Tag Archives: chocolate

bon appétit’s browned butter brownies

28 Mar

I feel particularly devilish watching an entire stick of butter melt into a frothy pool. If you wait a little longer, foam gives way to reveal brown specks with a distinct toasty aroma. It brings me great joy to pour this liquid gold over pasta, especially homemade butternut squash ravioli.

On a recent cover, Bon Appétit featured a nefarious stack of Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts. Browned butter in a brownie? Yes, please!

I whipped up a batch for a trip to wine country knowing they’d pair nicely with my favorite late harvest zin at Bella. I love that these brownies achieve the chewy and fudgey texture of a store-bought mix with a unique dimension of nutty flavor from the browned butter. I used unsweetened cocoa power from Scharffen Berger and substituted semi-sweet chocolate chips for the walnuts. Perhaps the extra chocolate chips were a bit over-the-top, but I’m sure any stoner would whole-heartedly approve.

browned butter brownies
gnaw-ty chocolate treat

* 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
* 1 1/4 cups sugar
* 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Scharffen Berger)
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2 large eggs, chilled
* 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
* 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or walnuts)

Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 8 x 8 x 2-inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and 1⁄4 teaspoon (generous) salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Stir in chocolate chips (or nuts). Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 35 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 brownies. Makes 16 pieces.

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dark chocolate bacon cupcakes

2 Feb

Oh no you didn’t! Oh yes, I did. Bacon in the batter. Bacon in the frosting. Bacon garnish… I’m such a pig.

I blame January’s issue of Food & Wine for my renewed obsession with bacon. According to their keenly calculated trend predictions, breakfast foods are set to make a huge comeback in 2011, especially my dear friend bacon.

Last month was J’s birthday. Like myself, J doesn’t care much for sweets, so I immediately began brainstorming savory desserts. Something nutty? Cheese-y? Meaty? Mmmmmyes.

Coffee, rich Scharffen Berger cocoa, buttermilk, and a whole pound of bacon… it’s the stuff birthday dreams are made of. Moist dark chocolate cake (healthily embedded with bacon bits) meets “baconcream” frosting and a crispy strip of the good stuff. Hello, bacon cupcakes!

dark chocolate bacon cupcakes
the whole hog

cupcakes:
* 1 lb. bacon
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 2 cups sugar
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2 eggs
* 1 cup cold, strong, brewed coffee
* 1 cup buttermilk
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil

frosting:
* 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
* 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/3 cup butter
* 1/2 cup of reserved bacon fat
* 1/3 cup evaporated milk
* 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Reserve bacon fat for frosting, drain bacon on paper towels, crumble 3/4 of the bacon strips and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, 3/4 cup cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the eggs, coffee, buttermilk and oil. Stir just until blended. Mix in bacon bits, reserving the rest for garnish. Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, dividing evenly.

Bake in the preheated oven until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan set over a wire rack.

Prepare frosting: In a medium bowl, sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa, and set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and bacon fat until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with evaporated milk. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.

Frost cupcakes generously and decorate with reserved bacon strips. Makes 24 cupcakes.

thanksgiving digest

1 Dec

Why does it take until December to finish digesting Thanksgiving? Not unlike past years, our cornucopia overfloweth with meat and starch treats in volumes and combinations that would horrify any pilgrim. Case and point, the Thanksgiving fat bastard himself: turkey cake. Two loaves of turkey meatloaf separated by a layer of cranberry sauce, frosted with mashed potatoes and topped with yams and marshmallows.

Yes, I ate it. Along with the deconstructed version the night before. My chef friend C made possibly the most gorgeous bird I have ever seen stuffed with a homemade cornbread and sausage stuffing.

Parsnip and potato puree, yams, cranberry sauce, creamed leeks, braised carrots, salad and amazing caramelized brussel sprouts rounded out our festive meal, which we nested among the gold leaf centerpieces I had crafted.

Post an Old Fashioned-induced dance party, I geared up for the night after Thanksgiving. Another evening of big eating. M’s turkey cake stole the spotlight, an impressive feat considering the presence of an Asian-themed banquet: two roasted ducks, scallop and sausage sticky rice, soy sauce ribs, homemade spring rolls, chinese chicken salad — plus candied yams and my favorite Roasted Bagna Cauda Broccoli.

Even sans cleaver, N made swift work of carving beautiful Golden Gate Meats ducks.

N’s sticky rice, a recipe of his mother’s, glistened with chewy goodness — studded with slivers of red lap cheong, dried scallop, mushrooms and water chestnuts.

K’s “old school Chinese” expertise showed through in a magnificent platter of golden spring rolls — each perfectly crunchy with an ideal portion of savory meat and vegetable filling. R’s soy sauce pork ribs melted off the bone in spectacular fashion, like a harlot proudly disrobing.

My contribution to the evening was a Chinese Chicken Salad minus the chicken because I have a weird chicken phobia. Really, it was just a butter lettuce and raddiccio salad adorned with crispy prosciutto, won ton chips and homemade garlic roasted peanuts. The secret is the dressing, which I’ll rudely refuse to share. I will, however, recommend you make these amazing garlic roasted peanuts to snack on by the handful or dress salads.

Garlic Roasted Peanuts
smelly and addictive… a treacherous combo

* 1 lb raw peanuts
* 5-6 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
* 2 tablespoon oil, peanut oil preferably
* 4 tablespoon soy sauce
* 1 tablespoon fish sauce
* 1/2 tablespoon sugar
* salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325° F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, then put peanuts on sheetpan. Dry roast for 15 minutes.

