Super Thick Brownies, 4-Ways

Fudgy, super-thick, decadent brownies.
4 easy variations to the batter base to suit every craving + mood. 
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There are days when only baking (and more truthfully, devouring) a slab of warm, chocolatey goodness will set things right again.

Combined with a fit of mercurial indecision and a wild burst of energy, these days yield FOUR pans of brownies (and very happy neighbors).

S'mores Brownie

Brownie-Sampler_styled

Ingredients

  • 18 oz (3 cups) chocolate chunks, divided
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1-1/4 cups white sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Melt the butter and pour over 2 cups of the chocolate chunks, the white sugar, and the brown sugar. Mix until combined.
  3. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time, mixing after each addition.
  4. Add the vanilla.
  5. Mix together the dry ingredients separately, then add to wet mixture. Don’t over mix!
  6. Incorporate the remaining chocolate chunks (1 cup).
  7. Spread into a buttered 9×13 pan. Top with additions if desired (see notes below).
  8. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until center is set. Do not use the toothpick test – it will result in overdone, dry brownies!

Brownie-Sampler_inside

Cheesecake Brownies

  • 1 (8 oz) pack cream cheese
  • 1/3  cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup flour

Mix cheesecake batter from ingredients above. Swirl into the brownie batter in the pan, dragging a knife through the mixture for a marbled design. Bake.

Salted Caramel Brownies

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 stick (6 tbsp) butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Heat sugar on medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. As the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with a whisk or wooden spoon. Boil until a nice golden color is achieved, but be careful not to burn. Slowly add the butter, then drizzle in the heavy cream- slowly because the mixture can splatter like hot oil.  Remove the sauce from the heat and mix in the salt. Either top the raw brownie batter with the sauce then bake, or drizzle on brownies afterwards. The former will yield brownies with a baked in caramel flavor; the latter are messier but will retain the consistency of the sauce on top.

S’mores Brownies

  • 1 cup coarsely crushed graham crackers
  • 2 cups marshmallows

Sprinkle marshmallows and graham cracker pieces over brownies halfway through baking time (after about 15 minutes), returning to oven for remainder of baking time.

Alternately, spread half of batter in pan, top with graham crackers and marshmallows, then remaining brownie batter. Bake as normal.

 

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Lemon Cheesecake with a Gingersnap Crust

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This lightly citrusy cheesecake is tall and decadent, creamy without being too heavy, and absolutely sure to impress. Both people who swore they hated cheesecake and those that hated lemons (who hates lemons?!) sang this cake praises.

It’s not difficult to make, but keep in mind that it does need to be made a day ahead of serving in order to chill.

Ingredients

Crust

  • 2 cups ground gingersnap cookies
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 5 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 large eggs
  • 3 cups (24 ounces) sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) finely grated lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon twists (garnish) – I used this recipe by blogger HomemadeToast

Method

Crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir the cookie crumbs and the butter in medium bowl until evenly moistened. Press the mixture onto bottom of 9-inch-diameter removable-bottom cheesecake pan. Use a tall pan (at least 3 inches) because this recipe makes a very tall cheesecake. Also, I like to line the bottom of cheesecake pan with parchment. Bake the crust until deep golden, about 12 minutes. Cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
  2. Stack 3 large sheets of foil on work surface. Place same cake pan in center. Gather foil snugly around pan bottom and up sides to waterproof.

Filling:

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese in large bowl until smooth and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar, then the salt. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in the sour cream, grated lemon peel, and lemon juice. Pour the filling into the pan.
  2. Place the wrapped cake pan in large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up sides of the cake pan. Bake the cake until the filling is slightly puffed and moves only slightly when pan is shaken gently, about 1 hour 25 minutes. Remove the cake pan from water bath; remove foil. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 2 hours. Then chill uncovered until cold; cover and keep chilled at least 1 day and up to 2 days.
  3. Run a knife around the sides; carefully loosen pan bottom from sides and push up pan bottom to release cake. Place cake (still on the pan bottom, unless you’ve lined the pan with parchment) on a platter. Garnish with lemon leaves or twists.

LemonCheesecake-01

Chag Hamantashen Same’ach – Happy Purim!

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I’ll go-ahead and admit it: before I moved to NYC, the only Jewish holiday I could name was Hanukkah.

As an attempt at some justification of this inexcusable ignorance, .03% of the population of North Carolina (where I spent a decade of my formative years) is Jewish.

Side effect: I lived a Hamantaschen-deprived life.

Hamantachen are cakey sugar dough cookies with a filling, most traditionally poppy seeds or prune butter made & eaten to celebrate Purim. Purim is a holiday similar to Mardi Gras in that it is celebrated with lots of heavy drinking and masquerading. It celebrates the story of Esther, whose bravery saved the Persian Jews 2,500 years ago.

The hamantaschen recipe below is my friend Jill’s, by way of her Jewish boyfriend’s grandmother. Those are her hands in the photos, too!

