Bars/Brownies Archives - Parsley, Sage, and Sweet

Zebra Cake from 2007, and Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

June 17, 2012 at 11:10 am | Posted in Bars/Brownies, Cakes, Dessert | 82 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

Dear Readers ,

First off, the above is a transitional header and name (desserts and line drives was too long).  I still haven’t decided where I’m going to go with this, but I got sick of looking at that ugly, old header.

Secondly, please excuse these old photos, but love this cake.  Not only is it cool to look at – but it’s moist, delectable and easy to make.

Love ‘n stuff,
Lisa

Back in January of 2011, my computer crashed.  The hard drive was annihilated.  I lost all of my photos. Some of those photos were of several amazing and somewhat laborious, treats, two of the treats that I especially mourn to this day.  One was a beautiful Tourte Milanese – layers of colorful, roasted vegetables, serrano ham and softly scrambled, herbed eggs encased in golden puff pastry.  The other was a Gateau Basque, best described as a mix of a cake, cookie and pie, from the Basque region of France, filled with luscious almond pastry cream and homemade cherry jam.  They were both so lovely, aesthetically, and exquisite in flavor, that I did everything I could with the dead hard drive, bringing it from place to place, to see what they could retrieve from it.

 

Fudgy, Loaded Peanut Butter Cup Brownies.  A Peanut Butter Cup in Every Bite!

Wouldn’t you know it, they were able to get most everything off of it EXCEPT the laborious treats and the Tourte Milanese and Gateua Basque.  Why?  Why?  Why?

I still hold on to that drive with the hope that, miraculously, someone will be able to find and extract even one photo of each.  The truth is, the two that slay me, were also a little labor intensive, and I haven’t had the time or motivation to really dig into recreating either.  Plus, I don’t often get good photos, but by some stroke of luck, the photos of these two extravagant goodies, including the prep photos, were some of the best I’ve ever taken.  Again..

Why?  Why?  WHY?

Here’s the kicker, a group of photos of a zebra cake I made in 2007, were all there, well, most of them..(some of the prep photos didn’t make it)..in perfect condition.  These photos were from a time before a food blog was even a twinkle in my eye.  Back then, I took quick shots with a point and shoot, under kitchen lighting, and sometimes I used *gasp* a flash.

They were also able to pull these 2009 peanut butter cup brownies off the drive.  One problem, though..just the one photo you see above the zebra batter, when there were originally 10 full size photos.  This one had been cropped already.

Barring the photo quality, it’s a pretty cool looking cake..so I decided to post it. As I mentioned in my last post..I haven’t had the time to cook or bake anything really blog worthy, unless you consider boiled, boxed pasta with a simple tomato sauce and sloppy tuna sandwiches on wheat toast, blog worthy. In other words, I haven’t felt like spending hours sifting through 100 photos of sloppy tuna salad, and then hours of post-processing the best of the bland.


At least the ugly overnight oatmeal had a little pizzazz with the use of an almost empty peanut butter jar and the near endless possibilities of add-ins.

So, here’s my zebra cake, in all it’s ancient point and shoot glory.  I love the way the stripes came out, and it was quite moist and tasty, therefore – blog worthy.  However, for some reason I cannot recollect nor fathom why I placed the cake slices on top of a cheap cake turntable.  It looks weird. Please look at the cool, zebra stripes and blur out the weird-looking cake turntable. I’m uhh, kinda embarrassed!

I want you all to make this cake and impress everyone you serve it to  It’ll look better on your plate and table than it does in these antiquated photos. Oh, and make the peanut butter cup brownies too!  Had to add that.

Loaded Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Brownies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: One 8-inch square pan brownies, about 9 to 12 brownies
 
Adapted from My Baking Addiction
ingredients:
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped..or chocolate chips
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup creamy peanut butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 10 regular size Reese’s peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped
directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. I line the pan with foil or parchment paper, making sure there is overhang to use as handles to lift out the brownies, Spray/grease foil or parchment if you use this method.
  2. Microwave chopped chocolate and butter for about 45 seconds. If not mostly melted, microwave for 20 more seconds. Stir until smooth. Whisk in the cocoa powder and espresso powder. Set aside. OR, melt in a double boiler.
  3. Whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, peanut butter and salt until combined. Whisk the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Stir in the flour until just combined. Fold chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups into batter. Pour mixture into pan, spread evenly and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula.
  4. Bake approximately 35-40 minutes. Brownies will be slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out mostly clean. Cool to room temperature for about 2 hours. Cut into 1″ squares. Store in a tightly sealed container; preferably in the refrigerator.
  5. Chocolate and Vanilla Zebra Cake

Chocolate and Vanilla Zebra Cake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: One 8 or 9-inch round cake
 
