Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tidying Up

Sometimes when I'm baking something I can hardly wait to post it because I know just how I'm going to write about it. I know exactly the clever tie-in or the funny story to tell that will go with the recipe. And then there are other days. Like today. When I sit and stare at the computer screen and can't think of a single witty, poignant, or relevant thing to say.

The honest truth is that I'm posting these cookies because I want to get the recipe off my countertop. I have currently 6 cookbooks, 1 cooking magazine, a stack of loose recipes, and a binder full of printed off recipes sitting on my counter. And that's AFTER my husband purged the counter so that we could have company over for lunch on Tuesday.

So really, this post is just decluttering. Nothing wrong with the cookies. They're good. We ate them all and enjoyed them. I'm just not in the mood to sell them right now. I'm too busy clearing off space on the counter so that I can bake some more.

Double Chocolate Cherry Chunk Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup coarsely chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried tart cherries

1- Preheat the oven to 375 deg. F.

2- In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars till light and creamy.

3- Add the egg and vanilla and beat till well combined.

4- In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, oats, salt, and baking soda. Add to the butter mixture and beat just till combined.

5- Stir in the chocolates and cherries.

6- Scoop the dough by heaping Tablespoon (I use a 1-1/4-inch scoop) onto ungreased baking sheets, 1-1/2-inches apart.

7- Bake for 9 minutes, just till the dough is set on top. Remove the sheets from the oven and let the cookies rest on the sheets for 2 minutes. The cookie will continue to bake as they sit.

8- Remove to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store the cookies in an airtight container.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Seasonal Fruit Desserts

One thing that blogging has done for me is change a lot of my thinking about food. I used to be a hardcore bargain hunter and cheapest was best. I've come to realize that quality has to be one of the factors in the equation. Is it really a bargain to get strawberries at $1 a pound if they are are lifeless, with the flavor and texture of styrofoam?

I recently received a copy of a book that epitomizes this philosophy - Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison (yes, the same one who wrote Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone). The whole book is filled with information on picking, storing, and using fresh, local, varietal fruits and nuts. Each page has information nuggets about the ingredients and makes fascinating reading all on its own.

Varietal was a new concept to me, but Deborah is passionate about the fact that all plums are not the same and a Winsap is not a Gravenstein is not a Jonagold, and knowing the difference between varieties can be the difference between an OK dessert and a wow dessert that packs a flavor punch.

The recipes range from simple bowls of fresh fruit to pies, tarts, cakes, cookies, and puddings, and the book is packed with gorgeous photos that had me drooling as I turned the pages. I wanted to make dozens of recipes right then! But there was a problem. Seasonal + Fresh + the Pacific Northwest in April = not a lot of fresh fruit to choose from. The farmer's markets aren't open yet and all my garden has right now is tulips.

So instead of fruit, I chose to make the cookies that used up my Black Walnut stash from my freezer. Like all the recipes in the book it was fairly simple, but yielded delicious cookies that were soft as they came out of the oven, then crisped up as they sat, begging to be dunked in a cup of coffee.

As spring swings into summer I know I'll turn to this book again and again for classic, simple recipes to turn the fresh fruits of the season into beautiful desserts.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Potatoes Al Dente

For some reason I procrastinate. Every month when the new Bread Baking Babes bread is posted I dutifully print out the recipe and then spend a month looking at it. I think about what ingredients I might need to buy, I think about the timing of the recipe and when I can fit it in, and then, at the last possible moment, I bake.

This month I was true to form. A lovely, easy, herbed potato bread. I had potatoes. I had chives. It didn't require an overnight starter or days of babysitting. I just needed to make it. Especially since my husband loves mashed potatoes; I knew he'd love this bread.

So what did I do? I started it yesterday, the day before the posting was due. Also, coincidentally, the same day my husband had a dentist appointment to get fitted for a replacement crown. Our previous dentist biffed his crown and left a pocket where decay was forming. (If you live in my neck of the woods, save yourself lots of time, money, and pain and never go to a dentist named Cooley.)

Hub's appointment was at 10:30, so I thought I might be able to get the bread done in time for him to have some for lunch. At 11:00 he called to say that he would be longer than predicted. The decay was so bad, that they were going to have to pull the tooth.

At 1:30 he called to say that the attempts to pull the tooth were not successful, as the tooth root was fused to the bone, so he was being sent for an emergency visit to an oral surgeon.

At 4:00 he got home, cheeks swollen, in pain. And to add to his torture, the house smelled wonderfully of potato bread with chives. Alas, he got pudding and a smoothie for dinner. Also, there's mashed potatoes....

