Wednesday, June 25, 2008

chocolate peanut butter tart

Ohhh, look at that river of butter...isn't that lovely? I've been putting this blog off for awhile now, and I've finally brought myself to come up with witty and clever things to say about this Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart that I made a few days ago. Except...I'm not feeling the slightest witty and clever. Eep...oh well. Mayhaps the wit will time? :)

So as many of you know, I have a sickness for desserts, and I actually have a bunch of dessert recipes bookmarked on my browser. That collection is where this recipe came from. Not only was I enticed by the decadently divine pictures, but I mean, come's made of...(drum roll, please)...chocolate AND peanut butter! So HECK YES it had to be baked, who am I kidding?!

The crust of this thing is basically cookie dough. Really buttery cookie dough. Really buttery dalmatian cookie dough. And by dalmatian, I mean that the crust of this tart is a mosaic of chocolate and sugar cookie dough: an edible piece of art. Ok, ok, I'm getting way too artsy for my own good now...

So when I started building the crust, I began by piecing together a random design. But then, I realized the possibilities of this situation...this two-tone cookie dough was just screaming to be made into a cutesy design. So what did I chose to create...?

A smiley face, of course!!! :) Look! He's so happy to see you! I was sad, though, that my smiley creation could not be seen or appreciated by its hungry consumers. Anyway, as Smiley baked in the oven, I set to work making the chocolate and peanut butter fillings...

I have to say that besides being one of my favorite words, ganache is one of my favorite delicacies in the baking world. Ganache, like sprinkles, is a miracle-worker, and it can transform an ugly cake into something beautiful. Ganache, however, does have a leg-up over sprinkles in the fact that it is chocolate. Yes, chocolate trumps sugar almost any day. And then peanut butter ganache? Oh man...that trump trumps sugar.

BEHOLD! Let it be known throughout the land that a WISK now resides in our humble kitchen! YES YES YES. In all seriousness, though, living wisk-less for 2 months really made me appreciate it on a whole new level. A wisk deflates those pesky lumps in cake batter so much easier than a wooden spoon. A wisk lets you whip at dangerous velocities. A wisk is just something that no kitchen should be without. Remember that. :)

So the peanut butter ganache of this tart tasted absolutely amazing. Like, I-want-to-eat-the-entire-bowl-of-this-peanut-butter-ganache amazing. Thankfully, that did not occur on this baking adventure. Making the peanut butter swirls in this tart was lots of fun. I always get a kick out of making swirls in baked goods, and it actually brings me back to when my mom would make chocolate swirled cheesecake when I was little. She would always make the cheesecake, and then I was the official "Swirler" and got to make pretty designs in the chocolate and vanilla batter with a butter knife.

Ohhh, look at that swirlage. Yummmmm. So a great thing about this tart is that the insides are 100% ganache. Which means that it doesn't need to be baked! Awesome, right?

Needless to say, this tart came out reallllly good. Basically, it tasted like you were eating a fancy smancy Resee's cup.

Please bear with my many alternate views of this. It was just so beautiful, I couldn't help myself. :)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart
Adapted from Baking: My Home to Yours

For sugar cookie dough:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
5 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 egg yolk

Place all ingredients in medium bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon until dough forms. With fingers, form dough into ball and set aside.

For chocolate cookie dough:
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 cup powdered sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
5 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 egg yolk

Place all ingredients in medium bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon until dough forms. With fingers, form dough into ball and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 9-inch fluted tart pan, press doughs evenly over bottom and up the sides of the pan in whatever pattern you choose. Freeze crust for at least 30 minutes before baking. Prick bottom and sides of crust with fork. Bake crust for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool.

For chocolate peanut butter ganache:
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. heavy cream
2 tbsp. butter

1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

Prepare chocolate ganache: place the chocolate chips and butter in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil, and then pour it over the chocolate and butter. Wisk together cream, chocolate, and butter until smooth. Pour chocolate ganache into cooled crust.

Prepare peanut butter ganache: place white chocolate chips and peanut butter in double boiler. Stir together until just melted and smooth.

Using a small spoon, gently drop small dollops of the peanut butter ganache in dots all over the chocolate layer. Using a butter knife, gently cut through the dollops to created a swirled effect. Refrigerate tart for at least 2 hours for the ganache to set.