Recipe from my scribble scrabble on a piece of paper. I cannot remember where I found it, but I did make some changes to it at the time. UPDATE: I found the original recipe I used when I first made it. Check it out HERE.
ingredients:
  • 2¼ cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil or coconut oil.. or butter*
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream (milk is fine too)
directions:
  1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. * If using butter, cream it together with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, until each one is fully incorporated. Add vanilla extract. If using oil, beat together the eggs, oil, and sugar until light and fluffy, then add vanilla extract.
  3. Alternate adding the flour mixture with the yogurt or sour cream or milk, starting and ending with the flour. Do not over mix.
  4. Now - This is where it all begins with the batter to make the zebra pattern.
  5. Here's a video that shows you the zebra method, and another one using a spoon, which is how I do it, AND one more for good measure, since my step-by-step photos weren't recovered. I didn't use pastry bags, (good idea, though), just tablespoons and less batter of each color per drop than what you see in the video, to produce stripes that are closer together. The below instructions explain how I did it.
  6. Divide the batter in half, into two separate bowls, and add about 3-5 T of dark cocoa (I use Dutch Processed) to one half of the batter. If the white batter is too runny, add 3-5 tablespoons of flour to it. You want the white and chocolate batter to be close in viscosity.
  7. To start..you'll be 'layering' 1 to 3 tablespoons of each batter, right on top of one another into a lightly greased 8 or 9-inch cake pan.(I add a parchment circle, and lightly grease that too). I used an 8-inch round cake pan.
  8. Starting with the white batter drop 1-3 tablespoons on the bottom of the pan, then drop 1-3 tablespoons of the chocolate batter right on top of the white batter, in the middle, then 1-3 tablespoons of white on top of the chocolate, then repeat with the white batter in the middle of chocolate batter. Keep alternating batters in the center of each until you've used up both batters. It will look lopsided at several points..spreading more to one side of the pan, but by the time you're close to finished, it'll start to even out. It should look like a bullseye of white and dark batter, as you can see in the photo right below this recipe
  9. The less tablespoons of batter you use, the closer together the stripes will be. I used 2 tablespoons batter of each per drop..but use up to 4 for thicker stripes.
  10. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes. A toothpick or skewer inserted in the center of the cake, should come out clean when it's done.
  11. Try this with other flavors/colors, like matcha with the chocolate, pistachio paste, or raspberry syrup or ground, dehydrated raspberries. You can make this cake a kaleidoscope of stripe. Let your imagination run wild!
notes:
- If you have a foolproof yellow or white layer cake recipe you love and would prefer to use, add dark cocoa powder to one half of the whole recipe, and proceed with zebra cake batter pattern. If you like using cake mixes, (I don't, personally), or want to use one in a pinch, you will do the same - dark cocoa powder to half the batter, then proceed.
butter* - I've heard that all butter prevents you from getting a tight zebra pattern like mine. It will still 'zebra', but not like what you see here.

Bookmark and Share

One..NO TWO – Macarons, December cookie baking, and my fear of THE TRIPOD

December 23, 2009 at 3:56 am | Posted in Bars/Brownies, Candy, Cookies, Dessert | 53 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

To start off, this was supposed to be my entry for Jamie (of Life’s a Feast) and Deeba’s (of Passionate About Baking) MacTweets MacAttack last week.  Now that it’s 10 days late, and pretty much null and void,I suppose I’ll just have to call this your every day non-challenge post, which as you can see, I have very few of, especially since joining the Daring Cooks in conjunction with the Daring Bakers.  Since I’m not married and not a mommy, I don’t cook/bake every day, and when I do, it’s usually for a challenge I leave to the last minute.

I LOVE cooking and baking..it’s a passion that oozes from my pores, but hey, eventually you realize you can’t give enough away and end up throwing a lot of stuff out.  I’m actually looking forward to the day I have a hungry brood to feed.

Salted, Spiced Caramel Macarons

Fleur de Sel Cinnamon Caramel Apple MacaronsNotice the oozing caramel in some of them?  The caramel for those was cooked to about 230-235F.  I cooked it up to 240ish for the next batch of filling – no more oozing, although I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing!

OK, one more thing/diatribe before I get to the macarons.  I must admit something to you all, and it’s weird, really weird.  I’m afraid of my tripod.  For those who don’t know me or haven’t followed this blog, you’re probably thinking “This girl is afraid of a piece of equipment that holds a camera steady?  What a freak!”.  For those who do know me and/or my blog, you know I annihilated my knee trying to save my camera when I knocked against THE TRIPOD atop a staircase as I was setting up for photos for the Daring Bakers Lavash challenge.

Because of this little phobia, my photos suffer.  It’s bad enough I have no natural light, which is all the more reason I MUST use a tripod, but one look at this piece of equipment, and I shudder.  Memories of my leg flopping all over the place as I tried to crawl to the phone, and the year I’ve spent rehabilitating that leg, are pretty much the reason.  Maybe I need a much sturdier tripod since mine possesses legs that even a modeling agency would call too skinny, and what looks to be balls instead of feet (My father gave it to me.  He found it in the attic of an abandoned estate, along with other antique camera equipment, a few years before I was born).

As I look below at the blurry spinach and peppers in my Beef Wellington post, and know this freaky phobia is partially the cause, I have to laugh..really.  If I don’t, I just might scream!!

Fleur de Sel Spiced Caramel Apple Macarons

Now that I’ve vented my weird phobia to you all, on to the macarons.  I made two kinds, since I couldn’t decide on one –  fleur de sel-cinnamon macaron shells filled with spiced apple cider caramel, and a pure, fresh roasted maple pumpkin filling between two pumpkin pie spiced macaron shells, topped with spicy toasted Jack Be Little pumpkin seeds (You know, the baby pumpkins you can hold in your hand.  The seeds are light and tiny, perfect to top a macaron shell without any craters forming, but next time I think I’ll use pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds).

