Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Chocolate Cherry Brownies

I have a confession to make. I am a lover of "fluffy books" the fluffier the better. The only thing I like better than fluffy books is fluffy books that are also culinary themed mysteries. It was in one of these types of books that years ago I read about chocolate cherry brownies. It was really just a passing sentence, a filler, not integral to the plot and certainly not meriting a recipe at the end of the book. But for some reason that one mention of cherry brownies was enough for me...and I became obsessed. Since reading that book I almost always add cherries to my brownies. Sometimes I chop them, sometimes I leave them whole, sometimes I can not find them so I use cherry flavored cranberries (I do not recommend this last one). And while they have all been good (well not the one with the cherry flavored cranberries...that one was weird) they were never as good, as gooey, and cherry-chocolately delicious as these.

The main ingredient in these seems to be chocolate. 10 ounces of chocolate and only 1/3 cup flour. The second main ingredient is cherries. Plumped up cherries.

Hello there good looking. I have been waiting for you to walk your little chocolate legs into my life for a long...long...time.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Rhubarb Upside Down Brown Sugar Cake

When I was a little girl we lived in a big rambling house in a small coastal town in Nova Scotia. Lilacs made a hedge down one side of the yard and to a small girl they seemed almost as tall as the house. There was a big weeping willow tree. There was a garden in the back corner where my Mom grew vegetables, and there were raspberry bushes and a great big rhubarb patch. I am not sure if my Mom planted the rhubarb patch when we moved in or if the house came with the rhubarb patch we just left it there because my Dad adored rhubarb so it would be unthinkable to cut it down. 

I on the other hand did not like rhubarb. It was bitter, it stained your clothes, and it look suspiciously like celery. So in all the years that we lived in the house with a rhubarb bush in the backyard I never touched the stuff. 

But I am all grown up and I can see that I was wrong, plain old wrong. I had spent my youth bad-mouthing, defaming, muckracking rhubarb and I am here to say I am sorry...I was rhubarb. Do you hear that Dad...YOU WERE RIGHT AND I WAS WRONG because I now know just how awesome rhubarb is.

I think the problem is that often rhubarb does not have enough sugar mixed in with it leaving it super tart or it was too much sugar in it leaving it sickeningly sweet. But this cake hits just the right spot right in the middle of tart and sweet. 

And I am really glad that I did not wait for it too cool before I sliced a little piece off because it is amazing warm.

And because we had to marinate the rhubarb in sugar and then strain off the juice I now have a little container of beautifully pink syrup waiting to be added to a cocktail!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Nutella Buttons

It is a fact (and if it is not a fact then it should be made a fact) that tiny things are better.

Itty bitty dogs = adorableness
Little cars = fun
Tiny houses = more to love
Petite little top hats perch on fluffy white kittens = cuteness that literally hurts

It is also a fact (and this one is indeed a fact) that I have an unhealthy obsession with tiny baked goods. Wee little cupcakes, miniature brownies, petite loafs pans. I (heart) them all. But sadly because I live in an oh so tiny house I have had to limit my kitchen toys gadgets tools and thus I have never owned a pan to make wee cupcakes.

Until now!

After all if Dorie Greenspan says to use a mini cupcake pan then darn it I am using a mini cupcake pan. And if Dorie Greenspan says to make wee vanilla cupcakes filled with Nutella then darn it I am making wee little vanilla cupcakes filled with Nutella.

Sadly I wish I could say that the reason I immediately ate 3 of these tiny little buttons of goodness a few minutes after they came out of the oven was because Dorie Greenspan said for me to...but alas that is not true it is simply because I am weak when it comes to tiny little cupcakes (especially when filled with Nutella).

Small print: Nutella Buttons, Baking Chez Moi, page 188 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Coconut Tapioca

Procrastination is an evil friend. A friend that I spend way too much time with. A friend that causes me untold stress, forces me to stay up late into the night to complete something before it is too late, causes people to shake their heads at me in despair. But sometimes...just sometimes procrastination works on my side, helps me out (or is really that having procrastination appear to "help" you is just part of her evil plan to keep you coming back for more of her evil ways). 

Either way this week my complete and utter devotion to procrastination helped me make delicious, creamy, coconutty tapioca since I was able to read through the other bakers' posts and learn from their experience. From what I learned I decided to use pearl tapioca (and not the large ones), I used the seeds from a vanilla bean to give it more flavor (instead of using vanilla extract) and to keep it from being too soupy I decreased the amount of liquid. I also decided to add an egg yolk since this is traditionally used in tapioca pudding so in the name of richness and thickness I added one.

