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Friday, February 23, 2018

One-bowl Brownies

We're still searching for our favorite brownie and I found a recipe in this month's issue of Cook's Country that has made it into our top five. (This recipe is so appealing it is showing up in other cooking blogs, too.) It has substantial chocolaty flavor and, if stored in the refrigerator, it has the chewiness Betsy and I like. There are a number of variations such as Nutella or mint brownies. Check the magazine out from your local library to find them.

Next time Betsy and I get together we plan a side by side test of brownies (might be harder on us than you'd think). Maybe this one will win!



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One-bowl Brownies


Source:  February/March issue of Cook's Country
Yields one 9X13 pan

In parentheses are amounts I used for an altitude of almost 5000 feet.

1/2 c plus 2 T boiling water, measured after boiling
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped finely
1/3 c Dutch-processed cocoa
2 1/2 c sugar (for altitude subtract 3 T)
1/2 c plus 2 T vegetable oil
2 large eggs pus 2 large egg yolks (for altitude have them at room temperature)
4 T unsalted butter, melted
2 teas vanilla extract
1 3/4 c flour (for altitude add 2 T)
3/4 teas salt
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2 inch pieces or 1 c chocolate chips

Place oven rack to lowest position and preheat oven to 350F. Prepare 9X13 baking pan by lining with foil. (See note below.) Coat foil with oil spray.

In a large bowl whisk the boiling water, unsweetened chocolate, and cocoa, stirring until the chocolate is melted. Add the sugar, oil, melted butter, eggs and yolks, vanilla and salt; stir until combined. Add the flour and stir until just incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chunks or chips. 

Place the batter in pan. Bake 30-35 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time and test with a toothpick. There can be a few crumbs attached. Remove the brownies from the oven and place the pan on a rack. Let cool for 1 1/2 hours. Using the foil as a sling, lift the brownies from the pan and place on the rack for an additional hour, until they are completely cool. Cut and serve. If you are looking for some chewiness, keep them in the refrigerator until you eat them. 


Note: 

Cooks' Country suggests placing two perpendicular pieces of foil so all sides are covered but these brownies didn't rise so much that the pan needed full coverage. I managed with one piece being  careful to press it fully into the corners. My pan is sufficiently covered up the sides but if you have a wider pan you may want to try folding two long pieces of foil so one is 13 inches wide and one is 9 inches long. Then lay them across each other so all sides of the pan are covered.

For an efficient hint when lining with one sheet of foil see this page.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Many of us feel loyal to a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe but browned butter makes this cookie exceptional.



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Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (with altitude adjustments)

 

Source:  The Washington Post
Yield:  36-45 cookies, depending on size

(for altitudes of 4500-5000 ft, follow changes in parentheses)

2 sticks unsalted butter, one at room temperature
1 c packed light brown sugar (for high altitude subtract 2 T)
2 teas vanilla (for high altitude add 1 teas)
1 teas molasses
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk (for high altitude have eggs at room temp)
2 1/4 c flour (for high altitude add 2 T flour)
1 teas kosher salt
1 teas baking soda (for high altitude 3/4 teas)
1 c bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2-3/4 c toasted pecans, chopped
Flaky or coarse sea salt for sprinkling, optional

Melt the chilled butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat, giving the pan a swirl occasionally. The butter will foam and spatter and will start to form brown bits on the bottom of the pan and smell nutty. This can happen while it is still spattering so keep an eye on it and swirl the butter from time to time. When the bits on the bottom have turned amber brown remove the pan from the heat and pour the butter into a small bowl to stop the cooking. Let it rest for 20 minutes. 

Prepare oven by placing racks in upper third and lower third and start preheating to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Combine the room temperature butter and the brown sugar in a stand mixer or use a hand mixer. At medium speed, beat for 3-5 minutes until the mixture is smooth but not necessarily fluffy. Mix in the vanilla and molasses at medium-low speed until incorporated. 

Pour the brown butter into the mixture as well as the granulated sugar. With the mixer on medium low, beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. The mixture will become lighter in color and quite fluffy.

With the speed on low, add the eggs and beat for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour, salt, and baking soda. Beat on low just until incorporated. Fold the chocolate chips and pecans in with a rubber spatula and, at the same time, mix in any of the last bits of flour.

