banana bread cupcakes

February 12, 2011 § 8 Comments

Our freezer is full. Not just a little bit full, not just completely full, but is finally at that point where no matter how hard you push, and no matter how logically you reorganize, there is simply no physical space for that one last thing to fit. I’m not a huge freezer girl, but this is starting to cramp my style.

Part of the problem is that I seem to enjoy filling the freezer with awkwardly shaped objects and then leaving them there for several months. Last time I tried to shove one tiny tupperware into the freezer, a whole bunch of stuff fell out (bouncing wildly across the kitchen floor), and behind all of the clutter were those bananas I forgot about! And that is why we have no freezer space. So I had to use the bananas immediately.

I was looking for a recipe that would give me fluffy, cakelike cupcakes, and I completely missed the mark. These cupcakes are dense, moist and banana bread-y. Luckily that’s pretty delicious too. The cupcakes were cute and tasty, but the best variation was when I microwaved the ganache and poured the warm chocolate all over the extra little cake I made with leftover batter. If you don’t need to transport your dessert, definitely do it this way – just unwrap the cupcakes first to avoid accidentally eating the paper in your haste to devour the chocolate. Not that I would ever do that.

Banana Bread Cupcakes with Ganache – adapted from Martha Stewart
If you can serve this warm, you should seriously consider remelting the ganache and pouring it on top – it’s crazy good.
Yield: 12-14 cupcakes

Cupcakes:

    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    3/4 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
    1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 ripe bananas)
    2 large eggs
    1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Ganache:

    4 oz good-quality milk chocolate
    2 oz dark chocolate
    2.5 oz heavy cream, gently warmed
    2.5 tablespoons butter, warm room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture. In well, mix together butter, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Stir to incorporate flour mixture (do not overmix). Dividing evenly, spoon batter into muffin cups.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely on a wire rack.

For ganache, gently melt chocolate in microwave or on top of double boiler. Add cream and stir until smooth. Let sit until no longer warm, about 15 minutes. Gently whisk in butter, without stirring too vigorously so as to avoid forming air bubbles. Use immediately or wait for it to thicken over the next hour, depending on the consistency you want to work with.

supernatural brownies

November 7, 2010 § 23 Comments

It seems like every baker has that one perfect recipe for chocolate chip cookies, that they’re so confident in that they need never try another. I’m not generally capable of doing that, since I have a neurotic need to test a bazillion recipes – what if the next one is better? The world could end without me tasting the best possible cookie! When it comes to brownies, however, I have my winner. I guess that someone as serious about chocolate as I am would have to have identified its most perfect vehicle.

This recipe hits all my brownie requirements: dense and fudgy, but not because the batter is underbaked and gooey. They’re intensely chocolatey, so although I don’t actually expect other people to throw away money on fancy chocolate, it should be at least decent quality. The recipe also insists that you let them sit overnight before cutting into them. This is indeed tasty, but honestly who has the willpower? I promise they’re still incredible the day you bake them and absolve you of any guilt over premature brownie-eating.

So here are my favourite brownies: not compared against all other possible recipes, because once I found them, I made them exactly again and again. I’m not saying I’ll never try another recipe, but I haven’t yet.

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Supernatural Brownies – adapted from Chocolate: From Simple Cookies to Extravagant Showstoppers

    2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter, plus more for buttering pan
    8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I use around 65-70%)
    4 eggs
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 cup dark brown sugar, such as muscovado
    1 cup granulated sugar
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1 cup flour

Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking pan and line with buttered parchment paper or foil. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Gently melt butter and chocolate together in microwave, or on top of double boiler. Cool slightly. In a large bowl or mixer, whisk eggs. Whisk in salt, sugars and vanilla.

Whisk in melted chocolate mixture. Fold in flour just until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until shiny and beginning to crack on top. Cool in pan on rack. If you can stand the wait, cover the cooled brownies tightly with foil and store at room temperature overnight before cutting.

korova cookies

September 27, 2010 § 10 Comments

I think these cookies may have been one of the early reasons I started baking. I didn’t start because I loved the process of cooking – I had barely been in our kitchen and was pretty oblivious to what goes into making food. I did, however, love eating. And these cookies were startlingly good: dark chocolate and fleur de sel, leading to a long-lasting love affair with salty-sweet desserts (see how seriously I take food?). My stepfather gave me the recipe and, it being near Christmas, a few weeks later I dug through my Christmas stocking to find a jar of fleur de sel. I was thrilled. I guess I was a weird kid.

Anyhow, I thought this was my secret ultra-amazing cookie recipe until I discovered food blogs and realized that pretty much everyone has made these cookies. But if you haven’t yet, now’s your chance! They’re a bit crumbly but somehow still so buttery that they melt in your mouth, and have a strong dark chocolate flavour with just a hint of salt. I would hate to have to choose a favourite, but these might be it, and given the quantities of cookies I have eaten that’s pretty high praise.

A little part of me wants to hate this recipe, because the dough is insufferably difficult to work with and the unbaked cookies fall apart all over the place. But the instructions are full of encouraging remarks about how one shouldn’t worry over these things, and more importantly, the cookies are so very worth it. You just stick the crumbled bits back on, and everything comes together in the end. Could this be a metaphor for life? Um, probably somehow, I am not feeling particularly poetic today but I’m just going to go with it.

