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Entries in recipes (566)

Thursday
Sep192013

Nacho Mamma's Cake: Nacho Cakelets inspired by Bake and Destroy

Nacho cake.

This is nacho mamma's cake. Well, unless that is your mom is prone to making savory nacho cake. 

(crickets)

Listen. My bloggy BFF Natalie of Bake & Destroy has a book out. Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad VegansThis book is totally vegan, but I don't care about that. What I do care about, and what is even more important, is that it is wonderful. When the book came, I all but had to restrain myself from doing a happy dance. 

 It's funny, it's creative, it's edgy, it's covered in tattoo art...just like Natalie. It's illustrated by Betty Turbo. There's a blurb on the back written by...well, me. Awesome!

So when her publicist (I love casually mentioning how my friends have publicists) contacted me to see if I'd help promote the book by posting a recipe on my site, I said of course. Because Natalie is pretty awesome and she's always supportive of what I do. 

The recipe for Nacho Cupcakes caught my eye right away, because it sounded...interesting. And I like keeping things interesting.

If you're expecting a real nacho-infused cake, think again. As the headnote reads, 

"technically this is a muffin. I think I just enjoy the horrified look on people’s faces when I say things like, “Have you tried the nacho cupcake?” Sadistic. Anyway, serve these with a bean salad and a side of guacamole and you’ve got yourself a fiesta. Better yet, bake the muffins and let your guests top their own!"

Now. I don't know why exactly, but probably because I couldn't find cupcake liners at the moment of baking, but I baked the cornbread batter in a 9x13 inch pan instead of as cupcakes, and treated them as cakelets. I chose my own adventure with the decoration, garnishing with "cheez" sauce, green chile (I'm in New Mexico at the moment, and when in Rome...), corn, salsa, and...of course, a nacho chip on top. 

These are a wonderful snack cake, and could even make a nice light lunch with a salad. A candy salad, that is!

Nacho cake

Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans

Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (235 ml) soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup (127 g) yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon (14 g) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium-size jalapeños, diced with seeds
  • ⅓ cup (50 g) corn kernels (thawed, if frozen)
  • ¼ cup (60 g) blended silken tofu
  • ⅓ cup (67 g) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
  • Unhydrogenated vegetable shortening, for greasing pan

TOPPINGS:

  • 1 (15-ounce [425 g]) can refried beans
  • Sliced olives
  • Additional jalapeño slices, ground seitan, guacamole, etc. (optional)
  • Tortilla chips
  • Nacho Chee-Zee Sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C) and grease a twelve-cup muffin pan or a 9x13 inch pan.
  2. In a measuring cup, combine the soy milk and apple cider vinegar and set aside to curdle for a few minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper. In another bowl, whisk together the soy milk mixture, jalapeños, corn, tofu, sugar and oil. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  4. Fill the prepared muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from the pan and let cool completely on wire rack.
  6. To nacho-fy the “cupcakes”: Warm the refried beans on your stovetop; spread a layer of beans on top of each muffin. Sprinkle with olives and additional peppers or other toppings, if desired. Top it with a tortilla chip, serve with Nacho Chee-Zee Sauce, and get ready to party.
Saturday
Sep142013

Triple Chip Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Dip from Peanut Butter Comfort

Cookie dough dip

When I think of peanut butter, visions of happiness, butterflies, unicorns prancing, and cotton candy clouds dance in my head. I love the stuff that much.

So when I received the book Peanut Butter Comfort: Recipes for Breakfasts, Brownies, Cakes, Cookies, Candies, and Frozen Treats Featuring America's Favorite Spread, I was pretty psyched. Especially since I happened to have plenty of peanut butter around at the moment.

Naturally, I was drawn in pretty instantly by this recipe because it had pink thingies in the photos. But then, upon futher review, I found that the recipe was for something amazing: Triple Chip Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Dip. Like, OMG. That's a dip I can get into!

Cookie dough dip

Even better, the dough is egg free, so that dough can get right in your mouth.

