Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Andes Cocoa Brownies

Andes Cocoa Brownies

I grew up on cocoa-based chocolate treats. My favorite cookies while I was growing up were these cocoa drops that my mom made — chewy, puffy, soft, and really chocolatey but not rich. Someday I will definitely make and post them — they are a taste of home for me.

It wasn’t until I really started baking and experimenting a lot — maybe a year ago, now — that I started making a lot of recipes that use melted chocolate as a base for cakes, brownies, and even chocolate cookies. I knew how to temper chocolate, thanks to the number of chocolate-dipped candies that my mom and I make every year for Christmas (it’s an epic annual process, maybe this year we’ll document it), so for a while I happily melted and cooled and incorporated into batters for baked goods of all sorts.

Recently, though, I have been wondering what, exactly, is wrong with cocoa? I like the dusty, almost raw chocolate flavor it imparts. Buying a ton of chocolate (the higher the quality, the better, it seems) is expensive. And if I have gotten ahold of a high-quality chocolate bar, you know what I’m going to do? Eat it. That’s right. Not melt it, temper it, or coddle it until it’s totally lost its character and is ready to be incorporated into whatever chocolate creation is next on my list.

Andes Cocoa Brownies

Ok, ok….. there are some times when using high-quality, tempered chocolate is a good thing (see the Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cake, for example). But sometimes I like the ease and comfort of just using cocoa. And it tastes a whole lot like home!

All this to say, that when I saw cocoa brownies on smitten kitchen, I knew I’d have to try them. These are really low-maintenance, rich brownies — look at how dark they are in the pictures! With only a quarter-cup of flour, these babies are intensely fudgy, which is my favorite kind of brownie. I had some leftover Andes baking pieces that I added (you could use regular Andes mints and break them up). The mint was fantastic, and complimented the dark cocoa flavor perfectly. Speaking of cocoa, I used Hershey’s Special Dark. I read somewhere that it is half dutch-processed, half regular. It certainly is very dark, and gave the brownies an intense flavor and that beautiful black color. This recipe prove that cocoa-based treats can be just as chocolatey as chocolate-based ones — if not more than!

I made these for an info session I had for some students at work, and they loved them. I left the rest out for my colleagues the next morning, and by noon they were reduced to crumbs (who eats brownies at 10am? A lot of people I work with). Try them!

Andes Cocoa Brownies

Andes Cocoa Brownies
Adapted from smitten kitchen, who adapted from Alice Mendrich’s Bittersweet

Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies (I went with the 25-count size)


10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 5 ounces or 141 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (9 7/8 ounces, 280 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 7/8 ounces, 82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (66 grams, 2 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup Andes baking pieces or broken Andes mints (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t worry — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the Andes, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me at few minutes longer to get them set. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Andes Cocoa Brownies


Read Full Post »

Jen’s Fish-Flavored Pork

Just pictures today — I can’t take any kind of credit for this recipe, but I had to write about it because we seriously loved it that much! I have been on a real Chinese food kick lately (a couple of friends are coming over tonight and when I said we’re having Chinese food for dinner, one of them asked “When was the last time we had non-Asian food?” and I have to admit, it was a fair question). I think my enthusiasm has to do with the shock and awe I produce (in myself) by actually being able to produce food in my own kitchen that tastes Chinese. It still amazes me that by following a few basic principles and sticking to some flavor profiles (pork + ginger, for example), I can produce something Chinese-tasting!

Anyway, since I’m in the middle of this Chinese cooking phase, I tend to scour use real butter for Jen’s Chinese recipes, which always turn out for me. I found this recipe with the auspicious (or suspicious) name Fish-Flavored Pork and learned something new about the dried mushrooms I have been using for a few months now… they’re not mushrooms. They are tree ears, or wood ears, or cloud ears, depending on who you ask. The package I bought says “Dried Black Fungus”…. I naturally assumed dried black chinese mushrooms, which is what I needed, but alas…. when rehydrated, they are thin and chewy and have a distinct flavor.