I'll definitely have to make this bread again so he can enjoy it. The dough is delightful to work with and it gives a loaf (or two) with a beautiful, even, soft crumb and a nice crust. Thanks, Sara, for picking this fun recipe!

To see what the rest of the Babes did this month, visit their blogs (addresses in the sidebar), and if you'd like to be a Baking Buddy and get a badge to proudly display on your blog, you have a week to bake up a loaf, post, and send the URL to Sara.

Potato Bread with Chives
from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson

"The addition of mashed potatos gives this bread a moist, dense texture and delicate flavor that is accented by that of the chives. This bread is best eaten slightly warm from the oven on the day it is made. It is also good toasted."

2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar or pure maple syrup
2 Tb corn oil
2 tsp salt
1 cup cold mashed potatos
1 cup soy milk or other dairy free milk
5 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for kneading
2 Tb minced fresh chives

In a large bowl, combine the yeast and 1/4 cup of the water. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes, then stir in the remaining 3/4 cup of water, the corn oil and the salt. Mix in the potatos, then stir in the soy milk. Add about half the flour, stirring to combine, then work in the remaining flour to form a stiff dough. Transfer to a lightly floured board.

Lightly flour your hands and work surface. Knead the dough well until it is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes, using more flour as necessary so the dough does not stick. Place in a large lightly oiled bowl and turn over once to coat with oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or lightly oiled piece of plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, lightly oil a large baking sheet and set aside. Punch the dough down and knead lightly. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle with the chives, and knead until the dough is elastic and the chives are well distributed, 3 to 5 minutes. Shape the dough into one large or two small round loaves and place on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly and cover with a clean damp towel or lightly oiled plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400'F. Use a sharp knife to cut an X into the top of the loaf or loaves. Bake on the center oven rack until golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes, depending on size. Tap on the bottom of the loaf or loaves - if they sound hollow, the bread is done. Remove from the sheet and let cool slightly on a wire rack before slicing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Banana Without A Bunch

The high school that I attended had a specialized form of torture - the stomp. No, no, it did not involve hobnailed boots. It involved dancing. Whenever our football team had a home game, there was a dance, a "stomp" following the game. It wasn't a formal dance, no dates or long dresses, just show up and dance. I loathed it.

There were clumps of friends clustered around the dance floor, like bunches of grapes draped decoratively around a banquet platter. Occasionally a brave boy grape would detach himself from his cluster and head over to a girl cluster to ask a girl to dance. The etiquette was that it was (almost) always a boy who asked, and the girl was (almost) never allowed to turn him down.

My torment was twofold. The cute guys I liked never asked me to dance. They would ask my friends. And then when my friends were all out dancing, I had to try to look cool hanging out all by myself, radiating something like, "Oh, I prefer to be here alone. It's so annoying to have to dance with cute guys."

Then, the Jaws theme would start playing in my mind as I spied Him, the short boy with the greasy hair and sweaty palms, threading through the crowds, inexorably drawing closer, inevitably to ask me to dance. And I couldn't say no. I had to dance with him. I didn't yet know the excellent line from Romy And Michele's High School Reunion - "Would you excuse me? I cut my foot before and my shoe is filling up with blood. "

Strangely, it took me almost two years to figure out that it was better to stay home alone on Friday nights and read a book than to subject myself to this torment. Being alone has such a bad rap, but sometimes, one is not the loneliest number, sometimes it's the happiest number.

Like one lone banana browning on the countertop. Not enough for banana bread, banana cake, or banana muffins. Is it destined to die a sad and lonely death in the compost bin? No, not since I've discovered the goodness of banana, walnuts, and chocolate in cookie form.

These cookies are amazing. Seriously moist, sweet without being cloying, with pockets of crunch and bursts of chocolate. They're fabulous the day they're made, and stay wonderful in the cookie jar for up to 2 days (like they'll last that long).

If you have a solo banana turning brown, play matchmaker and set it up with nuts and chocolates for this Friday night!

Banana-Walnut Chocolate-Chunk Cookies
- adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 large)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
8 oz. milk chocolate, coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch chunks
1/2 cup walnuts (about 2 oz)

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Assemble all your ingredients.

2- When oven is preheated, place the walnuts in a thin layer on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, till fragrant. Remove the nuts and turn the oven heat up to 375 deg. F. Coarsely chop the nuts and set aside.

3- In a small bowl whisk together the flours, salt, and baking soda.

4- In the bold of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugars on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla; mix until combined. Mix in the banana. Add the flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in oats, chocolate chunks, and walnuts.

5- Using a 1-1/2 inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto prepared baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart (the cookies will flatten and spread as they bake).

6- Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown and just set, 12 to 13 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wedding Cake For Two

This past weekend was the wedding I've been stressing about. The bride was my daughter's maid of honor, a lovely young woman who is so sweet that everyone loves her. After she got engaged, she asked me if I'd make a cake for her. Not a big, tiered wedding cake. To that I would have sensibly said no - I know my limits and that's waaaaay beyond my limits. For the guests they were going to have a milk and cookie bar, but she wanted a small cake for the bride and groom to cut into.

A small cake I could handle. So we talked cake. What did she like? Chocolate. What did he like? Vanilla. I gave her some choices to discuss with her sweetie - chocolate cake with white frosting, white cake with chocolate frosting, white cake with chocolate filling and white frosting, one layer white, one layer chocolate. What they ultimately settled on as the best representation of the joining of their lives was a checkerboard cake. Each taste and personality distinct, but put together in a fun way to make something totally new.

In the ensuing months I made 3 different trial runs of the cake. Each time I learned something new and the happy recipients of the cake overflow didn't complain. But I knew the actual cake would bring on the stress. I wanted it to be perfect.

I had to keep reminding myself that the cake was a tiny part of the day for the bride. She wouldn't really care if it was less than stellar; she'd know it was made with love. Plus, she's such a sweetie, she'd never say a word if it was sup-par. But for her, I wanted it to be just right.

Two days before the wedding, I ran out of vanilla. What a stupid thing for a baker to run out of! So I went to a specialty store that usually has my favorite brand. They didn't, but I was rewarded for the trek with a lovely cake stand. Perfect!

The day before the wedding, I prayed and set to baking. My husband thoughtfully took the kids out for a few hours. I prefer peace and quiet when I'm trying to get everything right. The cake turned out fine. The frosting came together beautifully. I put together the layers with the ganache, covered it with frosting, piped on little decorative bits, and put it in the refrigerator with a sigh of relief.

The day of the wedding I took along a tote bag with the extra frosting in a bag, an offset spatula, and the crystallized violets I'd made. The cake was delicately draped with plastic wrap and I carried it in my lap for the 40 minute drive. Zero mishaps. Yeah!

At the wedding, with shaking hands, I applied the crystallized violets. Whew! My part was done. Then I just got to enjoy the beautiful ceremony, the teary toasts, and the dancing. The cake was cut, the bride said it was wonderful, and I was pleased. It was just a tiny part of the day for her, but I was happy that it was just right.

Note to self: never be a professional cake decorator!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Preserving Spring

My very first High Five post! Go me! Since my first post bearing the prestigious High Five badge is in April, I'm going to have to hustle to get ten up by years' end and earn the mega cool High Ten badge.

(If you're wondering what a High Five is, and how you, too, can have this cool badge of honor on your blog, read this post.)

I have wanted to try crystallizing flowers for a long time. I love the dainty beauty of sugar-dusted blossoms and, because my cake decorating skills are so atrocious, they are the perfect cake or cupcake topper for me. But buying them in stores is holy moley expensive. I wanted something to dress up the wedding cake, so I thought now would be a good time to try my hand at crystallizing violets.

If they're that expensive, they must be tough to do, right? Not so. They are actually quite easy. All you need is fresh flowers, which were grown without pesticides or other nasty chemicals, a fine paintbrush, an egg white or egg white powder, super-fine sugar, and waxed paper on which to dry the flowers. Optional is tweezers to hold the flowers, if they're quite small or delicate.

Make sure the flowers you're using are edible. Good choices include violets, pansies, rose petals (no systemic insecticides, please), lilac florets, scented geraniums, and apple or plum blossoms. They should be picked first thing in the morning and have the dew thoroughly dried off.

I don't keep super-fine sugar on hand, so while my daughter was outside picking violets from the abundance trying to take over my yard, I threw some in my food processor and whirled it around till it was very fine. Then it went into a small dish with a small spoon (still haven't gotten rid of the baby cutlery).

Next I whisked an egg white with 1 Tbsp of water in another small bowl just till it started to appear frothy (a few bubbles). You can use up to 2 Tbsp of water to get the desired consistency. You want it thin enough that you can paint a very thin layer on the flower. If it's too gloopy, add a bit more water.

If you are wary of using raw egg whites, substitute egg white powder (also called meringue powder) for this step and reconstitute it to the appropriate thickness.

Holding the flower gently in one hand (with tweezers, if the blossom is dainty), dip the paintbrush in the egg white solution and gently brush the petals with it, making sure to cover every part of the flower, both front and back.

Then, holding the flower over the sugar bowl, take a small spoonful of the super fine sugar and gently shake it over the flower, turning the flower so the sugar dusts every surface.