What would one use cookie dough dip for, you ask? Well, that's kind of a dopey question because I really hope you already have some ideas. It would be a great, indulgent frosting, or a nice dip for graham crackers, or...you know, great by the spoonful. Yum.

Here's the magical recipe.

Peanut Butter Triple Chip Cookie Dough Dip

Adapted from Peanut Butter Comfort: Recipes for Breakfasts, Brownies, Cakes, Cookies, Candies, and Frozen Treats Featuring America's Favorite Spread

Makes 4 1/2 cups dip, or 2-3 servings (kidding)

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened to cool room temperature
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened to cool room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned whole rolled oats (not quick cook or instant)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup m&m candies--plain, peanut, or peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup butterscotch chips

Procedure

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese, peanut butter, and butter, mixing on high speed for 3 to 4 minutes until nice and smooth and creamy. Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl. 
  2. Add all the sugars and the vanilla, and beat for 2 to 3 minutes on medium high speed. Start slowly, then increase the speed to keep from having a sugar snowstorm. Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Add the oats and salt and beat until incorporated, 1 minute on medium high speed. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour, one tablespoon at a time, mixing after each addition. Only add enough to give it your desired dip consistency.
  4. Fold in the m&m candies and all those chocolate and other chips by hand or with a couple swipes of the mixer on low speed. Serve right away, or keep chilled. Keep this tastiness in the fridge for up to a week.
Monday
Sep092013

New Orleans Bread Pudding: Palace Cafe Recipe

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

I like bread pudding. But usually, "like" is about as far as my affection goes. I like it. I'll eat it. But I'm never like "yeah! Bread pudding!" and happy dancing about it or anything.

That changed when I tried bread pudding in New Orleans. I said to myself, "they get it here, man. They really get it." The texture is not so much like custardy, soaked bread as it is like velvet. It's so smooth. And they put this sauce on it which is as addictive as I imagine crystal meth to be. At just about every establishment at which I sampled bread pudding in New Orleans, it was one of those situations where I was like "OK, I'll have a bite" and then ended up eating the whole thing and scraping the spoon on the bottom wanting more. 

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

Upon inspection of a variety of recipes and talking to bakers from the area, I think I've pretty much figured out the secrets behind the bread pudding success in New Orleans: they basically double the butter, cream, and eggs, and add booze besides. And the results are stellar.

I'd like to try as many of these New Orleans bread pudding recipes as I can. Will you taste along with me? 

First up is the White Chocolate Bread Pudding from the Palace Cafe. It's owned by Dickie Brennan, a famed restaurateur in the area. 

This recipe intrigued me, quite frankly, because I had a lot of white chocolate on hand. 

White chocolate

I'll tell the truth: I made some changes. First, I halved the original recipe. I just didn't have 15 eggs on hand, and it seemed like it would make more bread pudding than two people needed in my household. 

Halved, the recipe worked great. The texture is like butter. It's so soft, and so moist, it practically oozes like a tres leches cake.

YES!

This is probably owing to the glaze. It seems like an obscene amount of liquid at first, but somehow the bread pudding absorbs it all. The white chocolate tastes wonderful with the dash of bourbon I took the liberty of adding to the recipe. Actually, after a few bites, everything in the world looks glorious.

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

Adapted from Palace Cafe: The Flavor of New Orleans - printable version here

6 servings

  • 1 loaf French bread (you are not going to use the whole thing, but have it on hand)
  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • 1 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces white chocolate, chopped (or use chips)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 7 egg yolks
  • A rather generous glug of bourbon

White Chocolate Sauce

  • 8 ounces white chocolate (broken into small pieces)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk

Procedure

  1. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. Divide it in half--you'll definitely use half, and you might use some of the rest of the cubes. If you don't, you can make croutons, yo. Place the half you're using in a large bowl. Set to the side.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13-inch pan. Set to the side.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat the whipping cream, milk, and sugar over medium heat. Dash in the salt. When hot, take off the heat and add the white chocolate pieces; stir until melted.
  4. Combine the whole eggs and egg yolks in a large bowl. Slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the eggs in a steady stream, whipping the eggs as you pour. If you wanna, add that glug of bourbon now. 
  5. Add the mixture to the bowl with the bread pieces.
  6. If the bread is positively swimming, add some more bread until the bread is covered, but not by much.
  7. White Chocolate Bread Pudding
  8. Feeling good? Now, transfer it to the prepared pan. The cubes of bread will poke up but it's really liquid-y.
  9. Using a spatula press down the bread so everything is absolutely saturated.
  10. White Chocolate Bread Pudding
  11. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until set and golden on top. You don't want brown, just lightly golden. 
  12. While it bakes, prepare the sauce. Bring the milk to a boil in a small sauce pan. Take off the heat and add white chocolate; stir until smooth and completely melted. It's going to be a fairly liquid sauce. White Chocolate Bread PuddingPour over the bread pudding right when it comes out of the oven. It may look like an obscene amount of liquid but the bread pudding will absorb it. White Chocolate Bread Pudding
  13. Let cool and enjoy. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Wednesday
Sep042013

SpyMom's Devil's Food Cake with Buttercream Frosting

Devil's food cake

There are many good things about moving out of your parents' house. You get to watch tv whenever you want, not be told to make your bed, and eat cupcakes for dinner if you wanna. And often, I wanna.

But one of the less awesome aspects of moving away from home is that if your mom is a great baker, you don't as often get to indulge in her delicious creations. 

But in an effort of maintaining a baking bond even from a fairly long distance, SpyMom recently sent over a recipe success with me, which I am in turn sharing with you. It's a Homemade devils food cake (from an old Fannie Farmer book), brought up to modern times with a generous coating of Magnolia Bakery's buttercream frosting recipe. As SpyMom says, "Imperfect looking but the taste was perfect." 

I disagree that it looks imperfect--those layers of tender-crumbed, moist chocolate cake beautifully held together with light blue tinted buttercream look perfect--and completely delicious--to me. Like a classic cake dream come true.

Here's the recipe.

Devil's food cake

Devil's Food Cake with Buttercream Frosting (Printable version here)

Makes 1 2-layer 8-inch cake

Adapted from recipes in The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook: Old-Fashioned Recipes From New York's Sweetest Bakery and The Fannie Farmer Cookbook

For the cake

  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

For the frosting

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 to 8 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees f. Butter and lightly flour two 8-inch round cake pans. Put the cocoa, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, and 3 tablespoons water in a small pan and cook over low heat until smooth and blended. 
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk. Set aside.
  3. Cream the butter, add the vanilla and 1/2 cup of the remaining sugar, and beat until light.  Beat in the egg yolks, and then add the cocoa mixture, beating well. Mix the flour, cream of tartar, salt, and baking soda together, add to the first mixture, and blend until smooth.
  4. Beat the egg whites separately until they are foamy. Slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold the whites into the rest of the batter.
  5. Spread in your prepared pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans for 5 minutes before turning on to racks to cool completely before frosting.
  6. To make the frosting, In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, 4 cups sugar, milk, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating for about 2 minutes after each addition, until icing reaches desired consistency; you may not need to add all the sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Tuesday
Aug272013

Peanut Butter Honey Banana Oatmeal Bars, with Love from Haydn

Haydn Bars

When it comes to cookbooks, are you attracted to the unusual ones? 

Well, you're not alone. I simply cannot pass by a rummage sale, secondhand store, or bookstore's dollar rack without checking out the unusual cookbooks they always seem to have.  I've found a few great ones this way, including my personal fave, Cooking in WetLeather (a biker recipe book). Yes, it exists. 

At a yard sale recently, I was purchasing a $10 sofa and this book caught my eye: Haydn in the Kitchen.

haydn2 haydn

Since I was already shelling out for the sofa, they gave it to me for free. Score!

