Sunday, March 27, 2011

Baking with Dorie: Brrrr-ownies



Have you ever tried working in the kitchen with a toddler? How about baking? Baking chocolate brownies with loads of sugar and chocolate? I did today, and it was fun. Crazy, but fun. 




This week's Baking with Dorie recipe was a perfect one to try with Baby Zipora because it was super easy. A one-bowl recipe, no electric mixer required.

And she was delighted to help. She mixed, chopped and tasted. She was especially good at tasting. 


This recipe's a real keeper. Chocolaty. Minty. And so easy even a two-year-old could make it.  




Brrrr-ownies, adapted from the recipe on page 103 of Dorie Greenspan's Baking
The original recipe calls for York Peppermint Pattie bites, but I wanted a non-dairy version so I used Paskesz Mint Thins. It also calls for a combination of bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate, which I didn't have on hand. I substituted chocolate chips and reduced the sugar. Guess what? The recipe came out just perfect. And it was in the oven in less than 10 minutes from when I started!


5 tablespoons margarine
6 ounces chocolate chips
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/3 cup flour
6 ounces York peppermint pattie bites, or 1 package Paskesz mint thins, chopped in bits


Preheat the oven to 325*. Line an 8-inch baking pan with foil and spray the foil with some Pam. 


Combine the margarine and chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for a couple of minutes, till melted and smooth but not so hot that the margarine separates. 


Stir in the sugar (don't worry if it gets grainy). Whisk in the eggs, and then add the vanilla. Whisk for another minute or so.


Stir in the flour and the peppermint bits. 


Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth out the top. Bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack and cool to room temperature. 


Peel away the foil and cut into 16 squares. 



Thursday, March 24, 2011

Coconut Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Getting ready to write this post, I noticed a trend. My blogs seem to bring out a lot of guilty secrets. I've used this safe place as a stage to confess to an aversion to meatballs, a love for rich breakfasts, a nasty habit of picking topping off of fruit crisp, and a failure to buy onions at the grocery.


I have a theory about it. (Like I do about most things.) There are few places where I can share my foibles and inadequacies without being judged. If I tell my real live friends that I am addicted to chocolate, hate meatballs, or never make a grocery list, they would likely drop me like hotcakes. But you, my dear reader, will probably come back in spite of it all.


You'll stand by me as I rant about my chocolate cravings. You'll read my fried rice recipe even though it doesn't have a single photo of the actual dish. You will come back for more. Because you are loyal. Or kind. Or a little bit of both.


Thank you, readers. On to my confession. I have been a frequent user of Coconut Oil for years, even before Melissa Clark (New York Times food writer) announced that it is no longer on the banned-foods list. There you have it. It's out, and I'm not ashamed. Here's my latest recipe, courtesy of Melissa Clark and the New York Times. If you like coconut, this is the thing. If you like sweet potatoes and nutmeg, this is really the thing. It's delicately coconut-y with an almost elusive hint of nutmeg (I reduced the amount of nutmeg from the original). The sweet potatoes get soft from the long roasting time. And, best of all, no guilt. Coconut oil is BACK!


Coconut Roasted Sweet Potatoes, adapted from the New York Times


1 1/2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
a generous grating of fresh nutmeg
toasted coconut, optional, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350*. Melt the coconut oil by putting it in the microwave or on the stovetop for a minute or so.

In a nice large bowl, toss together the sweet potatoes, melted coconut oil, sugar, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Spread the potatoes in an even layer on a large aluminum  baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes are cooked through and beginning to develop a brown crust. This will take about an hour, depending how done you like them.

Garnish with optional toasted coconut and serve warm, hot, or at room temperature.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Super Crispy Fruit Crisp


There's an unspoken rule about homemade fruit crisps. Although everyone really wants more topping and less fruit, you just cannot succumb. You make the crisp as instructed, with just enough topping to cover the fruit.


When no one is looking, you might pick off a bit of the topping as you let the crisp cool on the counter (you are, after all, the maker of the crisp). When you help yourself to a piece, you might accidentally take a chunk of topping off the next person's slice.


But you would never make the crisp with extra topping, now, would you?