Salted Apple Cider CaramelsSalted Apple Cider Caramels – UPDATE: 2/13 – I made these with fresh, juiced peaches instead of apple cider, last summer.  Simply AMAZING!

The best part of this macaron endeavor was the spiced apple cider caramel filling.  This is because once I cooked it to spreadable ‘filling’ temp, about 235 – 40 degrees on a candy thermometer, I took out what I needed to fill the macarons, and cooked the rest to the ‘soft -medium’ ball stage..about 250-60, to make buttery soft salted caramel candies.  You can’t beat one recipe that results in cookies AND candy.  I found the recipe for the apple cider caramels HERE, but after the first batch, to test, (some of which I sent to the winner of the Fahrenehit 350 Blogiversary Giveaway, which I will get to later), I realized they were way too buttery, which is usually a good thing, but when it borders on greasy, it is NOT.

I cut down the butter on batch number two to 6 tablespoons rather than 8 (cutting down butter is almost sacrilige to me), added ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and a bit of cardamom, and finally achieved what I felt was ‘just right’.  I only wish I didn’t send batch number one out to the winner, but at the time, I thought they were good – BEFORE  I noticed the butter stains all over the napkins I used to wipe my fingers after eating a few.  Yikes.

‘The Whole Pumpkin’ Macarons.  I gave them a spritz of orange spray food color for photos – so no, nothing ‘cool’ here.

Regarding the Giveaway, I was extremely flattered last month when Kitty of Fahrenheit 350° asked me to participate in her Blogiversary giveaway.  This meant baking something and sending it to the winner, along with a few other bloggers she’d chosen.   The winner, Heather of Utah (no last names here) made out like a bandit.  You should see the loot she hauled in.

You can see my spotlight HERE and the other bloggers too if you skim through the posts before and after mine.  Every day of the week, for one week, leading up to her Blogiversary, a new blogger (inlcuding lil ‘ole me) was in the spotlight along with the goodies to be sent to the winner.  Isn’t that a great idea?  Naturally, as I always do, I went overboard..wayy overboard, and started experimenting with recipes I’d never tried before.  I wanted to blow the winner away with goodies she wasn’t expecting along with the two cookies I offered up.

Well..sometimes too much of a good thing really is too much.  Always stick with the tried and true, and don’t overdo it. especially when sending your stuff to a total stranger.  Some of these new recipes didn’t turn out that great, but I didn’t realize how much so until the package was in the mail and we started to really sample some.  You see..bake, cool and send IMMEDIATELY was the modus operandi, and the dough tasted great on all of them! A new lesson learned..I’m humbled.  I really hope she has a more forgiving palate than I do!

                       ‘Best Ever’ Brownies and Minty Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of the cookies I baked was a Tiramisu cookie I got from the Domino’s Sugar site.  Domino’s Sugar sent me a $20.00 gift card for my holiday baking and wanted me to  bake something from their recipe page, or just use their sugar in my holiday baking in general.  Well, no need to ask, since I use Domino’s sugar in all of my baking, and have been doing so since I was in high school.  I’m never, ever without it..brown, dark brown, granulated, powdered etc..so, in retropsect, it was like them asking me to change my underwear each day.

Apparently this gift card was to help with ingredients for whatever cookie(s), cakes, pies etc.. I was going to bake, but the thing is..I’m NEVER without every baking essential possible.  I have everything, at all times, always on hand (until I run out, in which it’s immediately replaced), unless it’s a rare ingredient that one particular recipe calls for.  When I received this gift card, there was nothing I needed, so I bought lobsters.  Thank you for my awesome lobster dinner, Domino’s Sugar and Hilary from Domino’s Sugar!

                                           The aforementioned Tiramisu cookies

In any event, I didn’t particularly like the cookie part of this Tiramisu cookie recipe, so I used THIS COOKIEminus the chocolate chips and nuts,BUT, used the fillings from the Domino’s sugar recipe.  Fudgy, creamy, drippy, gooey.  Enough said.

                 Mandel Kakor – I call them Swedish Biscotti, and Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Well, I think I covered every corner as far as my cookie baking went.  Please be sure to stop back Devemeber 27th to see my Daring Bakers Gingerbread House (HINT: it won’t be a house).  I have never, ever built one before, so you just might get some laughs.  I have less than 5 days to knock this one out and I haven’t even made the gingerbread yet.  Wish me luck, because I’ll need it!

                                         Brown Butter-Milk Chocolate Chunk Thins

Salted Apple Cider Caramels

Mandel Kakor Cookies (Buttery Swedish Biscotti)

Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Minty Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: two dozen cookies
 
ingredients:
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2½ teaspoons peppermint or spearmint extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips (milk or white chocolate is nice too, or a combo of two or all three)
directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cream the butter and sugars. Add eggs, peppermint extract and vanilla extract.
  3. Sift together flour, salt and baking soda and then add to the egg mix and beat until just combined.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Form the dough into 2-inch balls. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake until golden, about 9 minutes for chewy and 12 for crunchy. Repeat with second baking sheet. Cool on rack. Store in an airtight container.