Friday, June 20, 2008

houston, the sprinkles have landed.

Wow...I really am sick. Sick. In. The. Brain. It's 2am, and what am I doing? Baking, of course. I realized that I wanted to take over something delicious to Elizabeth's tomorrow, since a bunch of us will be crashing her place and pool. :) I blame this late-night baking thing on genetics. Thanks, Mom. ;) Seriously, though, when I was little, my mom watched "Dolores Claiborne" one night while I was asleep. I don't know how familiar you all are with this movie, but in the opening scene, Dolores Claiborne, played by Kathy Bates, murders this woman by hurling a rolling pin at her from the top of a stairway.

Rolling pin. Baking. Rolling pin. Pie crust. Rolling pin. APPLE PIE.

Needless to say, when I woke up the next morning, there were two beautiful, homemade pies gracing our kitchen. Oh, and my mom never did get past that rolling pin scene in the movie. True story.

So I decided to go all old school tonight and make these chocolate chip cookies by hand, as in not with a mixer. I am sure my housemates were pleased with this decision, since they all were fast asleep during this impromptu baking-frenzy. Creaming was an adventure, and thank goodness the butter was soft...or else I would've gotten myself into another carpal tunnel-baking situation. Never a good thing.

Also, is there anything more beautiful than a measuring cup packed evenly to the brim with brown sugar? That's perfection every time, folks. It's really hard to mess that up.

Side track, side track! I need to introduce Feets. And, yes, you've got that right...plural with an "s". :) Feets is my handy bowl who usually joins me in the morning, holding my cereal and milk. No, I do not usually name my kitchen utensils, but how is a bowl with feet just not screaming to be personified?

So I have to admit, there was an obscene amount of sprinkle-ing that went on tonight. I love love sprinkles, and, if I didn't get harassed for my deep love for them, I'd add them to everything I baked. My friend, Kevin, claims that sprinkles have no flavor and are virtually pointless. Well, isn't sugar a flavor? :) And if that isn't a suitable answer, then my explanation for tonight's intense sprinkle-age is that sprinkles lend a "happiness factor" to baking. That is, they can make even the ordinary baked good (i.e. chocolate chip cookie bar) so much more fun and desirable to eat! Also, sprinkles, much like peanut butter, are a Miracle Food. Basically, they are the salvation to many a traumatic episode in the kitchen. Cake looking blah with just icing on top? Add some sprinkles. Vanilla ice cream just not cutting it as a dessert for your guests? Add some sprinkles. Chocolate chip cookies need some cheering up??? You guessed it! Add some sprinkles! Let's take a look at some before and after pictures, shall we?

Look at that rainbow of color! And the best part about adding these sprinkles was that they sounded like jingle bells as they fell out of their glass demi-cup and onto the dough. :) See? There is a purpose for sprinkles!

Ohhh yeeeeah...and look at these beauties when they finally emerged from the oven...

In the words of my grandma...

hot damn.

I'm-All-Sprinkled-Out Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray.

In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In large bowl, beat butter, sugars, and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread dough into prepared pan. Evenly sprinkle sprinkles over dough.

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until cookie is golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares, and serve.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

sheila's almond cake

Mmmm, I love love cake. This cake was for a surprise going-away party for Sheila, a friend from my dorm last year. She's going to be studying abroad in Italy for the rest of the summer...luckkkkky! Anyway, word on the street was that Sheila's favorite cakes were carrot and almond. This important piece of information came from our source, Weston, Sheila's boyfriend. Anyway, in order to find this out, Weston asked Sheila what flavor cake she would want to have at her wedding. So slick, so sneaky...hehe. No, these two aren't engaged, but yes, they are pretty much adorable. :)

So after contemplating pros and cons for shredding 3 cups of baby carrots, I decided to make an almond cake for Sheila.
This cake actually looks a lot like the Strawberry Almond Cake I made a few weeks ago. However, looks can be deceiving! I used a totally different recipe...the cake is, in fact, almond cake, thanks to almond extract. Also...notice that lovely split-age going on there! My layering skills have gotten much better, and I am proud to say that these layers were pretty darn even. :) And what use are layers if there can't be some delish strawberry preserves smeared between them?

