Tag Archives: Advanced

Brownies From Scratch

22 Jun

Cooking with Commandant M. Stewart.

Part I. (Battle Brownies)

So, we all know who Martha Stewart is.  She’s  almost like a military leader in the field of baking and home ec type things. (does any school even have home ec classes? If so, can we sign up?) What you probably don’t know is that she drives C insane.

C tends to be an “Act First, Think Later” type. She’s not what one would call super organized. Or meticulous. When she wraps things, she tends to use more tape than wrapping paper. When she bakes, it usually takes two full loads of the dishwasher, a mop, a broom, and Windex to make the kitchen safe for ordinary humans again.

K, on the other hand, would clearly be promoted to a high rank in the Commandant’s army. Although she is capable of causing her own share of chaos, she is an amazing painter, and has yet to be bested by any sort of arts and crafts type activity. In fact, K has the special talent of making even accounting look pretty.

But C wanted to prove that she too could join the Martha Stewart Army, if she really wanted to. So, she found a recipe for homemade brownies and got to work. But, first, she called the other half of the team. Following is a REAL C and K conversation

C: “I’m making brownies from scratch”

K: “It’s really not that hard.”

C: “LIES! Besides, they’re Martha Stewart Brownies. That makes them way harder.

K: Umm…Sure. I’m going to go make chocolate cappuccino cheesecake from scratch.

Regardless of K’s calmness, C did find the brownies challenging, and she almost gave up about thirty times. However, she managed to get them in the oven with only minimal destruction of kitchen property, and the results were so worth it.

The recipe was slightly less terrifying than C feared. In fact, the trickiest part came from prepping the pan with parchment paper. As much as we wish we could tell you to skip that annoying step, it really did improve the taste of the brownies, and made it way easier to actually get the brownies out of the pan. Everyone’s had that time they’ve slightly over-cooked the brownies and had to chisel them out of the pan, right? Well, Commandant Stewart has a way to avoid that. And, it actually WORKS.

These may be some of the best “standard” brownies ever. Seriously, if you’ve only ever had brownies from a box, you need to make these. This instant. The result is well worth the battle.

Speaking of which, Commandant, can I please be in your army now?

Battle Brownies:

Adapted from this Martha Stewart Recipe (link)

Makes one 9-by-13-inch brownie

Ingredients

9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan

1 and 1/3 cups of semisweet chocolate chips (or 9 oz of chopped semisweet chocolate)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 large eggs, brought to room temperature

1 TABLESPOON pure vanilla extract

½ cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Also optional: Helmet, shield, barricade, barbed wire. You know, standard battle supplies.


Directions

1. Gird your loins and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Attack the pan. By this, I mean, butter the 9-by-13-inch cake pan. Then, cut your parchment paper to a piece about three inches too big on each side. Now, start fighting with that paper to get it to lie flat. I found one of the best way of keeping it down to press all along the long sides of the pan first, and then the short sides. Still, my results weren’t too pretty.

Once you’re done fighting with the pan, make sure to butter the parchment paper too. Because butter makes everything better.

3. Next, Martha recommends placing the butter, chocolate, and cocoa in a double boiler and stirring until butter and chocolate have melted. Let cool slightly.

C used a microwave. It made a bigger mess than the double boiler would have, but we pride ourselves on not needing a fancy double boiler, and also, this blog isn’t called Our Kitchen’s CHAOS for nothing. So, if you want to follow our messy footsteps, first melt the chocolate chips for about thirty seconds on low and then add in the butter. Microwave again, on low, for thirty seconds and stir. Repeat until mostly melted, then stir in the cocoa powder and finish melting in the microwave.

Chocolate And Butter....Perfect.

4. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  (ha. See!  A simple step)

5. In a large bowl, combine sugar, eggs, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until light in color and smooth, about 4 minutes. Make sure you use a full TABLESPOON of vanilla, not a teaspoon.

This Is Historic. A TABLESPOON

6. Stir in chocolate mixture. Reduce speed to low, and mix for about a minute or until incorporated. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. If using chocolate chips, mix those in too.

3.            Spread batter evenly into the pan. This can be a bit of a challenge. We recommend using a long handled large serving spoon to drop dollops of batter everywhere, and then using a butter knife to smooth the top. Now, breathe a sigh of relief. The tricky part is over.

