Monday, January 31, 2011

A Most Delightful Combination.

Pretty much immediately when I got home from school the other day, I began rummaging in the cabinets, looking for ingredients. I was aiming for something quick and delicious. 
I remembered my friend Molly over at Secret Shelf Life (check her out, she writes lovely book reviews) made some awesome brownies from my favorite food blogger in the world, Joy the Baker. 
Mm, this is such a good combination. I wish I could have been the first person to think of it. The salty-ness goes really nicely with the dark chocolate and peanut butter (especially if you use natural). 
Yeah, I'm weird.
If you leave these in the fridge for a while, they'll pretty much turn into a dense, chocolate peanut butter torte. Mm. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon instant coffee (optional)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon  salt
coarse sea salt for topping
For the Peanut Butter Filling:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter, I prefer natural peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
large handful of pretzel sticks

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.  Grease an 8×8-inch baking pan.  Line with parchment paper so that it overhangs on two sides and grease the parchment paper as well.
Boil two inches of water in a medium saucepan.  Combine butter, unsweetened chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate and coffee powder in a heat proof bowl and place over the simmering water.  Stir until chocolate and butter are melted.  Use a pot holder to remove the bowl from the double boiler and let mixture cool slightly.  Stir in the vanilla extract.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk granulated sugar into the chocolate and butter mixture.  Make sure the chocolate mixture isn’t too hot and whisk the eggs in the mixture one at a time.

Fold in the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture and spoon into prepared pan.

To make the Peanut Butter Filling, whisk together peanut butter, melted butter, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract until smooth.

Pour the peanut butter mixture on top of the brownie batter and use a butter knife to swirl the two together.  Arrange pretzel sticks on top of the brownie batter in whatever pattern makes you happy.  Top with a few sprinkles of coarse sea salt.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until a skewer inserted in the center comes our mostly clean… maybe with just a few crumbs.
Let cool for about 30 minutes before slicing and enjoying.

Marble Cupcakes

Hey all. I'm so tired. If I write anything particularly weird, it's probably just the Nyquil talking. 
Last summer, I worked in my father's office a few times a week, and brought baked goods to share pretty much every time I was in. This earned me the moniker Cupcake. 
Well, the office staff misses Cupcake while she is away at school (speaking in the third person is weird...). So I decided to surprise them with a batch of these. 
You've probably learned by now that making things pretty isn't my strong point. It's hard to marble a cupcake, okay? Whatever the case, they turned out great. You can pretty much top them with whatever you like, powdered sugar, a simple milk glaze, or frosting, if you're like me and of the opinion that uh, cupcakes should be frosted. 
Marble Cupcakes 
from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

1 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk, room temperature
1/3 cup heavy cream, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Stir together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine milk and cream.

2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk mixture, and beating until combined.

3. To make chocolate batter, measure out 1 cup batter, and transfer to another bowl. Combine cocoa and the boiling water in a bowl. Stir into reserved 1 cup batter.

4. Fill prepared cups with alternating spoonfuls of vanilla and chocolate batter, filling each three-quarters full. Run the tip of a paring knife or wooden skewer through batter in a figure-eight motion to make swirls. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until tops are golden and a cake tester (i.e. toothpick) inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Playing With Mochi

Sorry again for the decline in posting. I'm home for a bit so I'll be bombarding you with all things delicious.

What the heck are those? Bars of soap? I thought you were supposed to be writing about food? Oh, you. They're blocks of mochi, which I mentioned in this post. Here's the story. I was talking to my Japanese teacher about where to find mochi nearby. She couldn't think of any places, but said she had some at her house she would give me. "Are you sure you know what it is?" she asked incredulously. "Do you like it?" I nodded eagerly. Finally some mochi!

When she handed me the bag, I had to admit, it didn't look like the mochi I'd had before. But when I got back to my room, I eagerly bit into one of the blocks. "Blehhhh!" I whined, spitting out what tasted like bits of candle wax.
I told my teacher what happened, and she seemed horrified. Apparently you're supposed to boil or bake mochi before eating it. That makes more sense. I tried to boil the first block a few months ago, and put chocolate chips on top. It was decent. This time, I wanted to cook them in a pan until they got all bubbly looking, and serve them with the traditional nori and soy sauce. But then I tasted nori and decided it was gross. So I put honey on one, and whipped cream and chocolate syrup on another.

