Fudge-y Cocoa Brownies

“A party without cake is just a meeting” -Julia Childsquare

I just realized recently that there are ZERO brownie recipes on this blog, which is upsetting in like, 13 different ways. Why would I never share a recipe for brownies? Why would I be holding out? If you had asked me a week ago, I would have sworn up and down that there were at least three. This is, in fact, the very first one.

photo 2Let’s just square up about this whole cocoa thing before I go any further. I don’t generally think that brownies made with just cocoa and not actual chocolate are very good–they tend to be dry, cakey, and sort of flavorless. However, I stand corrected (thanks to Deb of Smitten Kitchen) once again: these brownies have only cocoa and almost no other ingredients and they still kick ass.

Processed with VSCOcam with s1 presetThat’s partly because of the fancy Dutch-processed cocoa powder that I used, but not entirely. I know, I know, I can hear you over there gagging and saying, “Ugh, what the H is dutch-processed cocoa powder and why do I care at all??!” so just calm down, I’ll explain. I just recently learned about regular cocoa vs. Dutch-processed, and it’s cool stuff to know, but you can use either for this recipe, so don’t rush out on a crazy-ingredient hunt or anything.

(Get ready–I’m gonna throw you some science. In a nutshell, Dutch-processed cocoa powder is treated to remove the acids that are naturally found in cocoa beans. Therefore, when you’re baking, you would probably want to use baking powder with Dutch-processed cocoa rather than baking soda. Regular cocoa powder still has acid in it, so baking soda is a better partner because it is a base rather than an acid! It’s all about balance.) Fun fact: this is all easy for me to remember because I KNOW that baking soda is a base and not an acid because my Dad always drinks baking soda and water to cure heartburn (AKA Arm & Hammer Slammers).

photo 4For these brownies, just a few ingredients come together to make fudge-y, chocolate-y goodness.

Fudge-y Cocoa Brownies
recipe from Smitten Kitchen
{Print Recipe}

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and any exposed sides of the pan.

In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, add the cocoa, sugar, butter, and salt. Stir with a silicone spatula until everything is melted and smooth.

Remove the bowl from the heat and let it begin to cool.  Then, add the two eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla, stirring between each new addition. Last, add the flour and stir until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, put in in the oven on a middle rack, and let the brownies bake for 25-30 minutes. They’re ready when a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pan comes out with just a couple of crumbs hanging on.

These puppies are rich, so I cut them into small squares (I got 25 out of the 8×8 pan). Dust with powdered sugar. They’ll keep in an airtight container for about a week!

Dark Chocolate Coconut Almond Butter

DSC_2104I have a peanut butter problem. I love any kind–from JIF to the fancy all natural kind to the kind that comes in the middle of a resse’s peanut butter cup. I’m not picky. My interest extends into all sorts of nut butters–almond especially. The other day, I thought I’d make some almond butter, and then I considered that some chocolate would be a welcome addition, and when I reached into the cabinet to find the chocolate chips, I saw the coconut. The rest is history!

DSC_2083The thing that really took this idea over the edge is that I toasted the almonds and coconut before I pureed them into almond butter. It made the coconut flavor a little stronger and more pronounced, and that can’t be a bad thing.

DSC_2089Dark Chocolate Coconut Almond Butter:
{Print Recipe}

Yields about 1 ¼ cups

1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes (really any kind of coconut is okay, I think)
1 1/2 cups raw almonds
3-4 ounces good-quality dark chocolate
pinch of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon coconut oil, in liquid form

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.

When the oven is preheated, toast the coconut and almonds for a few minutes, or until the edges of the coconut are browning. (Be careful—I’ve started like three fires in my oven trying to toast coconut.) When everything is done toasting, pour the nuts and coconut into the bowl of a food processor. Process for several minutes until smooth. Add the salt, too.

Using a double boiler (or heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water), melt the chocolate chips with the coconut oil. Then, pour the melted chocolate into the food processor, too. Mix everything together and pour it into a jar (or two).

Keep in the fridge, covered, for 4-6 weeks or so.