A number of bloggers noted that tapioca reminded them of elementary school lunches. If only I was so lucky! I want to know where they went to elementary school so I can go there and eat at that lunch room.  I am not sure I would have ever left elementary school if I was able to have tapioca pudding every day for lunch. They would have had to eventually force me into middle school because with tapioca on the menu I would not have left elementary school willingly. I adore the stuff. I have even been known (in my darker moments) to eat the premade stuff that is found in the dairy section straight from the tub it comes in. But now that I have had a taste of the good stuff, a taste of slightly warm, creamy, homemade goodness life will never be the same. I am addicted. A tapioca junkie. And since neither my husband nor my shortie like tapioca or coconut (because they are wrong and slightly crazy) it is mine...all mine!

On a more personal note you may not know but the Bawlmer in "Baking in Bawlmer" is how Baltimorians pronounce Baltimore, and even though I left Baltimore 9 months ago my heart is breaking for the state that my beloved city is in. The city needs prayers and love so if you have any of either to spare please send them that way.

Now the small print:
Coconut Tapioca, Baking Chez Moi, page 382

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Limoncello Cupcakes

Serendipity: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

About a month ago one of my husband's coworkers brought into work bags of lemons from his prolific lemon tree. So we ended up with 2 dozen lemons. With some of the lemons I made preserved lemons and the rest of the lemons were destined to be limoncello. 

I tucked the mason jar full of lemon peels and vodka in the back corner of one of my kitchen cabinets and then promptly forgot about it....until I saw that the next recipe was for limoncello cupcakes and I knew it was meant to be. 

I finished making the limoncello and then got to work on the cupcakes. Sugar, flour, and lemon zest go into a bowl, and to my surprise so does cardamom. 

You know how sometimes you smell something and you are instantly transported back in time, to another event. The smell and the moment are intrinsically link together.  Whenever I smell cardamom I am immediately brought back to the time I spent in Jordan. Cardamom coffee is popular throughout the Middle East, where they grind pods of cardamom in with their coffee beans making the most delicious smelling coffee. So when I opened the jar of cardamom for the briefest of moments I was right back in Jordan, standing in front of a sidewalk coffee stand, sipping cardamom coffee and being lost in a world that was not mine own...but just like that I was back in my kitchen on a quiet Tuesday morning making boozy cupcakes.

Since neither my husband nor my 5 year old drinks I decided to take the boozy cupcakes with me when I got together with some friends. They quickly disappeared (the cupcakes not the friends). 

Who would have thought that 6 years ago I would have been hitching rides on the back of camels out in to the deserts of Jordan to have cardamom scented coffee with Bedouins and today I would bring cardamom scented boozy cupcakes to an officer spouse's club social. Some days I wonder which world is the one that is in fact not my own. 

Limoncello Cupcakes. Baking Chez Moi page 194 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars

Oh wow.

Oh so good.

Oh wow.

That basically sums up all that I feel about these little bars of easily baked, yummy sweet goodness. Now if you do not mind I need a few moments alone with another piece of this.

Caramelized Rice Krispies....nom nom nom
Caramelized Rice Krispies and chocolate....words fail me! 

Small print: Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars, Baking Chez Moi pg. 324

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My Lovely Little Humps

"Get you love drunk off my hump. My hump, my hump, my hump, my hump. My hump, my hump, my hump, my lovely little lumps (check it out)."
 - Black  Eyed Peas (2005). 

Seriously need to check out my lovely little humps, the humps on my lemon madeleines that is. But first check out my ingredients:

When we baked the weekend cake I saved the scrapped out vanilla bean and made vanilla salt with it which I used to bake the little love humps (aka the madeleines). I also took the lemon that I scrapped the zest off of and squeezed the juice out of and tossed it in a pot with water, with a little vanilla and some rosemary that I clipped from the garden and simmered it on the stove. I then proceeded to cut out and assemble nomenclature cards of the human skeleton for my son to use. I then realized that I had been way too productive and if anyone in my family caught wind of this they would expect this level of achievement on a daily basis so I immediately laid down on the couch and took a nap just to help keep expectations low (like I like them). 

This morning (after dropping my little shorty off at kindergarten) I came home and baked the little love humps. And just like with pizza I can not resist eating one right away....memories of having a burnt mouth and sizzled fingers does nothing to stop this. Also I felt I had to eat one right away so that I could scientifically compare the unglazed to the glazed cookie. I did it for science! 

 And let me just say...glazed wins! Sorry unglazed love humps you are delicious but your cousin (the glazed love humps) are outstanding! Lemony glazie, lovey humpy deliciousness.

And luckily the recipe says they are best eaten they day they are made so I now need to work eating 10 more little lemon love humps in my schedule for today. 

