'Tis the season (of peppermint bark)

In the spirit of Peppermint Bark season, I baked these wonderful brownies. As if two bags of Ghirardelli's peppermint bark squares isn't enough, our home just has to have more! Inspired by Dying For Chocolate's blog, I made my signature brownie recipe and added white chocolate and peppermint candy to turn it into peppermint bark brownies.

For this recipe it's important to use good quality white chocolate so that every component of the brownie tastes great and so that the white chocolate melts properly. (I prefer Guittard which can be found in any grocery store.)

If you're more of a package baker, here is Ghirardelli's recipe:

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1 egg
1- 20 oz package or 1 pouch Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix

In a medium bowl, blend together oil, water and egg. Add the brownie mix and stir until moistened. Pour the batter into lightly greased 13x9 pan. Bake 24-26 minutes. Let brownies cool completely.

My Brownies
4 blocks Baker's unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sifted all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler over (not in) simmering water. Allow to cool until barely warm.

Preheat oven to 350°F. 
Whisk the eggs and salt until light and creamy in color in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in the sugar and vanilla. Mix in the chocolate with only about 3 stir (there can still be streaks in the batter).
Pour in all of the flour and mix until just combined (don't over mix the batter). Pour the batter into lightly greased 13x9 pan. Bake 20-25 minutes. Let brownies cool completely.

Peppermint Topping

2 cups white chocolate chips
1 tsp canola oil
1/3 cup crushed peppermints (about 16 round candies, or six candy canes) I used a mini food processor to chop the candies really tiny.

Melt the chips in the top of a double boiler, over simmering water, stirring often. Or gradually melt the chips in the microwave at half power stirring every 20 seconds. Mix in the oil once the chips have melted.

Poor the melted white chocolate over the cooled brownies and sprinkle the crushed candy over the top. Let the topping set on the counter or in the fridge, then cut and enjoy!

"more peppermint!"


Peanut Butter Jam Bars

Inspired by The Food Networks 12 Days of Cookies, I decided to mix up my favorite peanut butter cookie dough and add the home-made strawberry jam from jelly doughnut night and bake it all in a pan to create delicious peanut butter jam bars.

Peanut Butter Jam Bars
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325F. Butter a 9X9 baking dish.

In a separate bowl, mix the baking soda and salt into the flour.

With a hand mixer or KitchenAid, beat the butter then gradually add both sugars until very well blended. Mix in the egg and vanilla. Mix in the peanut butter. Slowly add the flour mixture.

With damp fingers, press 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the baking dish (if the dough is too sticky, put it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes). Spread the jam over the dough. Crumble the remaining dough evenly over the top of jam. It will bake for a longer time then cookies, about 25-30 minutes.

I didn't layer the dough and jam the best way, and used too large of a pan, so they should turn out even prettier baked the proper way.


Epicurious Red Velvet Cake

It seems like everyone loves red velvet cake, but for the longest time I didn't know why it was called red velvet cake and it turns out I wasn't the only one that wondered; what's in it that gives red velvet cake its distinctive flavor and color?

Red velvet cake is like a rich white cake with buttermilk and a little bit of unsweetened cocoa powder- that's how the cake gets its distinctive flavor. In the baking process, the alkali in the cocoa powder reacts with the acid (in the teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar), and turns the batter slightly red (like a light brownish/red tinge). So to really get it red, not one but two teaspoons of red food coloring are added to the batter. I definitely want to try making the recipe without any food coloring and see how the cake turns out.

I don't actually have a picture of the finished cupcakes with frosting and I even bought a new frosting piping tip so that the frosting comes out big and fluffy :( They got eaten at the party before I had the chance to find a camera.

Red Velvet Cake
Makes 2 layers of a 9-inch cake or 24 cupcakes


    •    2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured; 9oz)
    •    2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (0.5oz)
    •    1 tsp baking powder
    •    1 tsp baking soda
    •    1/2 tsp salt
    •    1 cup buttermilk (8 oz)
    •    1 tbsp red food coloring
    •    1 tsp distilled white vinegar or lemon juice
    •    1 tsp vanilla extract
    •    1 1/2 cups sugar (10.5oz)
    •    1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (2oz)
    •    2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a two 9-inch-diameter cake pans or put paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin.  Sift the sifted flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl.

Whisk buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla in small bowl until blended.

Using electric mixer or Kitchenaid, beat sugar and butter until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Mix in dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in three additions. * Always begin and end with the dry ingredients.

Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 27 minutes (Cupcakes baked for about 18 minutes)

Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks; cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (I used only about 2 cups)
Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in vanilla.

Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread 1 cup frosting over top of cake. Top with second cake layer, flat side down. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. This cake can be made one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.


The Miracle of Oil: Latkes and Jelly Doughnuts

For special occasions I stray from baking and write about other recipes, and in light of Hanukkah I have to pay tribute to my dad's wonderful latkes he made us every year on the first night of Hanukkah- A simple but delicious, full-proof recipe. You can make them for the any of the next seven nights of Hanukkah!

Dad's Latkes
 Serves 4
(The recipe says it serves eight, we had two guests and between the four of us they were gone, and so where all the jelly doughnuts, but it does make about eight latkes!)
  • 4 medium baking or Russet potatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp matzo meal (found in the kosher section of the grocery store)
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 6 tbsp oil for frying- you'll need to add more as you go

1. Peel potatoes and either grate withe a cheese grater or use the grating disc attachment of a food processor. Transfer to a large bowl and with your hands or a cheese cloth squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the grated potatoes

2. Grate onion and add to the potatoes

3. Add all other ingredients

4. In a heavy, 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Create a mound of potato and put it into the oil. Flatten mounds slightly with a spatula. Fry for 3-4 minutes or until dark golden brown on the bottom. Turn with spatula and fry until the other side reach the same color.

5. Drain on a paper towel lined plate and keep warm in a 200F oven until ready to serve

Serve with sour cream and applesauce

The Hanukkah holiday celebrates the rededication of the Jewish temple after the Greeks took violent control  during the reign of Alexander the Great. A short story of the Hanukkah story can be found at Judaism101.com

According to Joan Nathan's The Children's Jewish Holiday Kitchen, "the young State of Israel has created many of its own customs. One is serving jelly doughnuts at Hanukkah, which are fried in oil to symbolize the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days instead of one."

I also made Jelly Doughnuts with real strawberry jam and a recipe from Gourmet cookbook. I'm not totally wild about and will try Mark Israel's of The Doughnut Plant in NY, next!

Easy Strawberry Jam
Adapted from allrecipes.com
  • 3 cups hulled, mashed strawberries (about 2 small baskets)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Juice of two small lemons
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, mix together the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high, and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 220F (really important-If you don't heat it enough, the jam will not gel!) Transfer to a hot sterile jar, leaving 1/4 to 1/2 inch space at the top and seal. Since the jam will be eaten right away, refrigerate it. (You don't need to process it in a water bath first.) Follow this link for a yummy recipe and easy-to follow guide to make jelly doughnuts.

Though I am not religious, Hanukkah is a wonderful cultural tradition, reminder of my ancestors history, and a fun way to get friends together to enjoy delicious fried foods.


Corn Bread Stuffing and More

What happens when I get a four-day weekend with no plans but to bake, eat and be with family?- A lot of baking...
(Click the captions for recipes).

Cornbread stuffing

Corn Bread Stuffing
(I completely forget which magazine I found this in while at the gym!)
  • 7-8 Cups cornbread  diced 1/2" cubes 
    • Use a southern corn bread recipe. Northern Corn bread is more cake like, while Southern corn bread is denser
    • Usually stale cornbread is used, but I baked it the same day, then cut it into pieces for stuffing after it had cooled- it was great!
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow, 1 orange, 1 red bell pepper (diced)
  • 1-1 1/2 onions (diced or minced) 
  • 1 Cup chicken stock
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 tbs minced marjoram or oregano
  • 1 tsp pepper
Saute peppers and onion in  some of the butter. Combine with cornbread and the rest of the melted butter in a large oven-proof bowl. Bake 30-40 minutes at 350F.

Mom's breakfast

Coffee Chocolate Chip Cookies, Dying For Chocolate blog

....and some very happy people.


Tartine Morning Bun Recipe

I got extremely ambitious last weekend, partly driven by the fact that it is not that easy to get your hands on the full Tartine Morning Bun recipe. But after some serious sleuth work, I got it (...I'm pretty sure...if anyone has the Tartine cookbook with the croissant recipe, please talk to me immediately so we can corroborate recipes). Finally, the uber buttery croissant dough and the sugar mixture, bursting with flavor. So my fine friends, here it is for you, all in one place!

