Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tuscaloosa and Tom Selleck

Hey, there's me.

There were still flowers blooming in some of the yards. Windows boarded over, people moved on, but the flowers continued to grow. Last spring, in the Tuscaloosa/Birmingham region of Alabama, a massive tornado struck. The twister seemed to have a mind of its own, striking the poorest areas and the area's aid organizations . Even a year later, there are still spectacular amounts of damage. That's where we came in. 45 college students, eager to help in any way possible. We spent hours in the hot sun, digging up broken glass, cutting down trees, and ripping out foundation. 

I don't do a lot of manual labor, being shut up in my little academic world most of the time. It was really humbling to just get out there and use my hands. It felt good. And it made me so thankful that I had that sleeping bag to crawl into at night, the hot food on my plate, and the support of friends. 

The dessert I made is called a Tom Selleck. I really don't know why, let me know if you do. I wish I could have made one of these in Alabama and shared it with my work group or the kind people who opened their churches to us to sleep in. Sometimes that's the only way I know how to say thank you, with food. 

Tom Selleck

1 1/2 sticks butter
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
8-ounce package cream cheese at room temperature
2/3 cup powdered sugar
whipped cream
chocolate pudding (if you're feeling fancy, make mine! Or use instant stuff)

Start by making the crust.  Mix together butter, sugar, and flour until it is combined. Press the crumbs into the bottom of a sprayed 9×13 pan.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Cool completely. While the crust is cooling, whip 2 cups of heavy cream until stuff peaked form.    Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar together.  Fold in one third of the whipped cream.  
Spread the cream cheese layer over the cooled crust. Spread the chocolate pudding on top. Cover the top with the remaining whipped cream.  Chill for a few hours or overnight. Add some sprinkles to the top and serve.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Triple Chocolate Muffins

Hey everyone! Just as things start to settle down and I can really get my bake on, spring break rolls around and I leave on a service trip. D'aw. No time for cooking when you're volunteering by day and sleeping on a church floor by night. So if you don't hear from me for a while, fear not. I'll have cool stories to tell when I return! 

Ah, the highly anticipated Joy the Baker Cookbook. Joy's blog is really the first one I got into, so I have her to thank for inspiring my little corner of internet here. If you've never been over there, I highly encourage it. Also, check out her podcast on Homefries. 

Okay, so I'm not going to be posting recipes from her cookbook on here all the time, cause I think you should go out and buy the book, but I couldn't resist sharing the first thing I made. Make them, recognize their deliciousness, and be moved to get Joy's book, haha. These muffins have a triple dose of chocolate: blended in the batter, chopped up and stirred in, and drizzled on top. Nom. 

Have a lovely spring break! 

Triple Chocolate Muffins
from the Joy the Baker Cookbook

1/2 cup unsalted butter
5 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt 
1 tsp instant espresso powder or vanilla extract
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup semisweet dark chocolate chips 
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners and set aside. 
In a double boiler, or heatproof bowl placed over simmering water, melt the butter and chopped chocolate, stirring occasionally. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly. 
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and powder, salt, and espresso powder if using. Whisk the brown sugar into the chocolate mixture. Whisk in eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla if using until well blended. Add the flour all at once, folding with a rubber spatula until no visible flour remains. Stir in chocolate chunks. Divide batter between cups and bake for 18-20 minutes. Allow them to cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan. While muffins cool, place white chocolate back on the double boiler and melt completely. Drizzle over the cooled muffins. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Secret Recipe Club - Crumb Cake

Guys, I am so stressed out. It's the week before spring break, and everything is happening at the same time, and it's kind of awful. I honestly almost forgot to do my Secret Recipe Club post, which would have made me feel like a horrible person.

I didn't forget! I went to Sweet Flours, a lovely little blog run by Allison, who has the bluest eyes ever! Haha, anyway, after a little digging, I found a crumb cake recipe I really wanted to try out. Have you ever had these donuts? I am not a donut eater, but occasionally a box of them will make its way into the house and everyone will be on them like a pack of starving dogs. You have to get the one with the most crumbs! You do not have to fight for the most best piece of this cake. No lame sparsely scattered crumbs here. The cake is completely obscured by crumbly goodness, so all the pieces are the best piece. Everyone can be happy.

Well, I've had my fun. Time to get back to my pile of schoolwork *sigh*

Crumb Cake
from Sweet Flours

crumb topping
1/3 cup granulated sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
1 3/4 cups cake flour (7 ounces)

1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk

confectioners’ sugar for dusting

1. Topping: Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Cake: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 16-inch length parchment paper or aluminum foil and fold lengthwise to 7-inch width. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and fit parchment into dish, pushing it into corners and up sides; allow excess to overhang edges of dish.

3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.

4. Transfer batter to baking pan; using rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer. Following photos below, break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in even layer over batter, beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan by lifting parchment overhang. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.  Cut into 12 large or 16 reasonable sized pieces.  Enjoy!

Guest Post - Double Chocolate Brownie Semifreddo

Hey guys, I'm hanging out over at The Heritage Cook on this fine Monday, guest posting for Jane while she's on vacation. Check out her blog, and come see my post. Yay for blog friends! 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Nutella Nanaimo Bars

Hey, I'm back from the dead! Tea and naps are great. So as my comeback post, I'll give you something super nom-worthy. You may ask, dear reader, as I once did, what the heck is a Nanaimo? The more appropriate question is WHERE is Nanaimo? The answer is British Columbia! 

This tasty treat originated in that great wilderness of Canada in the 1950's. Traditionally, it's a no-bake, three layer dealio, said layers consisting of cookie crumb, vanilla custard, and chocolate topping. There are all sorts of variations out there now, and when I found a nutella version, I knew I had to try it. I feel like nutella is unreasonably popular with hipsters and college kids, but maybe I'm just making that up. 

So, how did my bars fare? Well, I am a Nanaimo novice, so I can't really say how authentic they were. But they tasted soooo good. Everyone who has had one just kind of pauses and sighs after the first bite. My favorite part is not the nutella layer, but the thick oreo and coconut crust. It might have to make another appearance someday. 

Nutella Nanaimo Bars 

2 cups crushed oreos (I used two of the rows in a package)
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup Nutella
1 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

5 oz dark chocolate
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 8 inch square pan with parchment and spray with non-stick spray. 
Make the base: In a large bowl combine cookie crumbs, sugar, cocoa and coconut and mix together. 
Stir in the melted butter, egg and vanilla, mix all together until damp.
Press the crumbs flat into the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool while preparing the filling. 
Make the filling: In a medium bowl, mix butter and icing sugar and beat together to form a thick paste. Add the Nutella, cream and vanilla and beat until smooth.
Using an offset spatula spread the filling on to the crust. Cover with plastic wrap, directly on the filling, pressing flat. Let chill until firm.  
When firm make the topping. Melt chocolate and butter over a double boiler. When completely melted let cool slightly and spread over the filling layer. Chill again to completely set. Slice into bars and store in the refrigerator.