4.  Bake until a fork inserted into center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes. (Ours was ready at 32 minutes, but ovens may vary. We recommend checking at about thirty minutes)

Now, be patient and let cool in dish 30 minutes. Then, carefully holding the paper lift it out, and let cool completely on wire rack. Lining the pan  gives each brownie a perfectly firm crust on the bottom, while still keeping the middle very fudgey. All these different textures makes the brownies a very addictive treat. You will not be able to eat just one of these, we promise.

These brownies are so smooth, and rich. They taste like what box-mix brownies dream of being. They have a  velvety interior, and a perfectly flaky crust. At least this time, C cedes to Commandant Stewart’s mastery of the kitchen. Now, go out and make these, fellow baker-soldiers!

C’s rating: 5/5. Perfect. Couldn’t ask for a better brownie.

Do you also want to join the M. Stewart army? Are you already a member? Do you have a better brownie recipe? Let us know in the comments!

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Cocoa-Bombs

9 Jun

It’s summer, which sadly means that the dynamic duo of disastrously delicious delicacies have to go to their separate homelands, or homestates. Homelands sounds far more dramatic though. However, we will most assuredly keep baking, and keep posting our recipes for you.

But, since this separation is quite tragic, C had to console herself with chocolate. Lots of chocolate. She knew that K also was probably quite sad her baking friend had left, so C decided to make the perfect cookies to mail K.

They had to be chocolate. That was a given.

But they also had to ship well, and not melt in the unseasonably hot late-May weather our area was experiencing.

And, of course, there was a little competitive devil on C’s shoulder, urging her to prove that she could still bake without the help of K.

All of this lead to her deciding on a variation of these (http://www.marthastewart.com/281209/chocolate-crackle-cookies), where she refrigerated the dough longer to make a denser, thick, cookie that wouldn’t break in shipping.

Cocoa Bombs

A Chaos in the Kitchen Original

Ingredients:

8 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups light-brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk ( we used skim but any kind works)
approximately 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions:
Melt chocolate (see HERE for more detailed directions)  Set aside to cool.

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

The Importance Of Sifting

In a large bowl, beat butter and light-brown sugar on medium speed, with an electric mixer until creamy and light colored. It will be thicker than if you were making chocolate chip cookies, due to the lack of white sugar. It kinda looks like really smooth peanut butter at this stage.

Add eggs and vanilla, and beat for about another minute. Add melted chocolate. With mixer on low speed, alternate adding dry ingredients and milk until just combined.  This dough gets seriously thick. You will need a spatula and serious arm muscles to finish mixing the dough.

Divide the dough into quarters, wrap with waxed paper and tin foil OR plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 2 hours. For thicker cookies, chill overnight. As this picture clearly shows, I am not good at evenly dividing the dough. Each packet is a completely different size and shape.

Pour confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl. Cut each dough log into 1-inch pieces. The dough should be very firm at this point in time. Yes, that’s a Cadbury full sized egg C used for size comparison. We TOLD you she’s been eating a lot of chocolate without K around…(Not that K ever kept her from chocolate. If anything, K was like a chocolate dealer. Hot chocolate, chocolate ice cream, chocolate cookies…pick your poison and we bet K can supply it.)

Toss the pieces in the confectioers’ sugar.  Using your hands, roll each piece into a ball, and then toss in sugar again to coat the cookie. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Bake until firm to touch, but not crispy-approximately 10 minutes. Remove to cooling rack and sprinkle with more confectionery sugar. (See note below.)

Makes about five dozen.

The background cookies have fresh confectionery sugar sprinkled on them after they came out of the oven. That sad looking fellow in the front…didn’t get any. For obvious reasons, we recommend the extra sugar.

These cookies are intense. There’s a reason we call them cocoa-bombs. They aren’t exactly sweet, nor are they overwhelmingly chocolaty. However, without chocolate chunks, they do ship very well, as K can attest. These cookies, with their yummy dark chocolaty taste, are also aaaaamazing with a morning cup of coffee. Or a morning gallon of coffee. Same thing, really.  But if you’re looking for a very sugary, sweet cookie, we don’t recommend these.