For months, I basically ignored this fact (the fact that somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew these weren’t really mushrooms), and continued using the suspicious black fungus whenever I needed dried mushrooms. For the most part, they filled that role really well, and actually the distinct texture is surprisingly nice, especially in soups where a little added texture is welcome. But when I recognized them in Jen’s post, I realized I had found them a new home…… a dish where they really belonged.

This is one of those dishes that takes 10 minutes of prep and 5 minutes to cook — the kind of thing we make all the time for dinner. A bowl of rice, a few Korean banchans (veggie side dishes), and it’s done: you have dinner. Head over to use real butter for the recipe — and remember, you actually can make Chinese food at home!

Read Full Post »

Kimchi Fried Pork

Just as in my last post, I can’t really take credit for this recipe…. but luckily for me, I do get to claim it, because it came from my husband! Sean and I generally enjoy a nice synergy in the kitchen based on our natural talents and inclinations: I cook, he eats. We share a love of food, and although we come at it from different angles, we generally are happy to delight together in a successful meal — I because whatever new recipe I tried, has turned out; he because it just tastes so darn good.

Occasionally, though, we step out of our usual roles and he cooks while I eat. I have to admit that I struggle to give up the reigns in the kitchen. I enjoy cooking so much, and it’s both personally fulfilling to me as well as (I think?) healthy for us newly married people. Sean takes care of me so well — cooking for him is one of the few things I do for him that I think he honestly couldn’t do for himself! He totally ruins my theory when he takes over the kitchen and produces such successful food…… but that’s OK, because then I can slip right into his preferred role, the happy eater.

This is a really really simple stir fry that really doesn’t require a recipe, but in case you want to try your hand at Korean food at home, I’ll try to give a rough estimate of ingredients and some instructions.

Kimchi Fried Pork

Sean Park

Makes two generous servings

  • 1/2 lb (approx.) Samgyeopsal, or pork belly that is very thinly sliced and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 cups kimchi (depends on your taste preference). Chop the kimchi into 1-inch pieces if there are any big chunks.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Flick a drop of water onto the pan — if it sizzles, the pan is hot enough. Spread the pork onto the pan in one layer. After one minute (no longer), flip the pork over to the other side. When it is cooked through, add the onions. Fry the onions in the pork fat until they soften a bit, then add the garlic. Stir fry for 30 seconds, then add the kimchi. Stir fry to mix the flavors and until the mixture thickens a bit.

Serve warm with rice and banchan.

Read Full Post »

Baked Apple & Cheese Toasts

I used to really not be an appetizer person. I generally took a strong “Don’t spoil your dinner!” stance on the appetizer vs. dive-right-into-the-meal debate. I also (let’s be honest) have a hard time pulling a whole meal together and getting it all on the table at one time: main dish, side dish, salad, etc. It is still beyond me to get all those components ready at the same time. Adding one more element just always seemed a little like overkill.

Then I had an important revelation: if I make an appetizer, then I buy myself a little more time. Nobody is grouchy while hungrily awaiting their food, and I get some wiggle room in terms of getting dinner on the table.

I’m not saying this happens every night I make dinner — ha! — but I have come to appreciate the power of putting out veggies and hummus, or whatever, when we have people over and I am still frantically cooking (this does happen quite a bit).

A couple of weekends ago we went away with some friends to their lakehouse and Emily and I made an appetizer to tie us all over before dinner. This is a SUPER easy one that we adapted from the recipe section of the Whole Foods website. Use whatever cheese you think you’d like — preferably something that melts nicely — the original recipe calls for brie, which I don’t like (!).

Baked Apple & Cheese Toasts

Adapted from WholeFoodsMarket.com

  • 3 tart apples, cored and sliced into eighths (we used Pink Lady apples, my favorites)
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 (350-gram) chunk smoked Gouda, sliced into 24 pieces
  • 24 baguette slices

Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss apple slices with melted butter and brown sugar. Bake apples until are tender, about 20 minutes.

Arrange Gouda evenly over the bread slices and top with the apple slices. If desired, broil 1 to 2 minutes until cheese is just melted. Serve immediately.