So I have to admit that this is one of my favorite pictures because I feel like the cake is sticking out its tongue. This cake's got some attitude going on here! And it has every reason to since it's reallllly really delicious! It was a hit at the party, and most importantly, Sheila loved it! Seriously, though, this cake came out super fluffy, which tasted great with the strawberry preserves and mountain of cream cheese frosting on top. Ohhhh, and the almonds. That were ever so precisely slivered by hand...individually. :) Yeeeah, I'm slightly obsessed, I know.

Sheila's Almond Cake
Adapted from "Simple White Cake"

1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup butter
4 eggs
4 tsp. almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup milk

Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe courtesy of Cathy

4 oz. butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 (12 oz.) jar strawberry preserves
about 3/4 cup almonds, slivered

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. Cut a piece of wax paper to fit onto the bottom of the pan. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Dust bottom and sides of pan with flour.

In mixer bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in almond extract. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in milk until batter is smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until top is browned and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

When cake is completely cool, slice into two 4.5x6.5-inch layers. Slice these two layers lengthwise, creating four layers total. Place one layer on a serving dish, and spread a third of the preserves over the cake. Top with second layer, and spread with half of remaining preserves. Top with third layer, and spread remaining preserves over the cake. Place fourth layer on cake-pile, and mountain-on cream cheese frosting. Top cake with slivered almonds.

Monday, June 16, 2008

chocolate raisin cheesecake

My grandpa has a running joke that everything would be better with raisins. You bake him chocolate chip cookies? It'd be better with raisins. Banana muffins? Better with raisins. So when I was flipping through cookbooks, searching for the perfect Father's Day dessert, I stumbled upon this recipe for a chocolate raisin cheesecake. And I decided that it just had to be baked!

So the crust of this cheesecake is what made it especially delicious. Basically, butter, flour, and cocoa were mixed up and patted onto the bottom of a springform pan, and it baked into this delish cake-like crust. Another surprising thing about this cheesecake...only one box of cream cheese was used! This caused the cheesecake to come out pretty thin, so the next time I make this, I'll probably add another box since I like my cheesecakes to have some height to them.

Oh oh OH! Let's sidetrack for a sec...BEHOLD! KitchenAid Mixer: Mixer of the Gods! My mom received this from my grandma for her birthday this past April. And basically, this thing is amazing, and it can do anything. It is my culinary hero. And when I am all grown-up, aka have my own kitchen in my own house, I definately want one of these things. But in green, of course. :)

Look at that beautiful paddle, that beautiful whip-age. Ahhh, it's a beautiful, beautiful thing. :)

But OK, enough of my ranting about the amazing-ness of the KitchenAid mixer. Back to cheesecake. This thing came out really good! It was a huge hit with my family (and my grandpa :), and we pretty much devoured the entire thing, and th
ere's only 8 of us...hehe.

Chocolate Raisin Cheesecake
Adapted from "Chocolate: Baking with the World's Best Ingredient"

For crust:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/4 cup white sugar

For filling:
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
2 eggs, beaten
6 tbsp. white sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup raisins
3 tbsp. chocolate chips

For topping:
3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp. corn syrup
3 tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Sift the flour and cocoa into a mixing bowl and stir in sugar. Using a spoon, work the butter into the flour mixture until it makes a firm dough. Press the dough into the base of an 8-inch springform pan. Prick all over with a fork and bake for 15 minutes.

Prepare filling: in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with the yogurt, eggs, and sugar until evenly mixed. Stir in the lemon zest, raisins, and chocolate chips.

Smooth the cream cheese mixture over the chocolate shortbread base and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the filling pale gold and just set. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Prepare topping: combine the chocolate, syrup, and butter in double boiler, stirring occasionally until melted. Pour the topping over the cheesecake, and let set. Remove the sides of the pan, slice, and devour. :)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I want to turn the whole thing upside down...

So this recipe for "Caramel Walnut Upside Down Banana Cake" has been haunting me for the past few weeks. And black bananas were beginning to pile up in my freezer, so I considered this to be a sign from the Baking Gods that the time had come to bake this cake. By the way, freezing bananas in a great way to keep them after they've gotten all black and ugly. When it comes time to use them, though, just unpeel, zap in the micro for a minute, and voila! You've got bananas that are ready to be whipped into something delicious.