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Goat Cheese Sugar Cookies

DSC_2054Before you’re all “Goat cheese? In cookies?” Just chill, because they’re delicious. Honestly, if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t realize that there is anything weird about these cookies. There is a little bit of a tang that you can’t quite place–but it keeps the cookies from being too sweet. Instead, they’re soft, interesting, and a little mysterious. (What more could you want in a cookie?!)

DSC_2052Here’s another good part: there is no need for an electric mixer of any kind. You can whip these puppies up with just a spoon, whisk, and two bowls. The messiest part is the sprinkles (but don’t try to pour them through the shaker attachment). My mom makes these perfect roll out sugar cookies, but they’re a lot of work and she would not approve of me sharing the recipe. These are like those cookies’ edgy cousins.

DSC_2066Goat Cheese Sugar Cookies
{Print Recipe}

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
1/3 cup (3 ounces) soft goat cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
sprinkles (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the room temperature goat cheese, melted butter, and sugar. Some lumps are okay. Whisk in the oil, egg, milk, and vanilla extract and stir until smooth. Fold in the flour mixture and stir gently until smooth.

The dough should be soft, but you should be able to form it into a ball that holds its shape. Scoop out about a Tablespoon per cookie, roll it into a ball, then roll it in the sprinkles. Place them on the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and flatten each cookie just a little bit. (If you use the bottom on a glass, the sprinkles won’t stick.)

Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for a few minutes, then move them to a cooling rack. They will stay good for up to a week in a tightly sealed container.

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Pear & Apple Butter Cake

Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetIf you take nothing else away from this post, you must make this cake. I don’t even mean the pear and apple butter part. Just the cake part. Choose a fruit, really any fruit, and make this cake. It’s so simple: flour, butter, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Fruit topped with lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar.

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Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetWhile this cake was in the oven, I stood in the kitchen and didn’t do anything other than smell.  The cinnamon, pears, and apple butter smells just like fall–apple picking, the state fair, sweaters, and new socks. (Is new sock smell a thing? I think it is, but I’m also a total sock snob.)

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UntitledI’m already planning how to switch this cake up for every season. Blackberries, raspberries, figs, and peaches for summer, cranberries, pomegranate, and persimmons for winter, strawberries and rhubarb for spring. This cake’s buttery, crunchy crust and slightly sweet, moist inside is maybe the most delicious thing I’ve ever encountered. It’s amazing how much we can complicate things–cake should be so simple. This is the cake I’ve been missing, no doubt.

Also, we need to talk apple butter for a minute. I made this apple butter in the crock pot. It’s so easy, I don’t even feel right about making it into its own post. (6.5 lbs apples (peeled, cored, and sliced thin), 3/4 cup white sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 2 T cinnamon, 1 t nutmeg, 1 t cloves, 1 t cardamom, 1/2 t salt, 1 t vanilla extract. 10 hours in the crock pot, stir occasionally, then blend either with an immersion blender or in batches in regular blender. Process for 10 minutes in boiling water to seal. Don’t tell anyone how easy it was.)

Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetBefore I get to the recipe, check this out! I’m going to start including printable PDFs for all my recipes, and I’m gonna try to keep them all on one page. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to print a recipe and it says it’s gonna be 17 pages because each picture is on its own page, and the actual recipe only takes 1. Or worse, the recipe fits on one page, but then the printer wants to print a second page with just the URL on it. UGH! I’m gonna try to make sure that doesn’t happen. All you have to do is look for the “Print Recipe” option, click on it, and boom! The PDF will download and you print it!

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Pear & Apple Butter Cake
{Print Recipe}

Cake:

1 cup all purpose flour

hefty pinch of salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

 

Topping:

1 pear, sliced thin

4 Tablespoons apple butter

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9-inch cake pan.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Then, in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Then, slowly pour the dry ingredients into the bowl while the mixer is on low.  Mix until just incorporated (not too long!) and finish it off with a spatula.

