Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Triple Chocolate Brownies with Goat and Mascarpone Cheese Filling

Well, — it is April 27th and we are having another snow storm here in Montreal that is supposed to last two days.   What does one do when a spring snow storm messes up the days plans - well if you are me you bake brownies.  So I pulled out the recipe folder that I have been keeping and came up with four brownies that I wanted to bake.   The first one that I made is my basic chocolate brownie with goat and mascarpone cheese filling.   I made brownies with goat cheese once and it was a disaster.   The goat cheese was dry and crumbly and didn't taste good.    So I did a lot of researching and reading other recipes and found out that I was missing two things - first a binder to hold the cheese together and the second is some moisture because the goat cheese alone is too dry.  So I came up with the following recipe.

Goat and Mascarpone Cheese Filling

5 ounces of goat cheese
4 ounces of mascarpone cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup of honey

Take the cheeses out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you are going to make the filling.  Combine the two cheeses and the eggs in a stand mixer using the wire whip, or a hand mixer and whip until the eggs and the cheeses are combined.  While the mixer is still running slowly add the honey and whip for another minute.  Set aside.

Make the brownie base that I used in the cappuccino brownies or use your own.   Divide the batter in half and put one half of the batter in the pan, place the cheese mixture on top of the batter leaving an inch border all the way around the pan and then put the rest of the batter on top of the cheese filling.  

Put in the oven at 350 degrees and bake for 28 minutes.  Test for doneness - if there is still moist chocolate on the toothpick bake for another three minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool for one hour.  Cut into 16 squares as this brownie is very rich.

Serve with a glass of white wine or milk!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Caramel Peanut Blondies

Since I posted the recipe for the Blondie Brownie two days ago I thought that I would give you another way to take that base and create another new flavor.    This brownie is rich, gooey and has a bit of saltiness from the peanuts,  a decadent combination.  The first thing to do is to make the caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce for Blondies

1 1/2  cup sugar
1/3 cup of water
1 1/4 cups of heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Mix the sugar and the water in a medium heavy saucepan.  Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves without stirring.  Increase the heat to medium and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a medium brown (350 degrees on a candy thermometer) gently swirling the mixture in the pan.  This will take around 5-7 minutes.  At this point the mixture will be extremely hot.  Watch very carefully as the mixture can turn from cooked to burnt in a New York moment!.  When it is ready turn off the heat and standing at arms length from the pan slowly add the cream and the vanilla.  The cream will bubble up in the pan and for a moment change color to a light brown.  When the bubbling starts the caramel will solidify.

Simmer the caramel over low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves into a smooth and velvety liquid.  This should take around two minutes.  Allow to cool for at least 4 hours.  Do not refrigerate.

Make the Blondie Recipe  and put into prepared pan.  Cook the brownie for 15 minutes.  At this time removed the brownie from the oven and top with a nice layer of your homemade caramel sauce and top that with enough peanuts* to cover. (approx. 2 cups)  Continuing cooking the brownies for another 15-17 minutes.  * I use salted peanuts

Remove from the oven and place on rack to cool for at least one hour.  Cut into squares and serve.

NoteL  If you are not a fan of peanuts you can substitute walnuts.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Blondies with Chocolate Chips and Homemade Toffee

I have never been a real fan of blondies.  I find them boring and one dimensional.  So I had to as that great New Orleans chef, Emeril Lagasse said, kick it up a notch.   The first challenge was to find the right blondie base and then come up with the ingredients that would give it the depth of flavor that I like in my baked goods.  My philosophy on sweets is that less is more - that you should be able to have a small brownie that completely satisfies your palate.   This blondie fills that bill.

As I said, the basis of this brownie had to be a rich blondie.  I have found that the difference between a good blondie and an amazing mouth watering one is the use of two kinds of sugars - white and brown sugar.  .  When you use two kinds of sugar it adds depth to the flavor.    Here is my blondie recipe:

Blondie Brownie Base

1/2 cup of butter at room temperature
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs *
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips
pieces of homemade toffee.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and paper and 8 or 9 inch square pan.  In a mixer cream the butter and sugars until light a fluffy.  Beat in the egg and the vanilla until well incorporated.    In a small bowl whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add the whisked dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix at low speed until just combined.  Add chocolate chips and broken toffee bits.  (Toffee comes from recipe on previous blog)

Press dough (it is quite thick) into pan and even out.  Bake for 28 minutes and check for doneness with a toothpick.  If the toothpick comes out clean remove from oven - if they are a bit runny cook for another two minutes but not longer.

Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack for one hour.  Lift the brownies out of the pan and cut into 8 large or 16 small pieces.  This is wonderful served with vanilla or maple ice cream.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

What to have in your Pantry when the mood to bake calls you!

I thought that I would write a piece on what to have in the pantry when the desire to bake calls you.  Have you ever read a recipe and decided that you had to try it then and there.  I know that I have and when I have gotten to the pantry and found that I am missing essential ingredients one of three things happens; (1) I grab the car keys and head to the store, (2) I go back to the cookbooks or the internet to look for a similar recipe that will use the ingredients that I have on hand or (3) I pop a bowl of popcorn and sit down and watch the food channel.   Neither of the three choices is optimal.

Here is the list of the ingredients that you must have in your pantry in order to bake most things.  The list might appear to require a large storage space but many of the items are small and can be stacked.

(1)  All purpose flour.  I buy it in 25 pound bags but that is because I bake so much.  If you do not bake a lot the 5 pound bags will be perfect — try and store in a cool place.   I have started using the whole wheat flour from King Arthur.  This is a nutritionally superior flour that looks and tastes like white flour.  If you can find something like this it is a better flour to use than bleached all purpose white flour.

(2)  White Sugar

(3)  Both dark and light brown sugar.  The darker brown sugar has a higher content of molasses and is a bit deeper in flavor. You can however,  interchange the two without impacting the recipe.   Once your open the sugar store in a tight container or a ziplock bag with either a piece of apple or a sugar stone.  This will prevent the sugar from drying out and becoming rock hard.  Change the apple every week or so.  If in fact your sugar does harden you can place it, one cup at a time, into the microwave for 30 seconds.  Make sure that it does not melt.

(4)  Baking Soda

(5)  Baking Powder

(6)  Pure Vanilla, lemon and orange extract.

(7)  Instant espresso coffee.  Any brand is fine.

(8)  Corn starch and cream of tartar.  Corn starch is used as a substitute for flour and cream of tartar is used as a stabilizer for whipping egg whites.

(9)  Unsweetened Baking Chocolate - I use Baker's brand.  This chocolate is good for brownies, cakes and frosting.  The package contains individually wrapped one ounce squares.

(10)  Semi Sweet Baking Chocolate. - Baker's brand.  Also 8 one ounces squares per package.

(11)  Bars of dark chocolate, white chocolate and milk chocolate.

(12)  A bag of semi-sweet Nestles morsels.  This is perfect for brownies, ganache and frosting.

(13)  Unsweetened cocoa powder.

(14)  Any kind of nut.  Peanuts, pecans, walnuts.  When you buy them place in a ziplock bag and place in the freezer.  Nuts, because of the high oil content,  will go rancid fairly quickly.

(15)  Dried cranberries which I use for oatmeal cookies.

(16)  Karo light corn syrup.  To make toffee or marshmallows.

(17)  Grandma's Unsulphured Molasses.  You cannot make gingerbread without this!

(18)  Regular or Quick acting oatmeal  (Never use instant - it will not hold up in the recipe)

(19)  Spices:  cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.

(20)  Parchment paper.

(21) Pam or Baker's Joy.  Baker's Joy is a spray that contains both a greasing agent and flour.  It is a great product.  If you use Pam make sure that it is the one with no taste.

While butter is not a pantry ingredient it is an essential ingredient.  I buy unsalted butter in one pound boxes that are divided into quarters.  One quarter of a stick is equal to a half a cup a therefore a pound of butter is equal to two cups of butter.  The other ingredient that you will need is eggs.   I buy both whole eggs and the pasteurized egg whites.  The pasteurized egg whites are excellent for use in egg-white icing.