C’s rating: 4/5 stars

K’s rating: 4/5 stars

Marbled Chocolate-Peanut Butter Sandwiches

15 May

Peanut butter cookies, at least in C’s opinion, are a bit lack luster.  Sometimes a plan old pb&j sandwich seems more savory than one of those tan, cross hatched cookies.

But chocolate AND peanut butter. That, friends, is a lovely, wonderful combination. These cookies feature a blended dough, where you add chocolate to half the already peanutbuttery dough.

The cookies are good on their own, very crunchy but not too sweet. However, if you want to up them to the next level, you can make cookie sandwiches with these, since they are so sturdy. Feel free to experiment with different fillings, like our chocolate glaze.

Oven Temperature: 350°

Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

¼ cup smooth peanut butter

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon hot water

between 1/8 and 1/4 of a cup of bittersweet chocolate (or semi) melted and kept warm

1 large recipe chocolate filling (see part 2)

Part 1

Make the Dough:

1.  Strain together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

2.  With an electric mixer, mix the butter on medium-low speed.  When the butter is smooth and creamy, add the peanut butter and mix to thoroughly combine. Make sure it is combined, which may take over a minute.

Add the granulated sugar, then the light brown sugar and mix for 1 minute to incorporate.  Make sure to mix for the full minute, at least. Mix in the egg for 1 minute, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed. The dough should be thicker now, and able to form peaks.  Mix in the vanilla.

3.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing just to combine each addition.

4.  Remove ½ cup of dough and place in a wide, medium bowl.  Using a spoon, mix in the hot water, then blend in the warm melted chocolate.  You have some freedom in the amount of chocolate you can add, although, the more chocolate in the dough, it will be more difficult to keep the dough together.

Put the peanut butter and the chocolate dough next to each other, and gently blend with your hand or a knife, careful not to overmix because you would lose the marble effect.

Form two 1 ¼ inc diameter logs, being careful not to disturb the marbleization.  Wrap the logs with plastic, twisting the ends tightly to secure.  Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm.  (This dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or may be frozen for 1 month.)

Bake the Cookies:

5.  Position the shelve in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Heat the oven to 350°.  Lightly butter the cookie sheets.

6.  Using a thin, sharp knife, slice the dough into 3/16 inch rounds, turning every two or three cuts to maintain the shape. C’s originally looked like triangles, so she shaped them into more of disc shapes.  Place on the cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.

See lower pictures as a guide for how much the cookies spread.

Baked Cookie

Unbaked Cookie

7.  Bake for 8 to 9 minutes or until lightly browned.  To ensure even browning, toward the end of baking time rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back.  Let stand for 1 to 2 minutes before loosening with a thin metal spatula.  Transfer to cooling racks.

These cookies are very crispy, but that also means they’re perfect for filling with frosting (or icecream) to make sandwiches. We recommend our simple chocolate glaze.

Browned Butter Coconut Cookies

14 May

Chocolate Chip Cookies Get Fancy

C was at home, and after losing thirty-five straight games of battleship, felt the need to prove she had some sort of talent. So, like any good baker, she searched for the most complicated cookie recipe she could find. This recipe , from Joy the Baker, fit the bill; browned butter, toasted coconut, chocolate…sounded perfect.
It. So. Was.

These are without a doubt, the best variation of Chocolate Chip cookies C has ever had. The browned butter, which wasn’t that difficult to make, (although you can read about her worries while making it HERE ), added a lot in flavor, and the coconut was crunchy and sweet, without being overwhelming.

These cookies are a bit sophisticated, so we wouldn’t recommend them for kids, but everyone C fed them to was very happy with the cookies. Her brother, especially could not stop eating them.
One word of warning: bake these directly. C, after making (and eating) a couple batches, decided to give the poor oven a break (or herself a nice, sugar-coma induced nap) and put the dough in the fridge. It stiffened and crumbled. She tried, utterly heartbroken, to resurrect the dough, and managed a couple more batches, but they lacked a lot of the amazing taste of the first batches. We think the coconut may have soaked up the lovely, lovely brown butter.

In short. DO NOT REFRIGERATED THE DOUGH! YOU WILL CRY TEARS OF AGONY AND REGRET AT LOSING OUT ON EATING SOME OF THESE COOKIES.

