Sunday, July 26, 2015

Brownie Bread Pudding

These days the housewares department always has those big pictures with sayings. I know you all have seen them..The first that comes to mind is "live, love, laugh."  Even though the thought is nice, these items soon become just decorations in the house.  It is hard for me to picture someone going down their hallway, before going to work, reading these pictures so they can have the proper mind set. 

Then there is are ones that do not fit the person. I am very tempted at times to ask who actually bought those things, because is sure does not reflect the person's character that is living there. Perhaps they are trying to display some strange type of irony.  So, if you are stubborn and set in your ways, it is time to take down the picture/sign that says "think outside the box".

Well, here we are with something that fits that saying...brownie bread pudding. This recipe actually is made with day-old or stale brownies. Most of us do not have that problem, but if you want to create something a little more upscale than brownies without a great deal of effort, you should keep reading. To push the idea further, experimentation with cake should prove to be a good endeavor. If you have a lot of excess trimmings from leveling cakes or the centers that you have taken out of cupcakes to fill, this recipe is a great option.

The transformation of the dry crumbs of the chocolate brownie when baked with the vanilla custard is nothing short of amazing. They turn back to their fluffy state with a creamy twist from the custard.  Topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel, this dessert carries a unique blend of textures and flavors that keep you from putting down your spoon until you are completely done. 

I implemented the recipe for ramekins and still ended up with a lot of excess crumbs, so the listing below sticks to the original size of a 7x11 inch baking dish. Make sure you plan in advance if you do not have any stale brownies on hand.

Brownie Bread Pudding
adapted from Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe

3 eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) and 2 tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate (chopped)
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp finely ground coffee beans
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

Ingredients/Vanilla Custard
2 1/2 cups of half and half
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 eggs
2/3 cup sugar

vanilla ice cream

Start one day ahead to make the brownies. Prepare an 8 inch square pan by greasing the interior and lining the bottom with parchment. Grease the face up side of the parchment. Preheat the oven to
350 degrees.

Set up a double boiler over medium high heat. Fill the top pot with the butter and unsweetened chocolate. Let the mixture heat up and melt, stirring occasionally. Once all is melted, remove pan from heat and remove top pot. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the sugar, vanilla, eggs and ground coffee. Blend with whisk attachment on low speed. As the mixer is running, stream in the butter/chocolate mixture. Then turn off the mixer and remove the bowl.

Using another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and cocoa. Add 1/3 of the sifted ingredients to the chocolate batter and fold in with a spatula. Repeat this process until all the dry ingredients are folded into the batter. Lastly, add 1/4 cup of chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips on top. Place in oven until tester indicates done, this should take about 30 minutes. The brownies should be removed prior to the edges pulling away from the pan. Let cool completely in pan. Run a knife around the edge and invert onto a cutting board. Finely crumble the brownies in a shallow bowl or pan and let sit out uncovered overnight.

The next day, grease the interior of a 7x11 baking pan. Fill the pan with the brownie crumbs, making sure they cover the bottom evenly. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

In a medium size bowl, whisk the eggs together. Then stir in the sugar, half and half and vanilla.  Pour the mixture evenly over the brownie crumbs. Cover the pan with foil and let sit for 20 minutes. The brownie crumbs will soften and soak up the custard.

Then place the pan in the oven, leaving the foil on. During the baking process, the mixture will solidify, indicating that it is done baking. This should take about 55-60 minutes. Remove and let cool for about 15 minutes, then cut and serve each piece with topping of ice cream and caramel.

Tips and Notes:
1. If you want to just make the brownies to eat as is, reduce the flour by 2 tbs.

2. Since form is not important with the brownies, you can just tear pieces out of the pan after cooling and crumble. The inverting process is not required.

3. Since the brownies bake up nice and moist, it is important that you follow the process for creating "stale crumbs" otherwise, the soaking process will not work as well.
                                  **LAST YEAR:Chocolate Cherry Scones"

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Banana Fudge Bundt Cake

I am always making a tunnel in my bundt cakes for a little "extra" something in there. Bundt cakes are so versatile, it is all in what you want in a cake. Mix it up with swirling another cake batter in there, or tunneling it with something extra or just plain.

This particular one is banana with a tunnel of fudge. The one thing about getting away from banana
bread to make cake, flavoring is required. You can use the artificial flavoring, which is easily found or go the extra mile for true flavor with freeze dried powder. This is personal preference, but the extract delivers the most intense flavor.

