Monday, September 28, 2015

Andes Mint Cake

I'm going to be honest: I don't even think you should make this. It's ridiculous. It's over-the-top. It's way too rich, way too filling. It's a triple layer cake with two entire frosting recipes (one mint, one chocolate) in/on it, then ganache, then candy. Are you hearing me? Of course you're not. I probably lost you somewhere between Andes and ganache. If you're a thirteen-year-old boy, I definitely lost you. I probably never had you. My own son was sure not having any kind of overly-indulgent warnings, and it was his birthday. And, at my house, birthdays win, so here you go.

This cake was honestly super gorgeous and easy-ish (for such an over-the-top cake anyway). It was also delicious--every bit. But you must believe me when I say that it was intensely filling. You guys know that I'm kind of a cake girl. I have no qualms about putting away a nice slice of cake, especially on a birthday. I struggled to make it through half a piece of this. It was just so rich. If there's a diabetic in your life you're hoping to kill, then this is the recipe for you (Public Service Announcement: Do not kill diabetics or any other humans. Do not feed this cake to diabetics; thank you.). So here's my advice: make this only if teenagers are involved. Just saying. They'll help you out.

Here's what you do: 
(Idea from Your Cup of Cake)

1. Make a recipe of the Best Ever Chocolate Cake.

2. Make a recipe of mint frosting (I dyed it green.)

3. Make a recipe of Kip's fudge frosting.

4. Make a recipe of ganache. (3/4 C chocolate chips, 1/2 C cream; warm and mix together; I did this in the microwave)

(Have your arteries clogged yet? Are you dead? Can you hear me? I'll call an ambulance.)

5. Take two boxes of Andes mints and unwrap them.

Assemble the cake with the mint frosting in between.

Add the chocolate frosting.

 3. Make a ring of Andes mints around the bottom.

 Pour the ganache on top. Smear and nudge it till it till it spills gorgeously over the edge. (Ambulance is on its way; stay with me.)

Break more Andes mints and put them on the top.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Five-Minute Artisan Corn Grain Bread

Dear Friends,
Don't ever lend me a book and say something like, "Oh, sure, take your time. I don't need it back anytime soon." If you do this, I will take your word (and then some) for it. I will take my time, even if that means, say, 10 years, and I will trust that you don't need it back anytime soon. This isn't to say you can't lend a book to me and expect it back. If you say simply, "Here's my book. I need it back in a week." Then I will most certainly have it back to you in a week. Or if you lend me a book and then text me and say, "Hey, are you done with my book." I will get my little self done with your book and get it back to you. But if you say, "Oh, sure, whenever" then I'm sorry, there are simply no promises.

Recently, by which I mean--oh five or six months ago--a friend lent me such a book. A lovely lovely book called My Bread by Jim Lahey about how to make beautiful artisan breads the easy way. Unfortunately for me and for you (and certainly for my sweet friend who lent it to me), I didn't crack that book open for months. And then one day I cleaned my shelf and there it was. Oh dear. Book borrower's guilt. So I got it down. It still took me a while to open it. It's just that I had my own little lazy method for artisan bread as well as pizza dough, and I was happy with them. I assumed that this book used the same basic method (which it does) and I thought to myself, "How much more is there to know?" Oh dear. It's not that there's so very very much more to know as there is so very very much more to imagine. He takes one method (flour, water, salt, yeast, time, heat) and turns it into the most amazing breads you could dream of by making simple alterations. Coconut chocolate artisan bread, yes please. Peanut butter bread--not a sweet bread, but a loaf made with peanuty water instead of just regular water and then peanuts cooked right into the crust. Or add some jelly and fold it in. It's a delicate touch, a bit of innuendo. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Every page I turned was a new and beautiful (yet still almost stupidly simple) idea.

And the wonderful thing about a book like this--a book that uses a basic sort of method and opens the imagination--is that it opened up my mind. And today when I made my browned butter butternut soup (yes I will get you the recipe), I kind of thought it'd be good with bread and I kind of thought it'd be good with cornbread. And then I realized it'd be really just perfect with artisan bread that had a crunch of chunky-ish cornmeal in it. And it was. Not sweet, but textured and interesting. Oh--and beautiful. 

The method:
1. Combine grain/flour, yeast, salt, and water.
2. Let it sit/rise for 12-18 hours (yeah--that's the part that's kind of not five minutes)
3. Turn it onto a tea towel dusted with flour, wrap it up, and let it rise another 1-1 1/2 hours.
4. Plop it into a hot Dutch oven and put it in a hot oven. (475 degrees)
5. Bake until it's brown.
6. Let it cool so that the moisture isn't lost and the bread is awesome. The end.

