Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chocolately Minty Brownie-Cupcake Goodness

Right now the cottage is filled with a delicious chocolate-y scent.  What's baking? Mint-filled Cupcake Brownies.  Yeah, I'm salivating just writing about them.

Tomorrow night a group of friends and I will be painting the kitchen of my former residence (and current residence of several of the aforementioned friends).  Let me tell you, it's one high-ceilinged kitchen, so I thought I'd bring along some sugary, chocolatey treats to boost the blood sugar (okay, spike it) when our energy starts to flag.  I figured that these would be perfect since a) everyone loves brownies and b) they're baked in cupcake papers, so they won't require utensils, which is key, since things will be messy enough as is, so no need to add forks and plates to the mess.

These brownies are simple to make--1 bowl recipes can't be beat!--and the luscious mint filling (courtesy of a peppermint patty baked right into the batter) makes them irresistible!

Mint-Filled Brownie Cupcakes (I think this recipe is from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes, although I couldn't tell you how I got my hands on it)

* 8 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped 
* 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
* 1 cup of sugar
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 3 large eggs
* 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
* 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
* 12 small chocolate covered peppermint patties (like York)
* 12 paper cupcake liners
* Standard muffin tin

1.  Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.  Line a muffin tin with the paper liners.

I got to use my new food scale to weigh out my semi-sweet chocolate chips!

2.  Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Stir occasionally until butter and chocolate are melted, about 5 minutes.

3.  Remove bowl from heat.  Whisk in sugar and salt until smooth.  Whisk in eggs.  Whisk in flour and cocoa just until smooth; do not overmix.

4.  Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of batter into each cupcake liner.  Place one peppermint patty in each one.  Top with remaining batter, covering patties completely.

5. Bake, rotating tin halfway through, until cake tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs, about 30 minutes.  Place tin on a wire rack and cool completely before removing cupcakes.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Butterscotch Sauce, aka, Nectar of the Gods

My favorite page of December's Food & Wine is page 130: Perfecting Caramel. Yes, please. I mean, I think caramel is pretty perfect, but what would be even more perfect is if I could make it myself.  The page includes three straightforward recipes, but the easiest (aka, doesn't require a candy thermometer), is Classic Butterscotch Sauce. Seven basic ingredients, six of which I already had, go into this simple but delectable sauce, and it only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish (excluding cooling time). It's dark, rich, and doesn't taste anything like this:

I promise you will love this sauce drizzled over vanilla ice cream, fruit, or just straight from the jar.

Classic Butterscotch Sauce (Food & Wine, December 2009)
Makes 2 1/2 cups of sauce

* 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
* 1/2 cup light corn syrup
* 1/4 cup water
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 3/4 cup heavy cream
* 2 Tablespoons Scotch whiskey (I thought it tasted even better with 3!)
* 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water and salt. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves (about 5 minutes).

2. Stir in the heavy cream and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Add the whiskey and vanilla extract and simmer for an additional 2 minutes over low heat.

4. Cool (this will take several hours) and transfer to jars.

Can be refrigerated in jars for 3 months.

Solutions for Trader Joe's Overindulgence

So this is what happens when I go to Trader Joe's: I get so excited by all the different nuts and dried fruits available, because they are SO CHEAP compared to the Stop 'n Shop on Nantucket, so I stock up on way too many bags of almonds, walnuts, pecans, cherries, apricots...the list goes on. I make a few recipes with them, and then the partially used bags get buried in my "partially used bags of fruits and nuts" container, which is on the top shelf of my pantry, and then I forget that I have them.... And then a few months (or a year) later I'm like, holy nuts, what the heck am I going to do with all this stuff?!!?

If you ever share this issue, then I have a solution. Homemade granola bars. They're perfect because you can use any fruit and nut remnants you may have, since you don't need a lot of any one ingredient.

In honor of the new year (and all those people who are committing to getting healthy), many Food Network chefs have been featuring healthy recipes on their shows. According to the Barefoot Contessa these granola bars are "so healthy" and full of things that are "so good for you." While I don't totally agree with these statements, (butter, sugar, honey?) it didn't stop me from making them because they are full of things that taste good, and they're not horrendously unhealthy, either.

Ina's recipe, found below, is pretty good, but I did make a few substitutions: I took out the cup of coconut and increased the oats by 3/4 of a cup and the almonds by 1/4 cup (and in doing so reduced the amount of saturated fat by a buttload, since coconut is loaded with the stuff). I also replaced the dried dates, which I don't care for, with dried Bing cherries, which I adore (and there were about 4 bags kicking around in the depths of my pantry). The nice thing about this kind of recipe is that as long as the quantities of dry goods follows the original recipe, it will work out. Other good add-ins could be dried blueberries, dried plums (always sounds better than prunes), raisins, dried strawberries, sunflower seeds, or anything else that tickles your palate. 

Homemade Granola Bars (adapted from Ina Garten)

* 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
* 1 cup sliced almonds
* 1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
* 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ (often found in the cereal aisle near the oatmeal)
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

* 2/3 cup honey
* 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
* 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

* 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1 1/2 cups of chopped dried fruit, such as cherries, dates, apricots, or cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 by 12-inch baking dish with parchment paper. Spray the paper with cooking spray.
2. Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut (if using) together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.
3. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
4. Combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dried fruit and mix well.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Using your wet fingers or a silicone spatula, press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.


Monday, January 4, 2010

A New Year, A New Name

Happy New Year!

When I started my blog six months ago I told myself that the name "The Baker's Dozen" was only temporary--surely some witty, clever, or at least apt name would pop into my head. But alas it has not, so I'm enlisting help from you, dear readers. If you are craftier at naming things than I am (and I assure you, you are), then please suggest something that you think describes my blog better than "The Baker's Dozen". The themes/concepts I've been playing with recently include "easy food," or the whole Nantucket/"out to sea" thing... 'Cooking Up A Nor'easter'? No, dumb. But you get the drift. So while I keep blogging, get your creative juices flowing and help me figure out what to call this darn thing!