While the peanuts begin to roast, mix everything else except for the salt and pepper in a medium bowl. After first 15 minutes remove roasted peanuts from oven, mix the peanuts with the marinade, pour back onto sheet pan, then return to oven.

Continue to roast for 10-15 move minutes or until the peanuts are a light golden brown color. Take them out a little before you think they are perfect, because they will continue to cook on their own a little more after being removed from oven.

Allow to cool, then season with salt and pepper. Store airtight at room temperature for 1-2 weeks.

Don’t think I forgot about dessert! There were many notables including C’s fruit crostatas and P’s moist and tender rum cake. My T-day contribution: a silky dark chocolate tart with buttery cookie crust and the interior texture of a ganache. It’s ridiculously easy and impressive….excellent baking ROI.

Dark Chocolate Tart with Gingersnap Crust
adapted from Bon Appétit

Crust:
* 12 ounces gingersnap cookies (Trader Joe’s Triple Gingersnaps are best)
* 3/4 stick salted butter, melted

Filling:
* 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
* 1 cup heavy whipping cream
* 2 large egg yolks
* 1 large egg
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
* Pinch of salt
* 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped crystallized ginger

For crust:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Finely grind gingersnap cookies in processor (yielding around 1 2/3 cups). Add melted butter; process until moistened. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet.

For filling:
Combine finely chopped bittersweet chocolate and heavy whipping cream in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk over low heat until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove saucepan from heat. Whisk egg yolks, egg, sugar, flour, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Very gradually whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture until smooth and blended. Pour chocolate filling into crust.

Bake chocolate tart until filling puffs slightly at edges and center is softly set, about 30 minutes. Transfer to rack. Sprinkle chopped crystallized ginger over top. Cool tart in pan 20 minutes. Gently remove tart pan sides and cool tart completely. DO AHEAD: Chocolate tart can be made 1 day ahead. Cover tart and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Cut tart into thin wedges and serve.

double chocolate espresso cookies

29 Jul

When it comes to cookies, I’m in the soft and chewy camp. When I worked at a big agency, I always looked forward to co-workers’ birthdays because it was an excuse to order that ridiculously gigantic chocolate chip cookie cake from Mrs. Fields…. warm, soft, and a little chewy like a brownie, plus it came in a cardboard pizza box that, once emptied, revealed its evil twin: an enormous footprint of grease.

For my mom’s birthday, I thought about shipping her a giant cookie cake, but breakage was an obvious concern. Instead, I sought out a dressed up cookie recipe worthy of a celebration. These Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies fit the bill perfectly with a description stating, “chewy in the middle with pockets of soft chocolate.” They came out soft and airy, yet decadent as the two kinds of chocolate and espresso would suggest.

double chocolate espresso cookies
from food52.com, a site i adore

* 2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 cup light brown sugar
* 2 eggs, room temperature
* 2 1/2 cups flour
* 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Scharffen Berger)
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder (like Medaglia D’Oro, or similar)
* 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Then, add eggs one at time, mixing after each addition to make sure they are well combined.

In a separate bowl mix together dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder. I use a whisk to make sure the dry ingredients are well mixed.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix everything until the ingredients are fully combined, but do not overbeat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in chocolate chips.

Line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper. Using a 1 1/2″ ice-cream scoop, or rounded teaspoon, drop dough on the sheet 2″ apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and serve.

Makes 50-55 cookies

mint chocolate cupcakes, metrics mayhem

15 Jul

At Christmas time, Trader Joes makes a special candy cane version of their Joe-Joe cookies (fake Oreos), which happens to be a favorite of my friend Mariel. So, when asked to make birthday cupcakes for her 30th, I set out to find a recipe that would mimic that oh-so-festive mint and chocolate combination.

Unfortunately, a search for “mint chocolate cupcakes” returns surprisingly slim pickings. However, one recipe stood out with a description stating “like an AERO chocolate in cupcake form.” If you’ve ever had an AERO bar, the titillating sensation of bubbles of chocolate bursting on your tongue immediately springs to mind. I was definitely going to make this recipe.

Of course as AERO would suggest, this recipe comes from the UK, specifically from the kitchen goddess herself, Nigella Lawson. While I am a huge fan of Nigella, she does live in the land of metrics and I am total crap at mathematical conversions. But… I will do just about anything for the sake of a cupcake.

Here is my metrics conversion masterpiece. Perhaps a tad bit off, since the cupcakes turned out slightly more concave than convex…. all the more room for butter cream frosting!

mint chocolate cupcakes with butter cream frosting
adapted and converted from Nigella

batter:
* 1 2/3 cup self raising flour (not the same as AP flour, but you can find it at Safeway)
* 4 tbsp cocoa powder
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1 1/8 c super fine sugar
* 2 sticks unsalted butter
* 4 eggs
* 1 tsp peppermint extract
* 3/4 c plain choc chips

icing:
* 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
* 1 2/3 cup confectioners sugar, sieved
* 1 tsp peppermint extract
* green food colouring

Preheat oven to 325-degrees.

Place 18 paper wrappers into muffin tins.

In a bowl sieve flour, baking powder and cocoa. Beat butter and sugar together in another bowl. Add eggs one at a time and beat together.

Add flour mixture gradually. Stir in the mint extract and chocolate chips. Spoon mixture into cases and bake for about 25 mins.

To make icing, beat icing sugar and butter in a bowl stir in the mint extract, and just enough food coloring to turn the icing mint green.

Ice the cooled cupcakes and decorate with chocolate chips or sprinkles.

Did I mention our cowboy party theme?