quite follow it (I'm sorry, but did I really need to unwrap that third stick of butter? The answer: no), but the brownies turned out anyway.

However, a week ago I made more sweet corn brownies, and my pan disappeared. I had to borrow a pan to make these brownies, and when I get home, I'll have to replace my pan. I'm not looking forward to that - I'm super indecisive, it took me forever to pick out a bundt cake. But I'll be optimistic, I have about 89 more hours for it to turn up before I completely lose hope.

And, it's not the end of the world. It's just a pan.

Nutella Brownie Cheesecake
adapted from alpine berry
Makes a 9x13 pan of very fudgy brownies

Brownie layer:
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread)
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup natural cocoa powder

Cheesecake layer:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment or greased aluminum foil.

First, make the brownie layer:
Combine butter, Nutella, eggs, and sugar in a large bowl and mix well. Stir in flour and cocoa powder and mix until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Set aside.

For the cheesecake layer, beat together the cream cheese and sugar. Beat in the eggs and Nutella until well combined.* Pour over brownie batter in pan.

Bake until the cheesecake layer looks set, about 50 minutes. Allow brownies to cool completely in the pan before cutting. If storing, keep refrigerated.

*I originally combined all the ingredients for the cheesecake layer together at once, but it was a little lumpy. Hopefully this will solve that problem.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Well, I could've been at a frat, but I decided to bake a cake instead


I've been throwing out bananas a lot lately. It's really a shame. On top of it being a waste of perfectly good bananas, it's also a waste of money. Usually I have the foresight to throw ripe bananas into the freezer, but in falsely believing that "I'll just use them tomorrow," they get to be too black to even consider saving.

After a delicious three-course meal last night, courtesy of a very friendly family whose daughter is trying to decide where to go to school next year, my roommate and I returned to our room a bit after ten. And I saw the bananas.

I was going to make banana cookies, but there were three bananas. And I don't really have the patience to make a triple batch of cookies by myself. All that scooping would get old awfully fast.

So I decided I'd use my bundt pan, and some of the bananas already in the freezer. I picked out a recipe, started to defrost 5 bananas, and made a grocery list of things I could get on campus (plain yogurt, however, is not a possibility, but sour cream is!), and got to work. Well, sort of. Along the way, I was given the offer of going to a fraternity party, which has been on my to-do list for a while, but those bananas were calling my name. It'll just have to wait until another night.

And this cake is tasty, so I'd say worth the alone time. Granted, someone walked in on me dancing around the kitchen to All Time Low at 2 in the morning in an effort to keep myself awake, but hey, it was the awesome smell wafting down the hall that attracted them, so I'd say that's always a good sign.

Nutella-Swirled Banana Cake
heavily based on this
makes 1 large bundt

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 6-8 bananas)
1 cup (8 oz container) sour cream
1 1/2 cups chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan, set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until the sugar is incorporated and it's nice and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the bananas and sour cream.

In a 4-cup microwave safe bowl, warm up the nutella for about 15-45 seconds, depending on your microwave, until it's easy to stir. Stir in about 2 cups of the banana batter.

To make a more swirled cake: Alternate between adding the banana and nutella batters to the pan; gently swirl batters together by running swirling a knife through the batter after it has all been poured into the pan.

For a less swirled cake: Pour the banana batter into the pan. Pour the nutella batter on top of it.

Bake for 70-90 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted not near an edge comes out with just a few crumbs attached.

You may need to cover the top of the cake with foil to prevent it from overbrowning. If you have a 10-cup bundt pan, like me (I think), it's going to come up over the top of the pan, making for a less pretty cake that bakes slightly less evenly, but it still delicious.

Alternatively, you could use 2 loaf plans; reduce the bake time to 60-70 minutes.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Drunken Birthdays


So today is my RA's 21st birthday. One of my floormates told me this fact last night around 10 pm. Which gave me limited time to think: Nutella Brownies for which I have all the necessary ingredients; the omnipresent banana oatmeal cookies; or, I could be "cheeky" and go with a bourbon cake. I was originally aiming for a bourbon pecan cake, since I love bourbon pecan sauce, but I couldn't find one that would be easy enough to make. And it seemed like most bourbon cakes called for bundt pans, which until 6 hours ago, I didn't have.

