:: Salted Fudge Brownies ::

I had a realization this morning, right between a couple of big gulps of coffee.

The rise in my chocolate consumption lately directly correlates with the increase of gray skies and cold spring rain.
That’s all the explanation one needs, really. After that chocolate cake I made not too far off in recent memory, I wanted to try something different. Just not so different that it was outside of the chocolate box. I recently had salted caramel ice cream at Molly Moon’s in Wallingford. I was instantly hooked to the salty/sweet contrast. These brownies have a discrete hint of salt- it’s perfect.
Make these a few hours before you know you will be craving them. They take a while to cool. Just a word to the wise.

::: Ingredients :::

·  1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
·  2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
·  1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
·  2 cups sugar
·  3 large eggs
·  1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
·  1 cup all-purpose flour
·  1/2 teaspoon sea salt

::: Directions :::

>> Preheat the oven to 350º. Next, cover a 9 x 9 pan with foil and butter the foil slightly. This will make cutting the brownies at the end a lot easier.

>> In a large saucepan, melt the butter and the unsweetened chocolate on a very low setting and stir occasionally. Once melted together, remove from heat.

>> Whisk together, one at a time until fully combined, the cocoa, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour. Then, pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle an even layer of sea salt over the top of the batter. Next, take a butter knife and swirl the salt into the batter.

>> Bake on the center rack for 35 min. or until the edges are firm, but the middle slightly soft. Allow brownies to cool for at least an hour at room temperature; place in the refrigerator for an hour. (The waiting is well worth it, I promise.) Once cooled completely, remove the foil from the pan and cut brownies into 16 pieces.

**I found this recipe via www.foodandwine.com

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Dessert, N

Cake or Pie? The Best Chocolate Cake

Important life question today folks:

Are you a Cake or a Pie person?

I know, you either have a deep seeded affinity to one and only one, or you enjoy both without extreme sway to either. I, myself, am a cake person. Plain and simple. I would do just about anything for a scrumptious slice of cake.

Your answer to this question says a lot about you as a person. Pie people are complex. Think about a pie, so many crucial components to a good pie. First, the crust. A good pie crust is few and far between. It takes a know-how and talent to pull off a flaky, buttery, delicious crust. And then there’s the filling. Where do you even begin? Cream or fruit pie? Cream pies are beyond me. I’ve never had a good experience with cream pie.
* The only exception to my pie aversion is my Grandma Tessman’s Gooseberry and Blueberry Pie.

Cake on the other hand is simple. Chocolate or vanilla? Definitely always chocolate cake for this girl. The second and only other worry with cake is the frosting. Yes, I love cake, but any great cake can be ruined with over-the-top frosting.
I am simply smitten with cream cheese frosting, cake or not. Or this odd but lip-smacking good frosting.

I found this on the Pioneer Woman Cooks website and decided to give it a whirl. Boy, I am ever so glad I tried this recipe. My sister is thanking me as well, even Nathan reluctantly tried a bite… and then a second, and third. This cake may even be on the dangerous side. You might hurt yourself after the first bite. It may or may not lead you to eat half the pan. So moist, and chocolaty, ah so scrumptious!

Don’t just sit there.
Make this cake!

:: The Best Chocolate Cake. Ever. ::

·  2 cups Flour
·  2 cups Sugar
·  ¼ teaspoons Salt
·  4 Tablespoons (heaping) Cocoa
·  2 sticks Butter
·  1 cup Boiling Water
·  ½ cups Buttermilk
(I didn’t have buttermilk and was in dire need of cake, so I used organic milk and it was just fine!)
·  2 whole Beaten Eggs
·  1 teaspoon Baking Soda
·  1 teaspoon Vanilla

Preparation Instructions

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.

In a saucepan, melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Add the boiling water and allow the chocolate-buttery-goodness mixture to boil for 30 seconds and then cut the heat. Combine with the dry ingredients and let it cool off for a bit.