I sometimes think that bundt cakes were invented for the society against frosting. These people are easily detected. They have the "lid" of frosting left on their plate with no cake remaining. This means the cake has to stand alone in flavor. Bundt cakes do just that.

So those that love these type of cakes, the door is open on this one. Split the recipe and add 1/2 a recipe for a chocolate bundt and swirl the batter together. Another option is to make it with mini chocolate chips. Lastly, swirled banana batter with peanut butter batter topped with fudge glaze and nuts. Now that I have you hungry, let's get down to this recipe....

Banana Fudge Bundt Cake
adapted from Kiss My Bundt (fudge tunnel my added twist)

1 very ripe banana
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup milk
1 tsp banana extract
3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks of butter
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 to 1/2 cup fudge spread

Prepare a 12 cup bundt pan by greasing the interior thoroughly and dusting with flour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together, beating at medium speed for 3 minutes. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Add one egg to butter/ sugar mixture and beat 30 seconds. Repeat the same process with the other eggs, incorporating them into the batter one at a time. Mix in the extracts, beating for about 3 minutes.

Fold in 1/3 of the sifted ingredients. Then stir in 3/4 cup of milk. Repeat the process, starting again with the sifted ingredients.  After the last addition of the dry ingredients, take out a small bowl and mash the banana in it.  The consistency should be smooth with some liquid. Fold into the batter until evenly distributed.

Spoon 2/3 of batter into pan and smooth the top. Fill a ziplock bag with the fudge.  Seal and place in hot water.  The cut off the corner and squeeze an even line in the center of the batter, moving in a circular direction with the pan. Once bag is empty, spoon the rest of the batter on top, making sure the fudge is completely covered.  Smooth the surface and place in oven.  Let bake for about 40 minutes or until tester (when inserted off center) comes out clean.

Place pan on cooling rack and let cool for 20 minutes.  Then invert onto rack. If cake resists,let cool another 5-10 minutes and try again.  Cool cake completely before serving.

Tips and notes:
1. The method of putting the filling on the batter keeps an air pocket from forming.  This happens when baking if big spoonfuls of the fudge is placed on the batter.

2.The fudge spread I bought was very thick, more so than peanut butter or Nutella.

3. The bottom of Bundt pans are the last to cool down. If you are havin issues with cake release try sitting the pan on a towel that has been soaked in cold water to speed up the process.
                           **LAST YEAR:Coconut Almond Topped Peach Pie**

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Peach Kolaches

I have been gathering recipes that include peaches for quite some time, however, the season is so short it is hard to fit all of them in. Which means I had to make a decision among the vast amount of recipes I have.

I finally settled on this particular one. It was actually the picture that sold me. It is on the back cover of the book and inside as well. I can't help thinking that I have passed on making some really good recipes due to no picture. In reality, I should not dwell on it too long. After all, in this day and age, if the recipe truly is "all that" then the picture should be there.

Rebecca Rather really has hit a home run with this particular recipe. The bread part has the perfect sweetness with the flavor and texture that we all expect in a kolache. Also, the idea of the peaches in the middle is pure baking genius. After one of these, you will never think of kolaches the same way.

The peaches are mixed with peach jam and Rebecca suggests Fischer and Wieser brand. As I scanned the rows of different jam, I did come across that brand. However, by some delicious act of fate, there was just Amaretto Pecan Peach Jam in that brand. This was going to be one flavorful filling! I was also drawn to the big white peaches, which proved to be a good choice. They were large and when cut, sweet juice dripped out of them.

So, act quickly and take the most advantage of peach season this year. With recipes like this, you will be most likely to run out than have too many on hand. Be sure that when making these you allow time for the dough to rise. There are 3 sessions, totaling a minimum of 6 hours. However, you can do the 2nd session as overnight instead of the 4 hours.

Peach Kolaches
adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

8 1/2 cups flour
1 (1/4 oz) package active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tsp of salt
2 cups milk
1/2 cup lukewarm water (110 to 115 degrees)
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs

1 cup peach jam
2 cups pitted chopped peaches

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
3 tbs butter (chilled and diced)

For the dough, the warm components will need to be made first. Start with a small size saucepan.  Pour in the milk and place over medium heat and let warm up until it reaches a simmer. Remove from heat and place a candy thermometer in the milk to register the temperature while cooling. The milk is ready to use once it cools down to about 110 to 115 degrees. While that is cooling, sprinkle the yeast into the bowl of lukewarm water.  Stir and then let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. The last warm ingredient is the butter.  It can either be melted in the microwave or in a saucepan. This component will also need to cool for about 5 minutes after melted.

Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk together. Whisk in the salt, sugar and melted butter. Once blended stir in the warm yeast. Then mix in the milk.

Add 2 cups of the flour to the wet mixture. Using a wooden spoon, mix until blended. Continue with the same process until all flour has been blended. As it starts getting thicker, you may want to switch to using your hands to for blending the flour into the batter. Once this process is complete, oil the interior of a bowl and shape the dough into a ball. Transfer dough to the bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place to double in size for about 1-2 hours. To test for correct completion time, touch the dough lightly and see if it still retains the dent. If it does, this rise session is complete. 

Punch dough down once or twice. Cover again and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours. You can also let stay in the refrigerator overnight.

Line a 12 x 17 inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Then grease the interior sides and corners. To make the filling, place the chopped peaches and the jam in a medium size bowl and mix until evenly blended.  For the streusel, just blend all the ingredients together in a small food processor until it is sandy and clumps together in your hands. Set both aside.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and divide into 16-18 even pieces and shape each piece into a ball. The ball should be about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Make an indentation or form a round biscuit with a well in the center. Bear in mind that the dough will rise again, so make sure the well is significant. Place each formed piece on the prepared pan.  The end result should be a pan with 3 kolaches across and 6 down.  If you ended up with 2 more, place those in a small, low lipped parchment lined pan.

Fill the kolaches evenly with the peach filling. Cover rolls with a towel and let rise again in a warm place for about another hour.  At the 1/2 hour mark, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Uncover the kolaches and sprinkle with the streusel.  Place the kolaches in the oven and bake until golden brown on top.  Bake time should be about 25-30 minutes.  Let cool 20 minutes prior to serving.  These can be served warm or at room temperature.

Tips and Notes:
1. The rise time in the fridge created a dry top on the dough.  It did not impact the flavor, but next time I would brush lightly with oil before refrigerating.

2. My dough was formed into ashtray type holders for filling and I kept the filling from mounding above the dough. I noticed in the pictures from the author, the filling was mounded above the dough. The end result is spill over. Since the rolls are touching, the spill over will not be in the pan. It will make the peaches more noticeable and give the rolls more coverage. How you fill and create the dough wells are personal preference.

3. Really juicy peaches will release of lot of the juice when mixed with the jam, the more they set the more juices are released.  If this happens, be sure to drain the excess liquid off, you do not want to use a soupy filling in the kolaches.
                                         **LAST YEAR: Frosted Banana Bars**

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Key Largo Cupcakes

It has been many years ago, but it is hard to forget my leisurely summers on the beach in Florida. During those years, I was anxious to grow up and did not realize to cherish that time in my life - you know, the teenage years.

Since Florida, I still favor the tart citrusy fruits, never getting enough Key Lime pie or fresh lemonade- which brings me to this recipe.

A plain vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting can be found just about anywhere. It does not remind me of any particular place or particular event. Nothing wrong with a vanilla cupcake, but we all can use a little pizzazz. Face it, we all actually need it. A change from jeans to the little black dress or from plain white Keds sneakers to Camouflage Nike tennis shoes.

The first "pizzazz" addition to this vanilla cupcake is the filling made with coconut and white chocolate. The filling is baked in. Outside of that, as the cupcakes are cooling, they are brushed with pure key lime juice that soaks into the cake part. With the coconut to lime ratio being about even at this point, I decided to top the cupcakes with vanilla french buttercream and sprinkles of lime zest.

Tweaks are still needing on the filling in the area of consistency only, but the taste is spot on. For more details regarding this, please go to the notes at the end of the recipe.

No vacation lined up in the near future? Don't despair. Getting to the Florida state of mind is less costly and easy. Call a friend after work, grab some lawn chairs and put on some of that real coconut-smelling tanning lotion. Set out the cooler with ice and drinks and get outside. Lay in the sun until sunset, laughing and talking with your friend. End the evening with a few of these cupcakes. Also, if anyone asks about vacation travels- tell them you have, in a way, been to Key Largo.....This recipe makes about 2 dz cupcakes.