The details:
Baking Chez Moi: Lemon Madeleines pg. 212 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Marquise au Chocolat

The movie Fifty Shades of Grey came out recently and everyone is all a buzz about it. Not me. That does not do it for me. Nothing in the book made my heart race, my tummy flutter, or do anything to get me hot and bothered.

However when I opened Baking Chez Moi to this week's recipe and read that I was to place one entire stick of butter into a bain-marie and cover it with 13oz of bittersweet chocolate...well let's just say that the book and I may have needed a private moment together because what Fifty Shades of Grey does not do for me....being told to melt chocolate into butter does.

Cut 1 stick of butter into 18 pieces and cover with 13oz of roughly chopped bittersweet that is my kind of dirty talk.

What you end up with a rich chocolate mousse that you freeze. And once frozen you eat. It is both light and rich. So decadent.

 I tried to restrain myself from licking my plate clean. I may have lost that battle.

I wonder if anyone else views cook books as I do......

On to the small print:
Marquise au Chocolat p. 357 of Baking Chez Moi

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

Do you ever find yourself running and spinning with a "to-do" list that is a few feet long and a feeling that you are constantly letting people down? I was just in the place, in the space in my head. It was Sunday morning and I had a million things to do...
plan a menu for the week, make a grocery list, and get to the store first thing in the morning
make a dish to share for at the club meeting later that day
print out sign up sheets and prepare for my part of the meeting
pick up, put away and in general restore order to the house
start planning decorations for the fundraiser
email a million people about a million things that I am suppose to be in charge of
pick up bird seed so the birds will stop sitting on the empty bird feeder while giving me the stink eye
figure out a way to clone myself so that I can do the things I need to do and be home every night at my son's bedtime
and the list stretched on a few more feet before finally petering out

I was swirling and whirling...spinning like a child's toy. And so I baked.

After opening my cookbook and laying it open I went to the fridge and pulled out 4 eggs out and some butter and placed them on the counter. I then went out on to my back deck, turned my face to the sun and breathed. I breathed in and and out....filling my lungs with sunshine drenched air. I stood there, with my face turned up, my arms pulled back and my palms turned out until the ingredients were ready. And then I baked.

I scraped the seeds out of a vanilla bean and used my fingers to mix them into sugar. Pure white sugar becoming dotted with little specks of black sticky seeds. I browned butter, swirling and swirling as it went from solid to foamy until finally it became a golden toasty brown. I wished I could bottle the smell in the kitchen, full of burnt sugar and sticky vanilla, and wear it as a perfume.

Weekend cakes are easy to make. Nothing fussy or complicated should ever be made on a weekend. No mixers to pull out, no food processors to assemble and dissemble. Just a bowl and whisk.

Flour and sugar, and burnt butter and cream, and more all get gently mixed together. Slowly and uncomplicated. Like the sunshine air that filled up my lungs. Like the warmth on my face slowing me down. Like a weekend should be.

Baking can do a lot of things. It bring families together to sit around the table. It can open doors of friendship when "welcome to the 'hood" cookies are exchanged. And if you let it then baking can untwirl your mind and still your soul one cracked egg, one scoop of flour, one dash of salt at a time.

Toasted with butter for breakfast. 
The small print:
Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake, pg 6 of Baking Chez Moi

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Granola Energy Bars

We are lucky enough to have a fantastic person who helps me keep our cottage clean and organized. It is a true luxury and I adore having it. She comes twice a month on in general I do not bake anything on Tuesday (and I only cook dinner out of a sense of duty) because I do not want to get the kitchen dirty. For 24 hours I just want a clean kitchen. However this week when my son asked if we could hang out at home on Tuesday afternoon so he could build Legos I said sure and since my son looks like this for entire time he has a set of Legos in front of him:

I decided to take advantage of the powerful hold Legos has over him and to make granola bars.

Oats, little slivers of almonds, pretty green pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds all get toasted.

Then plump dried cranberries, raisins and snipped pieces of apricots get added to the mix.

Brown rice syrup and butter that have been melted together are used to bind the other yumminess together. A sprinkle of salt, a splash of vanilla and then into a pan it all goes so it can bake.

When the bars come out I smash them down into the pan like I mean business. It is a take no prisoner smash-fest.

Then onto the counter to cool. While cooling I break off a tiny piece of the corner in order to taste it. And then another corner. Soon I am back for the third corner. And then I am left with cornerless granola bars cooling on my counter until they are ready to be cut in to.

I have used brown rice syrup in the past to make marshmellow style rice krispie treats (minus the actual marshmallow) so the granola bars remind me marshmellows...but that is not necessarily bad.