In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk, or whatever milk you may have in your fridge, and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate/flour mixture. Pour into sheet cake pan (I used a pyrex and while it was extra thick and luscious, I think next time I will split the batter into a couple of pyrex dishes or invest in a sheet cake pan) and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes. Since I used a much smaller dish I had to cook the cake a lot longer. Not to fret if this happens to you, you can easily check the doneness of the cake with a toothpick into the center. If the toothpick is gooey when you remove it from the cake then throw it back in the oven for a short while.

p.s. My apologies for the lack of photos. The cake was gone before our eyes, it’s THAT good.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dessert, N

Mom’s Chicken Chili

Don’t get me wrong – I love sharing the kitchen. Nothing beats having two sets of hands when things get busy. But today I have the kitchen to myself. While still technically unfinished (the flooring and painting are next), I’m done waiting for the ribbon cutting. The big “first meal” will have to wait a little bit longer, but I’m ready to get back in there.

So what’s for dinner tonight? That’s easy: my mom’s chicken chili (my partner in crime has an open petition to change the name to something like “white bean and chicken soup” or “french white bean cassoulet” since this dish isn’t what you’d picture a hearty chili to be, but I’ll let you decide what to call it). I’ve always known it to be a family recipe – one that’s been tweaked over the years by each new cook. To me it smells like home. And on a cloudy day like today, I need a warm reminder of home.

Chicken Chili (6-8 servings)

1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs olive oil
3, 15 ounce cans navy/white beans (or 4 1/2 cups pre-soaked and cooked dry beans)
3-4 ounces chicken broth
1 tbs chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1, 4 ounce can mild chillies (or 1 fresh, diced Anaheim chile)
2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and garlic in oil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Drain and rinse beans, add to pot, and cover with chicken broth (I use 4 ounces for soup or 3 ounces for a thicker chili). Add chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Simmer 3 minutes. Incorporate chicken and chillies and let simmer 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.

This chili is fantastic with some crusty bread and a glass of white wine. The flavors will continue to grow over time, so this is a great do-ahead lunch option for a cold winter week.

9 Comments

Filed under A, Dinner

Birthday Wishes

I feel like I keep saying and writing the same thing – the kitchen is still under construction. Though there has been some progress, it’s still too dusty to really cook. Boil water, sure, but prepping for an actual meal at this point would be close to impossible. The utensils and appliances are strewn about the house not to mention the pile of tiling equipment taking up the dining room and spilling onto the kitchen floor. It’s like navigating a ropes course just to pour a bowl of cereal in the morning. Needless to say, it’s been a take-out kind of week. It’s making me ansty.

On to the birthday wishes: today is my sister’s birthday! Since she is the other half of this blog and an amazing person all around, I wanted to surprise her with a cake or something delicious. The best I could do was a store-bought cheesecake at midnight. Oh well – there is always next year. And the year after. And the one after that.

To my beautiful sister: I wish you joy, love and adventure in the year to come.

1 Comment

Filed under A, Other

Yam Stir-fry

Kitchen update: I should know by now that construction always takes longer than I think it’s going to. By three times, at least. The countertops are in and the plumbing is complete but the tile and flooring are dragging out the length of the project considerably. Cooking in a swirl of dust is not ideal so I’m writing instead about a stir-fry we made last week. I hope to get back to baking soon, but here is a picture of the progress to tide you over (the new tile and flooring are laid out but not yet attached)!

I love stir-fry. Simple, delicious, and a great way to use up the vegetable tidbits floating around the fridge. Cabbage in a stir-fry? That was new to me, but I decided to give it a shot and was pleasantly surprised! It adds a little spicy crunch to the dish and loads of color in contrast with the orange yams and fresh green cilantro. In fact, the beauty of this stir-fry alone is enough to make it a regular on my dinner menu.

This recipe came from Epicurious, though I’ve excluded chicken in my version (it’s great either way, so feel free to experiment). Hoisin can be found in Asian markets and specialty stores. If you’re having trouble finding it in your area, I recommend ordering a bottle from Soy Vay.

Yam stir-fry with Red Cabbage and Hoisin (4 servings)

2 tbs Asian sesame oil, divided
2 yams (red-skinned sweet potatoes – about 1 pound), peeled, cut crosswise into 1/3 inch-thick rounds, then cut into 1/3 inch-wide strips
1 medium red onion, cut lengthwise into 1/3 inch slices
1 tbs fresh ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups red cabbage (about 1/4 medium head), sliced into 1/3 inch-thick strips
3 tbs hoisin sauce
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided

Heat 1 tbs sesame oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add yams and onion, cooking until yams are just tender. Adjust heat if yams are browning too quickly and add water by the tablespoons if mixture is dry, about 12 minutes.

