Saturday, November 23, 2013

Toffee-Topped Pumpkin Blondies

 I'm sorry if you're getting sick of all the pumpkin recipes on here. I promise it'll only last until next week (Thanksgiving, which in my opinion marks the official start of Christmas cookie season!). The last couple of months of the year are always insane, with tests, concerts, holiday parties, and of course, lots of delicious food. On Thursday, I took an hour out to just bake whatever I wanted to, and this was what I came up with.
These blondies are a combination of everything good. Pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice make them reminiscent of my favorite Starbucks drink, and the addition of chocolate makes anything better. The toffee bits sprinkled over the top give them a delicious crunchy layer that makes them irresistible. I snuck some into school for friends, and they were far gone by the end of the day.
Toffee-Topped Pumpkin Blondies
(heavily adapted from The Domestic Rebel)

2/3 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup toffee baking bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8″ baking pan; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt and stir until a dough has formed (it may seem thick for blondie dough; no worries). Stir in the chocolate chips. If the dough is still warm, they may start to melt - that's perfectly okay, a little chocolate swirl never hurt anybody!
Spread the mixture into your prepared pan. Sprinkle the top evenly with the toffee bits. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out mostly clean. Cool completely before cutting into squares. (Although they will smell incredible warm out of the oven, don't try to cut them until they're cooled - trust me!)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Traditional Financiers

 Financiers are my new favorite thing. Ever. I bet you're dying to know why, so here's a list (partly because I like lists, but also partly because my SAT-practice-test-brain can't handle much more than that right now).
1. They are chewy with crisp edges, which is always lovely.
2. They have a wonderfully nutty flavor from the almonds and browned butter in them.
3. They are just about the most perfect snack to have with a cup of tea or coffee.
4. They are the namesake of one of my favorite bakeries
5. They gave me an excuse to use one of my new baking molds I bought in France this summer (because let's be honest here, what isn't better when it comes from France?).
6. They are insanely easy to make.
I baked the extra batter in tiny tart pans for an even more bite-sized treat
 I totally wasn't kidding about #6. The batter for these comes together in the time it takes to preheat the oven, and you can have a perfect snack, dessert, or breakfast (because I won't judge you) in under half an hour. When isn't that a good thing?
 These are also perfect for tons of different variations. Sick of making almond-flour-everything? Substitute ground pistachios (plus you'll get a lovely light green color). Want something fruity? Thrown in some berries. Something richer? Chocolate chips would be delicious. Anyway you make them, they're quick, easy, and will be gone in less time than it took to throw them together.
 Traditional Financiers 

1/2 cup + 1-1/2 T. (120 g) sugar
1/4 cup + 1 T. (40 g) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 t. (60 g) almond meal
100 g egg whites (from about 3 large eggs)
1/2 cup (100 g) unsalted butter, browned (still hot)

Preheat oven to 425F degrees, and butter 12 financier molds, roughly 1-1/4" x 2-1/4". (My tin only makes 7 financiers - if yours is like this, either set aside batter and wait to use the tin again or bake in a mini muffin tin or mini tart pans.) Refrigerate buttered tin.
Sift together sugar, flour and almond meal into a medium bowl.
Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in egg whites; whisk together by hand until ingredients have been combined.
While still hot, slowly pour browned butter into batter, simultaneously whisking the batter until combined.
Evenly distribute batter among molds or mini-muffin tin wells, leaving about 1/8" of space from the rim.
Lower oven temperature to 350F degrees, and bake on the center rake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool unmolded financiers on a wire rack.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Nutella-Swirled Pumpkin Bread

When it comes to fall, pumpkin bread is one of those things that never gets old. As food bloggers, it's our job to come up with a million and one variations on classics, and in my opinion, Nutella makes just about everything exponentially better. When I saw a Nutella-infused pumpkin bread, I figured, why not?
This cake is tender and moist, and the pumpkin flavor isn't too strong. There's a huge amount of Nutella in here, but that's what makes it so delicious and gooey. It's a new fall classic, if that's possible. 
Whenever I bake anything that isn't super messy, I bring some of it into school to share with a friend or two. Last week, I had a few friends complain that they never got sugary goodie bags - needy people! ;) - so this was their reward for waiting so long. I think it was worth it.

Nutella-Swirled Pumpkin Bread

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup water
1 cup unsweetened canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
roughly 1/2 cup Nutella (or other chocolate hazelnut spread)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 4 mini loaf pans with cooking spray. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, water, pumpkin, eggs, and extracts. Whisk until smooth and combined.
Slowly stir in the flour mixture. Mix until ingredients are combined.
Pour the batter into the mini loaf pans, making sure batter is evenly divided. Drop 2 heaping tablespoons of Nutella onto each loaf pan. Swirl the Nutella into the pumpkin batter with a knife. Place the loaf pans onto a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Place the loaf pans on a wire rack. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then carefully remove the loaves. Cool completely before slicing.

*Note-You can make regular size loaves. This recipe should make 2 8×4 loaves. Adjust baking time to about 60 minutes.