Brownies

This recipe is from Sally’s Baking Addiction and it makes extremely delicious brownies.

One of my nutritional goals is to make as much as possible at home, and to buy as little in boxes as possible. Instead, I have adapted to keeping a pantry with basic ingredients that can combine to make anything. Instead of 8 boxes for different purposes, I have one bag of flour and 1 container of salt. Baking soda. Sugar. Vanilla. Elemental ingredients are much more versatile than pre-made mixes for specific things-they can be utilized for anything.

Baking is interesting because it feels much more like a chemistry experiment than regular cooking. An improvisational style isn’t welcome with baked goods unless you’ve already mastered ratios, and have a full & complete understanding of what exactly happens to each ingredient when combined. If you mix things in a different order, you will get a different result. The eggs need to be whipped a certain way, flour must not be over-mixed, and sugar is considered a liquid ingredient. It’s quite exciting to end up with a perfectly textured, delicious result, but things can go awry all too easily. The important thing to remember when baking is that, as a beginner, you are more of a chemist than an artist. The flair and flourishes come later.

These brownies are the first I tried to make on my own and they are everything a brownie should be. Easy to make and extremely easy to eat. I found the recipe looking for a new raspberry dessert recipe, and found Sally’s Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies. Those are probably the greatest things on the planet, but I’ve only worked with plain chocolate thus far…

brownies

Brownies
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
• 6 – 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
• 1 and 1/4 cups sugar
• 3 eggs
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 3/4 cup flour
• 1/4 tsp salt
• Optional: 1 tsp fresh coffee grounds
• Optional: walnuts

1. Chop chocolate. It is okay to cut semi-sweet chocolate with unsweetened chocolate. This goes against the chemistry thoughts earlier, but a couple ounces of unsweetened chocolate with a 4 ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate comes out okay. I tossed in about an extra tablespoon of sugar for this.
2. Add to bain-marie with butter, mixing constantly over medium heat until liquified. Allow to cool to room temperature.
3. Stir sugar into butter & chocolate mixture until combined.
4. Add eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition
5. Fold in flour and salt. If you are adding coffee, walnuts, or whatever other tasty objects you have in mind, sprinkle into mix at this step.
6. Butter and flour a square baking dish. Pour batter in and bake for 35 – 45 minutes, depending on your oven. If they are still not finished but seem to be getting dry around the edges, cover with foil until finished.

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Tiramisu

tiramisu

 

Cake:

• 1 cup flour
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 cup (almond) milk
• 2 T butter
• 1 tsp baking powder

1. Whisk(by hand or with electric mixer) eggs for 3 or 4 minutes until they are thick. Gradually add sugar, beating until light.

2. Add flour and baking powder all at once and mix just until combined.

3. Heat milk and butter over medium heat until butter melts.

4. Add to batter and whisk until totally combined and creamy.

5. Pour into greased and floured pan. I used a square pan, but round, rectangular, cupcake, small rectangular–any pan can be used depending on what you’re envisioning as your end result. Bake 20 – 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.


Syrup:

• 1 cup strong coffee or espresso
• 2 – 3 T rum or Kahlua
• 1 T sugar

1. When coffee is cool, mix.

Filling:
• 1 egg white
• 8 oz (1 cup) mascarpone or cream cheese (room temperature)
• 1 cup whipped cream (frozen)
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1 T powdered sugar
• 1 tsp vanilla extract

1. In an electric mixer, whip egg white with a pinch of sugar until frothy and light. Add rest of sugar and continue to whip.

2. Add cream cheese, vanilla, powdered sugar, and whipped cream. Whip for 5 – 10 minutes on medium high speed until it reaches desired consistency.

Filling based on Jacques Pépin’s recipe, which uses sour cream instead of whipped cream and omits egg*

Tiramisu:

1. Remove cake from pan. Slice horizontally in half and separate.

2. Assemble three components as desired. Place bottom half back into pan used for baking, onto serving tray, or into presentational dish. A trifle bowl or clear glass can make a very elegant presentation. I used small glasses to make verrines: I stamped the top of the glass onto the cake, then pushed it down for each layer.