Spoon or scoop cookies onto the baking sheets, flatten slightly and sprinkle with salt. Place one sheet on each rack and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown (if you like them to remains soft rather than crispy, remove from oven while they look a little raw in the middle). Rotate and turn the baking sheets half way through. Let the cookies sit for 5 minutes on sheets before moving to cooling racks.

Note:

As much as I like salted sweets (cookies, chocolates, etc.) I think I'd prefer these cookies without it, giving the browned butter flavor a chance to shine. Try some both ways and see what you think.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Pasta with Kale Pesto and Winter Squash

Here's a pesto made from kale that stays green for as long as you have left overs, unlike some varieties that oxidize soon after preparation. Even better, you don't have to wait until summer provides you with baskets full of basil.


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Pasta with Kale Pesto and Winter Squash


Adapted from: New York Times
Yield: 3-5 servings 

1 1/2 pds winter squash (butternut, banana, acorn, etc.)
1/2 c oil, vegetable or olive
3/4 teas kosher salt, more for roasting squash
freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch of kale (about a half pound) center ribs removed
8-10 oz pasta
1/3 c toasted pine nuts
2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
grated zest of 1 lemon
freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
1/2 c grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the squash and remove seeds. Peel it and cut it into 1-inch pieces; place it on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Mix with your hands to ensure each piece of squash is well oiled; then generously sprinkle with salt and pepper. Make sure squash is in an even layer and roast until golden brown and tender, approximately 30 minutes. Stir a couple of times. You'll want to have warm squash when the pasta is ready so once it has cooked keep it in a warm oven.

Meanwhile heat a large pot of  water, 2 quarts or so, and bring it to a boil. Add a tablespoon of salt and stir in the kale. Cook for a minute or two (if you are at sea level--use the lower amount of time). When the kale is limp, remove from the boiling water (don't drain the water) and cool. You can shock it in cold water or spread it out on a tray to let it cool rather quickly. Bring the water back to a boil. If you think you'll need more water for cooking pasta, add some now.

When the water has returned to a boil, place the pasta in the pot and cook according to package directions. I like to leave it with a little bit of chew since it will keep cooking once the pesto is mixed in.

Drain the kale well and wrap it in a dry kitchen towel. Squeeze the towel over the sink until the kale is quite dry. Chop the leaves roughly and place into a food processor. Add the pine nuts, garlic, salt, and lemon zest and process together until the mixture is very finely chopped (almost smooth) and salt has dissolved. Spoon some of the pasta water into the mixture and run the processor again until the pesto is fairly smooth.

When the pasta has cooked, drain it but remember to reserve a couple cups of cooking water. Return the pasta to its pan and stir in pesto. You may want to hold some out to make sure you like the ratio of pesto to pasta (I thought it fairly heavy and was glad I reserved some). Toss and add more pasta water to loosen the pesto, if needed, so it coats all the pasta.

Add the grated cheese, and a teaspoon or two of lemon juice. Taste to check for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Serve topped with roasted squash and more cheese.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Huevos Rancheros--Three Ways

Here are three methods for cooking this pantry/refrigerator friendly meal. The most flavorful method calls for roasting tomatoes, chiles, and garlic. But in the summer, when there are tomatoes in the garden, I don't like heating the oven (and kitchen). I've included a couple options so Huevos Rancheros can be a year round meal.



Note:

Anything you like on a taco would be good with this dish. It almost goes without saying, avocado is great. I also like to use crumbled queso fresco and/or Mexican crema if I have either on hand.

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Huevos Rancheros--Three Ways


Serves 2-4

1-3 jalapeno chiles halved with seeds and ribs removed (to taste)
1 1/2 pds plum tomatoes (about 8 medium) halved and cored
1/2 onion, cut in half-inch slices
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 T tomato paste
1 teas salt
3 T vegetable oil, divided use
1/2 teas ground cumin
1/8 teas cayenne, optional 
3 T minced fresh cilantro, divided use
1/4 teas ground black pepper
1-2 T fresh lime juice, plus additional lime cut into wedges for serving
1 c cooked beans (whatever you have, rinsed if canned), optional
4-6 corn tortillas, or flour if that is what you have
4-6 large eggs

Using fresh tomatoes roasted in the oven:

If you are using supermarket tomatoes, this is the most flavorful method.