Well, just in case you would consider committing such a heinous crime, and just in case you don't have a very  clever  eight-year-old son (who has just finished learning fractions at school) to suggest that you make 1/3 more topping, I am providing a recipe here for a topping that will knock your socks off. It is crunchy. It is nutty. And it is plentiful. There will be lots to go around. You'll stop lurking around the kitchen when no one is looking, picking bits off the corners and sides. You'll stop yelling at your kids like a crazy person when you see them picking bits off the corners and sides. (Not that you would ever do those things, but I'm just saying.)


Super Crispy Fruit Crisp
This recipe makes enough topping for three crisps. I divide it in three parts, use one part immediately, and freeze the other two-thirds for another time. My current favorite combination of fruit is 3 granny smith apples, 2 pears, 2 peeled plums, and 1 cup frozen blueberries. But that'll change as the seasons do. In the summer, I can't get enough of fresh peach and blueberry crisp. Use whatever fruit you like. 

Fruit (enough for ONE crisp):
about 6 cups of your favorite fruit, pitted, peeled and sliced as necessary
2 tablespoons flour
juice of half a lemon
1-2 tablespoons sugar, optional, if the fruit is tart or if you like a sweeter crisp

Topping (enough for THREE crisps):
4 sticks margarine
4 cups brown sugar
2 cups oatmeal
2 cups flour
2 cups pecans, broken into small but not tiny pieces

Preheat the oven to 350*.

Combine the prepared fruit, lemon juice, flour and salt in a Pyrex pie plate. Mix well. (Here's my favorite on Amazon.)

In a very large mixing bowl, combine the margarine, brown sugar, oatmeal, flour and nuts. Crumble the mixture with your fingers to make a coarse crumb. (This is my favorite part. I love how the grainy sugar feels against my hands.) 

Divide the topping into three parts. Use one part now, and freeze two parts for later. (When you're ready to use a frozen batch, just defrost it enough to soften (maybe 1/2 hour on the counter) and then continue with the rest of this recipe just as you would with fresh topping.) 

Scatter the part you are using now evenly over the fruit. Bake for about an hour, till the top is beginning to brown.

Serve warm or cool completely before covering with foil and refrigerating for up to three days. If you are refrigerating it, bring it back to room temperature before serving.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hamantashen 2


With Purim right around the corner, I convinced the kids to help me out with another batch of Hamantashen tonight. (Read my other recipe here.)



This recipe is adapted from one I found today on Kosher on a Budget. These cookies just sing Purim. They look happy and colorful, and the non-pareils roll around and dance on your tongue. (And on your counter. And on your floor.)  Thank you, Mara!!!



Kid Friendly Hamantashen
The original recipe, from Kosher on a Budget, calls for colorful sprinkles. We didn't have any but we did have some really pretty, tiny, non-pareils. These came out super duper pretty.  

1 1/2 cups margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
6 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of non-pareils, divided
FILLING
fruit jam (we used Smucker's strawberry)
a mix of 1 tablespoon cinnamon and 4 tablespoons sugar
chocolate chips
Nutella

In a large bowl (I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer), cream together the margarine and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the orange juice and vanilla. Careful, it might get a little 'sloshy.' 

Mix in the baking powder and 1/2 cup of non-pareils, and then gradually stir in the flour until the dough forms a ball.
Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least two hours, or as long as overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375*.
Spray cookies sheets with Pam, or line with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into about four even balls. Working with one ball at a time, roll the dough about 1/3 inch thick. Cut it into 3-inch rounds using cookie cutter, glass, or any other round object you have in your kitchen.

Place some filling in the center of each circle.
  • For Nutella or jam, use about a teaspoon. 
  • For chocolate chips, use about 5 chips. 
  • For cinnamon sugar, gently press finger down in the center of the dough circle to make a small indentation. Then put about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon-sugar in the 'hole.'
Form the rounds into triangles by pinching the corners closed. Roll the cookies in the remaining non-pareils, or sprinkle some on top.

Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes until just beginning to turn golden. Cool for at least 15 minutes on the tray and then transfer to racks to cool completely. Eat within a few days or freeze for later.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Garlicky Vegetarian Stew


This is embarrassing. In telling you how this stew came to be, I'm going to have to admit that I ran out of onions. What self respecting housewife runs out of onions? At the beginning of the week?



