Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thick Mint Brownies

I'm not sure why, but I'm not one for baking with mint very often...although after seeing so many mint/green St. Patrick's Day treats on other blogs I might change that. But, these were requested by some friends of mine, so I gave it a shot. Once again, another King Arthur Flour recipe comes through again.

This is not a quick recipe, but it's worth the time and a little extra work. I read the directions for the mint layer a few times, just because I didn't want to mess it up. No worries, it worked out perfectly and that mint layer fit right on top of the batter! Think of this as a York Peppermint Patty, in brownie/bar form topped off with chocolate ganache. Wait! That sounds WAY better than a York!
Thick Mint Brownies
(adapted from King Arthur Flour)

4 cups confectioners' sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons shortening
1 1/4 teaspoons peppermint extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons heavy cream

16 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 very full and packed cups brown sugar
1 cup Dutch-process cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chunks

2 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream

To create the filling
In a large mixing bowl, beat together confectioners' sugar, butter, shortening, peppermint extract, flour and heavy cream until completely combined. To make the slab, cover the back of a 9x13" pan with saran wrap. Lightly coat with nonstick spray.

Evenly spread the filling on top of the wrap to form a rectangle just a touch smaller than the bottom. Cover with more saran wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350

To create the batter
In a large saucepan set, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add brown sugar and stir until combined. Leave on stove and heat the mixture until very hot - but don't let it simmer or boil. Keep stirring until it becomes shiny and pretty smooth.

Remove from heat and mix in the cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Combine the flour with the chocolate chips, then add that mixture into the batter. Mix until combined.

Lightly coat a 9x13" pan with nonstick spray. Scoop half of the batter into the bottom of the pan. Remove the filling slab from the refrigerator and peel off the saran wrap. Gently place the filling in the pan, on top of the bottom layer, and finish covering with the remaining batter.

Bake for roughly 35-45 minutes, until a toothpick placed in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To create the ganache
In a small saucepan, heat cream until very hot, but not boiling, over medium heat. Remove from heat and add the chocolate to the cream. Stir until it becomes thick and spreadable. Frost on the cooled brownies and let set up before cutting.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chocolate Caramel Cookies

Hands down, these are some of the best cookies I've made. The secret? Rolos hidden inside! They remind me of Annie's Magic in the Middles, but instead of peanut butter, there's caramel packed inside of the chocolatey goodness. Definitely give these a try...and SHARE!

Chocolate Caramel Cookies

2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
30-36 chocolate-covered caramel candies (Rolos)
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, add sugar, brown sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla. Mix together until well blended. Add flour, cocoa and baking soda and mix well. Refrigerate and chill dough for 30 minutes.
Roll dough into 1 inch balls (I used a small cookie dough scoop for this to keep the size of the cookies uniform) and place 1 chocolate-covered caramel candy in the center of each dough ball. Form the dough ball around the majority of the chocolate-covered caramel candy. Roll each dough ball in sugar.
Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes. Let cool on pan for 1 minute then take off and place on cookie cooling rack.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Pink Slip Sugar Cookie Bars

So I got a layoff notice today. You'd think after 8 years of teaching I'd have enough seniority to not be bothered by these kinds of shenanigans. No such luck. Realistically, I think I'm probably going to be fine. This is just a preliminary notice, but, don't get me wrong, it's STILL lame.
This notice, commonly referred to as a 'pink slip,' inspired these cute treats. No, I'm not celebrating my pending unemployment, but I thought the other 'pink-slipped' teachers at my school could use a little something to sweeten up their day, because getting that letter is such a downer. And, unlike me, a few of their positions really are on the chopping block.
This recipe is so much like sugar cookies (not quite cookie, but not quite cake either!), but without the rolling, cutting and detailed frosting part. I do love making a sugar cookie, but there's not always time for that.
So, here's a great alternative: all of the sugar cookie goodness in bar form. In fact, they were a bit reminiscent of those awfully tempting Lofthouse cookies you see at the grocery store. Except, they're HOMEMADE so they're way better!
I used a 10x15 pan which yielded a rather thick bar. My in-house food critic (that would be Nate) said he thought the thickness was perfect, but I might use a larger pan that 'thins' them out just a little.

Sugar Cookie Bars

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
5 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soda

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
4 cups powdered sugar
5 tablespoons milk
food coloring (if desired)

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each egg. Add vanilla & mix well. In a separate bowl combine flour, salt & soda & stir with a whisk to combine. Add to wet mixture and mix just until combined. Spread on a greased baking sheet (I used a 10x 15, but maybe 13 x 18 would be better).

Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 min, until light golden brown or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting: Combine butter and shortening until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and salt. Add powdered sugar in 1-2 cup increments until combined. Then add milk and food coloring mix until smooth and spreading consistency. I like to beat frosting for at least 5 minutes so it's light and fluffy.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

I'm the cake baker when it comes to coworkers birthdays. I always ask for a flavor preference, so I can narrow down from the many recipes that I want to try. Just last week we celebrated a birthday and, even though I did ask, I knew what the answer would be from Meg: anything peanut butter and chocolate. It's the same answer every year!
I spotted this recipe a while ago during an afternoon of blog surfing and knew it was THE cake for this birthday. And, you know what? It turned out AWESOME. Nate's first reaction when he saw it was, "You should go sell that to Ettore's." It just looked incredible. It's SUPER rich, but the peanut butter flavor is pretty subtle. Thin slices, although they're hard to cut, are a must.
Below is the original recipe. I only have 9 inch cake pans and I didn't want the cake to look too short, so I actually did a one and a half version of the recipe which yielded 3 9-inch rounds. Tall, pretty, oh, and really quite heavy! This is not a quick cake to make, but it's definitely worth the time! ENJOY!

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
BoldFrom Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes, but I found it here.

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut brittle (I left this out.)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (I put mine in the freezer for about 30 minutes after they had cooled and it made it super easy to frost, especially since this is kind of a 'crumby' cake.)

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.