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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.