The end result was crispy on the outside and super sticky chewy on the inside. Gotta be careful with this stuff. Apparently a handful of people choke on it and die every year. It's a bit of an acquired taste, but I really enjoy it. Now to figure out how to use that last block...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Eep, I'm sorry it's been a while guys. Interim is crazy, tons of reading and speeches and papers crammed into a month. I'll be so relieved to go home for a bit next week. 

Bananas are weird.

What I've made for all of you is worth the wait. Think of all your favorite flavors in one tiny package. No, not vanilla teriyaki hawaiian pizza, what's wrong with you? Try peanut butter chocolate chip banana muffins. Better? Better. 

These were very well received and I wish I had one right now. Mm. Unfortunately, they have disappeared. I didn't sift the dry ingredients like I was supposed to, because I didn't really have a sifting vessel, and I think that would make them even better. They also cooked sort of unevenly, but I blame that on my stupid dorm oven that kept turning itself off.
Since I only have a six muffin pan, I had to sit around forever waiting for all of them to finish.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
from Noble Pig

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed, golden brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2-3 large, ripe bananas, mashed-enough for 1-1/4 cups banana
1 cup milk
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
3 Tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
In a large bowl, sift together (make sure to sift), flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and the cinnamon; combine.

In another mixing vessel combine mashed bananas, milk, peanut butter, egg, oil, and vanilla; mix well.  Add this to the dry mixture previously prepared; mix just enough to combine.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Spray muffin tins with cooking spray, if you are using liners, spray those too, and fill tins 3/4 full.  This will make 18 nicely sized muffins.  You can double the recipe if you need more.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Baking Fail.

Well, it was about time I made something awful. Haha, you can't win every time, it's a fact of life. And it gives you good stories to tell, yes? 
I stole these from the dining hall.

I've been itching to bake for days now, but I have no eggs or butter (going to the store tomorrow, thank goodness). So I was browsing the internets, looking for a way to cook mochi, when I stumbled upon this youtube channel called The Daily English Show. I'm pretty sure it's geared towards Japanese people trying to learn English. The host has an awesome New Zealand accent. Check it out. Anyway. One of their videos was this recipe for something called Choco Rice Nom Nom Slice.

After I finished giggling, I decided to attempt to make them, since hey, they contained no eggs or butter. And um....they were not good. Maybe I did something wrong, but they were quite dry. So dry. I was disappointed to let down the people eagerly awaiting baked goods, but for me, the process is more satisfying than the eating. I'm cooking with friends later in the week, and one of these was requested. So I'll redeem myself. 

I'm not going to post the recipe initially, since it wasn't very good, but if you want to try it for yourself, leave me a comment and I'll add it on here. Also, if you know of any good butter and eggless recipes, let me know! 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Macaron Milestone

Back at school and you know what? It's good to be here. I never expected it to feel so much like home. But today I want to talk about a big step in my baking adventures that occurred right before I left for school: I made macarons. 

These are not to be confused with macaroons, which are those coconutty things (also delicious). Macarons have a sweet, airy shell of powdered sugars, nuts, and egg whites, and fillings range from buttercream to chocolate ganache. 

So the fact that this happened may not seem like a big deal to you, but macarons are notoriously difficult to work with. Honestly, I was a little bit scared. But browsing a blog I follow, I found a recipe I couldn't resist. So I took a chance, knowing they might not turn out at all, but that would be okay. It's all part of the learning experience. 

And you know what? They turned out beautifully. I'm not going to lie, they weren't easy, but I felt so empowered by the end. I kinda feel like I can do anything now. So lesson of the day is, take a chance on something that's maybe a little risky. It could be wonderful. 