 
Whole Pumpkin Macarons and Spiced Salted Caramel Apple Macarons
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: about 16 macarons
 
Basic macaron recipe from Helene of Tartelette
ingredients:
Macaron Batter
  • 90 grams of egg white (about 3 - but do weigh them!)
  • 30 grams of plain white granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
  • 200 grams of icing or powdered sugar (1½ cups)
  • 110 grams of finely ground blanched almonds (1 cup + 4 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons)
Fresh Pumpkin Filling
  • 1 cup fresh roasted pumpkin puree. If using canned, let drain in a colander overnight prior to making filling.
  • 1 tabelspoon pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Spicy, Toasted Baby Pumpkin Seeds
  • The seeds from one Jack Be Little pumpkin or pepitas
  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
directions:
  1. In a food processor, run the nuts and powdered sugar until the nuts are finely ground. Run through a sieve if needed.
  2. Whip the egg whites until foamy, slowly add the granulated sugar, until they are glossy and stiff.
  3. Slowly sift in and fold the nut/sugar mixture into the whites with a wide spatula, in several increments. The mixture should remain shiny and flow easily (like lava/magma).
  4. Fill a pastry bag with the batter and pipe small rounds (about 1 to 1.5 inches - an Ateco #807 tip works well for this) onto parchment lined baking sheets.
  5. Let the macarons dry for anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 300F.
  6. When they are dry (touch one lightly, a dry shell will have formed - but do NOT push in), bake them for 12-15 minutes.
  7. Let cool, remove from the paper and fill 2 shells with filling of your choice.
For Salted, Spiced Caramel Macarons
  1. Add 1 tablespoon of cinnamon to the batter, then sprinkle half of the piped mounds with coarse sea salt (preferably fleur de sel) and a little extra cinnamon prior to drying and baking.
For Spiced Caramel Apple Filling
  1. Add about 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg and ⅛ teaspoon of cloves to the hot caramel (linked above) prior to setting. For filling consistency, only cook the caramel to about 240 on a candy thermometer. Let cool, then fill a pastry or ziplock bag (end snipped off once filled) with caramel and pipe onto bottom shells, topping each one with salted shells. For caramel candies, follow the directions linked above.
For Whole Pumpkin Macarons
  1. Add 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice to the batter and top mounds half of the mounds on baking sheet with spicy, toasted baby pumpkin seeds.
For Spicy Toasted Baby Pumpkin Seeds (or pepitas)
  1. Cut the pumpkin open and remove the seeds. Rinse to remove all the pulp then let air dry. Preheat oven to 250F.
  2. Combine the seeds with oil and the next 6 ingredients. Spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
  3. Spread the seeds on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Bake until dry, stirring occasionally, about 1hour. Let cool.
For Fresh Pumpkin Filling
  1. Beat all of the above together until smooth. In a saucepan, cook down the mixture until dark and thickened. Let cool. Spoon into pastry bag and pipe onto macarons shell bottoms, topping with seed coated shells, then sandwich gently.
notes:
!MACARON TIPS:
Age the egg whites in a covered container at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours. I sometimes age them longer, uncovering the container for the last few hours.
I like to dry my tant pour tant (the almond meal-confectioner's sugar amalgamation) prior to making macarons. I let it sit out uncovered at room temperature the night before making them. I get super smooth shells that way for some reason.

Double baking sheets for better 'feet'.

 
Best Ever Brownies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: one 9-inch square pan brownies
 
Adapted from Baking with Julia
ingredients:
  • 1¼ cups sifted all-purpose flour — measure after sifting
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups sugar (divided use)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
directions:
  1. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil or parchment paper Bottom and up the sides, making sure you have some overlapping over the sides of the pan to use as handles to lift the whole square of brownies out once baked. . Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Stir the sifted flour and salt together in a small bowl; set aside.
  3. Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. When melted, reduce heat to low and add chopped chocolate, stirring often until completely melted. Add 1 cup of the sugar to the butter-chocolate mixture and stir for about a minute. Remove pan from heat and pour into a mixing bowl. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. Whisk the remaining 1 cup sugar and the 4 eggs in a second bowl – only until combined – do NOT over-whisk. Gradually pour half of the sugar-egg mixture into the bowl with the chocolate mixture, stirring quickly so that eggs don’t cook/scramble from the heat of the chocolate mixture.
  5. Using a hand-held or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the remaining sugar-egg mixture on high speed until it turns light in color, thick and doubles in volume - about 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Carefully fold the beaten egg-sugar mixture into the chocolate, sugar, egg mixture. When everything is almost completely incorporated, gently fold in the dry ingredients. I like to sift the dry ingredients over the mixture, then fold.
  7. Scrape the batter into the lined 9-inch square pan and bake on the middle rack for 25 to 28 minutes. They will rise and the top will turn shiny.
  8. Cut into the center of the brownies after 22-23 minutes to see how they are baking. They should be barely set and gooey, which means you're on the right track. In fact - you can take them out now, since they will set up more while cooling, OR continue to bake another 2 to 5 minutes until a little more set. A matter of preference.
  9. Let the brownies cool for 10 minutes..then lift them out of the pan using the edges of the foil or parchment paper, Cool completely on a wire rack, then cut into squares and enjoy!

