Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pain D'épice - Honey Spice Cake

This is a classically French cake - usually made in loaf form, although this recipe can be baked in a Bundt. It is exceptionally moist with a lovely balance of spices and sweet honey. Although it is made with all the classic fall spices, it is delicious any day of the year.

I liked it just as well plain as slathered in cream cheese frosting. The cake actually improves with age and is meant to be kept a little while. Make it at least one day ahead of serving so the spices have a chance to harmonize overnight.

Pain D'épice - Honey Spice Cake
1 Bundt cake or 3 loaves

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup warm coffee or strong tea
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup rye or whisky or more juice
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds

***You can make this cake in a 9-inch angel food cake pan, or it in a 10-inch tube or bundt cake pan, a 9 by 13-inch sheetpan, or three 8 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease the pan(s). For tube and angel food pans, line the bottom with lightly greased parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Make a well in the center and add the oil, honey, sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee, orange juice, and rye or whisky.

Using a strong wire whisk or an electric mixer on slow speed, combine the ingredients well to make a thick batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom of the bowl.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan(s) and sprinkle the top of the cake(s) evenly with the almonds. Place the cake pan(s) on 2 baking sheets stacked together and bake until the cake springs back when you touch it gently in the center. For angel and tube cake pans, bake for 60 to 70 minutes; loaf cakes, 45 to 55 minutes. For sheet-style cakes, the baking time is 40 to 45 minutes. This is a liquidy batter and, depending on your oven, it may need extra time. Cake should spring back when gently pressed.

Let the cake stand for 15 minutes before removing it from the pan. Then invert it onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

TWD: Pecan Powder Puffs [Cut-Outs]

Today's TWD recipe was chosen by *me*! Thank you everyone for baking along with me this week. I hope you all enjoyed the cookies as much as I did.

I joined Tuesdays with Dorie about 2 years ago and have been baking along religiously. I think I have only missed 2 or 3 weeks during that whole time. As a result of this amazing group I have pushed myself to try recipes I would normally skip over and techniques which are foreign to me. It was a challenge to pick a recipe since we have already baked through so many of them. The name of these cookies reminds me of the Power Puff Girls - one of those Sailor Moon type cartoons that was popular with little girls a few years ago.

Sorry, just had to throw that in there.

Now onto the cookies! They are a lot like Mexican Wedding Cookies (made with almonds) but so much flakier and better. They just crumble and melt in your mouth - like the crumbliest of shortbreads or meltaway cookies.

I shaped these cookies 2 different ways: into little balls as the recipe instructs and also rolled and cut using spring-themed cookie cutters. The cut-outs were VERY delicate and I ended up breaking more than half of them while removing them from the baking tray. I brought them to work anyway with a little note that read, "Oops, I broke a bunch of these but they are still yummy!" and depite their not-so-perfect appearance, they were devoured in no time. One of my co-workers said, "I don't care WHAT they look like, they are delicious and I need the recipe." They are insanely crumbly, flaky and rich in flavor.

Pecan Powder Puffs
from Baking: from My Home to Yours

1 cup pecans
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup minus 1 tablespooon all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioner's sugar, sifted, for rolling

Put pecans and 1 tablespoon of sugar in food processor and process in very short pulses until the nuts are pulverized. Scrape the nuts into a bowl, add the flour, salt, and cinnamon (if you're using it), and whisk to combine.

Put the butter in the processor and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the butter is smooth and creamy. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and the vanilla and process for 30 seconds or so to blend. Pour in the pecan and flour mixture and, using short pulses, process only until it is worked into the dough. You want to process the dough as little as possible - the less you work the dough, the lighter and more appealing crumbly the cookies will be. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto plastic wrap, gather it together and form it into a ball. Wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or, for up to 2 days.

Getting ready to bake: Center rack in oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Remove dough from fridge. Using a small spoon break off marble-size pieces, then roll each piece of dough between your palms to form a smooth ball and place them on baking sheets; there's no need to leave much space between balls.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are lightly golden and almost firm. Gently transfer them to a rack to cool to room temperature.

Just before serving, roll cookies in confectioner's sugar and toss them gently from hand to hand to shake off excess sugar.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

DB: Maple Walut Meringue Coffee Cake

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

I love love loved this month's Daring Baker's challenge. It wasn't too too much of a challenge since my all-time favorite thing to make is sweet yeast bread.