Well, I did. I could pretend that I intentionally came up with an onion-less stew recipe. That I thought it would be an interesting challenge to prepare a stew without onions. But the truth is that I simply ran out of this very basic staple. And since onions forms the basis of almost every cooked item I prepare, I had to think outside of the mesh bag box. So I thought garlic. Lots and lots of garlic.


Since I buy garlic in bulk at Costco, there's (almost) never a shortage of it in my home. I peeled and peeled and then chopped and chopped. And guess what? It worked! Fifteen cloves later, this stew was amazingly rich and flavored. I recommend it even if you have a bag full of onions at hand (as every housewife should).



Indian Inspired Vegetable Stew
This was perfect served with plain Greek yogurt and tortilla chips. But then I'm always looking for any excuse to eat yogurt and tortilla chips at meals. It feels sinful. 

2 tablespoons olive oil
10-15 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/8 teaspoon black or aleppo pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
an entire head of celery, chopped coarsely
6 carrots, peeled and chopped coarsely
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks (I like them nice and large)
1/2 cup barley
2 cans chickpeas, or 1/2 bag dried chickpeas soaked overnight

Heat the oil in a large pot (I used my Le Creuset stock pot) over medium-low heat. Add the chopped garlic and mustard and cumin seeds. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly until your kitchen is smelling lovely and the seeds are beginning to pop.

Add the remaining spices and the salt and cook for another minute, stirring, to incorporate all those lovely seasonings.

Add the vegetables, barley, chickpeas and enough water to cover. If you're using canned beans, cook for about 2 hours. Dried beans may need longer to really soften up (I cooked mine gently for close to four hours).

Serve as a main dish with some plain yogurt and tortilla chips.  Oh, did I mention that it freezes really well? Freeze anything you have left for another time. It's great a as a side dish next to meat or fish.



Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hamantashen


I know, I know, all this junk food is getting tiresome. But it isn't my fault. Honest. My kids have gotten into a baking frenzy lately. My son wants to bake every night, and we have cookies literally spilling out of the freezer drawers. And, yes, I do mean literally.


Sure, it's fun and keep the kids occupied in the kitchen through these (hopefully last few) dreary winter evenings. And I very much prefer that they take home-baked goods to school for snack over high-fat and high-sodium chips. But there's got to be a limit.


I couldn't say no tonight, though. It's the Jewish month of Adar, which means Purim is around the corner. And you know what Purim means. Lots of junk. And lots of Hamantashen. For the uninitiated, Hamantashen are sweet pastries traditionally filled with jam or poppy seeds, and shaped like triangles. If you haven't tried them, you should. They're easy to make and lots of fun.


We filled some of ours with jelly, but we prefer less traditional fillings like cinnamon-sugar, chocolate chips, and the very in-vogue NUTELLA. Very revolutionary, I know. But very, very delicious.

Here's our recipe with our favorite fillings. This is a great versatile dough which is easy to work with and wonderful tasting.



Hamantashen
If you've never formed these shapes before, take a look at the photos above or at the collage at the end of this post. The technique is simple. You just roll the dough, cut it in circles, fill it, and then fold the corners in. Be sure to pinch the edges really tight so they don't open while baking. 


DOUGH
5 1/2 - 7 cups flour
3 eggs (plus one extra for egg wash, if desired)
2 sticks margarine
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking powder

FILLING
fruit jam (we used Smucker's strawberry)
a mix of 1 tablespoon cinnamon and 4 tablespoons sugar
chocolate chips
Nutella

Preheat the oven to 325*.

Combine all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. (Start with 5 1/2 cups of flour and work your way up to 7 if you need it.) Mix the dough for a few minutes until it's well combined and not at all sticky. (Add flour as needed.)

Divide the dough into about four even balls. Working with one ball at a time, roll the dough about 1/3 inch thick. Cut it into 3-inch rounds using cookie cutter, glass, or any other round object you have in your kitchen.

Place some filling in the center of each circle.