As a warning, this cake is super super sweet. I didn't even use all of the sugar that the recipe called for, and I still needed a water chaser after eating a slice! The culprit of the intense sweetness-factor is the brown sugar-walnut glaze at the bottom of the pan, which is pictured above. The cake batter is dumped over this layer, and the gooey sweet topping is revealed when the cake is flipped over when cooled. Wow weee.....soooo so good. However, if you're not the hugest fan of super sweet desserts, mayhaps a dollop of whipped cream would help break up the sweetness. Also, important side note: this cake smells crazy delicious when baking! And when it comes out, you get...

...a delicious slab of yummy goodness. This cake was consumed in record time...48 hours among three girls! Pretty good, if I do say so myself. :)

Caramel Walnut Upside-Down Banana Cake
Adapted from Gourmet, March 2008

For topping:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp. dark corn syrup
3/4 cup walnut halves or pieces

For cake:
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1tsp.baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (2-3 large)
3 tbsp. sour cream
1 tbsp. rum
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare topping: spray a 9-inch round cake pan with 2-inch high sides with nonstick cooking spray. Bring butter, sugar, and corn syrup to boil in medium saucepan, stirring constantly until butter melts. Boil syrup 1 minute. Stir in nuts. Spread topping in prepared pan. Let topping cool completely.

Prepare cake: sift first 4 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugars in large bowl until well blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then mashed bananas, sour cream, rum, and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients in 2 additions just until combined. Spoon batter into pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Cut around cake. Place platter over pan. Holding pan and platter together, turn over. Let stand 5 minutes, then gently lift off pan. Cool at least 15 minutes for topping to set. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, June 13, 2008

rutabaga be mine?

So sometimes when I'm bored, I go to the grocery store and pick out the strangest-looking vegetable that I can find that I have no idea how to prepare. This week's vegetable-adventure of the week? The rutabaga. Which, to me, sounds like a bad joke or those jokes that use "Orange you glad..." Basically, the rutabaga was a culinary mystery to me. What does it taste like? Why does it resemble an abnormal growth? Why would one ever cook it on purpose? Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything helped answer some of my questions, though, describing the rutabaga as the "less attractive cousin of the turnip". Hmmm, doesn't sound too promising, huh?

So away I went peeling and chopping my rutabaga. Strangely, I found that it had wax all around it...maybe some strange method of preservation? After Google-ing, I found that my theory was correct. After rutabagas are harvested, they are dipped into hot wax for only a second, which keeps them fresh for a long time. Also, canning is another option if you are looking for another way to preserve your rutabaga harvest for those harsh winter months. :)

Not only is the rutabaga a pain in the bootay to peel, but you may, in fact, develop blisters or premature carpal tunnel from chopping it up. Believe me, if you threw a rutabaga at someone's head, it would leave a nasty lump and a pretty mean concussion, for that matter. Beware! This puppy is DENSE. Again, the question arose: why would anyone cook one of these Monstrosities on purpose? Not that I wasn't purposefully cooking or anything...heh.

Anyway, the recipe I used for my adventure was a mash of boiled rutabaga and carrots. Thankfully, I discovered a bag
of ready-to-eat carrot sticks in my fridge, since I was all chopped-out after tackling The Monstrosity. After the veggies were tender, I transferred them to the mix-master, pureed them up, buttered, salted, and peppered...

And TA-DA! A surprisingly delish rutabaga-carrot mash! No joke, these were actually reallllly good, and they tasted a lot like sweet potatoes. Will I ever be found cooking rutabaga again? Most likely not. But at least they came out delicious. :)

Carrotabaga Mash Monstrosity
Adapted from "Carrots and Rutabaga Mash"...from

1 lb. carrots, peeled and chopped
1 lb. rutabaga, peeled and chopped
4 tbsp. butter, softened
salt and pepper

Boil carrots and rutabaga together until just soft. Drain, and smash together with mix-master or food processor, until pureed. Mix in butter, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to serving dish, and enjoy

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

oreo peanut butter crumble cookies

OK, admit've dunked your Oreo in more than just milk. So what could be better than a peanut butter-dunked Oreo? Basically, they're made for each other and were the inspiration behind this cookie. Not that I'm never inspired by peanut butter, or anything...