Read Full Post »

Beer Bread

Beer Bread

I discovered this recipe right before Christmas and have made it three times since then! It is amazingly simple (5-10 minutes of prep) and wonderfully delicious. I love LOVE love bread….. I am famous in my family for this trait….. so being able to have fresh bread basically whenever I want it is a huge improvement in my quality of life.

In my last post I used a lot of space to proclaim my love of a buttery texture, and this bread definitely adds to that butter-loving theme. The original recipe actually calls for an entire stick of butter to be poured into the pan and on top of the dough before baking, but I make do with a half a stick just fine. If you’re interested in what beer to pour in there — I dunno, I bought a six pack of Newcastle and used four bottles to make bread, so I can’t recommend anything else!

Beer Bread

Beer Bread

Adapted From Rebecca Crump (EzraPoundCake.com)

Makes 1 loaf

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 bottle (12 ounces) beer

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-x-5-x-3-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Stir the beer into the dry ingredients until just mixed.

Pour half the melted butter into the loaf pan. Then move the batter into the pan, and pour the rest of the butter on top of the batter. Slide a baking sheet onto a lower rack to catch any butter that might overflow from the loaf pan.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown. Serve immediately. If you can’t eat the whole loaf all at once (not recommending you do this…) the bread is also fantastic for about 5-7 days after baking, toasted!

Read Full Post »

This is a good idea.

I really love chocolate chip cookies — who doesn’t? I use the recipe from the back of the Nestle Toll House bag, just like my mom does. I like the ratio of brown sugar to white sugar (half and half), I like the good amount of butter, and I honestly like the way the cookies spread in the oven. A couple of years ago the New York Times published a very popular article about the best way to make chocolate chip cookies, and it recommended letting the cookie dough chill in the fridge for a few hours — up to 24 — to give the cookie a more cake-like, puffy texture. Letting the dough rest reduces the spreading and some of the greasiness.

Ok, but I like the spreading, and I like the greasiness — buttery-ness, to put it more nicely (if less grammatically). When I make cookies, I may let the dough rest for a few minutes before scooping and baking, but not that long. I don’t mind a thinner cookie, if it means that I get some nice buttery sweet-and-salty flavor.

What I don’t like are nuts, those crunchy interruptions in the smooth buttery texture of my chocolate chip cookie. I am really selective about where I like nuts, and my choices almost never include baked goods. I can handle the occasional peanut (especially when accompanied by peanut butter), but put a walnut in my brownie or a pecan on top of my hot fudge sundae, and I just won’t touch the stuff.

So when it comes to getting some texture variation into my cookies, my options are limited. I don’t want dry, and I don’t want nutty. However, a little bit of tasty crunch, or a slightly taller cookie, might interest me. Enter Rice Krispies (… or generic rice puff cereal, I used the Aldi kind).

Putting just a cup and a half of rice krispies into my favorite chocolate chip cookies didn’t detract from the buttery texture I love, and it didn’t necessarily introduce a new flavor, but it did add a nice crunch and some body into the cookies without drying them out. Try it!

Rice Krispie Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Nestle

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 ½ cups puffed rice cereal (Rice Krispies)

2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375˚ F

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.

Beat butter, both sugars, and vanilla in a large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in cereal and chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Read Full Post »

Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cake

I was told several times that it was both crazy and “sad” to bake my own birthday cake (how’s that for encouragement…?) but I don’t think this project deserved either of those two misnomers! This was the first layer cake I have ever made and aside from the occasional freak out, the experience was totally rewarding! I spent a long time researching how to make a layer cake (if you are looking for good instructions, I love Deb’s here), reading about crumb layers, leveling layers, freezing layers….. and of course then discovered that working with a layer cake was going to be different from reading about a layer cake.

Luckily I had coerced a friend into helping me make the frosting, assemble the cake, and decorate it. That’s one advantage to baking your own birthday cake…. it’s your birthday, people feel sorry for you, they’ll feel moved to come alongside you, even amid total cake craziness. This friend had actually made layer cakes before and, as it turns out, is much more courageous with a large knife. Emily did the layer splitting and the chocolate chopping, and generally talked me through my swiss meringue buttercream crisis. That sucker takes a looong time to make…

But that is getting ahead of ourselves. The frosting crisis came very late in the game.