Carefully arrange your flower on the sheet of waxed paper, using the tweezers to rearrange petals, if necessary. If you find you missed a small spot, dust a little more sugar over it, or paint more egg white, then dust.

The flowers should be left undisturbed to dry for up to 48 hours, depending on your humidity. When they are thoroughly dried, place them in an airtight container, with waxed paper separating the layers.

For a baker friend, a small box or tin of handmade crystallized flowers is a wonderful gift!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Waffly Good Breakfast

One of the surest ways to produce a smile on my son's faces is to make waffles. I rarely do it, though, because of the time involved. Somedays, though, like rainy weekend days, it's worth it just to see the sunshine in his smiles.

I made these waffles and topped them with homemade plum jam. I had to talk my son into trying that. Anything new or different is viewed with suspicion. We finally compromised; one waffle with jam, one his standard way - every hole filled in with maple syrup (that boy loves his syrup!). He agreed that both were good, although I suspect he'll still reach for the syrup next time I make them. I'll bet if I wrapped them around a sausage, he'd love them even more - Pigs in a Quilt!

If you like variety, try adding some chopped toasted nuts to the batter, or if you like savory, some chopped fresh chives. Whatever you do, though, don't skip the beaten egg white step! That's the secret to the lofty tenderness of these treats.

Happy Day Buttermilk Waffles
- adapted from The Bread Bible by Beth Henspberger

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 eggs separated
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups buttermilk

1- Preheat a waffle iron to medium-high.

2- In a large bowl combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, oil, and buttermilk until foamy.

3- In a small bowl using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form (when you pull the beater out of the whites, a peak should form which gently slouches over).

4- Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened. Fold in the whites until no streaks are visible.

5- Brush the waffle iron with oil or melted butter. For each waffle, pour about 1 cup of the batter on to the grid. Close the lid and bake until the waffle is crisp and golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. (My waffle iron has a marvelous tweedling noise it makes to let me know when it's done.) Remove waffle from iron with a fork and repeat with the remaining batter.

Any leftover waffles can be cooled and stored in a freezer zip-loc bag in the freezer for up to 2 months. Reheat in the toaster.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Makin' Whoopie

When my big son was quite small, I brought home a can of Crisco from the grocery store. To my puzzlement he was very excited about it and wanted to open it right away. Then when I did open it, he was quite disappointed. Unlike the enticing picture on the label, it contained no fried chicken at all!

I feel that way about shortening, too. It's deceitful. Going by looks alone, it should be creamy and delicious, but it's just grease. So why is it a major component in so many frostings? Because it makes them look creamy and delicious, although they're actually disgusting. If you're unfortunate enough to have to choke down a piece of "happy special occasion" cake from the grocery store, you'll know that it makes you feel wretched, too.

That's why I've put off making Whoopie Pies for so long. I love the idea of a big cookie, cakey in texture, filled with frosting. Basically, it's a piece of chocolate cake, to go. But if the frosting part is nasty, why bother? And all the recipes that I'd seen called for a lot of shortening in the filling.

But then, I saw a recipe in Martha Stewart's Cookies for Whoopie Pies with peanut butter frosting. Yes! Peanut butter deliciousness, and zero shortening! I dove face first into that one and came up with these delicious beauties. Can you resist?

(If you're a purist and really must have your black and white Whoopie Pie, check out this recipe for amazing, shortening-free Whoopie Pies. They're in my "to bake" queue.)

Peanut butter Whoopie Pies
- adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling:

1-1/3 cup natural, creamy peanut butter
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
Coarse salt

1- Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. with shelves dividing the oven into thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

2- Sift together the flour, cocoas powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat until well combined. On low speed, slowly add dry ingredients; mix until combined.

4- Drop batter onto the prepared cookie sheets, 1-1/2 Tbsp at a time, 2-inches apart. Bake until set, about 8 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway though. The cookie is done when it feels soft on the top, but not wet. Cool completely on a wire rack.

5- To make the filling, place the peanut butter and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on high speed until smooth. Reduce speed to low . Add confectioners' sugar and mix until combined. On high speed, mix until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Season with salt, if desired.

6- To assemble the cookies, spread 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling on the flat side of 1 cookie. Top with another cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling. Cookies can be refrigerated in single layers in an airtight container up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Lately I've had a hankering for chocolate. Maybe it was knowing there were chocolate Easter treats hiding in my drawer, but my "gotta have chocolate" meter got cranked to a much higher notch, somewhere between "willing to graze on the chocolate chip stash" and "will make a special trip to the store to buy double chocolate chocolate chip anything with chocolate on top."