I opted to "Canadianize" the sweet, nutty, cinnamonny filling by adding maple extract. Maple-Walnut is a tried and true flavor pairing. The walnuts also provided a texturally interesting contrast to the creamy, fluffy meringue and soft yeast bread. Thanks for a great challenge this month. It's one of my favorites thus far!

Maple Walnut Meringue Coffee Cake
2 round 10" cakes

For the yeast coffee cake dough:
4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 package active dried yeast
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water, any temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature

For the meringue:
3 large egg whites at room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar

For the filling:
1 tsp maple extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Prepare the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast. In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted. With an electric mixer on low, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 cup flour and beat for 2 more minutes. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 1 1/2 cups of flour remaining) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 – 60 minutes. Prepare your filling by combining all the filling ingredients in a small bowl.

2. Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue and filling: In a plastic or metal bowl so the egg whites adhere to the side (they slip on glass) beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the 1/2 cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form. Combine all filling ingredients in a separate small bowl.

3. Assembly:
Line 2 baking/cookie sheets with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling evenly over the meringue.

Roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal. Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (scissors are easier), make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch intervals. Don't be afraid to cut deep into the ring. Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings. Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.

4. Baking: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped. Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. Just before serving, dust the tops of the coffee cakes with confectioner’s sugar.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Maple Pecan Tartlets

Baking Illustrated is one of my favorite Cooks Illustrated cookbooks. My second favorite being The New Best Recipe and my third being The Best 30 Minute Recipe. In general there seems to be a love/hate relationship going on with Cooks Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen. I personally trust their recipes enough to make them for a dinner party without prior testing. They do know what they're talking about and the food tastes great, however, I've noticed that they publish a lot of the same recipes in different books with a slightly different spin on them. That is why of all their publications, these 3 are my favorites. They each provide a sufficiently different approach to cooking so the recipes aren't redundant. While you are prepping your filling, bake your crust. Try to time it so that the filling is ready to be poured immediately into the hot crust. Maple Pecan Pie 24 minis | Baking Illustrated 1 recipe for basic 9" Pie Crust 1/4 cup butter 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 tsp salt 3 eggs 1 tsp vanilla 1 cup pure maple syrup 1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped (I left mine whole) 1. Prehat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out your pie crust and line your mini muffin or mini tart tins.

2. Filling: Melt butter in a double boiler. Add sugar and salt and stir to dissolve. Cool slightly then add eggs, vanilla and maple syrup. Continue stirring, still using the double boiler, until it reaches 130 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. It will be glossy and smooth. Stir in pecans. 3. Pour filling into hot crust. Bake 50-60 minutes or until the center is not jiggly. (It will continue to cook as it cools too, from the residual heat). Cool fully, at least 4 hours, and serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sugared Brioche Twists

I just bought this wonderful little book called Fast Breads: 50 Recipes for Easy, Delicious Bread by Elinor Klivans. The book was published September 2010 but somehow I hadn't seen it on the shelves until last week. It was the last copy and I didn't think twice about buying it. The recipes involve yeast which I love baking with. There is also a focus on sweet breads and comfort breads like sticky buns, cinnamon rolls, brioche, parker house rolls and butter twists.

Some reviewers mentioned that the breads a not really "fast" as they require overnight rising. However, the hands-on time is minimal and therefore, they really can be considered "fast" in my opinion. These breads also allow you a lot of flexibility because they can rest in the fridge for a few days, giving you plenty of time to build them into your schedule, no matter how busy you are.

I used Elinor's brioche recipe but instead of shaping it into a loaf I rolled it out thin and sprinkled sugar on it they rolled it up - cinnamon bun style - then cut it into pieces and twisted each piece to form a pastry of its own. They were beautiful. The delicate flavor of butter took centre stage, accompanied by a slight crunch from the caramelized sugar. The pastry is golden and light in texture.

They were so flaky and light. A lot like croissants but without all the work of making a laminate dough.

Sugared Brioche Twists
Makes 12 | Adapted from Fast Breads

1/4 cup milk
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups butter, room temperature, 1" cubes
1/4 - 1/2 cup butter, for filling, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar, for filling

1. Heat milk to 110 degrees F on an instant read thermometer (or to just slightly warmer than body temperature). Transfer to a stand mixer bowl with paddle attachment. Stir in yeast and sugar and let sit until yeast is foamy, 5 mins.

2. On low speed, beat in eggs. Add the flour and salt and continue mixing until flour is incorporated and looks like thick cake batter, approximately 8-10 minutes. As you mix, scrape down the bowl and beaters as needed.

