Saturday, April 27, 2013

S'more Brownies (guest post)

     I had the honor of posting these s'more brownies on my friend Dru's blog, Teenage Cakeland! Check out my guest post (and the great recipe) here.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Blondies

     Some of the people I enjoy baking for the most are my friends. Yes, I like giving them yummy things, but it's also nice to occasionally have critics who will love just about anything I make. When I bake for a big group of fellow teenagers, I generally keep it pretty simple - not too many fancy layers or flaky pastries - that way, I know everything will disappear quickly!
     I'm in AP World History this year, which... well, it's not the easiest course (to say the least). My teacher has been having some review sessions after school in preparation for the AP exam in 3 (!!!!) weeks, and I decided that snacks were in order. As long as we were struggling over which Chinese dynasty had which rulers, we might as well have sweets.
     A couple of weeks ago I made s'more brownies, which everybody loved. This week, I decided to keep with the bar cookie theme - bar cookies are quick to bake, with no scooping of individual cookies, and not messy to serve - but something less chocolatey. Enter blondies.
     These are delicious blondies, chock full of butterscotch chips and melty pieces of chocolate. I had to add in an extra egg to the batter because it was too dry (my version of the recipe is below), and it resulted in a blondie that is the perfect combination of chewy and cakey. I love these, and so does my family - I'll find out tomorrow what my classmates think of them ;)
Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Blondies
(adapted from Hershey's Kitchens)

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar  
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
3  eggs 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1-3/4 cups (11-oz. pkg.) butterscotch chips 
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in large bowl until creamy (I did this by hand). Add eggs; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in butterscotch chips and nuts, if desired. Spread in prepared pan.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until top is golden brown and center is set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.
   -Makes 24 to 36 bars, depending on how big you cut them.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bakery-Style Chocolate Chunk Muffins

     Remember my Bakery-Style Blueberry Muffins? These are a lot like those - the same big, crunchy top, the same buttery flavor and tender crumb. In my opinion, though, these are even better than blueberry muffins. Because these have chocolate instead of fruit. And that kinda always makes breakfast better.
    I just realized how many muffin posts I have had recently, but these muffins were kind of necessary (please understand that when I say necessary, I'm saying that as a 15-year-old girl who really likes chocolate). I spent Easter in Brazil with my mom's side of the family, and Brazilians have an Easter tradition of giving each other giant chocolate eggs. By giant I literally mean about the size of my head - and, due to the fact that I have quite a big family, I came home with 8 giant chocolate eggs. Thank you airport security for not taking away my Easter candy, even when one of my suitcases was devoted entirely to chocolate.
    When I got home, I realized that I needed to find some recipes to use up the chocolate, and fast - my parents and I couldn't possibly eat all of that chocolate! I decided to start with a classic, and I'm so glad I did.
Bakery-Style Chocolate Chunk Muffins
(slightly adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction)

 3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs, room temperature preferred
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk (skim, 1%, almond, rice, soy are all ok – room temperature preferred)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 cup milk chocolate chunks
coarse or pearl sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Spray 18 muffin cups with non-stick spray or line with muffin liners. Set aside.
In a large bowl, gently toss together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix until all dry ingredients are combined. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until combined. Mix in milk, oil, and vanilla. Mixture will be pale and yellow. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix everything together by hand with a wooden spoon. Avoid over-mixing. Gently mix until all the flour is off the bottom of the bowl and no big pockets of flour remain. The batter will be VERY thick and somewhat lumpy. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, filling all the way to the top. Top with a sprinkle of coarse or pearl sugar, if preferred. Bake at 425F degrees for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 and continue to bake for 18 minutes until tops are lightly golden and centers appear set.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes in pan before enjoying.
     -Makes 18 muffins

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Dulce de Leche Swirl Muffins

    Dulce de leche is an absolute classic dessert in Brazil. It's often served after lunch with slices of mild cheese or guava paste - as weird as the combination may sound, it's delicious. When I was in Brazil earlier this year, I wanted to make my family something wholly American - muffins! - but still bring in one of their favorite desserts.
   These muffins are the perfect combination of indulgent and hearty - they are fairly dense and feel substantial enough to have for breakfast, but the dulce de leche makes them sweet enough to eat for dessert if you wish (although in my opinion, I would rather save them to use as an excuse to eat dulce de leche for breakfast!)
    This is a simple batter which I mixed up by hand. After being divided into muffin tins, swirl in a liberal amount of dulce de leche (or your favorite sweet spread), bake and enjoy! They are lovely enjoyed on a weekend morning, weekday afternoon, or just about any other time you could use a bite of a sticky-sweet goodie.
Dulce de Leche Swirl Muffins
(adapted from Baking Bites