For Tartine Morning Buns, start with two pounds croissant dough. Tartine's dough calls for a preferment (which I started Saturday night, before I went out and stuck it in the fridge until I got started in the morning...

Croissant Dough
(Tartine, discovered at The Way the Cookie Crumbles blog)
Instructions on croissant dough are my own, based from my instructions at Baking Arts
  • KitchenAid with paddle attachment and hook attachment
  • pastry cutter or pizza wheel
  • rolling pin
  • parchment paper
  • plastic wrap (or cheese cloth)
  • zester or microplane grater

  • ¾ cup non-fat milk (6 ounces/150 ml)
  • 1 tbls active dry yeast (15ml)

  • 1⅓ cup all-purpose flour (6¼ ounces/175g)

Dough (makes 2 lbs)
  • 1 tbls + 1 tsp active dry yeast (20ml)
  • 1¾ cup whole milk (14 ounces/425 m)
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour (28 ounces/800g
  • ⅓ cup sugar (2½ ounces/70g)
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon salt (20 ml)
1 tablespoons unsalted butter (15ml)

Roll-in butter:
  • 2¾ cup unsalted butter (22 ounces/625 g)
  • * 3 tbls floor (My addition)

To Make the Preferment:
In a small saucepan, warm the milk to take the chill off (between 80° to 90 °F). Pour the milk into a glass bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk, stir just to dissolve the yeast with a wooden spoon. Allow yeast to proof for a few minutes. Add the flour, mixing with a wooden spoon until a smooth batter forms. Cover the bowl with cheesecloth or loosely fitted plastic wrap and let the mixture rise until almost double in volume (2 to 3 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator).

To Make the Dough:
Measure out all your ingredients. Put the preferment into the mixer and the yeast. Mix with a dough hook on the lowest speed until the yeast is mixed into the preferment (less than 1 minute, stopping to scrap the sides of the bowl, as needed). When the mixture has come together into an even mass, increase the speed one notch. Slowly add half of the milk. Continue to mix until the milk is fully incorporated.
Reduce the speed and slowly add the: flour, sugar, salt, melted butter, and the rest of the milk. Mix until the dough loosely comes together (about 2 minutes). Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest (about 20 minutes).

On the lowest speed, mix until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 2 minutes). If the dough is too firm, add a milk 1 tablespoon at a time ( I needed to add 2 tablespoons to the dough pretty much immediately). DON’T OVER MIX- This dough will be worked and worked again as it is rolled out several times. Mix as little as possible to achieve a smooth-ish dough. Cover the bowl with a loosely fitted plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a cool place until the volume increase by half (about 1 ½ hours).
Before Rise

After Rise

Transfer the dough to floured parchment paper. Roll and shape into a square about an inch thick (I think about 14X14 inches). Wrap in plastic wrap on a sheet pan and place in fridge for 30-60 minutes.

To Make the Butter Patty
Work the flour into the cool butter on the lowest speed with a paddle attachment for 30 seconds. Scrap bowl and mix 30 more seconds. Do not aerate. Transfer to parchment paper and using the paper as a tool, quickly shape the butter into a square, the same thickness as the dough. Wrap in the parchment and chill for 30 minutes.

If necessary, roll the dough out to the same size as before on a floured work surface as it may have shrunk a bit in the fridge. Place the chilled butter square diagonally on the dough and bring up the corners. (If the butter sticks, rip the paper off like a Band-aid). Pinch the dough firmly along the seams to seal in the butter completely.
* I had a bit too much dough so I trimmed off the edges and put the extra dough in the fridge for flat bread

The First "Double Turn"
Using your rolling pin, start tapping the dough down, starting at the center and working your way toward the left ad then the right to lengthen the square and soften the butter. Start rolling gently to about a 16 inch square, checking often to make sure the dough is not sticking and putting more flour down as necessary. Starting from the left or the right, fold the square in thirds like a business letter. Then fold into thirds again forming a square shape.  Tap down gently with your hands. Wrap and refrigerate(30 minutes or up to 2 hours) The ideal rolling temperature for this dough is 60F. * The dough gets put in fridge to relax the gluten.

The Second "Double Turn"
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. As before, tap the dough out and then gently roll to a 16 inch square, adding flour to prevent sticking. Fold in thirds like a business letter and then into thirds again. Wrap and refrigerate (30 minutes up to 2 hours, or overnight).  

* 1/2 of this dough will be used for the morning buns and the other half...for what ever you want! I rolled croissants, wrapped them individually in plastic wrap and freeze for up to two months.