Five-Minute Artisan Corn Grain Bread
inspired by My Bread
Prep time: 5 minutes
Rise time: 12-18 hours
Cook time: 1 hour
Cost: $.60
flour: .30, cornmeal: .25, yeast: .05

2 3/4 C flour (I used all-purpose, but Lahey recommends bread flour)
1/4 medium  ground cornmeal (regular old cornmeal will probably work, but I was going for a rustic, chunky look and feel)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/3 C water

Combine all ingredients until incorporated. No kneading or anything else is required.

Let sit for 12-18 hours. Yes, you have to think ahead of time. Yes, I--of all people--am aware of the difficulty in that.

When the dough is ready, it won't look like regular kneaded dough. It will be wet looking with a bunch of air bubbles in it. It won't have a nice round shape, but will take the shape of your bowl. Don't worry--it's still going to come out round. Now, get out a tea towel. Dust the tea towel with some more corn meal. Plop your dough onto the tea towel and dust it with more corn meal. (Sounds like a pain, but was surprisingly easy). Wrap it up in the towel and let rise another hour or 1 1/2 hours. When you stick your finger in, the indentation should stay.

(See that lovely finger poke)

During the last 1/2 hour of rise time, heat your oven to 475. Put a Dutch oven (with lid) in the oven and let them heat up together.

When your oven's hot, plop your dough into the Dutch oven (I use a bit of parchment paper at the bottom just to make life easy), cover with lid. Bake for 30 minutes.

Uncover the pot (now remember that this pot is crazy, wicked hot--please be careful). Let it cook 15-30 more minutes until the top is a deep golden or darker brown (this won't mean the inside is burned at all--don't worry).

Let it cool. Lahey insists on this and I was going to, but then--oh--dinner was running late and I needed to feed everyone. So I cut into it while it was still warm. But Lahey says if you let it cool, the moisture will remain in and that as the steam escapes your bread will sing to you (make a sort of whistling sound--yeah--awesome) and then it will be perfectly moist and wonderful and chewy and amazing. I want to hear my bread sing and so next time, I intend to let it cool. But now I can tell you that even if you don't, your bread will be pretty darn awesome.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Secret Recipe Club--Pumpkin Spice Scones


This month for Secret Recipe Club I had A Spoonful of Thyme for my blog. I'd pinned several salads to try and then I saw these scones and I thought, "Who needs salad? I mean, these have a vegetable in them too, right?" Totes.

And then--I know you drizzle things on your salads, right--well, I figured I better drizzle something on my pumpkin scones as well. A Spoonful of Thyme used a beautiful and delicious-sounding cream cheese drizzle. But then I opened my cupboard and saw that my husband had opened the speculoos cookie spread. And then I realized that maybe a speculoos cookie spread glaze with pumpkin scones might, just might, be the next cure for cancer. So I didn't want to, you know, miss out on that. So then this happened.

It didn't cure cancer (well, not that I know of). But I can't say I regretted the experiment.

My kids didn't either. They wolfed these down and beg beg begged me to make more today. Thanks, Spoonful of Thyme for the perfect fall breakfast/dessert (depending on your standards for such things).

Pumpkin Spice Scones with Speculoos Glaze
adapted from A Spoonful of Thyme
makes 8 large scones
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Cost: $1.85 or about $.22/scone
flour: .15, whole wheat flour: .10, sugar: .10, butter: .40, pumpkin: .35, egg: .10, half and half: .05, spices: .20, powdered sugar: .10, cookie spread: .30 (um, I don't quite remember how much this cost, so I'm sort of making this up)

A few notes:
-Spoonful of Thyme used all all-purpose flour, but I added 1/2 C whole wheat and found it perfectly delightful.
-The risk with scones is having them dry out. To avoid this: 1) DO NOT OVERMIX them. I took mine out when still kind of a crumbly blop and then pressed and formed it into a ball and that was all it needed. 2) DO NOT OVERBAKE them. I went with 10 minutes and it was perfect. This didn't make them golden, so I wouldn't recommend going for golden brown. When they're puffy and look done, take them out. Stick a fork in it if you're worried it's doughy in the middle.

For the scones:

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat flour
7 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
6 Tbsp cold butter
1/2 C canned pumpkin
3 Tbsp half and half
1 large egg

For the glaze: 

1/3 C powdered sugar
2 Tbsp speculoos cookie spread (this is generally a seasonal item--likes like peanut butter; tastes like cookies in a spoon)
2 Tbsp milk

For the scones:

Combine all dry ingredients. I did this in a food processor. Then add the butter in chunks and process until the big pieces are gone.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, pumpkin, and half and half.

Then add this to the food processor. Do NOT overprocess it.