As it turns out, this recipe book was put together by the Denver Symphony Guild to benefit the orchestra. Unfortunately, the recipes have little to do with famous composers, and the only way that they incorporated music was to call the chapters things like "Symphonic Variations", "Finales", and "Intermezzi". Nestled in the Intermezzi chapter was a recipe for Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars. 

I made a few changes to the recipe, one of which was using honey peanut butter, and then I added banana. Oh my, were they ever good. Sort of in the blondie family, but with a much more mellow, rounded flavor. The rich peanut butter with the golden, sunshine-y honey. haydn7 haydnbars2

The moist and gooey banana bits. The vaguely healthy tasting oats, adding a nice nuttiness. The slightly caramel-y taste from the brown sugar. All in a fairly dense bar cookie. They're very, very good. 

They certainly disappeared quickly in my house. Bet they'll disappear faster than a symphonic overture (is that a thing?) in yours, too. 

Haydn Bars

Makes 16 - printable version here.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup honey peanut butter (or, plain peanut butter with 1 teaspoon honey mixed in)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup quick cook oats
  • 1/2 a banana, cut into small pieces

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Cream the sugars, butter, and peanut butter until smooth (or as smooth as the chunky peanut butter will get). 
  3. Mix in the egg, milk, and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally to ensure that they're mixed fully.
  4. Stir in the rest of the ingredients all together, until combined.
  5. Spread in your prepared 8x8-inch pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden on top and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan, then slice into squares. These bars keep well for 3 to 4 days, well wrapped.
Wednesday
Aug212013

Chocolate Cookies With Real Pieces of Cookie Monster

Cookie monster cookies

As Aunts go, I am probably the worst and most evil one in the world. I realize that you probably think I am joking, but allow me to illustrate this statement with an example.

So. My young nephew, Dylan (code names: Dilly, Dil, Dillybar), age three, just loves a flavor of ice cream from Hoffman's Ice Cream called Cookie Monster. It's a blue ice cream with all sorts of cookies mashed into it. The last time I took him for ice cream, I asked if he knew why it was blue. He indicated that he did not in fact know, so I revealed "that's because it's made with real pieces of the Cookie Monster!".

Now, I'll tell you what happened then. Dylan stopped eating ice cream, and his lower lip kind of started trembling. I'll tell you the truth--he was closer to crying than not.

"Oh my god! I mean, gosh!" I said. " Aunt Jessie was just kidding. It's blue because it's cookie monster's favorite flavor!".

Thankfully, this weak save was sufficient and the happy ice cream twinkle came back into his eye and he continued eating. I did notice, however, that the next time we went to Hoffman's he ordered Mint Chocolate Chip. 

Now, don't tell my sister (Dylan's mother) because I'm sure that she will agree that this is proof that I am the absolute worst Aunt ever, not only because I scared her son but because I took him out for ice cream at a non-approved snack time. 

Chocolate Cookies

But since I apparently cannot learn my lesson, I made these chocolate cookies recently and couldn't resist adding some blue candy melts. You know, to give the look of real pieces of cookie monster melted into the batter. I'm dedicating them to young Dylan, and can't wait to tell him that they're made with real pieces of cookie monster.

Joking aside, these cookies are fantastic. They are surprisingly light in texture for their extreme chocolate to other ingredients ratio, but very flavorful. I added a dash of dark coffee to the mix to heighten the chocolate flavor, I trick I learned from the BAKED brownie recipe. It worked well.

This is a great cookie to have in your jar. And they taste great without the candy melts, too.

Chocolate Cookies

Chocolate Cookies With Optional Real Pieces of Cookie Monster

Makes about 24 - printable version here

  • 1 2/3 cups (10-oz. pkg.) Dark Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon strong brewed coffee (optional)
  • 1 healthy handful light blue candy melts

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 325° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the morsels in in a saucepan or in the microwave. If on the stovetop, stir frequently to prevent scorching. Set aside.
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl.
  4. Cream the  butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until smooth and light, 3 to 5 minutes.
  5. Add melted chocolate and mix well. Add egg and vanilla extract, mixing until well blended, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture, mixing just until blended. If you want, press a couple of blue candy melts into the cookies.
  6. Chocolate Cookies
  7. Shape into balls and place them on to your prepared baking sheets.
  8. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs and the tops have a cracked appearance.
  9. Chocolate Cookies
  10. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Wednesday
Aug212013

Double Trouble: Double Crust Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pie

Frisbee pie

Have you ever eaten a chocolate chip cookie and found yourself thinking “if only this had more carbohydrates...”?