  • For Nutella or jam, use about a teaspoon. 
  • For chocolate chips, use about 5 chips. 
  • For cinnamon sugar, gently press  finger down in the center of the dough circle to make a small indentation. Then put about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon-sugar in the 'hole.'
Form the rounds into triangles by pinching the corners closed. 

If you want glossy shiny cookies, make an egg wash by beating one egg yolk with a little water. Brush the cookies with the egg wash before baking for 15-20 minutes until golden. Cool for at least 15 minutes on the tray and then transfer to racks to cool completely. Eat within a few days or freeze for later. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies


I know. My last post featured decadent chocolate muffins. You'd expect that my chocolate craving would have been satisfied for a bit. At least for a day or two. But, alas. It was not.


If you are a true chocolate lover, you won't bat an eyelash when I tell you that I found myself craving more chocolate as soon as I finished my first muffin. If you enjoy chocolate like I do, you'll understand when I tell you that I needed a chocolate fix.

This time, it had to be salty-sweet. These cookies (another Dorie Greenspan Baking special) were just the thing. The hint of cocoa in the batter, plus the generous helping of chocolate chips, gave it just enough chocolatey richness. The fresh chopped peanuts plus the creamy peanut butter added a saltiness that complemented the cocoa. If you like Reeses' Peanut Butter cups, these will be just the thing for you. And you can make them pareve!


Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies, from Dorie Greenspan's Baking
I made a few tweaks to the recipe and am listing it here the way I tried it. If you have the cookbook and want to take a look at the original recipe, it's the Peanut Butter Crisscrosses recipe on page 78. I did the cocoa-peanut butter version. 

2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 sticks butter or margarine, at room temperature
1 cup smooth peanut butter (I used Jif)
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cups chopped salted peanuts
1 cup chocolate chips

About 1/2 cup sugar, for rolling

Preheat the oven to 350*. Line two cookie sheets with foil sprayed with Pam, or with parchment paper.

Cream the butter in a electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the peanut butter and beat for a couple of minutes. Add the sugars and beat for 3-5 minutes longer, till light and fluffy. Add the baking soda, baking powder and salt. Combine briefly.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and, with the mixer on low speed, add the flour, cocoa, chopped peanuts and chocolate chips. Combine briefly. The dough will be soft and mushy.

Pour the 1/2 cup sugar into a small bowl. Working with about a tablespoonful of dough, roll the dough into balls and then drop each one into the sugar, rolling it to coat.

Place the balls on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Use a fork to gently flatten them first in one direction and then another, to create a crisscross indentation along the top.

Bake for about 13 minutes, until the cookies are done but still a bit soft. Let them cool for a few minutes on the sheets and then transfer to racks to cool completely.

When the cookie sheets are cool, repeat with the remaining cookies. (I got all of my cookies done with just 3 sheets.)


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chocolate Muffins


It seems that there is room in this world for another chocolate muffin recipe. You see, I already have a Perfect chocolate muffin recipe. It's a family favorite from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe cookbook. (Read the recipe over on my other blog.) Those muffins are light, chocolatey, and simply cannot be improved upon.


But I recently found a new favorite cookbook author: Dorie Greenspan. And it seems that Dorie has a chocolate muffin recipe that competes with the Perfect Mollie Katzen ones I referenced above. And we're talking serious neck-and-neck competition.


We're also talking serious chocolate flavor. The kind that you can only get using a combination of chocolate bits, cocoa, and melted chocolate. The buttermilk gives these muffins a tang. All that chocolate gives them a kick. This is a recipe you've got to try.

Chocolate Muffins from Dorie Greenspan's Baking
I used chocolate chips instead of the bittersweet chocolate, and these were fantastic. 


3/4 stick butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or substitute chocolate chips)
2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder (the recipe says to sift it, but I didn't)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, optional

Preheat the oven to 375*. Fit the molds in a regular size muffin pan - the kind with 12 molds - with paper muffin cups.

Melt the butter and HALF the chocolate (or chips) in a microwave or double boiler.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl whisk the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla together. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients along with the melted butter and chocolate. Combine gently (don't overmix). Stir in the remaining chocolate or chips.

Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool the muffins for a few minutes in the pan before removing them and cooling on wire racks.