Morning Bun Inside
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup white sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 2 medium oranges
  • 2 tbls ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) butter, melted * You'll have a lot left over
  • extra white sugar for coating muffin cups and for rolling finished buns

In a small bowl combine everything except the butter. Mixture will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks or in the freezer for a month

Prepare a 12-muffin capacity muffin tin by generously brushing bottom and sides of each cup with melted butter. Put a teaspoon of sugar in each muffin cup and swirl around to evenly coat. Tap out excess sugar.

*Alright here's where my dough recipe doesn't quite add up because your supposed to role the dough to 6X18 inch rectangle that is 1/4-inch thick (This can easily be fixed by rolling it out the long way to 2 more inches long, though my dough was still thicker than 1/4 inch).

Roll out croissant dough into a 1/4-inch thick, 6X18 inch rectangle, with the long side facing you. Brush the dough with melted butter, and sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over the whole rectangle0 the sugar layer should be about 1/8-inch thick. You may have some mixture left over.
Before Rise

After Rise
To bake buns that are frozen: Prepare pan as above, let buns defrost in the prepared cups (this will depend on how warm your kitchen is,a bout 45 minutes), then continue with the next step.

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Let rolls rise in warm but not too hot place until they rise approximately 1 1/2 times their original size. Place muffing tin on a cookie sheet covered with parchment or foil to catch any drips while baking.

Bake for 45 minutes-1 hour or longer (mine took about 35 minutes!) When done, the tops should be well browned and the sugar melted. Remove pan from oven and immediately turn buns out into a cleaning baking sheet or work surface. Let the buns set for 5-10 minutes, then toss in a bowl with some sugar to coat

Buns are best eaten the day they are made. If eating the next day, heat them up first in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes before serving.


(My) Tartine morning buns

It's been a long Sunday! Here are beautiful pictures of my fruits of labor, Tartine's famous morning buns.

If your in the Berkeley area, come get them while they're hot ;)

(recipe to follow).


Birthday Cupcakes

These little cakes of fluffy love are inspired by the birthday cake my mom made for me and my brother every birthday. But now that we're grown, my brother doesn't get a cake and I apparently, make my own! And I was just as excited to make "birthday cake" for my friends and me as I used to be for mom's birthday cake. Her cake was a classic white cake with fudgy Hershey's cocoa frosting with fabulous "Happy Birthday Joanna" colored lettering. These cupcakes use the same white cake with a fluffy vanilla cream filling and chocolate ganache. This recipe is from the 975 edition of The Joy of Cooking. My mom has the original 1964 edition-and it's so wonderful to flip through the batter-stained pages.

White Cake
Preheat oven to 375. Have all ingredients at room temp. (70 degrees)

Sift before measuring:
   2 1/4 cups cake flour
Resift it twice with:
   2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
   1/2 teaspoon salt
Cream well:
   1/2 butter
Add gradually and cream until very light:
   2 1/4 cups sifted sugar
In a separate measuring cup combine:
   1 cup milk
   1 teaspoon vanilla

Add the sifted ingredients to the butter mixture in three parts, alternating with the liquid combination. Stir the batter until smooth after each addition.

Whip until stiff, but not dry: 
    4 egg whites

You want the egg whites to make peaks like this!
Fold them lightly into the batter and bake in: two 9-inch round pans or in cupcake tins. Cake pans should be greased with butter and a bit of flour. If you bake cupcakes, turn the heat down 25 degrees. Both will bake for about 25 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cake cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Cream Filling
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk- any percent fat will work
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together the flour and milk and cook in a small saucepan over medium/low heat until thick (a few minutes) Stir continuously to prevent the mixture from clumping and do not bring to a boil. Once thick (like custard consistency), strain with a mesh strainer into a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool completely to room temperature.

When the milk mixture is cool, cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl until light. Add in the  milk mixture and vanilla and beat at high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy (about seven minutes).

Scrape into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip, or a large ziplock bag with the corner cut off, and set aside until ready to fill your cupcakes.

For maximum filling, cut a funnel-shaped hole with a very sharp knife

After the filling is added, the top fits back on concealing the filling

Chocolate Ganache

1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
sprinkles for decoration (optional)

Melt the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring constantly . Dip the top of each cupcake in the ganache. Decorate with sprinkles. Do not refrigerate.



