Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm a KAF Fangirl

I'm a doofus. I know it. Other people get excited when their favorite band comes to town and they wait in line for hours for tickets. This weekend I got all giddy because one of my faves came to town and I got in to see them - for FREE!

What hot band, you ask? Um, it wasn't a band. It was a baking demo by King Arthur Flour. You see? I'm a doofus.

But I'm not alone. I really wasn't alone on Saturday. There were 300 other people just like me who filled the hotel conference room to capacity, eager to hear whatever the good people from King Arthur had to say on the topic of Pies and Tarts (the first session), and Yeasted Breads (the second session).

Susan Reid, who works as an instructor at their Baking Center in Vermont and develops recipes for The Baking Sheet, was our instructor. She's got tons of experience, a relaxed attitude to baking, and was really fun to watch as she prepared a pie crust for an apple pie. If you'd like to watch her and pick up a few pie crust pointers, she's got a great tutorial here.

She answered questions about what makes King Arthur flour special (consistency, high protein, and their pickiness, in a nutshell) and general baking question. After the demo, the ladies and their helpers unloaded a ton of door prizes - sacks of KA flour, scone mixes, treats from their sponsors, Hershey, Red Label Yeast, Cabot Cheese and items from the KA catalog (what I call the Wish List). Even though I didn't win a prize, I was happy with sponsor coupons, a dough scraper, and coupons from King Arthur. Yeah!

One of the things that KA does that is so great (or evil, depending on how chubby I'm feeling), is send out emails with links to recipes and pictures that make me whimper, "I want it NOW!" A recent email featured pumpkin scones. Good gosh, fabulous pumpkin scones that wouldn't leave my mind, but begged to be made. So I did. With my own pumpkin puree.

So, this post, besides being a tribute to one of my favorite baking companies, is also to let you know that if you've always wondered about how to turn your own pumpkin into puree, I've got a piece on just that subject over at Simple Bites. So skip over there, read all about it, then come back here and bake some scones. You know you want them!

Harvest Pumpkin Scones
- adapted from King Arthur Flour

2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup cold butter
1 cup Cinnamon Flav-R-Bites
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
coarse white sparkling sugar or cinnamon-sugar for topping

1) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices.

2) Work in the butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly; it's OK for some larger chunks of butter to remain unincorporated.

3) Stir in the Cinnamon Flav-R-Bites. They look like cat kibble, but they're delicious. You'll want them in there. Trust me.

4) In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and eggs till smooth.

5) Add the pumpkin/egg to the dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together.

6) Line a baking sheet with parchment; if you don't have parchment, just use it without greasing it. Sprinkle a bit of flour atop the parchment or pan.

7) Scrape the dough onto the floured parchment or pan, and divide it in half. Round each half into a 5 to 6" circle. The circles should be about 3/4" thick.

8) Brush each circle with milk, and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar or cinnamon sugar, if desired.

9) Using a knife or bench knife that you've run under cold water, slice each circle into 6 wedges.

10) Carefully pull the wedges away from the center to separate them just a bit; there should be about 1/2" space between them, at their outer edges.

11) For best texture and highest rise, place the pan of scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered. While the scones are chilling, preheat the oven to 425°F.

12) Bake the scones for 22 to 25 minutes, or until they're golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean, with no wet crumbs. If you pull one of the scones away from the others, the edges should look baked through, not wet or doughy.

13) Remove the scones from the oven, and serve warm. Wrap any leftovers airtight, and store at room temperature. Reheat very briefly in the microwave, if desired.

Yield: 12 scones.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Comfortable Cakes

When I was in high school I'd amaze my friends and astound my teachers by wearing 4 inch heels. They were tall, black and spiky, and I loved them. Putting on a pair of outrageous shoes is the quickest way I know to feeling tall and sexy.

Unfortunately, I no longer wear those kind of shoes. It's not that I don't like them, it's just that most high-heeled shoes don't like me. Between having finicky knees, extremely high arches, and feet shaped like bricks, it's an exercise in pain to wear anything besides my everyday Dansko's or my workout shoes.

Cakes are kind of like shoes. There are the extravagant, over-the-top ones that you see on Ace of Cakes or on the Sunday Sweets section of Cake Wrecks. Sure, they turn heads and impress people, but I doubt that I'll ever attempt anything like that. They take waaaaaay too much time and effort for something that will be eaten in a matter of minutes.