3. Scrape dough into a buttered bowl. Cover witih plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days. It will almost double in size.

4. After refrigeration, remove from fridge and roll out into a large rectagle, approximately 11" x 17" inches. Spread evenly with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Roll up into a log and pinch to seal the seam. Cut into 12 even pieces. Pick up each piece and twist it, pulling slightly, to form twisted pastries. Place on baking tray and cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap. Allow to rise for approximately 30 minutes. Sprinkle with additonal sugar if desired.

5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and dough is cooked through. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, March 21, 2011

TWD: Honey Nut Brownies

This recipe was selected by Suzy of My Suzy Homemaker for the weekly Tuesdays with Dorie bakealong.

I wanted to like these - They sounded so promising, but unfortunatly they weren't a hit. Honey Nut Cheerios are my favorite cereal so I fully expected to love these brownies. However, they were not dense enough and not chocolatey enough to be brownies but too heavy to be cake. The honey flavor was lost amidst the chocolate and it was all in all just kind of a mish mash of unrecognizable flavors :(

Oh well, they all got eaten in the end, so they can't have been that bad, lol.

Old Fashioned Flour Frosting

Don't let the name "Flour Frosting" deter you from making this. It is a misleadingly unappetizing name, however, this recipe is a must for every baker's repertoire. It is one you have likely tasted before - maybe even without knowing it. This is a classic recipe that has either been lost, forgotten or overshadowed by new frosting fads. If you haven't tried it frosting is not too sweet. It's is light and fluffy and so so easy. It doesn't involve eggs or tempering or candy thermometers. Just a good, sturdy electric mixer because you have to beat the heck out of it for the magic to work. You will end up with a luxuriously smooth frosting that goes well with banana bread, chocolate cake, zucchini bread, red velvet cake... the list goes on!

I had someone tell me that one taste of this frosting brought her back in time to her mother's kitchen where it was used to frost all the family birthday cakes.

The Best Frosting Ever aka. Flour Frosting
adapted from Tasty Kitchen

5 tablespoons Flour
1 cup Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 cup Butter
1 cup Granulated Sugar (not Powdered Sugar)

1. In a small saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. You want it to be very thick, thicker than cake mix, more like a brownie mix. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. [I sometimes do this the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight, then continue with step 2 the next morning. On the other hand, if you are in a hurry place the saucepan over ice in the sink for about 10 minutes or so until the mixture cools.] It must be completely cool before you use it in the next step. Stir in vanilla.

2. While the mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. You don’t want any sugar graininess left. Then add the completely cooled milk/flour mixture and beat the living daylights out of it. If it looks separated, you haven’t beaten it enough. Beat it until it all combines and resembles whipped cream. It is now ready to use.

Friday, March 18, 2011

FFWD: Savory Cheese and Chive Bread

I have been horrible at keeping up with French Fridays with Dorie (FFWD). I love the book, I love Dorie but my problem is that I don't love cooking. My passion lies with baking and sweets, so I have truthfully not had much inclination to make a lot of the recipes that this group has made.

That being said, here is my (late) savory cheese bread, found on pages 34-36 of Around my French Table. I didn't have chives so I omitted them, but it was still delicious! I'm going to try my hardest to keep up with the group, even if I only opt to do the sweet, baking recipes. I am going to try and make the Salted Butter Break-Ups this weekend and hopefully post that soon.

Wish me luck getting back on the FFWD Bandwagon! Be sure to check out FFWD Blogroll to see how the other group members made out this week.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Butter Twist St. Patrick's Day Cookies

"Never iron a four-leaf clover because you don't want to press your luck - Daryl Stout. Along with these words of wisdom, I'd also like to share these St. Patrick's Day inspired cookies! My son was thrilled to bring these to school to share with his class today.

They are dressed up butter twists from Martha Stewart's Cookies. Part shortbread, part sugar cookie, all buttery delicious and crisp.

I made this recipe in two parts. The first time without food coloring and the second time I added a bunch of green food coloring for the St. Patrick's Day theme. I found it easier and quicker to just make 2 separate smaller batches - one color per batch - instead of making one larger batch and dividing it to color it. Besides, this dough is a one-bowl wonder. So simple that you would even be able to make a whole rainbow of colors in no time if you wanted to.

Another nice thing is that the dough doesn't need any refrigeration before using, although you could make the dough ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for a few days until you are ready to bake it. It handles really easily with minimal sticking and zero mess. I didn't use ANY extra flour while shaping these! Just for fun I made some pretzel-shaped ones with the last dough scraps.