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Dough

  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour

Filling (see recipes below) + Finishing

  • Choice of filling: poppy seed filling (most traditional), prune butter, apricot butter, apricot jam, strawberry jam or even chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • cinnamon/sugar mix
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cover 2 baking sheets w/parchment or foil.
  3. Either by hand or with a mixer, combine the oil, eggs, vanilla, water, sugar, baking powder and flour and knead until a soft dough forms. Roll the dough out into a very thin layer. Dip the rim of a 3 or 4 inch cup or glass in flour and use like a cookie cutter to cut the circles. Re-roll the scraps of dough and reuse.
  4. In the center of each circle drop a teaspoon of your filling.  Shape into a triangle by folding 2 sides of the circle to the center, and pinch together at the corners. Make sure corners are tightly pinched so they don’t open during baking.
  5. Place hamantaschen 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.  Brush with beaten egg.  Sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar.
  6. Bake 20 minutes.

Makes 4 dozen. Hamantaschen freeze well.

How to Fold Hamantaschen
How to Fold Hamantaschen

Poppy Filling

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 lb. poppy seeds
  1. Pour boiling water on poppy seeds and drain.
  2. After poppy seeds have settled to bottom, chop up fine.
  3. Add egg and sugar, stirring well.

Prune Filling (Lekvar)

  • 2 cups dried prunes
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 dash clove
  • 1 dash cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  1. Combine everything into a saucepan (except brown sugar) and cook on low heat, stirring every few minutes. Heat to boiling.
  2. Lower heat to simmer, cover pan and cook for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  3. Mix in the brown sugar. Cook, reducing the liquid and stirring every few minutes being careful not to scorch the mixture. Mash with a wooden spoon until the prunes are soft and broken up and mixture is about the consistency of oatmeal (about 20 more minutes). It will thicken more when cooled.

Keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks and also freezes well.

By Request: Smutty Sweets

Boob Cupcakes: Styled A

My apologies to the easily offended. Candy solutions to off-color problems must be shared.

In my defense, lest I be judged a total lech, these cupcakes weren’t my idea. These naughty cakes were a special request from a friend, a gift to her husband at his birthday party.

If there is ever another occasion calling for such an inappropriate dessert, here is the method:

  1. Smash Orange Chews under a smooth-bottomed cup
  2. Poke the flattened chews through the center with a chopstick and stick a Hot Tamale through the hole
  3. Stick the candy combo on frosted cupcakes

I used plain vanilla frosting, but chocolate would work just as well, or vanilla with a little food coloring to achieve a more realistic flesh-tone.

Boob Cupcakes: Candy

Boob Cupcakes: Styled B

Zigzag Brownies

cheesecake brownie

To get that perfect surface zigzag:

Pour your favorite brownie batter into a greased pan. Fill a piping bag with cream cheese mix (for a 9″ square pan: 8oz box of cream cheese, an egg, sugar and perhaps a flavoring or extract). Pipe thick lines of cream cheese filling across the length of the pan. Drag a knife through each line of cream cheese, alternating direction with each stroke. Voila!

White Chocolate Brownies 2

white chocolate brownies

Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes

Flourless Chocolate

I prefer my brownies baked just enough to remove the fear of eating raw eggs from the experience, gooey enough to require a spoon. Rumor has it that Suri Cruise sides with me in the fudgy vs. cakey debate

Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 3 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate
  • 2 sticks + 2 tablespoons butter, warmed to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 egg whites

Preheat oven to 300°.  Melt chocolate (carefully!- do not overheat) and put into mixing bowl fitted with paddle attachment. Add softened butter in small chunks to melted chocolate on low-speed. Mix and heat water, sugar and salt until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add warm (again, not hot!) water mixture to chocolate mixture once butter is incorporated. Add eggs and egg whites slowly on slow speed.  Mix, scrape down sides of bowl, then mix again to make sure batter is combined. Fill cups a 1/4 inch from the top and bake mini size for 30 minutes, standard size for 60 minutes.

Brenna’s Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls

Thanks to Brenna Ozment, guest baker, photographer,
and author of this post!

I am not an experienced baker, but I have done holiday baking as assistant to my lovely sister Jessica. Here documents the most elaborate baking endeavor I’ve attempted on my own.

I saw three bananas in the fruit bowl slowly turning black and decided to make something for the family. We all love cinnamon rolls yet they have had a sporadic appearance on the table. I settled on Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls from the Cooking Classy.

I definitely didn’t learn from that silly project in elementary school, where they give you a whole list of directions like “write your name on the chalkboard” and then at the end it says to not do any of it, and I definitely didn’t read the recipe directions in their entirety before I started baking. This recipe is intense! The dough needs to be left to rise twice, exact temperatures for the milk and butter mixture when you add the yeast. Anyway, I decided to wing it.

First purée the bananas with lemon juice. I just put them in a standup mixer and squeezed some fresh lemon juice in. I really hope no one finds a stray lemon seed… oops. Meanwhile, I heated the milk and diced butter mixture on the stove. Then I removed the banana bowl and put a new bowl where you add the oil and the milk/butter and let it cool (no thermometer so I just guesstimated) and add the yeast then let it stand for 5 minutes. Thank god for timers on stoves. Next you add the sugar, salt, egg yolk, and 2 cups of BREAD flour and bananas. The directions say to use a paddle attachment; I just used the whisk ones and kept stopping it to fold the dough around. Also, I just used bleached white flour. Then add more flour and corn-starch with a different attachment (I used the same one again) and let it rise for an hour and half.