3. Spoon or slowly pour coffee syrup onto cake. Allow to absorb then spoon a bit more until it is moistened but not completely saturated. The cake can also be dipped or soaked in the syrup, but I found soaking made the cake difficult to manipulate/move to a serving dish.

3. Add a filling layer, spreading or shaping with a rubber spatula. You can also pipe the filling for nice presentation.

3. Repeat layers as many times as you see fit, ending with a filling layer. Spoon cocoa powder into a strainer and shake to completely cover the top. Garnish with chocolate shavings or a raspberry if desired.

Tiramisu will keep comfortably until the next day, but it is advisable to make only what will be consumed immediately, storing the filling, cake, and syrup separately. This is especially convenient if you do not have many people to feed; I used half this cake for 4 single-serving tiramisu, then used the other half for petits fours.

Cranberry Muffins

muffins

This recipe is from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. It includes a base muffin recipe, with instructions for different fillings like berries, bananas, cheese, poppyseed, or oats. I’ve included cranberry, blueberry, and oat because those are the versions I’ve made so far. If you’d like the quantities for the others, leave a comment!

Muffins

• 1 3/4 c flour
• 1/3 c sugar
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1 egg
• 3/4 c milk
• 1/4 c vegetable oil
• berries, oats, fruit, herbs, cheese, or other filling/enhancement

1. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make well in center.

2. In another bowl, beat egg and combine with milk and oil.

3. Add liquid mixture to well in flour, stirring until just moistened.

4. For cranberry muffins, chop 1 cup cranberries in half and add additional sugar. As they are so tart, it is best not to add extra berries. For blueberry muffins, add 1 cup whole berries, with however many extra you’d like. For oatmeal, reduce flour to 1 1/3c and add 3/4c oats.

5. Spoon into muffin cups/tray. Cover with Streusel Topping, which is made by cutting butter into dry ingredients:
• 3 T flour
• 3 T brown sugar
• 2 T butter
• 1/4 tsp cinnamon

6. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 – 20 minutes or longer, depending on how quickly the Streusel becomes golden.

Meyer Lemon Tart

lemon tart

Tart Crust
•  1 c flour
•  2 T sugar
•  1/2 t salt
•  1/2 t Meyer lemon zest
•  1 stick cold butter
•  1/2 t vanilla extract

1. Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest.

2. Cut in thick slices of butter with fork until dough roughly holds together.

3. Stir in water and vanilla. Shape into disk and refrigerate in plastic wrap for a half hour.

4. Press dough into tart pan, then bake at 375 degrees until golden for 25 minutes.

5. Remove tart from oven, then increase temperature to 400 degrees.

Lemon Curd Filling

•  2 large eggs
•  3 large egg yolks
•  1/4 c and 2 T sugar
•  1/4 t cornstarch
•  3T Meyer lemon zest
•  1/3c Meyer lemon juice
•  6 T butter, cut into pieces

1. While tart crust is in the oven, whisk eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch

2. Whisk in lemon zest & juice

3. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until thick (5-10m)

4. Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter, one piece at a time

5. Pour into tart shell and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees until slightly brown and/or set

5b. Midway through baking, check and deflate puffiness- I lined the outer edges of my tart with lemon slices, leaving the inside clean. It puffed up very slightly, requiring a knife poke

5c. If you cover or decorate the tart with lemons, its a good idea to coat the lemons with brown sugar beforehand-perhaps dip them in sugar to coat both sides. They retain tartness after baking, which is delicious/interesting but not for all palates.