Tip: Roll out all the white dough first and then the colored dough so that the color doesn't transfer from your hands back to the white dough.

Butter Twist Cookies
Makes 20 | adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
food coloring
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbsp flour
Coarse sanding sugar, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until well combined and light and fluffy. Add vanilla and salt. Add food coloring at this point (if using). Continue mixing to combine. Add the eggs and mix again. Add the flour and continue mixing until it forms a ball. It should be the consistency of Play-Doh. Not sticky but not dry either. Set it aside and make your second batch of dough (if you are making a different color).

3. Shape the dough however you like - pretzels, twists, spirals. I rolled mine into thin strips then twisted the 2 color strips together.

4. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and sprinkle with coarse sanding sugar (optional but pretty). Bake 13-15 minutes or until just starting to color. Cool fully then store airtight at room temperature up to 3 days.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Candy Bar Bars

With their crispy, buttery, sweet crust, these are more like candy than like cookies. They remind me of Twix bars - gooey caramel on top of a cookie base covered in chocolate. Using a cake mix for the base made the process go really quickly while creating a nice, sturdy base for all that caramel and chocolate to rest on. The recipe comes from one of my favorite books called Bars and Squares: More than 200 Recipes.

Just a little heads up: When I went to remove these from the pan, my heart just about stopped. I thought they were totally and completely stuck to the pan and I would be left with a pile of cookie crumbs rather than cookie bars. There was no way I could have cut these in the pan. I ended up scoring the top as deeply as I could then breaking the bars along the scored lines. I often skip the step of lining my pans with parchment, but for these bars I definitely, definitely recommend lining your pan.

Candy Bar Bars
9 x 13 inch pan | adapted from Jill Snider

1 pkg white or yellow cake mix (18.25 oz)
3/4 cup butter, melted

14 oz. soft caramels, unwrapped (approx 60 pc)
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
1 2/3 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line VERY WELL a 9 x 13 inch pan. Do not skip this step!
2. Combine cake mix with melted butter. Press into prepared pan and bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden.
3. While crust is baking, melt the soft caramels, milk and butter together, stirring frequently. Stir in powdered sugar and walnuts. Spread evenly over hot crust and bake for 5-10 minutes.
4. Immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips. Let it sit for a few minutes to soften the chips then spread the chocolate out evenly over the bars with an offset spatula. Score them deeply to make it easier to break into pieces once it is fully cool (several hours).

Monday, March 14, 2011

TWD: Citrus Sunshine Loaf

Lauryn of Bella Baker chose Citrus Sunshine Currant Muffins for this week's TWD. Her blog will have the original recipe or buy Dorie Greenspan's book for the whole lot of amazing recipes!

I loved the way the top of this loaf turned shiny and slightly crisp. Dorie was right when she named these "sunshine" muffins. The color was bright, happy and perfect for spring. Waking up to these muffins was nice on Sunday morning, despite the brutal daylight savings time change.

Psst... In 2 weeks it will be my pick! I can hardly wait!

My changes:
-Used all lemon juice instead of orange juice.
-Doubled the sugar (total 1 cup) to compensate for the sourness of the lemon vs orange juice.
-Omitted the currants
-Baked in one 9"x5" loaf pan - increased baking time by 10-15 minutes and lowered the temperature to 325 degrees F in the last 15 minutes.
-Increased baking soda to 1 tsp for a slightly higher rise and to work with added acidity from lemon juice.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Java Cookie Sticks

These unassuming cookies are simple to make and packed with a nice balance of chocolate and coffee flavored. I used my cookie press but you could use a piping bag if you prefer. These mocha-flavored fingers of crisp, buttery cookie make a nice, light snack for teatime, but watch out because they are addictive!

Java Cookie Sticks
Makes 2 dozen | Flo Braker

1 1/2 cups flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 tsp instant coffee powder dissolved in 1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment/silicone.

2. Combine all dry ingredients in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and coffee powder mixture and process in pulses just until the mixture comes together in the food processor and forms a ball. Do not refrigerate. Place dough in a cookie press or a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe the dough in lines onto the prepared cookie sheet.