Browned Butter Coconut Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 F
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and browned to about 3/4 cup butter (Advice on browned butter, click HERE)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
½ cup toasted coconut See here for how to.
1 ½ cup dark chocolate chunks

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until browned. Remove browned butter from oven, pour into heatsafe bowl. Click HERE for more advice.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Pour granulated and brown sugar into a large bowl. Add the brown butter and beat together, using a mixer, on medium speed, for about 2 minutes. The sugar may still look grainy, but it should smell heavenly.

 

Add the egg and egg yolk and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes, until its silky smooth. Add vanilla extract and beat for about a minute or until evenly mixed.
With mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients. Beat until just incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to fold in the toasted coconut and chocolate chips. Dough will be thick.
Bake cookies immediately. Spoon balls by the tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown but still slightly soft in the center. Remove from the oven. Allow the cookies to cool on the pan for 5 minutes, before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Only One Left...

 

C 6/5. Seriously. Fresh out of the oven. These will make your life better. And fatter. But mainly better.
K 3/5 (although she doesn’t like coconut, and ate one of the aforementioned ‘frozen dough’ cookies)

Layered Marshmallow Brownies

22 Apr

K. and I had a disagreement over brownies. I wanted marshmallows in them. She wanted them full of pure chocolately goodness. We somehow reached an agreement, after emailing many recipes back and forth, on  a modified version of these

It was a good choice. A very, very good choice.

We did modify the recipe slightly, because we were short on time. Instead of making the brownies from scratch, we used a mix. Granted, it was the Ghirardelli double chocolate brownie mix, so we felt justified in the shortcut.

That topping? It’s fudge, very similar to the “No-Fail Fudge” recipe from the container of fluff.  The marshmallows are soft and sweet. They also serve to seperate the chocolate brownies from the heavenly fudge, which I think lets you enjoy both of the flavors even more.

They remind me a little of Mallow Cups… You know, those second cousins to Reese’s Cups? Only these brownies are so much more chocolately and fudgey, and decadent.

Now that we’ve got you all excited, here’s the recipe. We included the brownie part, but you can substitute any mix for that part.

Frosted Marshmallow Brownies 

modifed from Beantown Baker’s Recipe .
Preheat Oven to 350
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tablespoons baking cocoa
Hint: You have to buy chocolate chips for the topping, but you won’t use the whole bag. You might as well toss some in your batter, for extra chocolatey brownies

(You can also use any brownie mix for 13 by 9 pan. If so, you just need the marshmellows and the stuff for the topping (see below))

3-4 cups mini marshmallows (save the rest for the topping)

1. Lightly grease a 9×13 pan
2. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla beat until fluffy.
3. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa. Stir to combine. Add the flour mixture to creamed mixture. This is your brownie batter. Now, spread in greased 9×13 pan.

(If you’re using a mix, you should have followed the mix directions up to this point.)
Bake for 17-20 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with marshmallows, return to oven 2-3 mintues, or just until marshmallows are soft.

Remove from oven.

Using a metal knife dipped in hot water, spread the melted marshmallows evenly over bars. If they don’t spread well, that’s okay. It’s better to have lumps than to over spread and pull up parts of the brownie top.

Besides, you’re going to cover it all in fudge anyways.

Frosting
3/4 stick butter
6 Tablespoons Milk
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
3/4 cup Chocolate chips, roughly. We added more.

Combine butter, milk and sugar in medium saucepan and melt over medium low heat. Stir constantly. When making fudge, it’s really important to keep stirring, so the heat is distributed.

Bring to a boil.  Boil for 1 minute, stirring. Make sure you’re still on medium low heat.
Add marshmallows and chocolate chips
Stir constantly until marshmallows and chips are melted. It should be slightly thinner than if you were making fudge, but thick enough that it clings to the spoon a bit.


Remove from heat. Allow to cool and thicken slightly

Pour and spread over marshmallows on bars. Be gentle, so you don’t pull up the other levels of marshmallow and brownie. It’s easier to pour the fudge in a zig zag across all the pan, and then you just have to spread from line to line.

Let cool, and then cut, using a hot knife.

Vedict: Delish. Rich. You need a cup of milk with these.  A keeper recipe.

K’s Rating: 18/5 Seriously. Not a typo.

C’s Rating: 5/5 stars.