Heat the oven to 375F with the rack in the middle position. Finely chop one jalapeno and set it aside. In a small bowl, stir together the tomato paste, salt, 2 T of the oil, cumin and cayenne (if using). Place the remaining chiles, tomatoes, onions, garlic on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle the tomato paste mixture over the top of the vegetables. Stir to coat and turn tomatoes and chiles over so the cut side is down. Place in the oven and roast until the tomatoes are tender and skins have started to shrivel and brown. With tongs, transfer the onions, garlic, and jalapenos to a food processor and run the machine until these vegetables are nearly broken down, about 10 seconds. Scrape the sides of the processor bowl and add the tomatoes and process until the tomatoes are still chunky like salsa. Add 2 tablespoons cilantro, black pepper, reserved jalapeno, and lime juice and pulse once.

Turn the oven up to 450F for crisping the tortillas.

Pour the tomato mixture into a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat; add beans, if using, and bring to a simmer. Using a large spoon, make 4-6 wells in the tomato mixture and break an egg into each well. Sprinkle each egg with salt and pepper to taste and cover the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook according to your preference.

In the meantime place the tortillas on a baking sheet and brush each side with the remaining oil. If desired, sprinkle each tortilla with salt and place in the oven. Bake until the tortillas become crisp and start to turn golden. Flip and toast the second side, although for less time.

Although the tortillas can be served on the side (my preference) they can be placed on a dinner plate and smothered with a good scoop of the tomato mixture and an egg. Top with remaining cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.

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Stove top Huevos Rancheros with fresh tomatoes:

1-3 jalapeno chiles halved with seeds and ribs removed (to taste)
1 1/2 pds plum tomatoes (about 8 medium) halved and cored
1/2 onion, cut in half-inch slices
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 T tomato paste
1 teas salt
2 T vegetable oil, divided use
1/2 teas ground cumin
1/8 teas cayenne, optional
3 T minced fresh cilantro, divided use
1/4 teas ground black pepper
1-2 T fresh lime juice, plus additional limes cut into wedges for serving
1 c cooked beans (whatever you have, rinsed if canned), optional
4-6 corn tortillas, or flour if that is what you have
4-6 large eggs

Chop one jalapeno and set aside. Heat a 12-inch skillet to medium high and place tomatoes and halved jalapenos in it skin down and allow them to char turning as needed so that each side begins to brown. They will soften and possibly split. Add 1 T oil, the tomato paste, salt, cumin, and cayenne (if using) and cook for a minute or two. Place the tomato mixture in a food processor when finished. Place the onions and the remaining 1 T oil in the skillet and lower heat to medium or medium low. Drop the garlic cloves in as well. Allow the onions to cook until quite brown and let the garlic get softer and somewhat browned.

Once onions are cooked pull the garlic out and add onions to the food processor. You can add the garlic whole if your food processor will chop them to your liking. I prefer to chop them a bit or push them through a garlic press. Add the garlic to the tomatoes and onions in the food processor. Process until the vegetables are still slightly chunky. Add 2 T cilantro, black pepper, reserved jalapeno, and lime juice and pulse once.

Pour the tomato mixture back into the skillet over medium heat, add beans, if using, and bring to a simmer. Using a large spoon, make 4-6 wells in the tomato mixture and break an egg into each well. Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper to taste and cover the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until eggs are as done as you like.

Heat tortillas in the microwave (on high) wrapped in a damp kitchen cloth until heated through. This won't result in crispy tortillas but will keep the kitchen cool.

Place an egg or two plus plenty of the tomato mixture on a plate with a tortilla on the side or underneath. Top with a sprinkle of cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. 