This list is what I would consider for the ideal pantry and it is what mine is stocked with.  But what do you do if even with all these items the recipe calls for something else.

For instance, what happens if your recipe calls for cake flour?  What is the difference between cake flour and regular flour?  Cake flour has a lower protein and gluten percentage than regular flour and therefore makes a more tender baked item.   In order to convert regular flour remove three tablespoons of flour from each cup and replace with cornstarch. This will give you chemical properties similar to the cake flour.

What happens if your recipe calls for Buttermilk?  Simply take a cup of regular milk,  and add either a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice.  Let stand for five minutes and then use as directed.

What happens if you are out of baking powder?  For every teaspoon of baking powder that you need substitute 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 5/8 teaspoon of cream of cream of tarter.

This is an extensive list but the good news is that most of this list lasts for a long time.  The only things that I seem to run out of  are the flour, sugar, butter and eggs.

I hope that this helps you get set for your next baking experience.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cappuccino Brownies with a Twist

Well,  the sugar cookies didn't last long on the plate so I had to get back to baking!  I love the combination of chocolate and coffee so I thought that I would try something different.  This brownie has been adapted from "Bars and Squares".  All brownie recipes start somewhere and this one is no different.   The end result was shear decadence.  The brownies were dense, moist and rich in flavors.  The chocolate and coffee flavors were perfectly balanced - one did not outshine the other which is the way that the flavors should be.  The only problem with this brownie is that it is a three step process - which means that you can't dive in right away. Patience is a virtue and this brownie is worth the wait.   It is composed of a chocolate brownie that is the base for many of my brownies, a cappuccino buttercream middle and a chocolate ganache topping — and that is where the twist is.   Remember to have all your ingredients at room temperature.

Triple Chocolate Brownie

5 ozs. semi-sweet chocolate (you can use chips)
2 ozs. unsweetened chocolate chopped
3 tablespoons dutch processed cocoa powder
8 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into pieces
3 large eggs 
1 1/4 cups of sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8x8 or 9x9 pan and line with parchment paper with an inch overhanging the sides.  This will make it easy to remove the brownies.  

Melt both chocolates and butter in a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water.    Stir as the butter melts to incorporate all the chocolate.  Sift the cocoa powder into the melted chocolate and stir (the sifting will prevent the cocoa from clumping)  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In another bowl combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt with a whisk.  I vigorously whisk for a minute until the eggs are fully combined and light and fluffy.   Add the chocolate mixture (make sure that it is not hot or the egg mixture will curdle) and whisk until combined.   I sift the flour right into the bowl and then gently fold.  

Pour into prepared pan, put into the center rack in the oven and bake for 32 minutes.  (as I do with all my recipes - I under bake slightly because they continue to cook as they cool).  Place on a rack and allow to cool for at least an hour.  It is ready for the cappuccino buttercream.

Cappuccino Buttercream

1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee powder
2 tablespoons half and half or heavy cream
2 cups of confectioner's sugar - sifted
4 tablespoons of room temperature butter

Combine the espresso powder with the liquid.   Add the butter and confectioner's sugar and using an electric mixture beat until light and fluffy.  If it seems too stiff add a drop of liquid at a time until it is soft and creamy.  Taste - if need be add a touch more espresso powder;  this is a personal choice.   

Spread evenly on cooled brownie and place in the refrigerator until set and hardened.  This will take about an hour.  The buttercream should be hard to the touch before you add the ganache.

Chocolate Ganache

1 cup dark or semi sweet chocolate chopped
1/3 cup heavy (35%) whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Put the chocolate and the whipping cream in a heat proof bowl over simmering water, stirring until melted and glossy.  Add the cayenne powder and cinnamon and stir.  Remove from heat and let cool until it is lukewarm but still spreadable.  Remove brownie from the refrigerator and spread the chocolate mixture over the frosting layer.  Place back in the refrigerator for an hour and a half until fully set.

Gently remove the brownie from the pan lifting by the parchment paper.   You can cut this brownie into  24 pieces as it is very rich.    This brownie is good enough to stand all by itself.  The only thing that I might is a glass of ice cold milk.

Enjoy.  Please let me know if you make this and how you like it.