November 30, 2013

homemade brownies & the first snowfall

This morning we woke up and saw that a blanket of white snow had been spread across everything outside.  It wasn't a heavy blanket, but more of the couch throw variety.  Still, it was snow and the year's first.  I don't know about you but the first snow fall of the year always makes me feel like staying in and baking.

So that's what I did.  I made brownies.

I have to admit that these brownies aren't as easy as I thought they would be, but that's because I baked them in a 8x8 pan instead of a 8x12 pan which basically meant that I had to double the baking time (I should have known, since that meant I had a thicker brownie than the recipe).  But, notwithstanding the pan/cook-time issue, the recipe is fairy straight-forward which I always appreciate.

dark chocolate ready to be melted down

whisking the eggs

eggs and sugar, whisked

toasted walnuts

chopped walnuts

slowly adding the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture

folding in the walnuts

the brownies, baked and ready to eat

Here's the recipe!

Homemade Brownies
adapted from Meat-Free Mondays

8 oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped
11 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup walnuts
1.5 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

1) Preheat oven to 350F.  Toast the walnuts in the oven for 5 mins.  Remove from the oven and roughly chop the walnuts; set aside.  Prepare a 8x8 baking dish by spraying it with Pam and then placing a parchment paper on top, taking care to get the parchment paper into the corners.
2) On a double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate.  Remove from heat and stir until the mixture is smooth and fully melted.
3) In a medium sized bowl whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Once the chocolate mixture is reasonably cooled (about 5 minutes), temper the egg mixture by slowing adding some of the chocolate mixture and then stirring a bit.  Do this 2-3 times, then fold all of the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. (If you add the chocolate all at once, it might end up cooking the eggs and you definitely don't want that.)
4) Sift the flour into the chocolate mixture and combine.  Fold in the walnuts into the batter, then pour the batter into your prepared dish.
5) Bake in the oven for 50 mins, or when the top of the brownie has a light crust and a knife inserted into the brownie comes out relatively clean (it's ok if it's a little stuck because you don't want to dry out the brownie).  Let cool for 30 mins and then enjoy with a cold glass of milk. :)

Happy Wintertime!

November 17, 2013

blueberry & raspberry pie

I took a shortcut.  There, I said it.  When it comes to baking, I always try to make everything from scratch.  It makes me feel good.  But yesterday, I just didn't feel 100% so I took a shortcut.  I bought frozen pie shells.  I have to say, they were pretty close to my previous homemade versions and took 100% less time. :)

I also originally set out to make blueberry pie, but quickly realized I only had half the blueberry required for the recipe, so I substituted the other half with frozen raspberries.  I have to say, I think it was a serendipitous swap.  The raspberries helped bring a different texture and sweet/sour-ness to the pie.  And well, it made it more delicious I think.  We licked the plates clean.

my frozen pie shell

all you need to add to the berry filling

berries, cooked

I've got my sauce pan and strainer ready to go
berry juice, reduced to a syrup
pie, ready to be put into the oven

Here's the recipe!

Blueberry Raspberry Pie
adapted from Baking by James Peterson

8 cups blueberries and raspberries (frozen or fresh)
1 cup sugar
juice of 2 limes (about a 1/4 cup)
2 ready-made pie shells (I used Tenderflake)
1 tbsp corn starch
a little bit of milk or 1 egg lightly beaten


1) Allow the frozen pie shells to thaw at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2) In a shallow pan combine the berries, sugar and lime juice.  Cook on medium heat, covered, for 10 minutes or until the berries give off their juice.

3) Drain the berries by placing a strainer on top of a sauce pan, to capture all of the berry juice in the sauce pan.  Set the berries aside by putting them back into the shallow pan.

4) Bring the juice in the sauce pan to a boil, until the juice has thickened a bit into a syrup (reduced down by about a half) and then add the cornstarch.  Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and let cool for about 30 minutes.

5) Combine the berries with the syrup/juice, and pour it into the pie crust.  Spread some milk or egg wash on the border of the bottom pie shell, then place the second pie shell on top and pinch down the sides with your fingers or a fork.  Spread some of the milk or egg wash on the top pie shell (this will help make it golden brown when it cooks).

6) Place the pie into the oven and cook for 1 hour.  I recommend placing a baking sheet under the pie dish as it will catch the juices that will inevitably bubble over when cooking.   Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for about an hour, then place in the fridge for another hour or two before serving.


November 02, 2013

oven-baked fries with herbs and sea salt

These here are the best homemade fries recipe I've ever tried.  They are tasty, crispy, and better yet, they're baked, so I don't feel so bad about having them.

They're kind of fancy too, on account of the herbs, so you can serve them up at dinner parties too.  If you don't have Herbes de Provence on hand, you can use rosemary and thyme instead.

We had them with the Osso Bucco Mr. A made.

letting the potatoes dry off after being rinsed
ready for dinner!

Here's the recipe!

Oven-Baked Fries with Sea Salt and Herbes de Provence
adapted from Joy the Baker

serves 3 or 4 (about a potato per person)
3 or 4 medium sized Russet or Red Skinned potatoes, rinsed and dried 
2 Tablespoons canola oil plus 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/2 – 1 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Pour 1 teaspoon of oil on baking sheet and spread around with a paper towel, greasing the sheet before you add the potatoes.
Slice cleaned potatoes lengthwise into 1/3″ thick slices, then slice those slices into smaller potato strips (if you have a mandolin, simply use the julienne cut option, for a quicker alternative).  Also a note about the peel.  I personally think peel-on is best and actually tastes better too. Also less work.  Back to the directions.  
We also like to rinse the potato at the point and then dry them off (either using a paper towel or just air-dry).  I read somewhere that this helps keep the potatoes from sticking to each other too much while they're baking.
Place the cut potatoes on the baking sheet and drizzle with 2 Tablespoons of oil.  Toss the potatoes in the oil to coat.  Place in oven for 25- 35 minutes, removing the tray every 10 minutes to toss and stir the potatoes, then returning to the oven.  Cook until browned and with lots of crispy parts.
Remove from the oven and immediatley add salt and Herbes de Provence.  Toss and serve.