When I came back I had forgotten where I was in the directions and so I re-read it like 5 times skipping around trying to find my place. Not very time efficient, but that’s the way I roll! In a small bowl I added a bunch of light brown sugar, and dumped in some cinnamon and nutmeg. Measure, you ask, I answer: why?!

Separately, add more flour and baking powder to the now risen dough. I kneaded it with my hands, not the mixer, despite it covering my hands as it is very very very sticky by this point. Next lay it out on a surface that is very floured and roll out with a rolling-pin. Keep a little cup of flour next to you so you can re-flour your hands and the roller constantly. Next, spread melted butter with a spoon, spreading it around with the back of the spoon, on the now flattened dough. Pour the awesome cinnamon roll filling on the dough. The more square you make the dough when you roll it out, the less likely you will have two oblong rolls when you cut. Once it is rolled up (be careful about the dough sticking underneath!! Pull lightly!!) use a large non-serrated knife to cut it into 12 rolls. They will flatten: when you pick them up and put them on a buttered cooking pan, reshape them circular. Then cover AGAIN and let rise for 45 minutes. Bake and then put some awesome stuff on top like cream cheese frosting and nuts.

They are in the oven now… I am very curious if my “winging it” will work. Baking is not always forgiving to this approach.

They look okay, but they are came out looking very powdery from the flour on the outside of the rolls. So, perhaps butter the outside of the rolls so the flour looks like its gone after putting them on the pan.

*A few hours later*

Now that I have awaken from a very pleasant sugar coma, I must say, those rolls are awesome. They may have been better had I followed the directions precisely, but I can’t imagine by much. Cooking is an experiment! And although I thoroughly enjoyed mine, when I am make challah bread tomorrow, I will follow those directions as close as possible and read ALL the directions diligently before I begin.

Summer in the City: Fresh Blueberry Pie

A teacher friend of mine, using her summer vacation to cross things off her bucket list, revealed to me her intention to lose her pastry-making virginity. She consented to have the occasion documented. Here is the result.

I’ve made a pie crust or two in the past, but with highly inconsistent results. Apparently, the keys to success are SPEED & TEMPERATURE.

As with all flour related cooking experiments, the gluten development (or rather the lack of it in this case) is the important factor in a delicate, flaky pastry. Gluten is the protein structure that forms when gas is released as bread rises; a high protein flour will allow the stretchy, chewy, workable dough ideal for say, pizza crust. So alternatively, using a low protein flour and discouraging gluten formation will result in a more delicate pastry.

Keep the dough ingredients chilled and work the dough as little as possible. Chill both the fat and the water. As for the type of fat used, butter is great for flavor, and shortening for texture- a combination works especially well.

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker and Joy of Cooking

Pastry

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons cold water

Filling

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 cups blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter

In medium bowl, mix 2 cups flour and the salt. Cut in the shortening and butter using a pastry blender. Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost cleans side of bowl, adding 1-2 teaspoons more water if necessary. It should still look dry. Pinch some of the dough to see if it clumps together: if it does, it’s ready.

Gather pastry into a ball. Divide in half; shape into 2 discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 425°F. With floured rolling-pin, roll one disc into a sheet 2 inches larger than upside-down 9-inch glass pie plate. Roll sheet of dough around rolling-pin & transfer to the pie plate. If it tears or cracks, just pinch it together again and use scraps & water to repair any holes.

In a large bowl, mix the sugar, 1/2 cup flour and the cinnamon with the blueberries and spoon into pastry-lined pie plate. Sprinkle with lemon juice and the butter cut into small pieces. Cover with top pastry. Cut slits in it and crimp the edges either with a fork or by pinching around the edge with your fingers. Cover edge with a strip of foil to prevent the rim from getting too brown.

Bake 35-45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and juice begins to bubble through the slits in the crust, removing foil for last 15 minutes of baking. Cool 2+ hours for the increased possibility of intact slices.

Better Than (No) Sex (Cup)Cakes

Per the advice of my roommates, I’ve amended the recipe name. This lascivious chocolate dessert may quell the fervor, but it’s certainly no substitute. That being said, I still recommend the challenge!

Better Than (No) Sex (Cup)Cakes

  • 1 package devil’s food cake mix, prepared according to package directions (for me, this included 3 eggs, 1/2 cup oil, 1 1/4 cups water)
  • 1/2 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 ounces caramel ice cream topping
  • 3 (1.4 ounce) bars chocolate covered toffee, chopped
  • 1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
  1. Bake cupcakes according to package directions. Make slits across the top of the cupcakes, making sure not to go through to the bottom.
  2. In a saucepan over low heat, combine sweetened condensed milk and caramel topping, stirring until smooth and blended. Spoon the warm topping mixture over the top of the warm cupcakes, letting it sink into the slits. Sprinkle with the crushed candy liberally while still warm.
  3. Let the cupcakes cool completely, then top with whipped topping. Decorate the top of the cake with some more candy chunks and swirls of caramel.