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Stove top  Huevos Rancheros with canned tomatoes:

1-3 jalapeno chiles halved with seeds and ribs removed (to taste)
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, drained
1/2 onion, cut in half-inch slices
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 T tomato paste
1 teas salt
2 T vegetable oil, divided use
1/2 teas ground cumin
1/8 teas cayenne, optional
3 T minced fresh cilantro, divided use
1/4 teas ground black pepper
1-2 T fresh lime juice, plus additional limes cut into wedges for serving
1 c cooked beans (whatever you have, rinsed if canned), optional
4-6 corn tortillas, or flour if that is what you have
4-6 large eggs


I weighed only the tomatoes from a 28-oz can and came up with about 1 1/4 pounds which was close enough to the original recipe. I recommend using whole tomatoes and squeezing them into a bowl (go ahead, use your clean hands). Diced tomatoes are treated with calcium chloride for shape retention and they won't break down as nicely. I mimic the "roasted" flavor by cooking the onions to a deep brown (if you are short on time, just cook onions until soft). In this version, I don't use a food processor but chop all vegetables except tomatoes on a cutting board. You can use a processor or even a blender if you like the sauce to be smoother rather than chunky.

Chop all the jalapenos. Reserve a tablespoon of cilantro for garnish.

Heat 1 T oil in a nonstick skillet and cook the onions and whole garlic cloves over medium heat until onions are quite brown and garlic has dark roasted spots. Remove the whole garlic cloves and add the jalapenos, tomato paste, salt, cumin, and cayenne (if using) and cook for a few minutes. Chop or mince the garlic and return to the skillet. Add the crushed tomatoes, cilantro, and lime juice to the onions and garlic. Cook for 5-10 minutes until tomatoes have broken down and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the beans, if desired, and make wells in the sauce for the eggs. Break an egg into each well and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and cover the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until eggs are as done as you like.

Heat tortillas in the microwave (on high) wrapped in a damp kitchen cloth until heated through. This won't result in crispy tortillas but will keep the kitchen cool.

Place an egg or two plus plenty of tomato mixture on a plate with a tortilla on the side or underneath. Top with a sprinkle of cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Knobby Apple Cake

My mom often baked this old-fashioned cake recipe and I've found it in several old community cookbooks, often with different names (such as Ozark Cake) but the same ingredient list.  It's a a fruity dessert (always a plus) and is a great place to use apples a bit past their prime. It's also considerably less work than a pie and less intimidating.


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Grandma Betty's Knobby Apple Cake


Source: my mother
Yield:  8X8 pan maybe doubled to yield a 9X13

Altitude adjustments for 4300-5000 above sea level are in parentheses.

On chopping apples: I leave the skin on (but apples can be peeled) and chop quite small, about 1/4 inch dice but my mom used a larger dice, at least half inch or more. Both work.


3 T butter
1 c sugar (reduce by 1 T for altitude)
1 egg
2 teas vanilla
1/2 teas cinnamon
1/4 teas freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teas salt
1 teas baking soda (minus 1/8 to 1/4 teas)
1 c flour (increase by 1 1/2 T)
3 c diced apples
1/2 c chopped nuts

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients but don't beat. The batter will be quite thick. Add the apples and nuts and stir. Place in greased cake pan and smooth the top. Bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

This is good with ice cream, whipped cream, or creme anglaise (my favorite). My mother used this sauce:

Lemon Sauce

1/2 c sugar
1 T cornstarch
1/8 teas nutmeg
1/8 teas salt
1 c boiling water
1 1/2 T lemon juice
2 T butter

Cook first five ingredients until thick.  Add lemon juice and butter. Her note pointed out: "This sauce doesn't reheat well." So if you are serving only a couple of people, you might want to half the recipe--use a pinch when you divide 1/8 teas. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pumpkin Pancakes

Hoo-whee, four kids is a lot of kids. I have had quite a time adjusting to the additional demands (and sleep deprivation) of an infant. Cooking is one of the things that I do less during this stage in my life. I find that breakfast cooking (at least when I'm not running off to work) is easier than dinner, though. Fewer people around, less going on.

I've never been much of pumpkin eater but this fall I was suddenly struck by a pumpkin-eating mood. These are one of the things I tried.