But with my heart set on making a bourbon cake, I made one. Even after the floormate who was going to make the cake with me had a sudden schedule conflict, I was undeterred, leading to a conflict of my own (oops!). I hung out in the kitchen alone, blasting my iPod and keeping track of the number of songs were by bands I'd seen live (62% of them were, in case you were wondering.) Once the cake had uneventfully made its way into the oven in my new pan, I settled down to read an article for my writing class as the lounge began to smell like a warm and comforting combination of whiskey and chocolate. I think I may have violated Redd Flag policy, with the wonderful smells wafting from the kitchen, but I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get in trouble for it. I mean, my RA did seem to like her cake...


This cake is boozy, quite so. There is no doubt that it's a bourbon cake, not at all. I think I sort of shocked my RA with it. She did call me "cheeky" for making a bourbon cake, and, in the e-mail that she sent out to the floor, made sure to note that this is the only time she'll ever be offering us something with alcohol in it.


So without further ado, here's the link to Elise's recipe. I didn't mess with it, except for not sprinkling the cake with bourbon after removing it from the pan. I used 72% cacao chocolate, and instant coffee. And so far, the cake has had a positive response. You just might not want to "taste" the batter. But really, this chocolate bourbon cake is definitely worth giving a try.

Oh, and those nutella brownies? Hold tight, because I plan on trying those out soon. And who knows, now that I have a bundt pan, I might just have to make another bundt cake sometime.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Springtime and Easter


My friend's mom sent her easter cookie cutters and colored sugar, among other things, in the mail. So of course, she had the perfect excuse to make sugar cookies. A bit of planning, some distressed phone calls to her mom, and five people in a small dorm kitchen later, magic happened. Well, if sugar cookies can be considered, that is.


Sugar Cookies
recipe from Ashleigh's mom, we halved it, as reflected here, for a small and manageable amount of cookies

2 sticks (1/2 lb) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. Slowly beat in flour. If dough is too sticky, add slightly more flour.

Roll dough out onto a floured surface to about 1/4" thickeness. Cut out into desired shapes. Reroll scraps.

Place on cookie sheet about 1/2" apart. Bake 7-12 minutes, or until edges are a light golden brown. Be careful, they can go from pasty looking to sunburnt really quickly.

Let cool. Frost or ice as desired.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fall Dessert For Spring Break


So I have problems with seasons? Is that really that bad? I mean, it feels like summer right now, there's piles of snow on the ground, and grocery stores carry practically everything year round. How am I supposed to not be confused?

Apples are delicious. Especially when they aren't of the Red Delicious variety, but more tart, like a Granny Smith, or crisp, like a Braeburn. I'm happy now. And you should be, too. I'm updating, and sharing a sort of recipe for something quite tasty. But maybe, just maybe, you should wait for cooler weather come November to make this. Because right now, I think something along the lines of lemon cheesecake fits the weather better. But maybe not the season.

But instead, out of the oven comes what resembles an apple crumble or cobbler, minus the topping. Spooned into bowls and topped with a maple whipped cream, it was a tasty ending to my dad's delicious dinner, far too fancy to be eaten on the couch while watching the Academy Awards. But that's (sort of) just what we did.


And this is also a testament to the reason I shouldn't start posts and finish them a month later. I don't remember what I did to make that. I just remember it contains apples, cinnamon, and maple syrup, and maybe some salt baked in the oven. And that the whipped cream was heavy whipping cream that I attempted to use almond extract in, didn't like the results, and covered it up with maple syrup. And then topped it with almonds, that if I had the foresight, I would have toasted.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Just In Time For Valentine's Day


Raspberries. Chocolate. Two things my friend Ashleigh likes. Like I have in the past, I asked a few weeks ago for a flavor. She named strawberries. Next, I asked our friend who was going to help me for his idea. Brownies. But he just really likes brownies, so I wasn't too surprised.

Somehow the idea to make raspberry cheesecake brownies turned into deep dark raspberry brownies. Which is good. They're kind of like the raspberry brownies I used to get as a kid, a variation on the classic LMG brownies that so many people I know now miss. But that's okay, I've got them down. Sort of. The regular ones with the walnuts that is. It just takes a lot of strength to make a half sheet pan's worth of them.

But not to get carried away and completely off track, because those aren't the brownies we're talking about. Well, they are, but not quite. Because these rich, dense, fudgy morsels are not for the faint. Or for those who can't wield a heavy knife, because trying to cut these with a butter knife will lead to blisters. Trust me. They're also worth the blisters. And if you can find seedless jam, you might want to try it with that instead. Or straining your jam. But hey, I'm a lazy college student.

And while I made these as a birthday present, they're also the perfect Valentine's Day dessert. Unless you want to be boring and cliche and make a chocolate souffle.

