Monday, September 19, 2011

Peanut Butter (or Caramel) Mini Brownies

At a library book sale recently I saw The All-American Cookie Book languishing on a shelf.  I couldn’t believe no one had grabbed it yet and snatched that puppy up for myself.  I’d heard of this book and its author before, but hadn’t yet tried any of its recipes.   A quick flip through it and it wasn’t long before I had dozens of recipes that I wanted to try.  This week, though, I was going for something that wouldn’t make too many treats as we’re heading on vacation at the end of the week.  There’s nothing sadder than cookies or brownies that don’t fulfill their purpose.  This recipe made 24 mini brownies, just enough for us to keep a few and my co-workers to finish the rest.

This recipe might be a great one to make after Halloween when you have some leftover candies and are looking for something to do with them.  Why not stuff them into the middle of a brownie?  Be careful when you’re baking them as I slightly over-baked them.  Keep an eye on them - it’s probably better to slightly underbake them then keep them cooking for too long.  Another heads up – you definitely want the candies to be well-chilled.  Inserting them into the brownies will cause them to melt very quickly if they’re not cold enough.  Okay, enough with the fine print.  Bake these up and you won’t regret it.

Peanut Butter (or Caramel) Mini Brownies (adapted from All-American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett)

5 T. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped up
2 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped up
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 T. smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
24 Reese’s mini peanut butter cups or Rolos, chilled and unwrapped (I threw them in the freezer for about an hour before I baked)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Coat mini-muffin pan with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, microwave butter and chocolate on 50% power for 1 minute.  Stir well, then continue microwaving at 50% power at 30-second intervals.  Stop microwaving before the chocolate completely melts.

Stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture until well blended.  Let cool to warm.  In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.  Beat the egg and peanut butter into the chocolate mixture.  Add the vanilla and stir vigorously until the mixture is smooth and shiny.  Stir in the flour mixture until incorporated.  Spoon the batter into the mini-muffin cups, then set on a baking sheet.

Bake in the oven for 10-14 minutes, or until almost firm when pressed in the centers.  Immediately press 1 peanut butter cup or Rolo candy into the center until flush with the surface of the brownie. 

Transfer the muffin pans to a wire rack and let stand until the brownies are completely cooled.  Remove from pans gently.

Makes 24 mini-brownies.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Muffins

I wasn’t even planning to bake this Sunday as I already whipped up a batch of these for a Jersey Bites bbq on Saturday.  (Have you checked out Jersey Bites yet?  If not, definitely do so as it covers all food-related things going on in the Garden State and even has some articles by yours truly!). 

But this past Sunday was the first full day of football which meant that by 5 o’clock I’d been subjected to nearly 4 straights hours of pigskin prowess.  In an attempt to maintain my sanity I decided to see if I could find an easy muffin recipe so I could send Dennis off to work on Monday with a breakfast goodie.  My husband is the worst when it comes to breakfast.  His usual breakfast at work ranges from a granola bar to a cupcake from Crumbs.  I decided to straddle those two extremes with these muffins.  They want to be a doughnut, but they’re not fried so bonus points there.  I also subbed in some white whole-wheat flour in an attempt to make up for all of the sugar they’re covered in.  And they’re covered in a lot of sugar.  So if you’re looking for a (somewhat) healthier alternative to your normal morning doughnut, definitely give these a try.  You won’t be disappointed.

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Muffins (Adapted from Culinary in the Desert)

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup white whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg -- lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk

To top the muffins
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar (I used a mix of regular sugar and vanilla bean sugar from Savory Spice Shop)
1 t. ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, mix sugar, oil, egg, and milk; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Fill greased muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes or until muffins test done. Place melted butter in a small bowl; combine sugar and cinnamon in another bowl. Immediately after removing muffins from the oven, brush muffins with melted butter and roll in the sugar mixture.

Makes 9 muffins.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chocolate Malted Whopper Cookies

I’ve always loved Whoppers.  Something about the crunchy malt surrounded by chocolate made them something I looked forward to getting when I went trick-or-treating (many, many years ago).  These cookies combine those beloved Whoppers with some extra malted milk powder, cocoa and chocolate chips.  How can you turn down a cookie with all of those goodies?

These cookies came together pretty easily and they make a big batch.  I brought a bunch into work but had enough left over that I froze some.  In the original recipe it mentions that these would go great with coffee in the morning.  Hmm, I don’t know about that but Dennis said they do make an excellent match with ice cream.  And if you do have them for breakfast, don’t worry.  I won’t tell.

Chocolate Malted Whopper Cookies (from Baking by Dorie Greenspan)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup instant malted milk powder
1/4 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
2 cups malted milk balls, coarsely chopped (You can also put some saran wrap over them and smash with a mallet)
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.
Sift together flour, malted milk powder, cocoa, baking powder and salt - set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed for 3 minutes, until very smooth.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each one.
Beat in the vanilla.
Reduce mixer to low add 1/2 of the dry ingredients and mix well.
Pour in the milk & mix.  Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix well.
Put mixer on low and add in the malt balls and the chocolate.
Drop by rounded teaspoons 2" apart.
Bake for 11-13 minutes. Cookies are done when they’re puffed and slightly soft to the touch.
Makes about 36 cookies.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mexican Brownies

I was all set to whip up a no-bake recipe this weekend if Hurricane Irene knocked out our power.  We were lucky, though, as our block was one of the few in town that didn’t lose power or flood.  There’s nothing like passing houses with water-logged belongings piled out front that makes you realize how lucky you are. 

On Sunday, once the worst had passed and I was getting some serious cabin fever, I decided to see if I could find a brownie recipe that was a little different from what I normally bake.  I came across a recipe on the Food Network’s site from Aaron Sanchez – you may know him as one of the judges on Chopped.  Or are Dennis and I the only ones addicted to that show?  The recipe had stellar reviews so I decided to give it a try.

I was a little apprehensive about adding in chili powder and thought the spiciness might turn people off.  So I subbed in Ancho chili powder which has more smokiness than heat.  I added in a pinch of cayenne to bring in a little heat but I don’t think it was really noticeable.  My brownies ended up being less Mexican brownies and more brownies with hints of cinnamon and smokiness.  That wasn’t a problem though as my co-workers and Dennis gobbled them up.  The texture was great too – cakey and not dense, perfect for a treat to celebrate seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Mexican Brownies (adapted from Food Network)

2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground Mexican cinnamon (canela) (I just used regular cinnamon)
1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder
Pinch of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides. Press the paper into the corners of the pan and lightly grease the paper with butter.

Melt the 2 sticks of butter in a nonstick saucepan over medium-low heat; do not boil. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla to the saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.

Add the cocoa, flour, cinnamon, chili powder, salt and baking powder and mix until smooth. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out fudgy, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack, then use the parchment paper to lift out the brownies before slicing.