If so, you're not alone, and boy, oh boy, do I have a recipe for you. Double Crust Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pie.

Cookie Pie

It starts with rich, decadent chocolate chip cookie dough that is given a bear-hug by a deliciously carbohydratey pie crust.

PieThis treat is truly a delight, and works beautifully when served a la mode. And by "a la mode" I mean with ice cream, lots and lots and lots and lots of it.

A perfect late summer treat. Enjoy!

pie

Double Crust Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pie

For the crust

 

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup water

For the filling

  • 16 ounces chocolate chip cookie dough
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water until mixture forms a ball. Divide dough in half, and shape into balls. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Roll out one of the balls of dough to about 10 inches in diameter. On top of this, pat the cookie dough into a circle, leaving about 1 ½ inches in diameter uncovered.
  3. Brush part of the egg wash around the uncovered diameter.
  4. Roll out the second round of dough to about 10 inches; place this on top of the cookie dough topped round, and press down on the sides, crimping the edges with your fingers or a fork.
  5. Poke the top of the dough several times with a fork for ventilation. Brush with the remaining egg wash.
  6. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden in the middle and medium- brown on the edges.
  7. Serve with ice cream.
Tuesday
Aug062013

Fat and Sweet: Roly Polies Recipe

Making Pie crust with Spymom

Growing up, when SpyMom brought out the pie plate and the rolling pin, the entire family got very excited. 

You may assume that it was because it was pie time.

I know what time it is.

But, well, you'd be wrong. Because although we weren't going to turn away one of SpyMom's pies, what we really craved were the precious bits created with the leftover scraps of dough, which she'd polka-dot with butter then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and then roll into spirals, baking them in the residual heat of the oven and presenting them to her hungry masses under the name Roly Poly. 

I have no idea why SpyMom called them Roly Polies--she said that she had started making them because that's how she'd been taught to use the leftover pie dough from a neighbor, when she was a girl. It's likely owing to their short and squat nature. After all, when I just now looked up the definition of "roly-poly" in the dictionary (it was there!), it said "A short plump person or thing."

Making Pie crust with Spymom

I don't know how to scientifically explain how such a simple thing as coating pie crust with butter, cinnamon, and sugar creates a treat with an almost crack-like addictive quality. But just take a bite. You'll lose yourself in the gooey midsection of this pie crust cookie-treat, which is soft, but lightly salty, and gooey. You'll want more. I guarantee it.

And to prove it, I will present evidence of how beloved these treats have become in my family. No longer are they the way to use up leftover pie crust: my mom will actually make up an extra batch just to make roly polies.

Making Pie crust with Spymom

Me, I'm just as happy cutting simple strips. You can see for yourself the next time you've got some extra pie crust rolling around--but be warned, you may be setting yourself up for a lifetime of craving.

Roly Polies

Ingredients

  • Leftover pie crust
  • Butter
  • Cinnamon
  • Light or dark brown, or granulated sugar

Is your oven already heated? If not, preheat it to 400 degrees F.

Making Pie crust with Spymom

Dot the crust all over with butter. Making Pie crust with Spymom

Now, coat it with cinnamon. If you want, give it a sprinkle of sugar, too. Making Pie crust with Spymom

Now, slice it into strips.

Making Pie crust with Spymom

And then roll them up.

Making Pie crust with Spymom

Place them on a greased baking sheet. Making Pie crust with Spymom

Bake for 5-10 minutes, or until golden.

Enjoy! Did you have any treats like this in your house while you were growing up?