6. Decorate with dried lemon verbena and serve warm or chilled

via Martha Stewart

Mint Chocolate Macarons

Untitled by Nico Paix
Untitled, a photo by Nico Paix on Flickr.
These were made using the Martha Stewart recipe. They weren’t as smooth or picturesque as previous efforts, but they were puffier and actually had ‘feet’. Structurally, they’re pretty strong so this is a nice beginners shell recipe.
Then again, the result might not have much to do with the recipe– macarons are very finicky and difficult, so if your technique is off or if measurements are too imprecise, you might end up with a different result. I found watching YouTube videos to be immeasurably helpful, pulling information from many sources to create a technique that felt ‘right’ for initial experiments. It’s also good to really look around as there are a few very different methods for making the shells, which mostly has to do with how you create the meringue. Martha’s recipe is the French method, but you can also use the Italian (where you heat the granulated sugar into a syrup) or Swiss (hand whisking in a double boiler) methods.
A good place to start researching is the link for the mint chocolate ganache, which includes really helpful guides & troubleshooting. This filling is also a great beginners recipe because it’s flamboyantly delicious. The first few batches I tried were hit or miss: raspberry preserves were the best, but they were rather plain. Apple butter frosting was sickeningly sweet, while chocolate caramel was sticky but somehow didn’t compel the two sides to stay together. A liquid filling like preserves or caramel are best integrated into a plain frosting to keep the cookies structurally sound and as adorable as they should be.
All-Purpose Macaron Recipe
• 1 1/4c confectionary sugar, sifted
• 1c almond meal/flour, sifted
• 6T egg whites (from approx 3 eggs, depending on size)
• 1/4 granulated sugar
• Pinch salt
• An electric mixer, parchment paper, and pastry bags/tips

1. Separate and measure your egg whites. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter until at room temperature, at *least* for a few hours. Refrigerate the yolks for use in another recipe, or treat yo self and make a crazy anti-health-craze omelet. While waiting, check the bowl of your electric mixer, ensuring that it is completely clean. Ideally, it should be stainless steel as (according to Julia Child) other materials (like plastic, etc) can retain fats that ruin your meringue. Wash and allow to dry completely.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine confectionary sugar and almond meal. Preheat oven to 300 – 350 degrees.

3. Pour egg whites into your super clean bowl and allow the electric mixer to whisk them until foamy. Add a pinch of salt, then gradually add granulated sugar and increase speed to high. You want stiff peaks to form, and for the mixture to be glossy. It is finished when you can turn the bowl upside down without spillage.

4. Gently fold in the confectionary sugar and food coloring.

5. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper. If you’d like uniform macarons, you can make circles on one side, flip the paper over, and pipe on the clean side. (There are also silicone maps for guidance.) I just pipe and match the bigger ones with the bigger ones, and the misshapen ones with fellow eccentrics.

6. Use a pastry bag with a round tip, a frosting dispenser (I use this), or a big plastic bag with the tip cut off to pipe the dough onto the parchment. If there are little peaks from where you stopped, pat down with your finger.

((This is, without question, the worst part of macaron making, as the dough is rather thin. But it definitely gets better with practice-as you get comfortable with your chosen piping tool, your circles become more uniform and there’s less mess.))

7. Bake at 300 – 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. I think I baked an earlier batch at a lower temperature to prevent browning. If your oven tends to burn stuff, it’s not a bad idea to hover and calibrate the time & temperature as necessary. Basically, you’re looking for the shells to have the feel of an eggshell and for the cookie to have a little foot at the bottom. Mine probably have cracks in the shell because my oven was too hot, so next time they should be baked in the 200s.

8. Fill with frosting, ganache, preserves, caramel, etc. These are filled with chocolate ganache (recipe below), but just plain raspberry preserves is an absolutely delicious filling. You can also make a flavored buttercream frosting, or combine textures, like adding a little piece of dried or fresh fruit, different spices (even savory ones), etc. You can also avoid filling the macarons and use them as cake decoration. Either way, as they don’t keep for very long (its best to start eating them after allowing them to rest a day-they’ll stay fresh for a few days after that) ensure they are delicious!

Chocolate Mint Ganache 
7oz (1c + 2.5T) or 200g chopped semi-sweet chocolate
Under 1/2c or 100g heavy cream
2-3 drops peppermint extract

1. Bring the cream to a simmer. Once warm, pour over chocolate, ensuring its submerged. Allow to stand for a minute, then softly stir.
2. Add a few drops of extract, as much as you feel is necessary.
3. Leave at room temperature until its cooled and thickened.
4. Drop spoonfuls onto macarons and cover with another shell.