Chocolate's what's up

This blog entry is, if nothing else, for myself to refer back to.

Here’s a list of chocolates used in baking, kind of in order from the least amount of cocoa liquor (which is cocoa beans that have been fermented, dried, roasted, then ground and pressed into a paste) to the highest amount of cocoa liquor content.

Through  researching the varying percents of cocoa liquor in different “types” of chocolate it is apparent that depending on the brand of chocolate it can have a wide range of cocoa liquor in it as well as varying amounts of added sugar. So, for example, one brand’s bittersweet bar, could be sweeter than another brands semisweet bar...

So I will base this off of Guittard and Baker's Chocolates-my favorites!

White Chocolate
Contains no cocoa liquor (but it does have cocoa butter), milk product, vanilla and lecithin Cocoa butter is created by separating the low-fat cocoa solids out of the cocoa liquor, leaving the high fat cocoa butter .

Milk Chocolate
A mixture of chocolate liquor, sugar and milk solids, which is why it has a creamier flavor than bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. Guittard’s Milk Chocolate contains 38% cocoa liquor.

Baker’s German Chocolate
54% cocoa liquor, which is less than most semi-sweet chocolates

Guittard Semisweet
61%  cocoa liquor

Guittard Bittersweet
72% cocoa liquor

Pure chocolate liquor with no added sugar (used for home-made brownies and flourless chocolate cakes, yummm).

More questions about chocolate? Email me... I'm off to dream about the birthday cake cupcakes with cream filling and chocolate ganache frosting that I'm going to make Friday morning!


Boozy Fruit

It's not exactly baking, but it is definitely an adventure in the kitchen. It started, where so many great ideas do, with an article in the NY Times, A GOOD APPETITE: Spiking Summer Fruit in Order to Preserve It. And it will likely end with a few pretty tipsy people.

As I read the article I got increasingly excited to try this- something fun to do with liquor, great! A creative holiday gift idea, great! Ways to use boozified fruit in sinful desserts to get you through the harsh, bitter cold California winters- incredible. Hair of the Dog Muffins?! Upside Down Tipple Cake?! Yes, please.

Luckily it wasn't just me that thought that. Two days after emailing the article to my friend I got her to take the train after work into Berkeley from SF just to make some. At Berkeley Bowl West we picked up baskets of strawberries, yellow and white peaches,  a pineapple (we had just missed the last of the cherries for the season) and a few cinnamon sticks. Back at home, where I already had canning jars, brandy and rum, we set to work chopping and pouring.

Anyone can make this,  even if you swear you can't bake or cook, because there is no one specific way to do it and no exact measurements, just a few important guidelines. We looked at various recipes online and worked off of these two: Fruits preserved in alcohol (Cole, allrecipes.com) and Brandied Late Summer Fruit (Myers, culinate.com). And this is what we did:

Boozy Fruit

  • Canning jars
  • any summer fruit you want to preserve and enjoy (boozified) in winter- It must be ripe, ready-to-eat fruit
  • any liquor that is at least 80 proof- vodka, rum, brandy....
  • sugar
  • lemon (optional)
  • cinnamon sticks (optional)
  • vanilla beans, cloves, orange rinds (all optional)
If you have a fruit with skin like nectarines or peaches, get one pot of water boiling, and another pot filled with ice water. Place the fruit in the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Then plunge the fruit into the ice water. This allows the skin to slip off the fruit easily.

Chop your fruit into chunks.

Create a layer of fruit at the bottom of the jar, sprinkle with sugar, repeat until the jar is full or your out of fruit. Don't forget to put in any extra flavorings like a cinnamon stick, juice of a lemon and a couple of peels of lemon rind.

Pour the liquor into the jar until all of the fruit is covered, sprinkle a bit more sugar on top for good luck.

Seal the jar. Let sit for a couple of hours, or through the day. Turn the jar upside down a few times to redistribute any undissolved sugar. Place the jars in your fridge for one month.

And of course, you can make the fruit into anything from ice cream toppings to a tart. The flavored liquor is perfect for  fruit martinis and other creative cocktails. Cheers!


Makin' Bacon

It's been reported back that the Jalapeno Bacon Brownies were just OK and that there was "too much going on"...Not really surprised, but also not discouraged. We're going to go in a slightly different direction. Apparently the jalapenos didn't add enough spice, while the bacon pieces oozed too much grease into the cooked brownies. So I'll keep the bacon component but instead of jalapenos try adding a nice chile powder to the mix (just for a hint of heat). Still haven't decided how to take care of the greasiness inside the brownie....