 
Brown Butter Melty Middle Milk Chocolate Chunk Thins
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 20 to 22 cookies
 
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
ingredients:
  • 1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8¾ ounces)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1½ cups milk chocolate chunks
directions:
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (12 x 17-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
  3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in milk chocolate chunks.
  4. Divide dough into about 20 balls, each about 1½ tablespoons. Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
  5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 12 (for slightly underbaked like in photo) minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Cinnamon Caramel Apple MacaronsBookmark and Share

The ummm..Best Peanut Butter Cheesecake Swirl/Chunk? Brownies..EVER!

August 4, 2009 at 8:19 am | Posted in Bars/Brownies, Cheese, Dessert | 89 Comments
Tags: , , , ,

The ‘ummm’ in the title refers to the fact that I don’t believe there is a ‘best’ of anything, especially when it comes to food, but it’s a term that’s used quite often in many situations to spark people’s curiosity enough to take a look at and maybe try it.  My original title was going to be ‘Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies’.  How original and witty!!

pbbrownies

My quest for the perfect peanut butter cheesecake swirl brownie came about when I wanted to create something for someone I used to know who loved peanut butter, cheesecake and dark chocolate.  Well, that someone is no longer a someone in my life, so, if you want to look at it in a spiritual sense, that batch of brownies not turning out the way I had hoped was for a reason.

Brownie kismet, perhaps?

Now it was time to literally start over and give this brownie another few shots.  Another few shots is actually an understatement, since it took 4 more tries before I was satisfied with the results.

IMG_68991

This was my first attempt back in April.  WHERE’S THE CHEESECAKE?  They tasted good and were super tender and moist – but it wasn’t even close to what I was striving for.

The first attempt was back in late March-early April, the last 4 attempts were in a span of one week.  I usually keep a clean work space (well, try to) when cooking and baking, but by the 4th attempt, as you can see below, I said “Fluck it!” and basked in a heavenly mess of chocolate, peanut butter, empty cartons, egg shells.. ad whaddamessitum!  I was getting peanut butter in my chocolate amd chocolate in my peanut butter.

Yes, it can happen in baking, but it’s a little far-fetched when some dude is walking down the street eating peanut butter from a jar and a gorgeous woman comes flying out of nowhere and slams into him, spiking her chocolate bar into his jar of peanut butter.  They fall in love, invent the peanut butter cup, and become multimillionaires – until he leaves her for the hot, young blonde in his office who turns him on to Mentos.

I even stepped on a few empty, cracked egg shells that hit the floor and ignored the smushed little white bits of *calcium, some of which stuck to my shoes – occasionally leaving a trail of little white specks for my cats to swat.  I was in a zone!  The world could have ended, and I would have still been melting, mixing, beating, swirling, as I disintegrated into ash.

IMG_6971

What I wanted was an obvious cheesecake bite and texture in my brownie – heavy on the peanut butter flavor in the cheesecake batter.  In a lot of cheesecake swirl brownies, the cheesecake batter kind of melts into the brownie batter, a swirl or bit here and there, along with a slightly tangy, moist bite, which isn’t a bad thing at all – BUT, I wanted a big bites of cheesecake.   Think of a cheesecake with a brownie crust, but divide and swirl both together.  In other words, creamy chunks of cheesecake easily distinguishable visually, texturally, and palatably throughout the moist, dense fudgy brownie.

batter

I searched online, and was surprised to see that there weren’t many PEANUT BUTTER cheesecake swirl brownie recipes.  In fact, I found just three along the lines of what I envisioned, one from Bon Appetit, which was just a layer of brownie topped with a peanut butter cheesecake-chocolate swirl…so, no.  The second was from Anna at Cookie Madness, which look great, but no chunks, and the last one at Baking Blonde’s Weblog, which are topped with Reese’s peanut butter cups –  BUT, as mentioned above, I wanted those cheescake chunks and more peanut butter.

From there, I decided to just look for plain cheesecake brownies ( 1 TRILLION hits), and ended up at David Lebovitz’s Cheesecake Brownies, which was exactly what I was looking for – a good amount of thick, creamy cheesecake distributed throughout the brownie.  Now the conundrum – how was I going to incorporate the peanut butter seamlessly, and what adjustments do I need to make to get that same bite and effect, with a distinct peanut butter flavor, in the cream cheese batter?  This is where my journey to the last four attempts began.

IMG_79461

I tried several different amounts of peanut butter and cream cheese, and whole eggs versus egg yolks, until I finally reached what I think is pretty close to the ultimate ‘loaded’ peanut butter cheesecake brownie.  One trick to get those lovely swirl/chunks of cheesecake, is to pour half the brownie batter into the bottom of the pan, then spoon several dollops of the peanut butter cheesecake batter on top.  DO NOT swirl/marble them together.

Yep, you read that right, no swirling allowed in step one!