10 tbsp butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
dulce de leche, about 1/3 cup (if you can find it, use the Brazilian kind - it's a bit thicker)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners.
Cream together butter and sugar until light, 2 minutes. Add in eggs one at a time, until fully incorporated. Don’t worry if the batter doesn’t look smooth. Add vanilla. Stir in flour, salt and baking powder until batter is uniform and no flour remains.
Fill each muffin liner evenly with batter. They should be 3/4 full, if you’re not using a scoop. Top each cake with 1 1/2 tsp dulce de leche. Swirl dulce de leche in with a toothpick, making sure to fold a bit of batter up over it.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out fairly clean (it may have a streak of dulce de leche on it, which is perfectly fine).
Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
   -makes 12 muffins

Thursday, April 11, 2013

TWD Rewind: {Salted} Best Ever Brownies

     I love all of the variations on brownies bakers come up with every day. They're indulgent, delicious, and totally new - I even have a batch of chunky s'more brownies cooling on my counter right now. But sometimes you just need a classic brownie.
     This might be my new go-to recipe. While they do take longer to make than my old recipe, they are so, so worth it.
     I know brownie texture is a controversial topic with many people - some like them like cake, some like them as dense as fudge. I think this is the perfect balance between the two. The mixture of chocolates gives them a great flavor, too. I sprinkled quite a bit of fleur de sel on top of the pan of batter before baking, which enhances the deep chocolatey flavor. You can expect to see my own variations on this recipe coming up!
   The recipe can be found on the host's blog from a Tuesdays with Dorie I missed back in November.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cream Puffs, Eclairs, and More! (class at the International Culinary Center)

sprinkling cheese on unbaked gougères
     Happy Sunday! A few years ago, I tried making my own croquembouche a few years ago (a mini, chocolate one, granted), and it was delicious, but it wasn't great. It also didn't look all that wonderful, and as I'm starting to get more into the culinary world, I know presentation is super important. I figured what better way to improve my choux pastry technique then to take a class at the International Culinary Center! Living in New York, I'm lucky enough to have access to wonderful culinary schools, but this was my first time taking a class here.
gougères and profiterole shells, ready for the oven
    The school's "Cream Puffs, Eclairs, and More" class was overall a great experience. We weren't able to make everything that was in the little recipe booklet we were given at the start of class, but we were taught the basics needed to recreate all the recipes.
piping the filling of the Paris-Brest
     The class started off with an introduction to choux pastry and the basic chemistry behind it - leavening, flavoring, etc. Our head instructor was Chef Christopher Ciresi, who has worked as the pastry chef at the Plaza Hotel. He was great at explaining and started with the real basics, without assuming we had done this kind of thing before. He then demonstrated how to fill a Paris-Brest, gave us a pre-baked one and some hazelnut praliné pastry cream, and we each got to fill our own to take home.
         He then demonstrated how to make choux pastry and explained flavoring techniques. We split into partners and got to make it ourselves - we piped half of the dough into plain puffs to be used later on, and the other half we flavored with gruyere cheese, salt, pepper and paprika to make gougères. Chef showed us how to pipe the right way to get perfect dollops.
my finished Paris-Brest
      Once our puffs were in the oven, we were split into 3 groups to make éclairs. We were given pre-baked choux pastry, pastry cream and fondant for topping them, and each group was assigned either chocolate, vanilla or coffee as flavoring. This part of the class was more about the technique behind filling and glazing, rather than the actual making of the pastry or pastry cream.
    We then had a demonstration on how the pastry cream had been made, in addition to instruction on how to flavor it with extracts, liquors and fruit purees. Finally, we got to snack on our gougères and plate our plain puffs with some crème anglaise ice cream chef had made (he also demonstrated how to make this). The rest of the pastries were then divided up into bakery boxes for us to bring home.
some of the éclairs I brought home - vanilla, coffee, and the barely-visible one is chocolate
    Overall, this class was a lot of fun and I learned a lot from it. It is true that you don't get to make everything you bring home, but you get the foundations to replicate it, and you do get to assemble everything. I even came home with a bag full of unfilled cream puffs (we never actually made cream puffs, just the shells, which we used for profiteroles) and a wrapped-up bag of gougère dough I had made, for me to bake when I want to.
     I really liked that the chef wasn't only there to do what the description of the class stated - he taught us some extra tidbits, like how to make the chocolate sauce for profiteroles, and discussed the pastry industry with us quite a bit. He gave us his opinion on pastry school and internships, which are really helpful for somebody like me trying to get started in the industry.
   International Culinary Center, I'll be back! :)