Pump by Christian Louboutin, Cake by Marina Sousa of Just Cake

Then there are the comfy, everyday shoes of the cake world. The kind that you can serve to friends straight from the pan. Easy to make, bakes in just one pan, not pretentious or fancy, but oh so tasty. This is one of those cakes. You won't win awards with it, but you might well win hearts.

Apple Comfort Cake

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour (you can sub out 1 cup of the a.p. flour with white whole wheat)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups chopped apples (good choices are Granny Smith, Jonagold, or Braeburn)

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.

2- In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients and mix to blend. Set aside.

3- In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the cake batter ingredients except the apples. Mix until well blended. Fold in the apples.

4- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the topping mixture.

5- Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serve warm or at room temperature. A blop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side is rarely turned down.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Build A Better Fly Trap

Life is full of wins and fails.

Getting a new car. Win!

Forgetting you drove your new car to the mall and looking for the old car for 45 minutes in the parking lot. Fail.

Setting your alarm clock for 5:30 so you can get an early start to the day and not have the usual morning frazzled rush. Win!

Sleeping in till 9:00, grumbling about your stupid, broken alarm clock, running around more rushed and frazzled than usual, then wondering why there's a beeping sound coming from your bedroom at dinnertime. Fail.

Complimenting yourself at the party because your usually snug dress is actually a tad loose. Win!

Finding out at home that the sneaky side zipper you always forget was unzipped the whole evening. Fail.

Scoring big boxes of fresh produce at the farmer's market. Win!

Not dealing quickly with said boxes of produce and your kitchen becomes fruit fly central. Epic fail.

I hate fruit flies. They're so sneaky. When you're looking for them with a fly swatter, they lurk under a curling cabbage leaf, but when you're trying to eat dinner, they rise like a phantom before your eyes. You attempt to squash them by clapping your hands together, forgetting you're holding a dinner fork. Painful fail.

Last year a Kitchen Queen Gabe (who also does beautiful jewelry) introduced me to the never fail fruit fly trap and my kitchen and my temperament have been so much better since. I love it because it's 1) cheap, 2) doesn't use a specialized gadget that I have to store when not in use, and 3) it works!

First, you take a drinking glass. Plastic will work, but I prefer glass. It's much more satisfying to be able to see how many flies have perished in the trap.

Next, pour in a glug of apple cider vinegar. Fruit flies go nuts for the smell of sour, fermenting food. You can pour in a bit of water to dilute it to a 1:1 ratio.

Add a squirt of dishwasher soap.

Now for the tricky bit. Take a rectangular piece of scrap paper. Don't rip up clean paper, grab something from the recycling bin. About a 1/2 sheet of paper will do. Now pull the bottom two corners together. Cross the over, one on top of the other, so that you form a cone with a small opening in the bottom. Size it with your drinking glass. You want the opening to sit above the level of the apple cider mixture and you want the cone to fit snuggly against the rim of the glass. When the cone is properly sized, tape the edges in place.

Place the paper cone in the glass and set the glass on the counter in a spot where you seem to find the most fruit flies. The next day, pick up the glass and, Voila!, the bottom will be littered with the carcasses of fruit flies who will no longer be pestering you. Win!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Hurrier I Go, The Behinder I Get

One of the ways my husband and I complement each other is that he's always early and I'm always late. This averages out to mean that when we're going somewhere together, we get there on time. A little bit frazzled and cross, but on time. When it's just me, though, I am late.

I don't mean to be; I honestly try to be organized so that I can get everything and get out the door with plenty of time to get there. But somehow, something always happens. I underestimate the time it takes to get there, I underestimate how awful traffic is at that time, or there's the last-minute crisis at home that demands that mommy fix it. And, of course, how could I even think of going out the door without hugs and kisses from everyone?

The upshot of this is I'm always the last one puffing into the restaurant (because I couldn't find parking and had to jog seven blocks), the one guiltily sneaking in the side door in class, and the one posting out of season food on my blog. I could be sly and say I'm thinking of my southern hemisphere friends (I've done that before), but the truth is, I forgot about it till now and if I put off posting it for another year, there's no way I'll be able to remember what cookbook that came from!

This recipe is super versatile. You can use a combination of summer fruits like berries, plums, or nectarines. It was heavenly with the peaches and pears which I used because they were sitting on the counter going bad (do you sense that procrastination theme music playing again?). Bookmark the recipe and use it next summer, or, if you're one of those weird, plan-ahead kind of people, pull some of the fruit that you froze or canned out of storage and use it to enjoy this dish all winter long.