Monday
Aug052013

Ingredient Availability Cake: Brown Sugar Congo Cake

Brown sugar congo cake

Something I really, truly love is the phenomenon of how recipes evolve over time. What makes a recipe change? I suppose a number of things play into it: modern tastes, ingredient availability, time constraints, technological advances. Sometimes all of these things. Sometimes just one. 

I bring this up because it's a very roundabout path that led me to sharing this cake recipe with you. 

Brown sugar congo cake

What happened first, many years ago, before I was a professional CakeSpy, was that a little boy brought Congo Bars (made by his mother perhaps) to a class event. A little girl who may have already taken a shine to the boy for SURE took a shine to these bars, and kept the recipe. When she went to college, she began baking, but the recipe changed because of her limited equipment and ingredients. One notable change, for the better, she thought, was swapping out vanilla for kahlua or Baileys or liqueur. It didn't hurt anything, she realized.

I'm not this girl, but I met her recently. She brought these Congo Bars to my book signing in Collegeville, PA, and was kind enough to share the recipe with me.

But then, the other day, when I pulled out the recipe, I realized there were several alterations I'd have to make. For one thing, the recipe didn't include how many eggs went into it, so I took a guess and decided on three, because I have a blondie recipe that has that many eggs. Why not?

Second, I realized that I only had one stick of butter; the recipe called for two. So I wondered...what would happen if I used half butter and half cream?

Brown sugar congo cake

Third, I decided that since I was messing with the formula anyhow, why not try making them more in the method of the Katharine Hepburn brownies from my book? So, I messed with the recipe again in that way.

The resulting recipe differed quite a bit from the delicious Congo Bars that were brought to the event, so I am going to save that recipe and share it with you another time. But I can say that while my result was very different, it was still pretty darned good. So here's the recipe as I made it, which I'll dub Brown Sugar Congo Cake.

Brown sugar congo cake

This light and fluffy cake is nicely chewy in the areas that have chocolate or gooey fillings, and it actually seems appropriate as a morning cake. I found it was especially lovely when topped with cream cheese or almond butter. 

Brown sugar congo cake

I should also tell you that the brown sugar I used was hard as a rock. But it wasn't a worry! All I did before making the recipe was heat the oven to 300, and then place the rock of brown sugar on a large plate and into the oven. After a few minutes the heat made it soften enough that I could break it up. Keep in mind, though, that this method must only be used pretty directly before baking, as the sugar will re-harden after an hour or so if not used. 

Brown sugar congo cake

Brown Sugar Congo Cake (Printable version here)

Makes 9 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • a hefty pinch of salt
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups brown sugar (light or dark. Your preference. I used light.)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp. Coffee Liqueur or any liqueur that strikes your fancy.  
  • 12 oz chocolate chips or discs (semi-sweet)
  • 1/2 cup toasted sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans

Procedure

  1. Preheat your oven to 345 degrees (yep-- not 350).
  2. Brown sugar congo cake
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients; set to the side. Grease (with BUTTER) an 8x8-inch pan very well, especially the corners.
  4. In a large saucepan over medium-low, melt together the butter and cream, until the butter has completely disappeared. Add the brown sugar, stirring until completely dissolved into the mixture. Remove from heat.
  5. Add eggs, and mix until smooth. Add the dry ingredients in 3 batches.
  6. Brown sugar congo cake
  7. Mix in chocolate chips and any other stuff you want to add.
  8. Brown sugar congo cake
  9. Pour mixture into pan and spread evenly.
  10. Brown sugar congo cake
  11. Bake in your preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until golden on top and a cake tester comes out mostly clean.
  12. Brown sugar congo cake
  13. Remove from oven. Let them cool, and serve! Great in the morning with cream cheese or almond or peanut butter; great at night with ice cream. 
Wednesday
Jul312013

Sweet Finish: Dessert Croutons Recipe 

Dessert Croutons

Recently, while making bread pudding, I found myself in posession of a unique problem: too many cubes of bread. The recipe I was using required about 5 cups of cubed day-old bread, and I had about 7 cups. It was a good bread, too: a loaf of Rubicon Bakery's cinnamon bread (something they make exclusively for Whole Foods, I just learned while looking at their website).