Add remaining 1 tbs oil, ginger and garlic to skillet. Stir-fry 1 minute. Toss in cabbage and cook until wilted but still slightly crunchy, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in hoisin sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in 1/2 cup cilantro.

Transfer to serving bowl and sprinkle with remaining cilantro. Enjoy!

2 Comments

Filed under A, Dinner

Kitchen Makeover

It’s finally here! Our new kitchen countertops go in today. Having been under various stages of construction since last November, I am ready to have my kitchen to myself.

It’s on rainy days like this that I want to start a pot of spaghetti, bake some bread, and leaf through cookbooks over a steaming mug of tea. Instead I will hole up in my office and peek around the corner occasionally to see the progress in what will surely be my new favorite room in the house. Until then, help us choose our first meal/dessert!

4 Comments

Filed under A, Other

Marshmallows

I don’t remember the first time I had marshmallows. It was probably during a family camping trip to Yellowstone National Park or the Grand Tetons. I imagine my dad spearing a marshmallow with a whittled stick and helping me hold it over the campfire until it had turned to a soft golden brown. Oh so sweet and sticky – I can only guess how large a mess I made as I consumed one after another.

Homemade marshmallows? That’s a more recent and far more memorable discovery. During a vacation to Maui, Hawaii, in 2006, we stumbled upon a small restaurant overlooking the ocean in Lahina. After devouring a mahi mahi and avocado burger (one of many consumed over the next week) we ordered homemade marshmallows with chocolate fondue. I was in heaven, to say the least.

I’ve never thought about making marshmallows at home before. I didn’t even realize it was possible – I’m slow sometimes, what can I say. I don’t know what changed exactly but I was finally ready to give it a go. This recipe is adapted from Cooking for Engineers. I chose to start with an eggless recipe, but there are many other variations out there.

Marshmallows (approx. 40 large pieces)

3 tbs (21 g) gelatin
3/4 cups (180 mL) cold water, divided
2 cups (400 g) sugar (I use vanilla sugar for extra flavor)
2/3 cups (160 mL) corn syrup (I use light corn syrup)
1/4 tsp (1.5 g) salt
1 tbs (15 mL) vanilla extract
Powdered sugar

Grease a 9×13 pan and dust with powdered sugar. Set aide. Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in mixer bowl. Let bloom for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add 2 cups sugar, 2/3 cups corn syrup, and remaining 1/4 cup water in a pot. Bring mixture to a boil and, using a candy thermometer, allow the temperature to pass 250 °F (120°C).

Note: A stand mixer is far superior for this next part, though a handheld mixer will do. If you are using a handheld mixer, be sure to have a dish towel handy to control splattering.

Run mixer on lowest setting and slowly incorporate boiling sugar syrup. Add 1/4 tsp salt after the syrup and gelatin have fully mixed together. Increase the mixer speed being careful not to splatter yourself. The mixture will begin to whiten and fluff after a few minutes time. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and adjust the mixer speed to high. This is where I ran into trouble. As you can imagine, marshmallow goo is rather sticky. And it loves to crawl up the beaters. I kept picturing it enveloping the mixer, overtaking my arms, and finally encasing me in a cocoon of sorts. So I exaggerate… but I did manage to cover my counter tops, apron, and hair in marshmallow splatter. Lesson learned.

When the marshmallow has stopped increasing in size (it’s more of an “eye-balling” thing, as my mother would say – but expect 8-12 minutes of mixing), add 1 tbs vanilla extract. Once incorporated, stop the mixer and pour into the previously prepared pan. Smooth with a spatula (easier said than done) and set aside for at least 3 hours to cool.

Cover a cutting board or clean surface with powdered sugar and ease the marshmallow upside down out of the pan. Using a pizza cutter, slice marshmallows one row and then piece at a time, rolling each in powdered sugar until they are no longer sticky.

These marshmallows have been a big hit at my house. So far they’ve appeared in hot chocolate, s’mores, and bowls of ice cream. I have some more experimenting to do (flavors and coloring), but I’ve overcome my fear of making marshmallows!

6 Comments

Filed under A, Dessert