This is all I got when I asked for a picture of a brownie out of the pan- Taken with my boyfriend's iPhone. The brownies were taken along on his annual weekend cabin trip, while I was left at home (thankfully). While home I had time to perfect the Peanut Butter Cup Banana Cookies. Follow this for the recipe.



Visions of bacon brownies danced in their heads

I have had a very interesting past few days of baking, which started off by baking a brownie cheesecake Friday at 5:30 in the morning before work. I brewed two strong cups of coffee for myself and one to put in the cheesecake. I've made this cheesecake before and it's a snap. It's from one of Judy's books, All-Butter Fresh Cream Sugar Packed No-Holds-Barred Baking Book, the amazing founder of Rosie's Bakery in Cambridge, MA and it is delicious.

The cheesecake finally finished baking seven minutes before work, so I turned off the oven, opened the oven door and slid the rack half way out to let the cheesecake cool slowly in the morning kitchen air. Then I ran out the door and prayed for the best.  My boyfriend had already packed the cheesecake in the car along with all of our wakeboard gear before I could take a peek at it- and we were off to the lake.

This was all done to celebrate his birthday with friends and family over Labor Day weekend at our home away from home. Saturday night, blissfully ruminating over sunken cheesecake (due to elevation and off roading), some how jalapenos, brownies and bacon turned into a fantastic wondrous dish that I have been recruited to make. But do we chop up bacon and fold it into the batter, or do we sprinkle it on top just before it goes into the over, or do we place bacon on top of the cooked brownies over a light layer of chocolate frosting?!

OK, mind is going explode, let's move on to recipe #2 of the Peanut Butter Cup Banana Cookies that I baked yesterday, in which I reduced the sugar and added more banana- the recipe still needs fine-tuning. The added banana is great, but reducing the sugar isn't going to work for me, though it hasn't stopped me from eating 3 4 today....Third times the charm and I'll update the recipe then.

cookie dough rolled in orange sugar
(a nod to both the Giants and Halloween)

out of the oven

Rosie's Bakery Brownie Cheesecake
Options for the crust are vanilla wafer cookies, graham cracker crust, or Oreo crust (chocolate cookie), which is what I have used in the past, but this time I tried a Nutter Butter cookie crust-Yum!

1 1/4 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (about 30 cookies), or Nutter Butter crumbs (about 16 cookies)
1 tbs sugar
6 tbs (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup hot, very strong brewed coffee
1 lb (2, 16 ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 300 F and place a roasting pan or baking dish with water in the bottom rack of the oven to create moisture.

For the crust, first crush the cookies (I do it in a food processor) so you're able to measure out 1 1/4 cup. Then chop the nuts in the food processor. Place the cookies, nuts, butter and sugar in a small bowl and toss together with a fork. Press this mixture over the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Disclaimer: Here the book gives directions to bake the crust for 10 minutes at 350, but I never bake my crust, I find that it bakes the flavor out of it. Once it is in the bottom of the pan I place the pan in the fridge until the filling is ready to be poured in.

For the cake filling, melt the chocolate in the coffee in the top of a double boiler placed over simmering water.

Cream the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, or in a KitchenAid mixer until light and fluffy (About 2 minutes). Stop the mixer once or twice to scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Add the eggs and beat the mixture on medium-high speed for 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl and beat on medium speed 30 seconds longer.

Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat on medium speed for 15 seconds. Scrape the bowl and then mix until the batter is smooth and uniform in color, about 10 more seconds.

Pour the filling over the crust. Bake the cake on the center oven rack until it is set and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour 25 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack (or the way I did it on the oven rack, pulled partially out of the oven. My mom does it by turning off the oven and just leaving the oven door open), then refrigerate the cake overnight.


German Chocolate Cake Exposed

Everyday life has been taking up all of my time, which means I haven’t had time to bake, haven't had time to blog and found myself needing to buy a cake for my very own mother’s birthday.

After accepting the fact that there was just no way I could manage to bake a German chocolate cake for Sunday if I was leaving directly from work Friday to go wakeboarding all weekend, I started to call around on my lunch break to find a bakery that would make a great German chocolate birthday cake.