Scoop the batter out of the bowl and into the cake pan. With the spatula, smooth it out and push it to the sides so that the batter is in an even layer.

Spoon the apple butter on top of the batter. It’s okay if there are drops that are bigger than others. You want plain cake to stay uncovered. Then, arrange the pear slices however you’d like. Next, sprinkle the lemon juice over top of the pears, followed by the cinnamon, and then the sugar.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 30-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted into a cakey part comes out clean.

Serve warm with coffee for breakfast, snacks, or dessert.

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Grilled Peaches with Bourbon Hard Sauce

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Grilling fruit might be the best idea ever. Even competing with winners like sliced bread, electricity, and indoor plumbing, I think grilled fruit is a frontrunner. It’s almost like super low-maintenance pie–no crust, no oven, no fuss. Just split a peach, take out the pit, and toss it on the grill face down. In a couple of minutes, you have a warm, juicy dessert with a hint of smokiness. That’s really all there is to it!

To make a grilled peach really extra special, I made some hard sauce to go with. I ran across hard sauce in England (that and clotted cream, OMG) and have never really known what was in it. Turns out, it’s really just butter and sugar, so I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised it’s so good. For the peaches, I added a splash of bourbon to go with the smoky grilled flavor of the peaches.
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DSC_1189To grill the peaches, wait until you’ve cooked everything else, and the grill is cooling down. (My grill was sort of too hot when I made these, but I couldn’t wait!) Brush a teeny bit of olive oil on the cut size of the peach, and put the same side face-down on the grate. It should only take a couple of minutes, so watch carefully.

Bourbon Hard Sauce:
(from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook)

1/4 stick salted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
splash of bourbon (or vanilla extract)

Using a fork, mix everything together.

Drop a little dollop of hard sauce on each peach. Enjoy!

(Photo credits to Ryan Mayette)

Honeydew Gin & Tonic Popsicles

DSC_0925I have a confession to make: I love honeydew melons. I know, I know, it’s boring and you don’t like it, right? Hear me out. I think that most of us are used to honeydew melon in chunks on a fruit plate, stuck between cantaloupe and pineapple, sort of hard and flavorless. Right? It’s better than that. When it’s ripe, honeydew is a perfect summer fruit. It’s light, only slightly sweet, and juicy. If watermelon is plain granulated sugar, then honeydew is well… honey.

The other day, I saw a recipe on one of my fave blogs (A Cozy Kitchen) and knew that I had to make that cocktail into a popsicle. I did some research (your booze/other liquids ratios must be exact or the pops won’t freeze), and decided to go for it. The result is EXACTLY right.

DSC_0928To add a little something extra, I added a few cilantro leaves to each popsicle. The cilantro gives the whole popsicle a little extra zip–but if you’re one of those “cilantro tastes like soap” people, then basil or mint would be perfect, too.

I’m trying real hard to get lots of popsicles and fruity pies in before the summer is over–we’re still getting peaches and figs here, and I’m not ready to let the season go. Soon it’ll be time to pack up the popsicle mold, the days will get shorter and the leaves will change. Until then, I’m going to make all the boozy popsicles I can think of.

DSC_0936Honeydew Gin & Tonic Popsicles
makes 10 popsicles

1/2 ripe honeydew melon, cut into chunks (~4 cups)
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c water
1 3/4 cup flat tonic water
3/4 to 1 cup gin
cilantro leaves (or basil or mint)

Cup up the honeydew and put it into the pitcher of a blender with the sugar and water. Blend until smooth. Pour in the gin and tonic and mix well. Then, pour the mixture into a popsicle mold (or dixie cups!) and put a few cilantro leaves on top. Then, insert the sticks and freeze for 6 hours or overnight. Popsicles with booze will take longer to freeze.

Eat responsibly!

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Raspberry Buttermilk Panna Cotta

DSC_0704Let’s be straight up about panna cotta. When I serve it to people, and they ask me what it is, I don’t know what to say other than “milk jello,” which sounds disgusting. Then I have to assure them that it’s actually really good, and not like what you’d expect from milk jello at all. In reality, panna cotta is a mild, only slightly sweet, summery dessert. I’ve made panna cotta before, but this is the first time that I’ve been really satisfied with the texture and taste. Not too jelled, sweet without overpowering the subtle tang from the buttermilk. This time around, it was perfect.

DSC_0699This is the kind of dessert that doesn’t require the oven being turned on, and can be made as many as three days in advance. It would be the perfect dessert for a barbeque. I’m slowly developing the menu for the ideal summer backyard party–and it includes these homemade hot dog buns, these burgers, this panna cotta, and a bunch of big, dry rosés. You’re invited. Don’t worry.

DSC_0692I think that you could do any summery fruit in this panna cotta. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, peaches. They’d all be good. Raspberries work particularly well–I think because they’re tender and delicate like the panna cotta itself. But if you have a bunch of fresh peaches, that’s your game. Go with it.

DSC_0715Here’s the recipe:

Raspberry Buttermilk Panna Cotta
(yields 6 ramekins, 6oz each)

1 pint raspberries, washed
1 1/2 buttermilk, shaken well
2 1/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
1/4 c sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 c half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 t black pepper
pinch koster salt

Find six glasses that can each hold 6 ounces of liquid. In the cups, evenly divide the raspberries. Then, chill the glasses. (I like to put mine on a cookie sheet for easy transportation.)

Put 1/2 cup of the buttermilk into a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. Then, over medium low heat, stir in the sugar and stir until both the gelatin and sugar are dissolved. When everything is dissolved, remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the remaining buttermilk, the half and half, the vanilla, salt, and black pepper.

Pour the mixture into the chilled glasses, over the raspberries. Make sure it’s mostly even. Cover each glass (I like to use jars so that they have lids) and chill them for a minimum of 2 hours and up to three days. Serve cold, with a spoon!

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Cherry Galette with Rye Crust

DSC_0590Making pie is one of those things that never changes. It’s always the same; cold fats meet soft flour, giving way to a dough that just holds together. Fresh fruit warms in the oven, softening slightly. You can count on pie. It’s predictable. Pie is one of those things that I turn to when things don’t seem to make sense. I’ve been away from my blog for a few weeks, and in that time, I needed pie. I needed to use my hands to bring the dough together, to create something predictable.

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Cherries and rye crust are maybe made for each other. The cherries are earthy and sweet, and the rye crust is soft and flaky, nutty with a little tang. Together they are perfect. I think a galette with ragged edges is the way to go here. A pie is too formal–a galette is casual. It doesn’t need a pan, just a cookie sheet. Also, it doesn’t need a cherry pitter, despite what you might have heard.

DSC_0546I totally thought I came up with this idea, but lots of people in the internet world have done it before. I used a beer bottle, placed each cherry on the top of the bottle, stem facing up, then pressed a plastic straw straight down, through the cherry. It catches the pit, and leaves the rest of the cherry whole. You’re left with a beer bottle full of cherry pits (which you can’t recycle, sadly).

DSC_0565Aside from my original (not original) cherry pitting idea, I think I have finally perfected my pie crust recipe. It’s a butter/crisco crust, but there is more butter than crisco, but it’s easier to handle than an all-butter crust. It holds a crimped edge, makes a lattice that’s easy to handle, and still bakes up into a soft, buttery, flaky crust. Add an egg wash and sprinkle it with raw sugar, and you’re in business.

DSC_0576Cherry Galette with Rye Crust recipe

For the crust: (makes a double crust, halve it for this recipe)
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1 cup butter, cold and cubed
1/4 cup crisco, cold
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
5-7 tablespoons ice water

Whisk together the flours and salt. Then, using your fingers, break up the butter and crisco into the flour. Work it gently until the largest pieces are no bigger than a pea, and the smaller ones are the size of oat flakes. Pour in 5 tablespoons of the ice water, and use a fork to combine the water into the dough. If needed, add the extra 2 tablespoons. The dough should just hold together if squeezed into a ball.

Divide the dough into two equal rounds, wrap each one in saran wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

For the filling:
4 cups cherries, pitted but still whole
4 tablespoons cornsarch
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Toss everything with the fruit and let the fruit sit for an hour or so to release some of their juices.

1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon warm water
2 tablespoons sugar in the raw

Whisk the yolk and water together to make the egg wash, brush it on and then sprinkle the crust with the sugar

To assemble the galette:
Roll out the chilled dough until it’s about ten inches and mostly round. Place it on a cookie sheet, the edges overlapping. Pour the fruit mixture into the middle of the dough round, then fold the edges up, holding the fruit inside. Brush the crust with the egg wash and then sprinkle the sugar on top.

Bake the galette at 375 degrees F for 40-50 minutes, or until the fruit is jammy and bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Let the galette cool completely, then slice and serve with vanilla bean ice cream.

DSC_0600I hope that making this pie brings you the kind of peace that only pie can offer.

Roasted Strawberry and Coconut Vanilla Cream Parfaits

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I almost can’t stand that strawberry season is on its way out. Strawberries have always, always been my favorite fruit (arguably my favorite food), so I look forward to the day that they show up and mourn their loss when they’re gone. I was the kid who ate the strawberries that everyone else was picking at the strawberry patch. Anyway, I’ve made strawberry jam, strawberry rhubarb pie, strawberry shortcakes, and strawberry ice cream. Not to mention all the times that I ate strawberries straight from the flat, standing over the sink with the water running and a paring knife in hand. Continue reading

Homemade Frosty Paws (for dogs, not humans!)

monieBefore you think I’ve gone totally batty, hear me out. Frosty Paws are a frozen treat for dogs–you can get them at the grocery store. I have honestly no idea what’s in them, but I know that Mona LOVES them. But, they’re kind of expensive, so I decided to try making a frozen treat that she would like just as much.

942569_10151983579209554_528983429_nHave you guys met Mona? She’s just the best. She’s a really old jack russell terrier (she’s 15) and she would almost certainly not make it in the real world. She knows who her people are and she’s not very excited about being nice to anyone new. She doesn’t hear or see very well anymore, but she loves to go for walks, smell everything, and snuggle. Most importantly, she’s mine, and I love her to pieces–bad breath and all. She lives with my mom most of the time, but sometimes I’ll keep her for a few weeks at a time. When she comes to our house it’s sort of like summer camp, so I figured I’d make it extra special with a homemade frozen treat.

Also, I’m a crazy dog lady, I confess.

on tableWhen deciding what to put into the mix, I chose all things that Mona already eats occasionally. I also made them into pretty small portions, but you could make them bigger for a bigger dog. I used banana, greek yogurt, a little honey, applesauce, and peanut butter.

bowlI also drizzled a little honey on top to entice her. Because she’s completely and totally spoiled. When I first made these, I froze them into ice cubes, which was a mistake. Mona immediately tried to swallow the whole cube when she couldn’t bite it and I had to carefully extract it from her mouth while she was struggling to get away from me. So, the second time around, I put the mixture into ramekins so that she would have to lick the bowl clean.
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Here’s the recipe, adapted slightly from Take A Megabite (makes 3 small ramekins, half full)

1/2 c greek yogurt
1/2 banana
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon peanut butter
2 teaspoons applesauce (unsweetened)

Mash up the banana with a fork and mix everything together. Pour the mixture into the three ramekins, evenly divided, and let freeze for several hours. Put it on the floor and watch your dog chase it around the house, trying to bite the top with their cute little front teeth!

eatingI would watch your dog closely while they eat. Mona kept getting really cold, so she had lots of breaks in between licks. Also, I don’t profess to know anything about dogs and what they should or shouldn’t eat. I do know that Mona can pretty well handle all the ingredients in these treats, but she’s well known to have a stomach of steel. (Seriously, if I named all the gross things she’s eaten in her life, you would probably throw up. And she’d eat that, too.) These don’t give her gas or anything, but be careful with your dog. I’m sure some wouldn’t do well with these ingredients.