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Korova Cookies – from Paris Sweets

Yield: Supposedly 36 cookies, but I somehow only ever get 24…

    1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
    1/3 cup (30 grams) Dutch-Process cocoa (such as Van Houten or Valrhona)
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 stick equals ¼ pound of
    butter, or 113 grams)
    2/3 cup (120 grams) packed light brown sugar (dark is okay if that’s what you have)
    1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
    1/2 teaspoon Fleur de Sel salt or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    5 ounces (150 grams) good-quality bittersweet chocolate (65%-70%), chopped into small bits (I use Lindt 70% )

Sift the flour, cocoa, and baking soda together. Stir to combine and set aside.

Beat butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add brown sugar, white sugar, fleur de sel (or salt), and vanilla. Beat for another 2-3 minutes, until fluffy and light.

With a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula, mix in the dry ingredients until just combined. The dough will look crumbly, and for the best texture you should work it as little as possible. Add the chocolate pieces and mix only until incorporated.

Turn out the dough onto a smooth work surface and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, press the dough together and roll into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Lots of little bits will fall off, just press them back on and roll it all together. Try to make sure to press firmly or flatten the log in order to make sure there aren’t any air channels left. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour. (Wrapped airtight, the logs can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for 1 month.)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Working with a sharp thin-bladed knife, slice rounds that are 1/2-inch thick. Some of them will break, but don’t worry, they will still be delicious! Just stick the broken bits back on. Place the cookies on the prepared sheets leaving about 1 inch of space between each cookie.

Bake only one sheet of cookies at a time and bake each sheet for only 12 minutes. The cookies will not look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Let the cookies cool on the sheet until they’re only just warm, then transfer to a wire rack. The cookies will keep at room temperature, packed airtight, for up to 3 days.

crispy oatmeal cookies

September 7, 2010 § 4 Comments

Have you heard? There was a hurricane in my part of town, and I survived. A hurricane! Okay, maybe it wasn’t my town, or even my county, but still, my general area. I am so hardcore.

I prepared for this apocalyptic event as I always do (for those many apocalypses), by baking something impractical. At least if I’m going to be trapped inside all day with the rain, I will have something delicious to munch on. The other requirement was that I had to already have all the ingredients in the house, because I’m not going outside in any hurricane. The solution was crispy salted white chocolate oatmeal cookies – despite the exceedingly long name, the ingredient list was short! I even had a fancy bar of white chocolate to use, but I opened it to find a weensy little worm crawling around, and I wish I had a photo if only to document the look of extreme horror on my face.

Luckily I also had white chocolate disks, and cookies were promptly baking. These cookies are both delicious and unusual – they’re a departure from the typical soft and chewy oatmeal cookie, but instead are thin and crisp and nearly hollow, and they fall neatly in line with my love of all things salty. In the end, the hurricane only managed a bit of rain and then lots of sun the next day, rendering my cookies unnecessary, but somehow no one minded having them around.

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Crispy Salted White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies – from Smitten Kitchen
The dough here isn’t very salty, so don’t skip the sprinkling of salt on top. Also, use good white chocolate! The chips are usually artificial and kinda weird tasting.

Yield: 24 cookies

    1 cup all-purpose flour
    3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon table salt
    14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
    1 large egg
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
    6 ounces good-quality white chocolate bar, chopped
    1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt (like Maldon or fleur de sel), for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and table salt in a medium bowl.

Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down bowl again. Add flour mixture gradually and mix until just incorporated and smooth. Gradually add oats and white chocolate and mix until well incorporated.

Divide dough into 24 equal portions, each about 2 tablespoons. Roll between palms into balls, then place on lined baking sheets about 2 1/2 inches apart. Using fingertips, gently press down each ball to about 3/4-inch thickness.

Sprinkle a few flakes of sea salt on each cookie. Bake until cookies are deep golden brown, about 13 to 16 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool.

chocolate blueberry clusters

August 8, 2010 § 4 Comments


I’ve been away from this little blog for so long! And although I’m not sure anyone else out there has noticed, I’ve missed it. First I was away in San Antonio, eating gargantuan plates heaped with cheese and sour cream and salsa, and oh my things there are a bit more spicy than I’m used to. Then I was away at my dad’s cottage, in near isolation from the outside world. That was lovely. And once I recovered from the Texas food coma (this took several days) I was ready to bake again! But baking in a cottage environment is no easy task, although of course I unwisely attempted it.

The main problem is that the kitchen isn’t stocked for baking, because I use it one week a year, and even I am not quite crazy enough to buy a set of cake pans and spices for that amount of time (I almost cracked and bought a muffin tin, but restrained myself in time!). Instead I had to look around and make do with what we had, which luckily for me, was incredible, tiny wild blueberries, which were some of the prettiest fruit I’ve seen. They were so fresh and flavourful it seemed like a waste to bake with them – who would appreciate their delicacy once they were mushy inside a muffin? Instead I made the simplest dessert ever: chocolate covered blueberries. They’re ugly but delicious, the chocolate crackles and the blueberries burst and together they’re a perfect combination. They were so popular with the family that my ever-mature father took to calling it ‘blueberry poop’ in the hopes of dissuading the rest of us from eating them. Sadly for him, this brilliant tactic did not work.

Chocolate Blueberry Clusters
If you’re going to be serious about this, you should temper the chocolate, but that would defeat the whole simplicity point and I really couldn’t be bothered. Instead, just store them in the fridge.

    1/2 cup wild blueberries
    80 grams good-quality dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Melt chocolate very gently in the microwave. Stir in blueberries. With a spoon, scoop out clusters of blueberries onto prepared sheet. Refrigerate until set. Transfer to airtight container and store in refrigerator (unless you tempered the chocolate). Keeps for 2-3 days, but probably no more since the fruit is fresh.

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