Bombshell blondies that can’t be beat

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One recipe I keep going back to is the Joy of Cooking’s recipe for Butterscotch Brownies, aka Blondies. Some people think a brownie isn’t a brownie unless it involves chocolate, but this recipe gives you the consistency and richness you’d expect, but with a different flavor. This is one I make well, and one that has been well-received by anyone who has tried them. It’s a keeper.

The key to this recipe is to get the first step right. Browning butter is an easy thing to mess up the first few times you do it. The trick here is to make sure you don’t turn the heat up too high. I did that when I first tried browning butter, and it went from beautiful to burnt in a matter of seconds. I’ve had consistent success browning butter when I keep the heat at medium-low, about a four on my oven knob. When the fat starts to separate, the butter will start to smell differently. When it starts to smell like butterscotch, take it off the heat immediately and throw in the sugar to keep the butter from burning. It doesn’t take long for the butter to smell slightly burnt, and that flavor will carry into the finished blondies if you don’t catch it before it gets there.

These decadent bars are a delicious treat and a great excuse to work on your butter-browning skills, which can be used in pasta dishes like this one and other types of meals. Use your nose, and you’ll get it down. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan lined with foil.

In a large heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, then boil, stirring constantly until light golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sugars until well-blended. Let cool to barely warm. Stir in egg, egg yolk, corn syrup, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and coconut. Stir until combined. Scrape mixture into greased baking pan. Bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.

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Fluffy pancakes to kick off the weekend

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During the week, I rarely have the time to make the kind of breakfast I want. So, on the weekends, I usually take advantage of the time I have to whip up whatever strikes my fancy. Sometimes it’s a frittata, sometimes it’s an omelet, but it’s often pancakes. I really enjoy pancakes with fruit, and my go-to is nearly always blueberries. This recipe from The Joy of Cooking produces the perfect fluffy pancakes that other recipes I’ve tried just can’t produce. I like to top mine with marionberry syrup.

Next weekend I’ll be heading to Curtis Stone’s restaurant, Maude, in Beverly Hills for my birthday dinner. Though it will be a couple days before my birthday, I am so excited and have been looking forward to this for months. I’ll report back when I return!

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup blueberries
1/3 cup coconut

Combing flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. Combine milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla in another bowl. Quickly mix the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix in blueberries and coconut.

Melt a pat of butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Put two tablespoons of batter in the pan for each pancake. Cook until the bubbles at the top of the pancakes have popped, then flip over and cook for a few more minutes, until both sides are golden brown. Serve hot, topped with syrup.

Light, delightful coconut bread

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Spring gets me in the mood to make quick breads with fresh fruit and light flavors. I had a bag of unsweetened coconut in my cupboard that had gone unused for months, so I decided it was time to put it to good use. I came across this recipe for coconut bread from Smitten Kitchen and decided it was the best way to use it.

I don’t like overly sweet breads so, though her recipe called for sweetened coconut, I used the unsweetened coconut I had without adding any sugar, and it was perfect. The bread is light, fluffy, and slightly sweet.

Heed the warning not to overmix the batter. I did that on my first attempt and it made the bread far too dense. The second time around, it was perfect.

Ingredient
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted or melted and browned, if desired
Vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray for baking pan

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add sugar and coconut, and stir to mix. Make a well in the center, and pour in egg mixture, then stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Add butter, and stir until just smooth — be careful not to overmix.

Butter and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or coat it with a nonstick spray. Spread batter in pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, anywhere from 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool in pan five minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Curious about quinoa

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This is what I had for breakfast this morning. I made quinoa once a long time ago for a cold salad. It was good, but I hadn’t seen any recipes since that made me want to revisit the grain, until this recipe arrived in my inbox a few weeks ago. I had forgotten about it until I went grocery shopping yesterday and saw quinoa on the shelf.

Now that I’m working normal daytime hours for the first time in a long time, I’m realizing that I really do need to eat breakfast. Skipping it and waiting for lunchtime leaves me lagging, especially since by that time I’ve already been awake for six or seven hours. So, I’ve been looking for things I can make quickly in the morning, just to get a good start to the day.

When I saw that this recipe was called porridge, I instantly pictured the soupy, unappetizing substance served in “Oliver Twist.” I don’t know why that’s the first thing that came to mind, but it was. This quinoa porridge turned out to be quite good, and was a satisfying start to the day. I added to the original recipe because I like more texture in my food.

Know that the amount of quinoa made below is more than you’ll need for one serving of this porridge. But, if you want to make it for more than one, or have quinoa to keep in the fridge for other dishes, make the full amount. If you do want to make just one serving, use 1/3 cup quinoa and 2/3 cup water.

Ingredients
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
2/3 cup almond milk
5 strawberries, hulled and chopped
1 tablespoon shredded raw coconut
2 tablespoons sliced almonds or whole pecans, toasted and chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons light agave nectar
Pinch of salt

Place quinoa in a pot and rinse and drain twice. Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until outer germ layer separates and grain appears translucent.

In another pot, combine 1/2 cup quinoa and 2/3 cup almond milk. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover pot, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove lid and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, or until porridge is thick and creamy. Stir in strawberries, coconut, nuts, agave and salt. Serve warm.

Brownies for any occasion

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Of all the desserts in the world, brownies are my favorite. They always have been, and probably always will be. While I have a couple go-to recipes, this is one I return to when I want to get a little fancy.

These German chocolate brownies look more complicated than they actually are. I got the recipe out of Good Housekeeping’s Favorite Recipes: Brownies! book, which I found years ago during one of my regular trips to Seattle. It was in a clearance pile on the basement floor of the the Barnes & Noble at the corner of Pine Street and Seventh Avenue. As someone who loves brownies, I couldn’t pass up the $4.99 price tag for a book that contained dozens of recipes for my favorite dessert. To this day, it’s one of my favorite cookbooks.

If you like chocolate, coconut and pecans, you’ll enjoy these brownies. When properly cooked, the brownie layer is fudgy, so it sticks to your teeth the slightest bit when you bite into one. The coconut layer browns during baking and adds a burst of flavor to the top. Together, the two make for a decadent treat that I’ve made time and time again.

When I first made these at high altitude, they didn’t turn out right. The brownie layer overcooked at the edges as I attempted to get the center to fully cook. The next time I made them, I added one-fourth cup cocoa powder, which turned out to be the perfect stabilizer. The brownies turned out just right. Thursday will mark one year since I moved to high altitude, and I’m happy to say I think I’m finally getting the hang of baking up here.

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1/2 cup butter
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet baking chocolate
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
(If you’re at high altitude, add 1/4 cup cocoa powder)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-inch-by-9-inch pan.

To prepare the brownie, heat butter and chocolate in a 3-quart saucepan over medium-low heat until melted, stirring frequently. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in the brown sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; stir until well mixed. Stir in flour and salt just until blended. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.

ToppingGermanchocolatebrownies3
3 large egg whites
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

To prepare the topping, beat egg whites with a wire whisk in a medium bowl until foamy. Stir in coconut, pecans, brown sugar, milk, vanilla and almond extracts and salt until well combined. Spread topping over batter.

Bake until toothpick inserted 2 inches from the edge comes out almost clean and topping turns golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack.

When cool, cut lengthwise into six strips, then cut each strip crosswise into six pieces.