Homemade bread pudding

It's a very nice loaf of bread, so I didn't want to waste the cubes by throwing them out. But then again, it was too many cubes to use in the recipe...so what to do?

Homemade bread pudding

That's when it hit me. I would exactly what I would if it were a non-sweet bread: I'd make croutons. Only since this bread was already sweet, I wouldn't try to make them savory croutons for salads--I'd make them sweet croutons, for dessert toppings.

Dessert Croutons! Are you not shivering with sweet anticipation right now?

I looked at a homemade crouton recipe as a reference, and then set to tailoring the recipe to work as a sweet dish.

I was going to cover them with butter, but then I realized I had no butter. But I did have olive oil. I remember hearing a radio interview in which Alice Medrich gushes about the utter loveliness of olive oil on ice cream, so I thought...why not give this a try? If the dessert croutons are made with olive oil, maybe they'll work really nicely with ice cream. 

So, I preheated the oven then coated the cubes with some olive oil and gave them a gentle but thorough stir. Then, I dusted them with a little cinnamon sugar (why not?). 

Dessert Croutons

Then, I put them in a pan.

Dessert Croutons

Then, I baked 'em up, pausing to flip them over after about 8 minutes.

At about 16 minutes, I took them out. I let them cool for a while, then broke out the ice cream.

Dessert Croutons

Wait...I think I'll add some chocolate sauce, too. That never hurts anything. Plus, I reasoned, it would add a color contrast and help the croutons stick for a nice photo. I am, after all, a food blogger.

Dessert Croutons

Now let's add those croutons...

Dessert Croutons

YES! Just look at how the cinnamon swirl adds a pretty echoing color to the chocolate sauce. Look at how wonderfully golden and toasty they look. 

Upon tasing them, these croutons were proclaimed a rousing success. They're not as sweet as crumbled cookies or cake, but they act in the same manner as an ice cream topping: adding a little extra flavor and texture. The crunchiness was also more intense than that of a cookie or cake crumb, so it added a really nice contrast to the soft ice cream and chocolate sauce. The ideal moment was about 1/4 to 1/2 of the way in, when the croutons just started to become soft as they absorbed the ice cream and chocolate. Perfect. 

Dessert Croutons

The olive oil actually worked out excellently. It acted as a nice counterpart to the sweetness of the other toppings, and added a complexity to the other flavors--especially the chocolate. The glaze on the bread, too, contributed to the deliciousness: in the oven, it appeared to have melted into the bread, but upon crunching into one of the croutons, I learned that it actually formed a sort of sweet shellac all over them. It also made for a fascinating flavor combination with the olive oil.

While I am eager to try this again with butter, I have to say, I was really rewarded by the olive oil version. 

Dessert Croutons

Here's the recipe so you can try it out at home! Keep in mind since you're probably using this recipe with leftover bread, I am going to make it open ended for you. 

Dessert Croutons--a field guide (printable version here)

Ingredients

  • Cubed day old bread (at least a cup's worth, to make it worth your while)
  • Olive oil or melted butter--about 2 tablespoons per 1 cup of bread
  • Cinnamon and sugar, to taste 

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. While the oven preheats, put the cubed bread in a large bowl. Drizzle evenly with the olive oil or butter, stirring so that everything gets coated. You can add more if you feel that they're too dry. 
  3. Add cinnamon and sugar, if desired, and stir to coat.
  4. Transfer the cubes to a baking pan where they can lie in a single, flat layer. 
  5. Place in the preheated oven, and bake for anywhere between 15 and 25 minutes (it will vary depending on the bread you use). Turn the croutons about 8-10 minutes in, so that they will be browned evenly. You'll know they're done when they're golden and toasty.
  6. Remove from the oven and let cool before using. Store leftovers in an airtight container. They'll keep very well for a few weeks.

 

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