3. Bake 8-11 minutes or until cookies are no longer shiny. Cool fully. Store air tight. If desired, to make these prettier, dip the long edge of the cooled cookies into melted chocolate and dip into crushed walnuts.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cottage Cheese Pastry & Mini Jam Purses

This tender cottage cheese pastry is similar to cream cheese pastries but with less fat. It is a very easy dough to work with. The final product is not as flaky as your classic pie dough but it is a nice change. There is no sugar in the pastry which means these little purses rely on the jam for their sweetness. It pairs well with extra-sweet fillings like pecan pie or buttertarts.

The pastry is versatile and could easily be used in savory applications as well. Try mixing in some herbs and cheese and making breadsticks or for your next batch of mini-quiches.

Cottage Cheese Pastry

1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
1 cup cottage cheese, well drained
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 cup jam (optional, for filling)

In a mixing bowl, beat together butter, cottage cheese, flour, and salt until dough is smooth. Chill at least 6 hours.

To make Jam Purses:
On lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into 2 1/2 inch squares. Place 1/2 teaspoon filling in the center of each square. Moisten edges of each square with a little water. Fold edges together to form a purse shape and place in a well-greased or lined mini-muffin tin. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove immediately to wire rack to cool, running a knife around the tin to loosen any stuck-on jam. Dust with confectioners' sugar just before serving.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

3 Minute Microwave Brownies

This recipe has given me new-found respect for my microwave. I was skeptical but now know that it's true - you can make delicious single-serving brownies in the microwave in under 5 minutes. All you do is dump the ingredients in a mug or microwave safe bowl, mix them to combine, microwave for 1-3 minutes and TADA! Throw a scoop of ice-cream on top (I opted for Haagen Daz Coffee ice-cream) and dessert is served.

Note: They are best served immediately and eaten with a spoon. I'm not sure how good they would be once they have cooled, but when they are eaten warm they are fudgy, gooey and yet somehow manage to have the classic slightly crispy outer crust. I swear, it's like magic! I cannot wait to try these using white chips or butterscotch and adding nuts.

Microwave 3 Minute Brownies
1 serving

2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp water (might need more if your batter seems dry)
1/4 cup flour
2 tbsp chocolate chips

Stir all ingredients together in a small microwave safe mug or bowl. Microwave for 1-3 minutes depending on how fudgy you like them. [I did mine for 1.5 minutes and it was perfect.]

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

TWD: Corniest Corn Muffins

Jill of My Next Life picked Corniest Corn Muffins for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie bakealong.

I added about 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro and 1/2 tsp dried chipotle powder. Not being a cornbread fan, these muffins were surprisingly better than I expected. I loved how the cilantro gave a burst of color with the kernels of corn peeking through. The texture from the juicy kernels against the soft, fluffy muffin was really pleasant. The chipotle gave these slightly sweet muffins a nice kick. Next time I might add some chopped jalapenos and grated cheese too. Check out Jill's blog or Dorie's Book, Baking: From my home to yours, for the recipe!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Copycat Club: March 2011

Thai Fusion Restaurant's Red Curry by Meg of Cooking in College

Ocean Club Chicken by Plain Chicken

Bon Ton Bakery Cinnamon Bread by Ashley of Eat Me, Delicious

Pei Wei Spicy Chicken Salad by Anne Strawberry

And lastly, I made Duncan Hines' Yellow Cake

If you would like to join next month (to be posted April 7/11), send me a quick email or leave me a comment with the link to your copycat post - old or new - and I would love to include it. For more info, click the link below my banner. Take care :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Herbed Bread Chips

Herbed bread chips make a delicious snack either by themselves or with a cheese spread or dip. They are like pita chips - baked, not fried. You can flavor them as elaborately or as simply as you like. Anything from plain olive oil with a sprinkling of sea salt to the medley of spices I used below. Pile 'em up high on a platter with your favorite dip or instead of crackers along with your soup. Mmmm... crunchy and addictive. They also keep for several days when stored airtight after they are fully cooled. I dare say they even improve in flavor the next day, if they last that long.

I used whole wheat bread and they tasted delicious. This recipe is also a great way to use up day old bread. However, they're so good that I would even go and buy bread with the sole purpose being to make these chips.

Pile 'em up high and serve them with soup.

Herbed Bread Chips
adapted from McCormick's

1 loaf (16 ounces) French bread
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Parsley Flakes
1 teaspoon Rosemary Leaves
1 teaspoon Thyme Leaves
1/2 teaspoon Sage
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Using a serrated or electric knife, slice bread into very thin (1/8-inch thick) slices. Place bread slices in a large mixing bowl.

2. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over bread slices; toss well to coat. Spread on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until golden brown and crisp. Store in airtight container up to two weeks.