So these cookies are a tribute to Father's Day, which is this Sunday. My Dad is probably the hugest male chocoholic that I not deny this man of his daily chocolate quota! Or else chaos will surely ensue. I am sure that he will love these cookies since he's also a huge peanut butter fan. Hmmm...could this love of peanut butter possibly be genetic? :) However, my Dad would be disappointed not only by the fact that I used creamy peanut butter for these cookies, but Meijer brand creamy peanut butter. Eeep...sorry Dad! His peanut butter of choice? Jif crunchy: the one with the blue cap.

The recipe I used to create these peanut butter monstrosities is a great basic recipe to keep, if you are a fan of making-up your own cookies with different toppings, mix-ins, and such. Basically, it's the Nestle Toll House Cookie recipe. Funny story on how I came across this high school chemistry teacher wanted to give us an extra credit assignment. So what better way to learn stoichiometry than by asking your students to double or half a chocolate chip cookie recipe and bring in the results for the class to taste-test? Obviously, this was my favorite unit of my chemistry class, and I am still wondering why CHEM 130 at The University of Michigan fails to recognize this important (and very worthwhile!) assignment. Gahhh, that darn "Michigan Difference"...

After messing around with this recipe over the years, I've made some alterations. I've decreased the butter to make the cookies more cake like, and also decreased the sugar, because, believe me, you will not miss it. Again, future dietitian coming out. Sorry. :) By the way, pictured above is the delicious peanut butter crumble that goes on top of these bars. Mmmmm.

So a weird quirk about me...I always always make my cookies in bar-form. I know, not at all traditional. But why is this a better cookie-making method? Let me count the ways...

1. Less mess - you only dirty one pan. Imagine all that time saved not washing all those baking sheets!
2. Less time - it only takes 20 minutes for 24 bar cookies to bake.
3. Deliciousness factor - bar cookies are denser than your humble round cookie.

4. Sometimes it is about appearances - bar cookies look professional and neat every time. I don't know about you, but my circle cookies rarely come out as nice, neat circles. Call me a perfectionist, but this bothers me.

Convinced? It's alright if you're not. But try making bar cookies, just once, and maybe then you'll be swayed. :)

Oreo Peanut Butter Crumble Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 stick butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs

For topping:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup peanut butter

1 cup Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray.

In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In large bowl, beat butter, sugars, and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually mix in flour mixture. Spread dough into prepared pan.

With fork, mix together flour and sugars. Cut in butter, and mix until crumbly. Stir in peanut butter. Sprinkle mixture over top of batter. Evenly distribute Oreo chunks over peanut butter crumbles, lightly pressing them into the dough.

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until cookie is golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares, and serve.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

give me a brownie and no one will get hurt...

Sometimes, when the weather is hot and sticky, all you want is an ooey, gooey, sticky brownie to go along with the weather. I made these brownies Friday night, after watching "Batman Begins" with Leah. OK, I'll be truthful...I actually fell asleep during the movie (I'm not the most dedicated action movie fan...). But a half hour's sleep was all I needed to get rejuvenated for some hard-core baking at 1am! Which is the best time to bake, by the way. I highly recommend busting out your mix-master late late into the night...errr, into the wee hours of the morning.

So here I was, mixing-up brownies...and not even checking to make sure I had all the ingredients before I began. Good thing I'm a champion substituter, because I kept my cool when I realized that I wouldn't have enough cocoa powder. However, caramel swirled chocolate chips saved the night. And they melted beautifully, too.

OK, so let's sidetrack for a sec and talk about peanut butter. I promise that this will relate to brownies, in time. So I love peanut butter, I'm not gonna lie. Let's cut right to the chase: it's amazing. It's smooth, it's creamy, it's delicious. Basically, it's the Miracle Food. It's a great protein source, and it has delicious mono-unsaturated fat to keep you satisfied. Just think of how low those triglyercide levels could go! Sorry, this is the future-dietitian in me coming out. :) But basically, peanut butter has the uncanny ability to make foods that are already crazy delicious even more delicious-er. And did I just say delicious-er? Yes, yes I did.

Back to brownies. Brownies are great. Gooey brownies are better. But brownies with peanut butter swirls cannot be sweeter. Basically I just dropped spoonfuls of peanut butter onto the batter, and swirled it into pretty designs with a knife. Super easy. This can also be done with other topping, like strawberry preserves, Nutella, and even cheesecake batter. Mmmm. And into the oven they went, and out came...