Eat me! Eat me!

First there was cake baking, requiring cake flour making, achieved through this clever method from Joy the Baker, which turns all purpose flour + cornstarch into cake flour. If you are going to do this, though, be sure to sift the cornstarch into the flour several times — Joy says five times, I did six, and still ended up with little chewy cornstarch lumps in my cake. Yuck. Luckily the cake itself and the frosting were so delicious, I’m not sure anyone noticed but me!

No major notes on the cake recipe… it is fussy and requires a lot of beating (as Jen mentions in her original post), but really, it was so worth it. The cake batter was extremely fluffy and light, almost the texture of a mousse. It stayed light but cakey throughout the entire baking, cooling, freezing, thawing, cutting, frosting, and assembling process, so in my book, this recipe is a winner — and the beating is worth it!

Once the cake was baked, into the freezer it went:

Flash-frozen goodness

I really liked this tip, also from Deb (see  above) — I took the cake out of the oven, sat in on the counter for a bit, and then threw it in the freezer, cooling racks and all. Once it had been in the freezer for about a half hour or so, I triple-wrapped those suckers in plastic wrap, and let them hang out in the freezer until my birthday, when we needed them for frosting and assembling. The cake itself stayed incredibly moist — I was SO worried that after a few days of banishment in the freezer, it would be hard and dry, but the plastic did its job! This was so useful because there was no way that all these steps were going to happen in the same day. The cake was also a lot easier to work with while it was cold.

Flash-forward two days later, when we took the layers out of the freezer and started making the frosting (chocolate espresso swiss meringue buttercream) and ganache (chocolate espresso). Our goal was to make both frosting/filling, assemble, and then frost in time to have it ready to eat after my birthday dinner. It was a big goal, but we eventually got there!

Let’s start with the buttercream, which starts with…

Don't be scared of the butter!

Yep, that’s four sticks of butter. But… we’re talking about a big cake here, folks. You’re not going to be eating four sticks of butter at a time.

Does that make it better?

Oh, and it’s my birthday. That definitely makes it better.

Moving on quickly… this was my very first time making swiss meringue buttercream, and let me tell you, it’s kind of nerve-wracking. You have to coddle (ok, whip) the egg whites over a double boiler while working some white sugar into them. You wait until the sugar has dissolved (Jen says the mixture should measure 140 degrees F) and then whip them (using a stand mixer) into a meringue. This is the start of a very very long whipping process that had Emily and I getting quite anxious and our patient husbands running out of the kitchen to escape the terrible Kitchen Aid noise. The idea is to get the egg white cool to the touch, after you have just so carefully heated them up… see why it’s a little annoying?

Once you have a very wonderful meringue, you proceed to ruin it by dropping insane amounts of butter into the mixer and watching your beautiful, fluffy egg whites dissolve into greasy, soupy chaos.

And then, by some miracle, after whipping the whole thing for a long time (see Deb’s comments, “whip whip whip” — I think it was honestly 15 minutes of whipping), the whole thing comes together in a very smooth, buttery way. The frosting was the perfect consistency and I think that unless I am in a serious hurry, I may never make other buttercream frostings again.

The ganache was a home run as a cake filler, but we ran into problems when we refrigerated it during the assembly process… see my notes on the recipe below.

The assembled cake

The cake is assembled!

Once assembled, the cake is put bake into the fridge — at which point we were all starving and went to dinner! When we came back, it was time to frost and eat… they even sang Happy Birthday.

All told, this project was a wonderful success. You can find the original recipe here, but I have put it below also because I have some advice and notes-to-self (in blue). There are a few things I would do differently next time — but I think that has more to do with my learning several new techniques at one time rather than faults in the recipe!

Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cake
modified from Death by Chocolate by Marcel Desaulniers/use real butter

chocolate cake
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tbsps unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsps unsalted butter, melted (for pan prep)
2 cups cake flour (I used all-purpose flour at 8500 feet elevation)
2 tsps cake flour (for pan prep)
2 tsps baking soda (I used 1/2 tsp baking soda at 8500 feet elevation)
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups light brown sugar, very tightly packed
4 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup water
1 cup sour cream

espresso ganache
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsps unsalted butter
2 tbsps granulated sugar
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp instant espresso powder

chocolate espresso buttercream
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 tsps instant espresso powder
1 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature
5 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar

Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat the insides of 2 9×2-inch cake pans with melted butter. Flour each pan with 1 tsp cake flour, shaking out the excess [I just used nonstick spray].

Heat 1 inch of water in the bottom half of a double boiler over medium heat. Place 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate in the top half of the double boiler and heat for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir until smooth.

Combine together in a sifter the remaining 2 cups of flour, the baking soda, and salt. Sift onto wax paper and set aside.

Combine the brown sugar and 8 tablespoons of butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Beat on low for 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on high for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and beat on high for another 1.5 minutes. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating on high for 30 seconds after adding each egg. Scrape down the bowl after each addition, then beat on high for 2 more minutes. Add the melted chocolate and the vanilla. Beat on low for 30 seconds, then scrape down the bowl.

Heat 1 cup water to a boil in a 1 1/2-quart saucepan. While the water is heating, operate the mixer on low while adding a third of the sifted flour and 1/2 cup sour cream; allow to mix for 30 seconds. Add another third of the flour and the remaining sour cream and mix for another 30 seconds. Add the remaining sifted flour and the boiling water and mix for an additional 30 seconds before removing the bowl from the mixer. Use a rubber spatula to finish mixing the batter, until it is smooth and thoroughly combined.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans, spreading it evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool in the pans for 15 minutes at room temperature. Invert onto cooling racks and refrigerate uncovered until needed. Or, cool and then stick it in the freezer, let it freeze and then triple-wrap it in plastic, freeze until using.

Ganache: Heat the heavy cream, 2 tablespoons butter, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a 2 1/2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil. Place 8 ounces semisweet chocolate and 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder in a stainless steel bowl. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and espresso. Let sit for 10 minutes, then stir until smooth. Keep at room temperature until ready to use.

Buttercream: Heat 1 inch of water in the bottom half of a double boiler over medium heat. Place 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, and 2 teaspoons espresso powder in top half of double boiler. Allow to heat for 8 to 10 minutes, transfer to a stainless steel bowl and stir until smooth. [We needed to heat the mixture longer — that’s why our frosting looks speckled, the chocolate wasn’t melted after 10 minutes — I would make sure it stirs smoothly before taking it off the heat]. Set aside until needed.

Place egg whites and sugar in a Kitchenaid mixing bowl. Set bowl over 1 inch of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk gently until mixture reaches 140°F. Remove from heat and set on Kitchenaid mixer with balloon whisk. Whisk on speed 4 until stiff. Turn down whip speed to 3rd and whip until cool to the touch (this takes a while [about 10 minutes or more] – should be cooler than your hand). Gradually add soft butter by tablespoon pieces. Whip, whip, whip — this could take 15 minutes. Once desired consistency has been reached, fold in cooled chocolate until well incorporated.

Assembly: Trim off domed tops of the two cakes. Slice each cake horizontally into 2 equal layers. Place the top layer of a cake onto the bottom of a closed springform pan. Evenly spread 1 1/2 cups of buttercream over cake in the pan. Place a layer of cake over the buttercream and gently press into place. Pour 1 1/4 cups of the ganache over the cake layer, spreading evening to the edges. Refrigerate remaining ganache [this did NOT work for us — the ganache got very hard — to hard to spread, and no way to re-melt it]. Place the top layer of the second cake on the top of the ganache and press into place. Spread 1 1/2 cups buttercream evenly over this layer. Place the remaining bottom cake layer, cut side down, onto the buttercream and gently press into place. Cover the entire cake and pan with plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with star tip with 1 1/2 cups buttercream. Remove the cake from the freezer. Cut around inside edges to release the cake. Using a cake spatula, evenly spread the remaining buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate for 1 hour [didn’t do this]. Fill a pastry bag fitted with star tip with remaining ganache. Decorate the cake as desired. Refrigerate for 1 hour before cutting and serving [didn’t do this]. Bring slices to room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »