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!

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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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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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.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie & A Birthday List

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In honor of my birthday, I made a pie. While cutting up strawberries and rhubarb, rolling, cutting, pressing, and weaving the pie dough, I thought about who I am at 24. I thought about all the things I’ve learned about the world and about myself, and I wondered what I might learn in my 25th year. I spent those quiet pie-making moments, my hands happily occupied, thinking about who I might be one day, and what 24 year-old me might think of that person. In 24 years, I’ve learned a lot of things, but there are way more things that I don’t know. To celebrate being 24, I’ll share these 24 pieces of advice. These are things that I know, but things that I need to be reminded of sometimes. Maybe you’ll think some of these things are dead wrong, but then again, maybe you need to hear some of them, too.

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1. Listen when people tell you about themselves. It’s not always easy to do, but people need to be heard.

2. There is nothing more important to your daily sanity than having a clean, quiet space to retreat to. For you, that place is the kitchen, and even though you don’t always want to, it means you have to do all the dishes before you go to bed.

3. Expressing yourself eloquently is really, really hard. But it’s also really, really important. It’s necessary to find people that will bear with you while you muddle through your own feelings, listening patiently without judgement.

4. It’s also really, really important and really, really hard to bear with someone else while they muddle through their own feelings, listening patiently without judgement.

5. Trust your intuition. Even if it doesn’t make sense right away.

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6. Let yourself fall in love without embarrassment, hesitation, or fear. Whether it’s romantic love, friend love, or just the love of a new idea or thing, jump in with both feet and don’t think too much.

7. That said, be practical. If someone hurts you, puts you down, or isn’t good to you, have the courage to stand up for yourself and demand that things be different.

8. You don’t have to have expensive things to create something beautiful.

9. Skip the gossip. Really. It hurts you the most.

10. Make time to spend alone, and don’t feel bad about it.

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11. Remember that you can always say no–and that you don’t have to explain why.

12. Never underestimate the power of a simple smile. And not a shy, no-teeth-showing smile. Use the biggest, toothiest, happiest smile you can muster. Even if you have to fake it.

13. Try not to worry too much about what other people think. Be yourself, and that is good enough.

14. Be open to other people’s opinions. You’re incredibly hardheaded, so try your damnedest to stay out of your own way.

15. That said, when it really matters, stick to your guns to the bitter end.

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16.Put the sarcasm away when it’s masking another feeling. Express that feeling instead. It’s kinder to the people who love you.

17. When someone gives you a complement, don’t argue with them. Say “thank you” and leave it at that.

18. Always admit when you are wrong. To your coworkers, your friends, your family, and even to the person you accidentally cut off in traffic.

19. Never be with someone who doesn’t love you at your very worst. Your partner should be happy to give you a big hug when you’re being mean, your hair is dirty, you forgot to take the trash out, and your legs haven’t been shaven.

20. Choose to be with someone who will call you on your bullshit.

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21. Do something outside of your comfort zone every once in a while. I know you hate looking stupid, but it might be worth it.

22. Go outside and exercise.

23. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ll always be more critical than anyone else. Give yourself some leeway to make mistakes without stressing out about it.

24. Don’t forget that you’re only 24 years old. Go easy on yourself, and allow yourself to make mistakes. You’re going to get sunburns even though you know you shouldn’t. You’ll probably drink too much sometime this year and wish that you hadn’t. You’ll totally screw up a recipe, yell about it, and throw it in the trash even thought it was probably fine the whole time. That’s okay because you’re a human, and humans can be kind of stupid.

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Here’s to being 24, eating birthday pie, and admitting that you don’t know everything.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Lattice Top:

For the crust: (from Ashley English’s book, A Year of Pies)
2 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 c vegetable shortening
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 c ice water

Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, break the butter and shortening up in the flour and salt. Work with it until there are no pieces of butter larger than peas. The dough should hold together if squeezed at this point. Pour the ice water in all at once and use a fork to incorporate the dough as best you can. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it a few times to make the dough come together into a smooth disc. Cut the disc in half and round off both pieces, wrap them in saran wrap and chill them in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

For the filling:
1 pound of strawberries, halved (quartered if they are big)
1 pound of rhubarb, roughly chopped
1/3 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 c white sugar
pinch salt
zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 c cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Put all those things together, stir and let sit at room temperature for a while. To assemble the pie, roll out one of the discs of dough until it’s about 10 inches all the way around. Put it into a greased pie pan, trim the edges so that there’s about an inch hanging over the sides, then fold the extra dough under and use your fingers to make a nice crimpy edge. Then, fill the pie with the fruit mixture. Roll out the second dough disc, also to about 10 inches. This time, measure 1-inch intervals across the dough. Using a ruler for a straight edge, cut the dough into strips. (You can use a fluted pie cutter tool or just a knife.) Use those strips to make a lattice pattern on the pie. When you’re done, trim the strips, and tuck the edges in beside the crust. Does that make sense? If not, I know there are plenty of videos on youtube!

Bake the whole pie at 425 degrees F for about an hour. Let it cool for 4-6 hours before you go for it–it needs time to cool and set up. Serve with ice cream!

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Coffee Vanilla Cardamom Crème Brûlée

DSC_0633I have a question for the world: Is there any use for a brûlée torch other than brûlée-ing? I hear that you can use the broiler and get the same effect, but that’s just not true. I did use the broiler this time, and it’s pretty close, but I’ll admit that the crust didn’t get evenly crisp like I wanted it to. Armed with a brûlée torch, this dessert might change your life. It’s like a sugar cookie dipped in a cup of creamy coffee. Crème brûlée might be the easiest dessert to make that will definitely impress whoever you’re serving. It’s delicious in its simplicity, and I will be the first to tell you that a plain crème brûlée made with fresh ingredients is very hard to beat. But this coffee vanilla cardamom version is something else entirely–it’s like the exotic cousin of plain crème brûlée. It’s different, but absolutely worth a try. Continue reading

Raspberry Peach Potstickers with a Balsamic Reduction

You know about potstickers with your Chinese takeout. Maybe they’re pork ones, or veggie ones. But have you ever had dessert potstickers? These peach raspberry potstickers might be the best thing I’ve ever thought of. Wonton wrappers belong in dessert. You might not know it right now, but it’s true.

You’ll need peaches and raspberries, obviously. I only used a half of a peach and a handful of raspberries. Each potsticker doesn’t require much filling. You’ll also need wonton wrappers, honey, lemon zest, sugar, and water.

Wonton wrappers are in a weird place in the grocery store… usually with the bagged lettuce. I think it’s because they have to be cold but not frozen and they aren’t dairy things. Anyway, be prepared to search. Just a heads up. Let’s talk folding technique.

There are a TON of ways to fold these things, so really, just do your thing. If you want to do it this way, you’ll want to put a blob in one corner, but not too close to the edges. Using a pastry brush, put some water on the edges of the half of the wonton wrapper with the filling, then fold it over. Last, bring up the two corners and stick them together with another drop of water.

See! They make the cutest little pockets.

Here’s the recipe:

half of a peach, peeled and diced

a handful of raspberries

1 T to 1/4 cup of sugar (depending on how sweet your fruit is)

1 T honey

zest of half a lemon

Put everything in a bowl and squish it. Really well. Then, put the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. Try to squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Now that the mixture isn’t so wet, put in back in a bowl and start making your little pockets. When you’re done, heat 2 teaspoons of  coconut oil in a skillet until it’s shiny. Drop the potstickers in the oil and put a lid on them. Leave them alone for 4-5 minutes. Take them off the heat and use a spatula to scrape them off the bottom of the pan. If they stick, don’t worry–they’re potstickers! Just try to get them out in one piece.

For the balsamic reduction:

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 T honey

2 t sugar (or brown sugar)

In a small pot, bring the vinegar to a boil. Then, pour in the sugar and honey and let it simmer until about 3/4 of the liquid has evaporated. Take it off the heat and let it cool. When it’s done, it’ll be a little thinner than syrup.

Serve potstickers warm and drizzle the balsamic reduction over the top. If you don’t want to cook all the potstickers at once, they freeze really well. Just spread them out on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer until they’re solid, then throw them in a bag. Just defrost them before you throw them in a pan. If you made your potstickers like mine, they look really neat in rows.