Process it until it's crumbly and mostly combined-ish. then dump it out and fold it a few times (as in 4 kneads, not 75 kneads) to be sure it's uniform in flour-y-ness. Then form it into a ball. That's it. Do NOT keep messing with it. Gently roll it into a circle on a WELL-FLOURED surface (I hope you're enjoying the caps. I feel strongly about certain aspects of this recipe). Don't skimp on the flour or it will get stuck and you'll have to scrape it up and maybe re-need it and life as you know it will be ruined. Well, probably not, but your scones may be slightly tougher than you prefer.

 Okay--so roll it out into a circle that's about 1/2 inch think. Then cut it into 8 pieces.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Again--don't overbake this. It will be a little too dry and a little too crumbly.

Let cool.

For cookie spread glaze:

Combine all ingredients and whisk.

When your scones are cool, drizzle with the speculoos cookie spread (or Spoonful of Thyme's cream cheese frosting).


Monday, September 7, 2015

Fudgy Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting

Hope you're all celebrating your labors today. I brought peanut butter brownies to the party. Yes, it was very thoughtful of me.

The first time I made these (or tried to) was for an actual party. But I didn't give myself enough time and I put my husband in charge of taking the brownies out of the oven. Well, they looked done and he took them out and then I shoved them in the fridge to try to cool them off and made the frosting and then frosted them two minutes before we had to leave. When we got to the party, the frosting had melted/separated, which made them look creepy and gross, and the brownies (save for the edges) were gloppy and rawish. Nevertheless, they got eaten up--every one, and before many other foods. Perhaps you're thinking that this story simply illustrates that my friends don't have very discerning tastes. But I took it as a sign. If the brownies could be that desirable totally messed up, think how rocking they would be cooked and with non-separated frosting (such high standards, I know).

And it was true. These brownies are completely rocking. I fully appreciate a good, regular brownie, but these transform a regular brownie into something special. You could bring it to a picnic OR serve it at a dinner party. Despite my first mess up, they're not hard either, although you truly must give the brownies time to cool before frosting them, so plan for that.

Fudgy Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting
makes 1 9x13 inch pan
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cool time: 2 hours
Cook time: 20-25 minutes
Cost:$3.55 for the brownie part, $5.33 for all. That's more expensive than many of the treats I make, but note that if it makes 26 brownies, that's only $.20/serving
(butter: .80, chocolate chips: 1.70, sugar: .50, eggs: .30, flour: .07, cocoa: .18)
Frosting: $1.50 
(cream cheese: .60, butter: .25, sugar: .35, peanut butter: .30)
Chocolate Drizzle: $.28
(chocolate: .25, butter: .03)

I used the same fudgy brownie recipe I use for my mint brownies. It's a brownie that always does well with frosting.

1 1/2 (3/4 C) sticks salted butter
10 1/2 oz chocolate chips (just less than 1 bag)
1 1/2 C brown sugar (I think white would also work just as well)
3 eggs
1 generous tsp vanilla
3/4 C flour
6 Tbsp cocoa

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch pan. 

Melt butter, chocolate, and sugar in microwave, stirring every 20-30 seconds. (Alternately, you can do this in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until smooth.) 

Allow it to cool just a minute or two and add vanilla. Whisk in eggs (whisk them in so you don't risk getting blobs of egg in your batter--it's not hard; you just don't want it to sit in warm chocolate for any length of time). 

Combine flour and cocoa. Add to wet mixture. 

Spread batter in your pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out pretty much clean (which means that if it has a few moist crumbs stuck to it, all the better, but you don't want it coming out with batter clinging to it). Mine cooked up in pretty much exactly 20 minutes. 

Let cool completely. That's going to take a good couple hours. You might be able to speed it up by putting it in the fridge or freezer, but evenso it's going to take some time.  


5 oz cream cheese, at room temp
1/2 stick (1/4 C) butter, at room temp
2 1/2 C confectioners' sugar
1/3 C smooth peanut butter (NOT all-natural because that may cause the oil to separate out)

Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add confectioner's sugar a cup at a time, mixing thoroughly. Add peanut butter and beat thoroughly. Do not, I repeat do not, get a spoon and start eating it right them and there. Remember your cake. And your butt. They will both thank you not to consume all of this straight up out of the bowl.

Chocolate Drizzle: 

For the chocolate drizzle, you're going to make an unsweetened drizzle. Have a little faith. It plays with the super sweet brownie in a very coy manner. If you don't have faith or believe that a brownie should be coy, you may substitute a dark chocolate instead of unsweetened chocolate. 

1 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 Tbsp butter

Melt together in microwave, stirring every 15-20 seconds. 

Pour over mint frosting in stripes as prettily as you can (which is surely prettier than I can). 


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