Step two..gently pour/scrape the remaining brownie batter on top of those dollops of peanut butter cheesecake goo, spreading it delicately, and top the remaining brownie batter with more dollops of the remaining cheesecake batter.  NOW you can swirl away.  Just the top though, although it’s ok if the first layer gets swirled a bit, just not too much, as you want those cheesecake chunks (well, I know I do.).


I brought some of my attempts, and the final brownies, to my gym.  Veering wayyyy off topic for a moment, I’m now doing my PT in this awesome, state of the art gym.  Heat treatment and deep knee massages prior to getting my booty whipped, vibrating electrode ice treatments after getting my booty whipped.  Top of the line work-out machines, all with digital cable TV’s and Ipods, (although the music they blast in the gym is awesome, a lot of classic rock) loads of great classes (just signed up for Pilates and Kickboxing), a driving range out back, along with one of my favorite ‘sports’ to play..ever, miniature golf.

Is mini golf considered a sport?

That said, knee massages sound great, right?  Well, it’s painful while it’s happening, but in a good way.  It’s what you feel the next day that isn’t good.  The first three sessions, the post massage mornings were hell.  They’re manipulating my knee in ways it’s never been manipulated, not to mention my quad, which needs to be built up again to support my knee, since it was pretty much atrophied for quite a while.  However, the pain doesn’t last too long, and is starting to ease up, depending on which Physical Therapist massages it, so no complaints here since……

I can WALK again!

We’re talking without a brace, walker or cane!  So what if I walk like Herman Munster for now, and it isn’t easy yet?  I can finally freakin’ walk!!  I’ll touch on that more in my next entry, along with a funny story regarding two women, one of them moi, and most men’s obsession with two women.


Back to the brownies.  Everyone who tasted them, especially the final brownie, said I should sell them, so I’ll take that as a good sign that maybe they could be the ‘best EVER’?  Nahhh, they’re just really good – if you love a sinfully rich brownie loaded with peanut butter cheesecake.

If you refrigerate these brownies prior to eating them, the peanut butter cheesecake really pops.  I prefer these made with milk chocolate, but as I’ve mentioned in previous entries, I usually bake with dark chocolate since it seems to be a favorite of many. I mostly bake for others, not myself – except when I crave peanut butter and chocolate in the wee morning hours.

Yes, Peanut Butter Freak, I Am.

* One of my favorite Julia Child ‘gems’ used to come after she or a guest chef cracked an egg and a piece of shell fell into whatever she or they were preparing – “Oh, just leave it in there, extra calcium.”

Best Peanut Butter Cheesecake Swirl/Chunk Brownies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: About 12 brownies, depending on how big or small you cut them
 
Adapted from David Lebovitz, with my two revisions
ingredients:
Brownie Batter
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 4 ounces milk chocolate, or bittersweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Peanut Butter Cheesecake Swirl
  • 8-ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter *
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 whole, large egg OR 1 egg yolk.. if you want a really dense cheesecake batter **
directions:
Make the Brownie Batter
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil or parchment paper, making sure it goes up all four sides. Use two sheets if necessary. Mist with non-stick spray or grease lightly.
  2. Stir chocolate and butter in medium saucepan over low heat until smooth; cool 10 minutes. Using electric mixer on low speed, or stir in with a wooden spoon - sugar, eggs, and vanilla into cooled chocolate mixture, until uniform. Stir together flour, cocoa and salt, then stir or beat it into the butter, chocolate, sugar, egg mixture. Spread half of this brownie batter in pan.
Make the Peanut Butter Cheesecake Batter
  1. In a separate bowl, beat together the cream cheese, peanut butter,whole egg or egg yolk, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. DO NOT OVER BEAT!
Assemble and Bake
  1. Drop large spoonfuls of the peanut butter cheesecake batter across the top of the first layer of brownie batter. Do not swirl them together. Cover the peanut butter dollops with the remaining brownie batter and the remaining peanut butter cheesecake batter in dollops, then take a knife, spatula, spoon handle, or whatever you have on hand that can 'swirl' well, and swirl the TOP layer of peanut butter cheesecake batter with the brownie mixture. Lift up some of the brownie batter to insure the brownie mixture swirls in as much as possible, since it can be little heavier than the peanut butter cheesecake batter, depending on whether you use a whole egg or just the yolk. As mentioned above, it's ok if some of the first layer of both batters swirl together, just not too much.
  2. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the batter in the center of the pan feels just set, or a skewer contains a few moist brownie crumbs sticking to it (you would stick the skewer in a center chocolate area).
  3. Let cool, then lift the brownies up and out using the foil or parchment paper and peel it away/off. Cut the brownies into equal squares.
notes:
* Although I didn't use it, I think Natural and/or Organic peanut butter would give you a better texture and pure peanut butter flavor, minus all those additives in your basic (rhymes with Blippy, Bif or Beter Ban) supermarket PB.
** The first photo of the cheesecake dollops and last photo are the brownies in which I used 1 egg yolk in the peanut butter - cream cheese batter. All other brownie photos (including the unbaked swirl photo) were made using one whole egg in the peanut butter - cream cheese batter. The whole egg produces a smoother, creamier peanut butter cheesecake texture, whereas using just the yolk produces a more dense peanut butter cheesecake texture, like NY cheesecake..as you can clearly see in the photos.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Swirl/Chunk Brownies

Bookmark and Share

O Canada Yummy Canada! Nanaimo Bars!