Grapefruit and White Chocolate Macarons, adapted from Desserts for Breakfast
(Note: If you have a kitchen scale, go for the grams measurements. I'm sure they'll turn out better that way. I, uh, estimated. There are converters online.)
for macaron shells:
200 gr powdered sugar
120 gr blanched and slivered almonds
2 heaping Tbspn freshly grated grapefruit zest
1 or 2 drops red food coloring
30 gr granulated sugar
100 gr egg whites, aged 1-2 days at room temperature or a week in the refrigerator, at room temp
1/4 tspn cream of tartar

1. Prepare two baking sheets lined with silpats or parchment paper and a pastry bag with a large round piping tip.
2. Combine the powdered sugar, almonds, grapefruit zest, in a food processor and grind until a fine powder. 
4. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the egg whites, cream of tartar, and food coloring. Using an electric mixer, quickly stir the mixture until the entire surface is covered with foam. Then, start whisking the egg whites, gradually adding in the granulated sugar. Whisk until you reach glossy, almost-stiff peaks.
5. Gently fold the sifted almond and powdered sugar mixture into the egg whites in three to four stages, just until the ingredients are incorporated and the batter slowly re-absorbs peaks.
6. Transfer the macaron mixture to the prepared piping bag and pipe rounds on to the lined baking sheets. Tap the baking sheets on the table a few times to release air pockets.
7. Rest the macarons for at least 30 minutes (and up to 60), until the outside shells are no longer tacky and sticky to a light touch.
8. Preheat oven to 290 degrees F, with the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.
9. Bake the macarons in the oven, one sheet at a time, for 24-28 minutes total, rotating the sheet half-way through the baking time to insure even baking.
10. Remove from oven and let cool.

for grapefruit curd:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
2 Tbspn cold water
3 Tbspn corn starch
1/8 tspn salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 Tbspn butter, at room temperature
2-3 drops red food coloring
3/4 cup boiling water
freshly grated zest of one medium-sized grapefruit

1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually blend in the cold water and grapefruit juice.
2. Add the egg yolks, butter, and food coloring, blending until smooth.
3. Gradually add in the boiling water, stirring constantly.
4. Place the saucepan on medium high heat and bring to a full boil, stirring gently with a spatula and scraping the bottom (to prevent burning). Once the mixture begins to thicken, reduce the heat and simmer for one minute.
5. Remove the curd from heat and mix in the grapefruit zest. Let cool and then use to fill macarons.

for white chocolate buttercream:
1 stick butter, at room temperature
6 oz. white chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
1/2 - 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1. In a mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until fluffy.
2. Add the melted and cooled white chocolate to the butter and mix to combine.
3. Gradually add the powdered sugar until the frosting is the desired consistency. Use immediately to fill the macarons.

Once the macarons are filled, place them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for ~24 hours to "cure" and reach the height of their flavor.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

This is the New Year.

Hey folks. Happy New Year to you all. Does it feel any different? 

When I was young I wasn't allowed to stay up til midnight, so there was always this sense of mystery surround New Year's Eve. So it was such a big deal seeing the ball drop on tv, finally having that privilege. 

I stay up until midnight all the time now. I was actually getting the urge to go to bed earlier yesterday. 

Do you make resolutions? I don't. I guess I don't see the need. In my opinion, one should constantly be improving a little bit each and every day, without the pressure of a resolution behind it. Life is a series of small events that culminate into something important. Can't wait around for something earth shattering, or decide on a specific moment in time to instantly change of facet of your character. 

Enough rambling. Have a cupcake. 
Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

Makes 18

* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for tins
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup whole milk
* 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for tins
* 3 large eggs
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* Vanilla Cream (see below)
* Chocolate-Ganache Glaze (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour standard muffin tins. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Warm milk and butter in a saucepan over low heat.
2. Beat eggs and sugar with a mixer on high speed until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in dry ingredients.
3. Bring milk and butter to a boil. With mixer on low speed, add milk mixture to batter, and beat until smooth. Add vanilla. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each halfway. Bake cupcakes until light gold, about 15 minutes. Let cool in tins for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks. Let cool.
4. Using a serrated knife, cut each in half horizontally. Spread 1 tablespoon vanilla cream on each cupcake bottom. Sandwich with top. Spoon glaze over each, and serve immediately.

Vanilla cream
* 2 large egg yolks
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
* Pinch of salt
* 1 cup whole milk
* 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Whisk yolks until smooth. Mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add milk in a slow, steady stream. Cook, stirring, until mixture begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes.
2. Pour 1/3 of milk mixture into yolks, whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until thick, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla. 

Chocolate Ganache
 * 2/3 cup heavy cream
* 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
* 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, and add chocolate and corn syrup. Let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, and let cool, stirring often. Use immediately.