Key Largo Cupcakes
by Flourtrader

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 vanilla bean seeds (scraped out of 1 vanilla pod)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks butter

3/4 tsp coconut extract
2 tbs butter
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup sweetened coconut
1/4 cup corn syrup
4 oz white chocolate bars (chopped into pieces)

1/4 cup key lime juice
French buttercream icing (adapted from Robicellis recipe)
         1 cup water
         2 cups sugar
         2 tbs corn syrup
         1/4 tsp cream of tartar
         5 egg yolks
         1 egg
         1/8 tsp xanthan gum
         3 sticks of butter (1 1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons of lime zest

Prepare two 12 cavity muffin tins by greasing the top edge of the cavities and lining with cupcake papers. Set aside. Also, line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

The filling will need to be made first. Set up a double boiler and heat until bottom pot of water simmers.  Fill top pot with all the filling ingredients except sweetened coconut. Cook until chocolate has melted. Remove from double boiler and transfer chocolate mixture into a regular saucepan. Place over medium high heat and stir in coconut. Let cook for about 20 minutes until it turns thick, like syrup. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. In order to speed up the process, you can transfer to a cool bowl.

Once it has cooled, scoop up tablespoons and drop onto parchment paper. Filling will run to a point, forming saucers (almost like small pralines).  After all the filling has been put on cookie sheets, place cookie sheets into the freezer.

For the cupcakes, start by placing the butter in a microwave safe bowl. Place bowl in microwave and melt using medium heat for about 1 1/2 minute. Pull out bowl and stir, making sure all is melted.  Then set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Set up a stand mixer and add the eggs to the bowl.  Beat until frothy on medium speed.  This should take about 2 minutes. Turn mixer speed up to medium high and slowly stream in melted butter.  After all the butter is blended, remove bowl from stand.

Stir coconut milk, regular milk, oil, vanilla bean seeds and vanilla extract into egg/butter mixture. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Then whisk the sugar into the sifted ingredients. Fold this dry mixture into the liquid batter, mixing just until no dry streaks remain.

Scoop out batter and fill each muffin cavity. The cavities should only be filled 2/3 of the way up.  Take out cookie sheets with filling. Filling will be very sticky. Using floured fingers, roll each piece into a ball and place in the center of the batter of each cupcake.

Bake cupcakes for about 10 minutes, then rotate pans and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. Use a tester to check for doneness, but test it off-center since the filling is in the center. Remove pans and place on racks to cool for 5 minutes. Lightly brush lime juice on top of the cupcakes and then from pan to cooling rack.

To make the buttercream, add water and sugar to a saucepan, clip a candy thermometer on the edge  and place over high heat. Then stir in corn syrup and cream of tartar. Let the mixture cook, without stirring until the temperature reaches 235 degrees. This will need to be checked periodically while completing other steps, since cooking to the stated temperature can take some time.

In the meantime, add the egg yolks and egg to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high speed. Beat until they have tripled in volume. Correct consistency can be tested by pulling the beater blade out. The eggs should now stream like ribbons back into the bowl. Beat in the xanthan gum. Turn mixer off.

Check back on the sugar/water mixture and wait until it reaches correct temperature. At the correct temperature, turn mixer back on to medium speed. As the mixer runs, pour hot sugar liquid into the batter in a steady small stream. After all is mixed together, run mixer until the batter reaches room temperature. While it is cooling, start shaving your butter into slices with a cheese slicer or a vegetable peeler.

After the sugar/egg batter has cooled, start adding pieces of the shaved butter, continuing to run the mixer. Once all the pieces are blended in, change the mixer speed to medium high and beat for about 20 seconds creating a smooth buttercream frosting.  Pipe the frosting on top of the cupcakes and sprinkle on lime zest.

Tips and Notes:
1. The perfect filling would not require freezing and would not sink in the cupcake when baked in the batter, I am still working on developing a better consistency. Candy consistency that is light enough not to sink.

2. The original buttercream recipe stated butter measurement of  1 1/2 lbs. As I was making this, I was happy with the consistency and taste after only adding 3/4 of a pound. This is personal preference, so feel free to experiment with this measurement.

3. I recommend a 1/2 day for flavors to meld and best served shortly after that. Cupcakes and icing do not do well stored in the refrigerator.

4. Instead of adding the vanilla bean to the batter, you can also use vanilla infused sugar.  This is done by scraping vanilla seeds into the sugar.  Then mix together, cover and let flavors meld for about 1-2 weeks prior to use.
                                   **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Truffle Cookies**