June 27, 2008 at 3:46 am | Posted in Bars/Brownies, Cookies, Dessert, Puddings | 12 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

OK..I’ve only been to Canada once in my life..Montreal. The only problem is, I never got to see or experience it, since I was literally still attached to my mother’s umbilical cord. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to visit Canada yet, so I’ll have to go by what I read, see and hear about our friendly neighboring country to the North. This is my first time participating in Sugar High Fridays, and the theme is..well, you can guess from the title and everything I’ve written above.

When I think of Canada, several things come to mind. Nanaimo Bars (obviously), maple syrup (obviously), this very cute hockey player from Windsor, Ontario, who I dated briefly in college (NOT obvious), who explained the ‘Nanaimo Bar’ to me, and a really entertaining show I used to watch as a kid in the 80’s, on PBS, called the Polka Dot Door.

Add Degrassi High to the Canadian shows I used to watch, but I couldn’t extract anything from that in a culinary sense, no matter how hard I tried, although the name of Joey’s band, ‘The ZIT Remedy’, does refer to the ‘DOTS’ that pepper many an adolescent face. OK, I better stop there, as I want to make you hungry, NOT ill!

One thing I wanted to avoid, was making Nanaimo bars, since I figured there would be quite a few Nanaimo bar entries in this edition of Sugar High Fridays, and I wanted to be different. Not to mention, I’ve never made or tasted Nanaimo Bars before, so I knew I’d be seriously winging it, flavor wise and aesthetically. However, after mulling it over, thinking ‘maple’ and ‘mousse’, I decided to wing it, and create my own version of it.

A friend gave me this fantastic Sortilege Maple Liqueur, which is a blend of Canadian whiskey and maple syrup, last Christmas, knowing I like to have every flavor liqueur I can get my hands on, for use in cooking, baking, AND the occasional guest who enjoys a cocktail or four. :D

With all of the above in mind, I set out to create my ‘strange’ but yummy, NON-AUTHENTIC Nanaimo bars. An authentic Nanaimo bar is unbaked, and consists of a buttery, chocolate-graham cracker crust, with an egg, nuts and coconut mixed in, topped with a buttercream layer that contains custard powder, (which is hard to find here in the USA, so most people substitute vanilla pudding powder), and glazed with a melted amalgamation of chocolate and butter – not quite ganache, since we’re missing the cream here.

White Maple Mousse Chocolate Chip Nanaimo Bars

I decided to forgo the buttercream custard/vanilla powder filling, and instead, in honor of Canada, fill it with a white chocolate-maple (using Canada’s finest maple syrup) mousse, napped with a little Sortliege, and stabilized with gelatin and mascarpone cheese. For the crust, I remained partially true to the original Nanaimo Bar, but eliminated the nuts, as I wanted to make a maple-walnut nougatine or maple candied walnuts to either top each bar, or just serve along with the bars. Instead, I added chopped white chocolate to the base, and THIS is the kicker — I decided on a polka dot Nanaimo bar, as an homage to the Polka Dot Door, which provided me with hours of enjoyment as a child. By folding miniature semisweet chocolate chips into the white chocolate-maple mousse, and piping large dots of melted white chocolate on top of the chocolate topping, I ended up with a variety of polka dots. from top to bottom.

These bars, like the original Nanaimo, are very rich, but the light and fluffy mousse seems to counter that a little bit, although it’s ‘rich’ in ingredients.

In summary, using some of what I know when it comes to our friendly neighbors up north, I decided to take the same route that I’m sure many will be taking, but make it in a way that’s not completely traditional, which is how I came up with my Polka Dot White-Maple Mousse Chocolate Chip Nanaimo Bars. Wow, that’s a mouthful!

White Maple Mousse Chocolate Chip Nanaimo Bars
Cuisine: Canadian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: Depends on how you cut them.
 