Peach-Pear Cobbler
- adapted from Williams-Sonoma Desserts

6 cups of sliced peaches and pears
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour*
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
pinch of salt

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

* If your fruit is especially juicy, you might want to add a bit more flour.

1- Preheat the oven to 375 deg. F. Lightly grease a 1-1/2 to 2 quart round or oval baking dish.

2- To make the filling, gently toss the fruit with the rest of the filling ingredients until blended. Pour into the prepared baking dish and set aside.

3- To make the topping, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla until well blended. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and, using a rubber spatula, fold gently until the flour is moistened and the mixture forms a soft dough.

4- Drop heaping spoonfuls of the mixture onto the fruit, spacing them evenly over the surface. The topping will not completely cover the fruit, but it will smoosh together during baking. Bake until the topping is browned , the filling is bubbling, and a toothpick inserted into the topping comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

This serves 8 to 10 and is splendid served warm with a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream. It can also be served at room temperature.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Delightful, Delicious, and Dairy-Free

When my daughter was about 3, she had a bumpy rash on her arms and legs that wouldn't go away. I decided to cut dairy from her diet to see if that would help and it was really difficult. Dairy is in everything!

I became obsessive about reading labels. Obviously pouring milk on the cereal was out, but a lot of products have milk lurking inside as an ingredient. Finding dairy-free products was my grocery store challenge.

We substituted soy and rice milk for liquid milk, but the hardest to find replacements for were cheese and ice cream. Sorry, but tofu cheese is just nasty. She got to the point of telling friends' parents, "I'm allergic to milk, but I can have pizza!" And dairy-free desserts weren't any easier.

After about 6 months of cutting out (most of the) dairy products her rash was much better, and when we gradually reintroduced dairy into her diet, she was fine. Although I no longer have to do the dairy-swap-tango, I learned that people with special needs diets have a tough time and whenever we can bring some joy into their life with a treat that's "allowed," it's a huge blessing to them.

If you know someone who's got issues with eggs or dairy, but loves chocolate, I've got just the thing. This pudding is so rich and creamy, you'd swear it was stuffed full of extra heavy whipping cream and egg yolks and that it took a long time over a hot stove and lots of stirring.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It goes together in a matter of minutes and is blended in a food processor. The secret ingredients? Cocoa, dates, and…..avocados! Really, avocados. The pudding tastes nothing like avocado, but the avocado gives it a rich, smooth, satisfying mouth feel. And I love that it has zero fake food ingredients in it. It's all 100% good and good for you. Finally, a dessert everyone can enjoy! Unless you hate chocolate, in which case I really can't do anything for you.

Delightfully Dairy-Free Chocolate Pudding
- adapted from Raw Foods Made Easy

1/2 cup pitted medjool dates
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups peeled, pitted and mashed avocado (about three avocados)
3/4th cup cocoa powder

1- Place the dates in a small bowl and add the hot water. Allow to soak for about 15 minutes. Drain the dates, reserving the liquid.

2- Place the soaked dates, maple syrup and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Add the avocados and cocoa powder and process until creamy. Stop and scrap down sides of bowl with rubber spatula.

3- Add the water (from soaked dates) and process briefly. Add more water if needed. Serve chilled or at room temp.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Everything is Peachy

I'm sad. Peach season is over. Costco has been carrying boxes of organic peaches and each week I'd buy a box. One week I bought two. Each peach was perfect - ripe, juicy, and amazingly delicious.

I had big plans of slicing the peaches and freezing them so I could make pies and cobblers throughout the winter. It never happened. We ate them all. The kids would beg for them for snacks, I'd slice them over homemade yogurt with granola, and I'd slice them over the kids' breakfast cereal as a special treat.

I did manage to make one pie with them. It's a good thing that piecrusts are such a pain in the patoot to make, otherwise I'd make (and eat) a pie every week. Sigh. Since I lack internal restraint, the external restraint of laziness is a good thing.

This pie lasted for exactly two days. Even my husband, the professed peach hater, choked down two or three slices. I told him he didn't need to make that sacrifice for me, but he selflessly ate his share.

Since I wanted to do the delicious peaches justice, I went to the pie Bible, specifically The Pie and Pastry Bible from Rose Levy Berenbaum. The crust used cream cheese and took two days to make, but was worth the wait. Tasty, flaky, without a trace of shortening, I think I'll be using this pie crust again. The next time I work up the energy to take on a pie again.