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Pumpkin Pancakes


Source: New York Times
Yields: 12-16 depending on the size you make

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour (they are also good with half whole, white wheat flour)
2 T sugar
1 1/2 teas baking powder
3/4 teas baking soda
3/4 teas kosher salt
1 1/2 teas cinnamon
1 teas ground ginger
1/8 teas freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 c buttermilk
3/4 c pumpkin puree
2 eggs
3 T melted butter, vegetable oil, or coconut oil, plus more for greasing skillet or griddle
1 teas vanilla extract

Begin heating your skillet or griddle on your stovetop at medium-low heat.

Mix the dry ingredients including spices together in a large bowl until well combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the wet ingredients together until well combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and using a rubber spatula stir with a folding motion until just combined. You'll have a few small lumps which are okay. The batter will be quite thick. I advise not adding liquid if you want to keep them puffy.

Lightly butter the skillet or griddle and drop the batter using either a quarter cup measure or a spring-type ice cream scoop. Leave plenty of room between pancakes for spreading.

Cook for a minute or two until the batter begins to brown on the bottom and starts to bubble on the edges. Flip carefully and continue to cook for a couple minutes until the pancakes are deep golden brown and puffy. Repeat until all the batter is used. Serve. These are nice with toasted pecans and maple syrup. You might consider adding the pecans to the batter.

You can keep the pancakes warm in an oven heated to 225F. I like to put them on a cooling rack so they don't get soggy.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

High Altitude Carrot Cake

And here's another (more traditional) carrot cake!

A few years ago, when my bigs were not quite as big, and my littles weren't around yet, the boys wanted to do some baking. We looked through Pie in the Sky, and they wanted to make this carrot cake. I found it a bit too oily the first time through, so when carrot cake was requested as a birthday cake, I reduced the oil slightly. This time, it was perfect; dense and moist, but not too much of either. Since then, it has been this boy's standard birthday cake request, whether he eats it or not. Granted, his birthday starts a treat-filled week at our house, with Halloween and two birthdays, but I have to say that uneaten birthday cake makes me want to just serve ice cream.

2015, he requested the cake but didn't eat any

2017, he ate a big slice and so did the rest of us


Sometimes we post sea level and high altitude variations. I'm just going with high altitude here, since I modified the oil amount and I don't know how that will affect the sea level recipe.

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High Altitude Carrot Cake (~5,000 feet)


Adapted from Pie in the Sky: Successful Baking at High Altitudes by Susan G. Purdy
Yields one tube pan cake

(The recipe says it can be baked in a Bundt pan, too, but also instructs bakers at 5,000 feet and above to line the tube pan with greased parchment paper. So to prevent sticking, I'd recommend a tube pan.)

For the cake:
3 c peeled, grated carrots (6-10, depending on size)
1 c walnuts, chopped
1/4 c sunflower seeds, optional
1 1/4 c canola oil
2 c sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 T vanilla extract
1/4 c wheat germ or bran
2 c flour
1 1/2 teas baking soda
1 teas salt
2 teas cinnamon
3/4 teas nutmeg
1/2 teas ginger
1/2 teas allspice

For the frosting:

4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
4 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
pinch of salt
3/4 teas vanilla extract
2 c sifted powdered sugar, or as needed

Place the rack in the lower third of your oven, then preheat to 375F. Grease your tube pan with butter. Line the bottom of the greased pan with a ring of parchment paper, wax paper, or foil, then butter the liner. Flour the entire surface inside the pan and then tap out the extra flour.

In a large bowl, blend together the oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and wheat germ/bran with a whisk. Set a strainer over the bowl and measure the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices into it. Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and whisk gently until combined. Then stir in the carrots, nuts, and sunflower seeds.

Place the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the top is springy and a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Leave the cake in the pan and set it on a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes. Then move a knife around the edge of the cake to help loosen it. Turn the cake out onto a plate or foil -covered cardboard disk. Peel off the paper, and let the cake cool completely.

As the cake cools, mix the frosting. Blend together the cream cheese and butter until very smooth and creamy; I used a hand mixer, but the original recipe recommends a food processor or electric mixer. Beat in the salt and vanilla, then gradually add the sugar, beating until smooth. Frost the cake and enjoy!

Note on frosting: A dusting of confectioner's sugar can be used instead. Also, I halved the original frosting recipe; double it if you are a big frosting fan.