WOWEEEE YUMMY. Look at that decadent denseness going on there. Beautiful, beautiful. I was lost, and now I have found the perfect brownie recipe...

Just look at that swirly goodness. Am I going overboard? Mayhaps. But I know that my friend, Anita, would agree with me 100% that you can never go overboard when you're dealing with chocolate and peanut butter.

Oh My Gawd Brownies
Adapted from "Fudgey Brownie Squares"

70g butter
70g cocoa powder
100g chocolate chips
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
as much peanut butter as you desire

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8x8-inch pan with parchment paper.

Place butter, cocoa, and chocolate chips in the top of a medium double boiler. Stir until melted. Place chocolate mixture in medium bowl. Whisk in sugar. Mixture will appear grainy, but don't you worry about a thing! Every little thing is gonna be alright...

Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Whisk in vanilla, and then slowly whisk in the flour, a little at a time. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Drop spoonfuls of peanut butter over the batter. Swirl peanut butter into the batter with a knife. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove brownies from oven, and allow to cool to room temperature. However, it is not discouraged to eat them right then and there while warm. :)

*I apologize for using grams in this recipe. My advice: use a conversion site, like, and then weigh out your ingredients in ounces.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

garlicky olive focaccia

Disclaimer: I hate making bread. Yeast is always moody, rising always takes awhile, and kneading for 10 minutes just makes you get premature carpal tunnel. Yet here I am making focaccia...who would think?! However, today's crazily muggy weather must've helped out with the rising part, because I ended up with a beautiful loaf of crispy focaccia!

So there are a limited number of spices in my cupboard. In fact, I have a grand total of two spices. Being half Italian, naturally, these are basil and oregano. The recipe I used as a base called for fresh rosemary, so I just used 1 tsp. of dried basil instead. I also mixed in 2 generous tsps. of minced garlic to make the focaccia even more Italian-inspired. Whoa...did this all smell good or what. :)

So all of this gets happily mixed together and kneaded until super soft. Then you tuck it away in a well-oiled bowl, place it in a warm area while covered with a towel (muggy weather + top of hot oven = great rising conditions!), and say "goodnight" as your dough takes a half hour nap.

Nap time is a great time to make the focaccia topping. The following gets mixed up: thinly sliced sundried tomatoes, chopped olives, olive oil, salt, pepper, and, guess what? MORE garlic! When the dough is done rising, punch it down (get all your anger out!), and mold it into the shape you'd like. The delicious topping you just created is what goes on top of the molded dough...

Ohhh, looks good, huh? A humble baking sheet works just fine for cooking, though using a pizza stone would make the bottom crust extra crunchy. The dough can be molded as thin or thick as desired...but remember that a thick loaf will need to cook longer. You don't want to end up with doughy bread! :( Also, this recipe could easily be altered if you have different ingredients in your kitchen. Green olives and capers might be some delicious mix-ins, and pine nuts and carmelized onions would also taste amazing on top!

TA DA! Yum yum yum! While this focaccia is awesome eaten straight-up, I plan to make sandwiches out of it. My mom likes to make focaccia a lot, and she creates these crazy delicious sandwiches from them. All she does is slice the entire loaf in half, fills the insides with the goods (we like turkey lunchmeat, spinach, and swiss cheese), and heats it up in the oven until the cheese is melted and the sandwich is warm. And've got a great dinner sandwich that is even more delicious when dipped in soup! AND it's cheap, for all of you poor college students out there. ;)

Garlicky Olive Focaccia
Adapted from "Black Olive and Rosemary Focaccia"

For dough:
1 cup warm water (100-110 degrees)
1 tsp. white sugar
1 (.25 oz.) envelope rapid rise yeast
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. garlic, minced
2 3/4 cups bread flour (all-purpose works fine, too)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup black olives, pitted and chopped

For topping:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/8 cup black olives, chopped
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, sliced
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil.

Prepare dough: stir together the water, sugar, and yeast until dissolved. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tbsps. olive oil, 1 tsp. basil, 2 tsps. garlic, flour, and salt until dough forms. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. gently knead in the black olives during the last few minutes of kneading. Place into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes.

Deflate dough, and press onto prepared baking sheet. Prepare topping: toss olives, sundried tomatoes, and garlic with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Season with basil, and add salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange topping mixture over the dough, lightly pressing tomatoes and olives into dough.

Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.