Raspberry Brownies
Raspberry Dark Chocolate Brownies
adapted from The Professional Pastry Chef
makes an 8x8" pan of brownies, cut into desired size (about 30?)

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Grease an 8" square pan (for easier removal, line with two pieces of foil with a 1" overhang, grease the foil as well) and set aside.

In a double boiler or a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt together the chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Set aside to let cool a bit.

In a medium bowl beat together sugar, eggs, and vanilla until pale and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes.

If slightly cooled melted chocolate is not already in a large bowl, transfer it to a large bowl. Fold the egg mixture into the chocolate. Stir in the flour (it doesn't hurt to sift it, but it's not necessary.)

Pour most of batter into prepared pan. Spread raspberry jam over top. Add remaining batter and smooth top.

Bake in over for about 30 minutes or until top is dry to the touch and a toothpick comes out not looking like raw batter has completely attacked it, but not entirely clean either. If the toothpick comes out clean you've overbaked the brownies. They will continue to cook as they cool.

Let cool completely before cutting, unless you want a big mess on your hands.

Sometimes it helps to refrigerate or freeze them to cut the brownies cleanly.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

"But, Everyday's My Birthday" Cake


I may not be the most observant person, but I'm not so blind as to not notice someone birthday when they've made a bit of a hullabaloo about it. Trying to convince me two months later that your birthday is two days away, well, I'm not going to buy that.

But that doesn't mean I won't bake a cake. I'll take any excuse to bake something. All you've got to do is ask. And then give me some time to get my act together and find my go-to recipe (that I usually use for ice cream cakes... but oh well).

So this time, I baked the cake (I wasn't supposed to do it alone, but I didn't realize that...) and then other people decorated it, after realizing what I was doing and getting all excited. I brought a pastry bag and a couple tips with me, and decorating is not really my thing, so I was more than happy to oblige.

It was kind of crazy, and corresponded with Lost starting up again, so the floor was quite quiet. And the person the cake was for disappeared right after we gave it to him. I wonder what happened to the cake. It was just sitting on the table last time I looked.

"Because Everyday's  My Birthday"
Moist and Devilish Chocolate Cake (aka my go to Chocolate Layer Cake Base)
from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book
Makes 1 9-inch cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup natural cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup neutral oil
2 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease and flour a 9x3" round cake pan.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk in sugar, followed by oil.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla extract. Stir into the flour mixture. Gradually whisk in boiling water until smooth.

Pour into prepared pan (if your pan is smaller, pour 2/3 way up the sides and use remaining batter to make cupcakes.)

Bake 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached and the top springs back when lightly touched.

Another Buttercream Frosting
adapted from somwhere, I need to stop scribbling recipes onto scraps of paper

1 stick (4 oz) butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 t. salt
4-5 teaspoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter in a medium-large bowl until fluffy, about 30 seconds. Beat in sugar, salt, milk, and vanilla until no lumps remain and the frosting is fluffy!

Use as desired. Spread on with a knife or spatula, pipe on with a bag, or do whatever else it is you do with buttercream frosting.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

making waffles in a waffle iron, what a novel idea!


This morning my friend made pancakes and I made waffles. Her pancakes were fun, but not without their mishaps. There was the overheated pan, the overly reduced and cooked raspberry sauce, and some burnt butter involved... but none of that stopped it from being fun and tasty. Seven people in a tiny kitchen, random people walking in to use the microwave and looking at us like we're crazy, messes, pancakes in a mug... So, pretty much, an amazing Saturday morning.


Followed by a semi-productive evening that was derailed by my refusal to go to the library and study and the noise across the hall. Everyone just left to go bowling, informed me I'm lame for staying in, and I'm updating this. Next up: sleep. Then I'll read some more about Thomas Jefferson. But I'm already starting to wish I'd gone bowling. Oh well.

Banana Waffles
This was originally a pancake recipe from a book called Pancakes and Waffles, I think. I don't have the book with me, my mom e-mailed me the recipe last night. We made them as pancakes with sliced bananas last Saturday, and they were tasty that way as well. I used rice flour instead of oat flour, like was called for, and 1/2 cup yogurt. I would probably use more milk in them if making pancakes though, which is why I decided it would make a good waffle batter. I'm currently wondering if I could use 1 1/3 cups ap flour instead of an alternative, but I don't know much about flours.
Makes 8-10 waffles

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup oat flour
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup (6 oz) yogurt
2 small bananas, mashed

In a large bowl mix together flours, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. In a small bowl whisk together egg, milk, yogurt, and bananas. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until combined.

Cook in waffle iron according to manufacturer's directions. Or make pancakes. See note above.