ingredients:
Chocolate Graham Cracker Base
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white chocolate chunks or chips
White Chocolate-Maple Mousse:
  • 7 ounces high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt, Valrhona Ivoire), finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons maple liqueur**
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 8- to 8.8 ounce container mascarpone cheese***
  • ¼ oz package of powdered gelatin
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
  • 1½ cups miniature chocolate chips
Chocolate Topping****
  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate (you can use milk or bittersweet chocolate, depending on your preference), chopped.
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
White Chocolate Polka Dots
  • 8 oz good quality chopped white chocolate, chopped
Maple Candied Walnuts
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • ⅔ cup of walnut halves, toasted
  • Coarse sea salt, such as Fleur de sel (optional)
directions:
For the Chocolate Graham Cracker Base
  1. Line a 9-inch square pan* with lightly greased aluminum foil, making sure you leave a decent amount of overhang on two sides (this aids in lifting out the bars when they're set).
  2. Beat the egg in a small bowl or cup. Place butter, light brown sugar and cocoa in a bowl set over hot, simmering water, then stir until melted and uniform. Temper the beaten egg with a little of the hot butter mixture, then add it all back to the main bowl and let simmer, whisking or stirring constantly, until slightly thickened.. Remove from heat. Add graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and vanilla extract. Let cool a few minutes, then add white chocolate chunks or chips. Press firmly into the bottom of the foil lined 9-inch square pan. Place in the refrigerator while preparing the mousse.
For the White Chocolate-Maple Mousse
  1. Combine the white chocolate, maple syrup, maple liqueur and water in a bowl set over simmering, hot water. Stir and cook until the chocolate is melted and everything is uniform and hot (mixture will be very liquidy). Add vanilla extract. Transfer the white chocolate-maple mixture to a large bowl and gradually add mascarpone, whisking until mixture is smooth. Cool mascarpone mixture until barely lukewarm.
  2. Sprinkle the gelatin over1/4 cup water in a small bowl. Let sit until the gelatin is softened, then heat the bowl over hot water to dissolve it, or dissolve it in the microwave for 10 - 40 seconds. Keep checking every 10 seconds until it's liquid and smooth. Whisk dissolved gelatin into the lukewarm mousse base until thoroughly combined, making sure it's uniform and smooth..no lumps or bits of anything should remain. Pour it through a fine mesh strainer to be sure, if you'd like.
  3. Using an electric mixer or whisk, beat the 1 cup of cream in a medium bowl until peaks form. Fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture in 4 additions. Fold in miniature chocolate chips. Pour over chocolate graham cracker base, and let chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours
For the Chocolate Topping*
  1. oz semisweet chocolate (you can use milk or bittersweet chocolate, depending on your preference), chopped.
  2. T unsalted butter
  3. Melt chocolate and butter together in a bowl set over simmering, hot water. Mix well until melted and uniform. Remove from heat and let cool until it's lukewarm. Pour over the top of the set mousse and spread quickly. Chill in refrigerator until ready to pipe white chocolate polka dots.
For the White Chocolate Polka Dots
  1. Place chopped white chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan with simmering, hoi water. Be careful not to let the bowl with the chocolate in it touch the water as it could seize up and/or burn (I like to remove the chocolate from the heat before it's fully melted and stir, letting the residual heat melt it completely until smooth). Pour the melted chocolate it another bowl, and let it cool a little before continuing.
  2. Pour the melted chocolate into a cornet (parchment cone), snip off the end, and pipe large (or a variety of sizes) 'heaping' polka dots over the 'set' chocolate topping. You can also use a plastic or ziplock bag, just snip off one end. Let chill in the refrigerator until set, but about an hour before serving, take it out, and let it come to room temperature, as the chocolate coating will crack if cut into while cold. You could cut into them immediately, using a knife dipped in very hot water, or run over a gas flame, wiping the knife in between each cut, and dipping it into the hot water or running it over the gas flame again. Personally, I prefer to let it come to room temperature. As the old gem of wisdom goes, patience is virtue!
For the Maple Candied Walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread the walnut halves out on a baking sheet. Toast for about 5-8 minutes, stirring occcasionally, until you can smell them and they've turned a little darker. Split one open to make sure it's toasted through before removing from the oven. You can also do this in a dry skillet, stirring until toasted. Place the toasted nuts on another sheet pan lined with a silpat or parchment paper or lightly greased. Let cool.
  2. Pour maple syrup into a small to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until it reaches the hard crack stage (about 300-310 degrees F). Add nuts to syrup and coat well. Working quickly. Immediately remove them from the saucepan, using a slotted spoon, to the lined baking sheet and separate them as best you can (using anything but your fingers, unless you have asbestos hands!). Using a spoon, drizzle any leftover syrup over each nut and sprinkle lightly with sea salt, if using. Do NOT touch until the candy coating has set and cooled. Scatter a few over individual bars, and/or around the plate you serve them on.
notes:
* Most Nanaimo Bar recipes use an 8-inch sqaure pan, resulting in a very high chocolate-graham cracker base, but..since I'm trying to be different here, a 9-inch square pan results in a lot less 'height', with the filling being the main component
**You can substitute 1 teaspoon pure maple extract plus 1½ tablspoons of water if you can't find the liqueur, or would prefer not to use it.
***Cream cheese can be substituted for the mascarpone, although it's not as smooth, creamy and mild as mascarpone. If you do use cream cheese, make sure it's at room temperature and soft before incorporating it into the hot maple-white chocolate base.
****Use 8 oz of chopped chocolate and ¼ cup (half a stick) of unsalted butter if you want a thicker topping.

White Maple Mousse Chocolate Chip Nanaimo Bars

The finished product – after many experimentation and tastings, is  a little busy, huh? I’ll do better next time. If you subtract the liqueur, these would make a great party sweet for kids. OH, and adults too, of course!

By the way, still ‘learning’ this new camera, as I have very little experience with the correct way to shoot still and stylish food photos. Plus there are a lot of settings on this camera that are currently Japanese to me, and quite daunting to say the least, so bear with me. Only the bottom photo was taken with the G9, but by the looks of it, I have quite a ways to go!

Finally, click on the Mmm…Canada logo at the top  of this entry, which will take you to The Domestic Goddess’ Sweet Canadian roundup.

 

Get a free blog at WordPress.com | Theme: Pool by Borja Fernandez.
Entries and comments feeds.

Privacy Policy