After calling three bakeries I found a place that actually made authentic German Chocolate Cakes. The first place, an upscale grocery store that will remain nameless said, “we don’t have the ingredients to make a German chocolate cake”, the second place, an independent bakery, tried to trick me by replying to my request for a German chocolate cake with, “…so we'll make a devil’s food cake with…”. Turns out they don't actually make German chocolate cake. OK, third times the charm- Creekside Bakery in Novato, CA made me a wonderful traditional German Chocolate Cake.

The first time I made a German chocolate cake was a few years ago, and it of course got me researching chocolate and what German chocolate is really all about. And now young scholars, I pass this knowledge on to you:

A Brief History
  • German chocolate was actually created by a man named Samuel German. (Much less romantic then what you expected the origin of the name to be, huh?)
  • It only has 48% cocoa liquor (generally less than semi-sweet) and has added white sugar
  • Mr. German created this chocolate mixture in 1852 because he thought it would be convenient for bakers
  • The German chocolate cake gained popularity when a recipe appeared in the 1950s in a Dallas newspaper
Turns out this chocolate is quite convenient if you want to make a traditional German Chocolate Cake (recipe from the Bakers' box).

Though an authentic German chocolate cake leaves the sides of the cake exposed to show the beautiful frosting layers of caramel, pecan, coconut goodness, I frosted the sides of the cake with a chocolate buttercream frosting (and so did the bakery that I bought my mom’s birthday cake from-go team!) You can never have too much of a good thing (frosting) when it comes to baking.

Not only is baking your own cake generally less expensive than buying one, it’s also much more satisfying to eat and share with your friends and family (at least if you’re a baker!)  But, overall this purchase worked out great- we had a delicious birthday cake after a great dinner and the only thing I had to worry about was getting to the baker before closing on Sunday.

...What else can you use German chocolate for? I’m glad you asked.

Try making chocolate peanut butter bomb cookies, yet another variation on my peanut butter cookies in which you omit the chocolate chunks in the cookie batter. Instead melt Bakers' German chocolate in a double boiler, adding in a tablespoon of light corn syrup once it has melted. Peanut butter cookies should be chilled, and the melted chocolate should be some-what cooled. Completely cover the peanut butter cookies with the melted chocolate and place on a cooling rack on a plate. Place it in the fridge to completely chill the chocolate coating. Once the chocolate has set, the cookies are ready to eat. They are best kept in the fridge so they don’t get to messy. I'd love to hear of other great recipes that call for German chocolate...


Peanut Butter Cup Banana Cookie

Finally, the first time I have been in town for a weekend and can write about the one time I have baked in the past two weeks. But I’m not complaining, the lack of baking and blogging is because I have been going to the lake every weekend, though I am still better at baking than wakeboarding ;)

This tiny bout of baking came on because our friends at the lake said they had never had any of my baked goods. Thursday night, after a grocery trip to Berkeley Bowl where I picked up a bag of about 10 over-ripe bananas for $1, I got to work with two loaves of banana bread, one plain and one with walnuts and dark chocolate chips-It's so easy and always pleases.

That didn't cure my baking itch though, so once the bread was in the oven I got to work on my own recipe that I have been wanting to give a whirl. The idea came to mind after a lot of thinking about my failed attempt at this Banana Peanut Butter Cup cookie recipe. Look at the cookies in her blog, they're beautiful, and now check out what happened when I made them…

After random contemplations since then, I think this happened because I pureed the bananas rather than mashed them and it needed more flour. I was skeptical before trying this recipe anyway because it had no butter- I mean really a cookie with no butter?

So here’s my spin on it— less healthy but more delicious?

PB Cup Banana Cookies

  • 1/2 cup mashed over-ripe banana (about 1 banana) 
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter (2 oz)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar (2.3oz)
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar (I used turbinado brown sugar aka sugar in the raw) (2.5oz)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter (12oz)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (2.5oz)
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp white flour (4.5oz)
  • ~10 peanut butter cups chopped into quarters 
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces

Have all ingredients at room temperature and preheat the oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt and set aside.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and the sugars until light and fluffy (4-5 minutes.) Mix in the egg and vanilla. Mix for 2 minutes, then the peanut butter until combined, then the banana until combined. Once combined, slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until blended, but don’t over-mix. Add in Reese's and walnut pieces.

Let the cookie dough sit in fridge over-night (or at least a couple of hours).

Remove from fridge, create golfball-size dough balls. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle a tiny pinch of coarse salt over the tops (you can sprinkle some sugar over too make it prettier). Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for a couple of minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. Success!