I especially like Rose's technique of cooking down the peach juices so the pie isn't a soggy mass. Because the peaches were so very juicy, I think I didn't sufficiently reduce the liquid. The bottom crust was a bit on the soggy side. Next year I'll do better. If I save enough peaches to make a pie. No guarantees on that, though.

Rose's Perfect Peach Pie for Perfect Peaches
- adapted from The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum

Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust (recipe follows)
2-3/4 lbs peaches (about 8 medium), peeled, pitted, and sliced into 16ths
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar
pinch salt
4 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp pure almond extract

1- Remove the pie dough for the bottom crust from the refrigerator. Let it sit for about 10 minutes or until it's soft enough to roll.

2- On a generously floured surface, roll the crust 1/8 thick or less and 12-inches in diameter. Drape the dough over your rolling pin, brush the excess flour off with a pastry brush, and gently transfer the dough to your pie pan. Trim the edge almost even with the pan. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes (or up to 3 hours).

3- While the bottom crust is chilling, place the peach slices in a large bowl and sprinkle them with the lemon juice. Sprinkle on the sugar and salt and toss gently to mix evenly. Allow the peaches to sit at room temperature for a 30 minutes (or up to an hour).

4- Place a colander over a bowl. Transfer the peaches to the colander and allow the juices to drip to the bowl below. This will yield almost 1 cup of juice.

5- In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, boil down this liquid to about 1/3 cup, or until syrupy and lightly caramelized. Swirl the liquid, but do not stir it. Meanwhile, transfer the drained peaches to a bowl and toss them with the cornstarch and almond extract until no traces of cornstarch remain.

6- Pour the syrup over the peaches, tossing gently. It's OK if the syrup hardens when it touches the peaches; it will dissolve during baking. Transfer the peach mixture to the pie shell.

7- Roll out the top crust large enough to cut a 12-inch circle. Using a pan or cardboard circle as a template, use a sharp knife and cut the circle.

8- Moisten the edge of the bottom crust with water. Brush excess flour from the top crust and place it over the fruit. Fold the overhang around the bottom crust edge and press to seal it. Crimp around the edge using a fork or your fingers. Make 5 evenly spaced 2-inch slashes in the top crust, radiating from the center. Cover the pie loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour before baking.

9- Set an oven rack at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet covered with foil on it. Preheat the oven to 425 deg. F.

10 - When the oven has heated, remove the plastic wrap from the pie and place the pie directly on the foil-topped baking stone. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until the juices bubble thickly through the slashes and the peaches feel tender but not mushy when a cake tester or small sharp knife is inserted through a slash. After 30 minutes, protect the edges from overbrowning with a foil ring.

11- Place the pie on a rack to cool for at least 3 hours before cutting.

Serve the pie warm or cold, preferably with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Store at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust

12 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold
2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
4-1/2 oz. cream cheese, cold
2 Tbsp ice water
1 Tbsp cider vinegar

1- Cut the butter into small cubes. Wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it until frozen solid, at least 30 minutes. Place the flour, salt, and baking powder in a zip-loc reclosable gallon-size freezer bag and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

2- Empty the flour mixture into the bowl of a food processor with the metal blade in place. Process for a few seconds to combine.

3- Cut the cream cheese into 4 pieces and add it to the flour. Process for about 20 seconds, or until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the frozen butter cubes and pulse until none of the butter is larger than the size of a pea.

4- Remove the cover and add the water and vinegar. Pulse until most of the butter is the size of small peas. The mixture will not hold together at this point.

5-Working with half the mixture at a time, spoon it into your flour zip-loc bag. Knead the mixture in the closed bag by pressing it with the knuckles and heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled.

8- Wrap the dough with plastic wrap, flatten it into disc. Repeat with the other half of the mixture. Place both discs into the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.

Monday, October 4, 2010

CCCakes with CCFro

A lot of popular culture I just don't get. What is the fascination with people who have no discernible talents or attributes other than a willingness to take off their clothing, get arrested, or do bizarre things on television? I stand in line at the checkout counter puzzled and amused at the celebritrash on the magazine covers and their latest rounds of rehab, divorce, and plastic surgeries.

And why does the gossip media insist on doing a weird abbreviation of people's names so that Kevin Federline is now KFed and Rob Pattinson is RPatts? If that's the way it's done, I think I'll call Lady Gaga LGag.