*disclaimer: I didn't take most of these pictures - I got them from my baking partner during the class, because my phone ran out of battery just as I started taking pictures (just my luck, right?!)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Gluten-Free Fig Scones

    Since my mom was diagnosed with celiac disease a few years ago, I have done my best to recreate her favorite desserts. While it is great to succeed in making her favorite German chocolate cake or fruit tart, sometimes I forget about the everyday treats she misses out on due to her gluten allergy. Scones are one of her favorite baked goods, and a few weeks ago, I realized that I had never made them gluten-free for her. 
    I decided to take a basic gluten-free scone recipe and substitute the fruit it called for for dried figs, which we had around and are one of our favorites. This recipe worked out great: the scones were sweet and slightly crumbly, but also, as is so important in a scone, flaky! This is a great basic scone recipe, so feel free to adapt the spices and add-ins to your liking. Stay tuned for more variations...
Gluten-Free Fig Scones
(adapted from King Arthur Flour)

1 3/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
3/4 cup dried figs, roughly chopped (leave some pretty big pieces)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup cold milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
sparkling or cinnamon sugar, for topping (I just used regular sugar)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a divided scone pan, or grease (or line with parchment) a baking sheet.
Whisk together the flour or flour blend, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, and nutmeg. 
Work in the cold butter till the mixture is crumbly. 
Stir in the figs.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla till frothy.
Add to the dry ingredients, stirring till well blended. The dough should be cohesive and very sticky.
Drop dough by the 1/3-cupful into the scone pan or onto the baking sheet. Let the scones rest for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle the scones with sparkling sugar or cinnamon sugar, if desired. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, till golden brown. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes or so before serving. Best enjoyed warm, with butter and jam.
   -makes 8 scones

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

5-Ingredient Hazelnut Ice Cream

     Let me start off by saying sorry for the absence. I went to Brazil for my spring break to spend time with family, and actually managed to get quite a lot of baking done with my cousins; but, I definitely didn't have the time/concentration for blogging! I did take pictures, though, so lots of recipes to come...
   This is a simple recipe that I made a while ago to have with some chocolate macarons for dessert. The flavors aren't too complicated, which can be nice sometimes - it just tastes like hazelnut, with the creamy goodness of frozen custard! While this recipe does require cooking the custard mixture (this is not a whipped-cream-based one), it has only 5 ingredients and comes together quickly. I loved that it was chock-full of hazelnuts; it makes it perfect for eating in small scoops with cookies. If, however, you want a creamier or smoother ice cream, you can reduce the quantity of hazelnuts (I think it would be great with half the amount of hazelnuts, chopped in larger pieces).
5-Ingredient Hazelnut Ice Cream
(adapted from Emeril for Food Network)
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts
4 cups half-and-half
1 cup granulated sugar
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the hazelnuts on the baking sheet and roast until golden, about 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Chop the nuts (my mom was kind enough to finely chop them for me!) and set aside.
In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the half-and-half and sugar. Bring to a simmer. In a small mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Add 1 cup of the hot liquid to the egg yolks and whisk until smooth. Add the yolk mixture to the saucepan of liquid and whisk until incorporated. Bring the liquid back to simmer and continue to cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.
Pour the mixture into a glass bowl and stir in the vanilla. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the mixture. This will prevent a skin from forming while cooling. Cool the mixture completely. Stir in the nuts. Process the mixture in an ice cream machine until creamy and thick, usually about 20 minutes (but depends on the machine). Freeze until ready to eat.