The problem with a hankering is that usually it's not patient. I have plenty of chocolate in my house, but it's all in ingredient form. For the most part, have no problem walking by the bags and bins (I kid you not) of chips, wafers, chunks and bars that make up my chocolate stash, because when I want chocolate, I want it in something. Preferably something warm, so the chocolate is melty and oozy, coating the tongue in a warm bath of chocolate bliss. But I didn't want to take the time to make something that would involve multiple steps, lots of waiting, and then cooling time before I could eat it.

Enter Nigella. I have had this recipe bookmarked since I won a copy of Nigella Express. I bought the canned pears just to make it. But for some reason, I never got around to it. But with my chocolate hankering reaching a fever pitch, I started thumbing through cookbooks and came upon this beauty.

Easy, easy, easy to throw together. Only half an hour to bake, and you can make the sauce while it's baking, so you don't burn your tongue licking the oven window while waiting. 5 minutes to cool, and then, ahhhhhhh, heavenly, chocolatey, oozy, delicious bliss! A crispy shell on top gives a texture contrast with the gooey filling. The sharp, almost bitter dark chocolate sauce contrasts with the sweet pear. Seriously, I had a hard time leaving it alone long enough to take pictures!

If you get regular (like monthly) chocolate cravings, go stock up on canned pears. Once you taste this cake, you'll want to make it again and again.

Chocolate Pear Pudding Cake
- adapted from Nigella Express

2-14 oz. cans pear halves in juice
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup cocoa
10 Tbsp (1-1/4 sticks) soft butter
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

1- Preheat the oven to 400 deg. F and grease an 8-inch square baking dish with butter.

2- Drain the pears, discarding the juice, or setting it aside for another purpose, if you're super thrifty. Arrange the pear halves in the base of the dish.

3- Put all of the remaining ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and whir it till you get a smooth batter with a soft dropping consistency. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula, if you need to.

4- Spread the batter over the pears. Bake for 30 minutes.

5- While the cake is baking make the chocolate sauce (below).

6- Remove the cake from the oven and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes and then cut into 9 pieces. Serve with chocolate sauce.

Hot Chocolate Sauce
- adapted from Nigella Express

3 ox dark chocolate, 70 % cocoa solids, roughly chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp instant espresso powder dissolved in 2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp golden syrup (I used light corn syrup)

1- Place all of the ingredients in a heavy saucepan over gentle heat. Let everything melt together, stirring occasionally.

2- Once everything has melted, take it off the heat and pour into a jug for serving.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Heavenly Blondies

One thing food blogging has done for me is make me more willing to experiment in the kitchen. I take inspiration from cookbooks, magazines, and other food blogs and see how I can twist a recipe to make it my own.

Recently my sister came up for a visit and together we made a recipe she'd had bookmarked since December, brownies with peppermint cookies crushed up in them. They were really good. But I didn't want to blog them since I hadn't done anything different with them.

After my sister went home, though, my glance lit on a box of cookies my son had successfully begged for at Trader Joe's, Maple Cream Sandwich cookies. Hmmm, maybe I could crush those up and put them in....blondies!

I roughly chopped the cookies and stirred them into the batter of browned butter blondies. The flavors went together perfectly. I underbaked my blondies just a tad, so they sank in the middle when they cooled, but that gave the blondies a fudgy texture. The cookies sort of melted into the batter giving unexpected subtle bits of maple cream. I(f you don't happen to have a Trader Joe's near you, I'm sure you could use a different brand of Maple Cream-filled Sandwich cookie.)

My expert panel of taste testers said, "Holy moley, these are good! What's in them? Can I have another? Pleeeease?"

Heavenly Blondies

1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp salt
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
10 oz roughly chopped Maple Cream-filled Cookies (about 12 cookies)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Line a 9 x 13-inch pan with aluminum foil, leaving foil hanging over all the edges. Butter the foil and dust with flour.

2- In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the butter until it turns golden brown. It will bubble and froth up, then subside. Remove from heat and set it aside to cool.

3- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

4- In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine browned butter and both sugars; stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Attach bowl to mixer and add eggs. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat to combine. Add the flour mixture, stirring till combined, then gently stir in the chopped cookie bit and the walnuts. Pour into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.

5- Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes (do not overbake!). Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Using the foil overlap as handles, take the blondies out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut the blondies into squares.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, although you shouldn't be surprised if they don't last that long.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Easter Bread

If you're still in the planning stages for your Easter menu, head over to Simple Bites and check out my post on making an easy and delicious braided bread ring for Easter brunch. And check back tomorrow for something amazing you won't want to miss!