Would I be CBLynn? I doubt I'll ever be famous, or infamous, enough to be abbreviated. That's OK. The weight of celebrity would chafe on me. I'd be too concerned about how I look in paparazzi photos to enjoy things like carrot cupcakes and cream cheese frosting. And those are definitely things worth enjoying. Especially when the recipe is from the celebrity jailbird cupcake queen herself, MStew.

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
- adapted from Cupcakes by Martha Stewart

1 pound carrots, peeled and finely grated
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt
1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup golden raisins
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 lb (4 cups) confectioners' sugar, sifted
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

1- Preheat oven to 325 deg. F. Line standard muffin tins with 24 paper liners.

2-In a large bowl, whisk together carrots, eggs, buttermilk, sugar, oil, yogurt, and vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Stir flour mixture into carrot mixture until well combined.

3- Divide batter evenly among prepared cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake for 23 to 28 minutes, rotating tins halfway though, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean.

4- Place tins on wire racks to cool 10 minutes, then turn out the cupcakes onto the racks and let them cool completely. (At this point, the cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in an airtight container.)

5-To make the frosting, beat the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and then vanilla, and mix until smooth and combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. (If not using immediately frosting can be refrigerated up to 3 days in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again.)

6- Use a small offset spatula to spread a mound of frosting on each cupcake. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Axes, Roses, or Chocolate

In preparation for school this year my daughter rearranged her room furniture. Again. I didn't have a problem with that as I remember I did the same thing about four times a year when I was her age.

The problem with rearranging the furniture is that there really are a limited number of configurations your can achieve, what with windows, the closet, the length and width of the bed, and the immutable fact that the head of the bed must always, ALWAYS have a clear view of the door and the closet.

Back then, before going to bed I'd check the closet and then shut the door securely. My rational mind knew that there was no way anything could come out of the closet, but the more primitive part of my mind knew without a shadow of a doubt that unless you kept a watchful eye on the door at all times, ANYTHING could come out of it.

My rational side and my primitive side would have discussions at night as I dozed off to sleep.

"How on earth could anything come out of the closet? I just checked in there!"

"Then why did we just hear a creak?"

"Because it's an old house! Old houses creak."

"But what if it's not the house? What if it's a blood-thirsty axe murderer who hid in the shadows of the closet and is going to pop out and slaughter me as soon as my eyes close?"

"Oh for Pete's sake! What are the odds of that happening? I think there are better odds that it's a really handsome guy who's waiting to pop out and surprise you with flowers and chocolates."

Eventually, worn out from all the arguing, I'd go to sleep. I'm happy to report that I never had either the axe wielder or the rose toter sneak out of my closet. But just to be on the safe side, when we bought our house, I removed all the closet doors. Now we're safe from axe murderers, but we're on our own for the flowers and chocolates.

I buy flowers at the store when the urge strikes, and when I have a chocolate craving, I make brownies.

The only thing scary about these is having a 9 x 13 pan of deliciousness lurking in the refrigerator. Be prepared to share, or else they might leap out onto your thighs the next time you open the refrigerator door.

Salted Peanut Brownies
- adapted from a Dorie Greenspan recipe in Bon Appetite

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup roasted salted peanuts, coarsely chopped


1 cup chunky peanut butter (do not use natural or old-fashioned)*
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

(* I didn't have chunky peanut butter on hand, so I chopped up about 1/4 cup of peanuts and put them in a 1 cup measure and filled the rest of the cup with smooth peanut butter.)

1- Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, leaving 3 inches of overhang; butter foil.

2- Place 3/4 cup butter in heavy large saucepan. Add both chocolates; stir over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat.

3- Whisk in sugar, vanilla, and salt, then eggs, 1 at a time. Fold in flour, then nuts. Spread in prepared pan.

4- Bake about 30 minutes, until a tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Place pan on a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

5- To make the peanut butter layer, beat peanut butter and 1/4 cup butter in medium bowl with an electric mixer.. Beat in powdered sugar, salt, and nutmeg, then milk and vanilla. Spread over brownies.

6- In heavy small saucepan, stir chocolate and 1/4 cup butter over low heat until smooth. Drop ganache all over frosting; using a flexible spatula, spread to cover. Chill until set, about 1 1/2 hours.

7- Using foil overhang as handles, transfer brownie cake to work surface; cut into squares. Bring to room temperature; serve.

Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator.