Darkly Chocolate Brownies

I woke up craving chocolate, so I started these brownies. They are mixed in a large double boiler, so there isn’t a lot of cleanup. Oh, and they get better as they sit (they are very gooey when first taken out of the oven but firm up with time) as the chocolate gets even more intense the next day.

brownies

Darkly Chocolate Brownies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 large eggs
1-1/4 cup flour
3/4 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup roasted cacoa nibs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large double boiler or in a large bowl over a saucepan with some water in it, melt the butter with the unsweetened chocolate over low heat, stirring occasionally. When smooth and melted, sprinkle on cocoa powder and whisk to combine. Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Using a hand mixer, mix in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time. Reducing mixer speed to low, mix in the flour. Add the chocolate chips and cacoa nibs and stir just until combined.

Pour the very thick batter into a buttered 8 x 8 or 9 x 13 baking pan (a square pan will result in thicker brownies). Smooth the top and place in the oven.

Bake for 40 minutes, then check the brownies with a toothpick. If it is overly gooey/messy, return to the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes. Don’t leave them in there until the toothpick comes out clean, though, as that would be too long.

Allow to cool completely before cutting into small squares. The brownies are very rich!

Very Chocolate Cupcakes

It is that time of the month and I’m craving chocolate and cake. But mainly chocolate. These cupcakes have the chocolate kicked up – first, by making a slurry of cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate and coffee you get an intense taste of chocolate. The recipe also calls for bread flour as its added gluten development means more chocolate can be added than in a cupcake with all-purpose or cake flour (hat tip to America’s Test Kitchen for that trick). For even more flavor, I added cacao nibs to the cupcake batter and used Creme de Cacao instead of vanilla in the frosting.

cupcakes

Very Chocolate Cupcakes

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Ghiradelli)
1/3 cup high quality Dutch processed cocoa (I used Droste)
1 cup brewed coffee, hot
3/4 cup bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cacao nibs (optional)

Place cocoa and chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Pour coffee over and let stand 5 minutes before whisking. Mix until smooth and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir in sugar.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cooled chocolate, vegetable oil and eggs over medium low speed. Add in vinegar and vanilla and mix well. Add in the flour sugar mixture and beat until smooth. Stir in cacao nibs, if using.

Divide batter evenly among the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely before frosting, about one hour.

 

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup good quality cocoa powder
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon Creme de Cacao (or vanilla extract)

Sift together cocoa powder and powdered sugar – this step is important as it gets rid of any lumps in the sugar. Combine the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer and mix until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and add in the cocoa and powdered sugar. Add Creme de Cacao and mix well.

Frost cupcakes. This recipe can easily frost 18 cupcakes, so you can be very generous with the 12 of the above recipe.

Apple, Sweet Potato and Bacon Deliciousness

A lovely side dish to accompany the Apple Cider Roasted Chicken recipe I posted yesterday. You want to make sure you have equal amounts of sweet potato and apple and to make a smaller dice than you see in the picture.

apple-sweet-potatoes

Apple, Sweet Potato and Bacon Deliciousness

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
Olive oil
Kosher salt
4 to 6 slices thick cut bacon, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, add the sweet potatoes, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat and arrange them on a baking sheet. Roast the sweet potatoes until they are soft but not mushy, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and reserve.

Add the bacon to a large skillet and place over medium heat. When the bacon has started to get crispy and brown, add the onions, season with salt and sauté until the onions are translucent and aromatic. Add the apples and sauté for about 10 minutes or until they soften. Stir in the sweet potatoes and the cinnamon and sugar. Sauté until the sweet potatoes are cooked through and starting to become crispy, about 7 to 8 minutes. Taste for seasonings.

Apple Cider Brined Roasted Chicken

This chicken is tangy and sweet and stays nice and juicy because of the brine. The recipe is adapted from a dish served at 3 Squares Café in Vergennes, Vermont.

chicken

I served it with a side dish of apples, bacon and sweet potato that I’ll post tomorrow.

Apple Cider Brined Roasted Chicken

6 cups (1.5 quarts) apple cider
1/3 cup coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
4 garlic cloves, smashed
4 tablespoons honey
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 cups ice cubes
2 cups cold water
10 lbs chicken leg quarters
Olive oil to coat

Glaze

⅓ cup honey
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

In a large pot (big enough to hold 10lbs of chicken), combine cider, salt, peppercorns, garlic, honey and rosemary and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let steep for 5 minutes. Stir in ice cubes and cold water. 

Place chicken pieces snugly in the the pot with the cooled brine to cover completely. Set a plate on top to keep the chicken under the surface of the brine. Set in refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to 12. Do not over brine, as this can make the chicken too salty.

Remove chicken from brine and pat chicken dry with paper towel. Place on baking racks over a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate uncovered, for at least an hour and as long as 4.

When ready to roast chicken, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pat chicken pieces dry once again with paper towel. Coat chicken skin lightly with olive oil and arrange them in a large roasting pan.

Roast chicken for 30-45 minutes or until light golden brown.

While chicken is roasting, in a small pan, whisk together honey and apple cider vinegar and then add chopped rosemary. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, at a gentle simmer, until reduced in volume by about one-half and is lightly syrupy, such that it clings to a pastry brush but is still liquid enough to brush, about 10 minutes.

Remove chicken from oven and turn oven to broil with oven rack in position such that chicken will be about 3 inches from element. Brush chicken generously with glaze and return to oven for up to 5 minutes until skin is dark golden brown. Watch carefully.

Serve chicken drizzled with more glaze.

Buttermilk Herbes de Provence Roast Chicken

Nigella Lawson is a domestic goddess and I regularly consult her cookbooks – both for recipe ideas and because her writing/cooking style is a pleasure to read.

Tonight’s dinner was a riff off her Buttermilk Roast Chicken. Instead of the garlic, cumin and maple syrup, I only used herbes de Provence as my seasoning with the buttermilk. As a rule of thumb, the longer you soak the chicken in the buttermilk brine, the better it will be. Her original recipe was for drumsticks and for 2 hours – with a whole chicken, I recommend a minimum of 4 hours or, better yet, overnight.

buttermilk-chicken

Buttermilk Herbes de Provence Roast Chicken

3-5 lb whole chicken
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Cut out the backbone of the chicken and crack the breast bone so it will lay flat. Set aside the backbone for use in stock. Mix together the buttermilk and herbes de Provence. Place the chicken in a gallon zip top bag and pour over the buttermilk mixture. Seal and set in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and as long as 24.

About an hour before cooking, remove the chicken from the brine and drain well. Coat the chicken with the olive oil and sprinkle on the salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. When ready to cook, cover a roasting pan with foil and set the chicken on it breast side up. Tuck the wing tips under the breasts to keep from overcooking. Roast for 30 minutes before dropping the temperature to 350 degrees F for an additional 30 minutes. Check for doneness (internal temperature should be 165 degrees F for the thighs and 160 degrees F for the breast). Let rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

As you can see, we ate our chicken with asparagus that I had tossed in olive oil and a little salt and then cooked on a grill pan until tender but still a little crunchy.

Sourdough Starter Pretzels

With our sourdough starter going strong, I decided to try my hand at sourdough pretzels. I wanted something like you’d get from a street vender: chewy and great tasting but minus the concerns about sanitation.

pretzel

 

Sourdough Starter Pretzels

1 cup sourdough starter, straight out of the fridge
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
up to 3/4 cups water

10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
coarse grain salt

2 tablespoons melted butter (optional)

Add all the ingredients together in a stand mix with the dough hook attachment. Knead on medium speed until the dough comes together and becomes cohesive but still slightly sticky. Cover the dough and let rest one hour.

Gently fold to deflate. Cut the dough into 12 pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Set each pretzel on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until puffy.

Bring to a boil 10 cups of water. Sprinkle in 2/3 cup baking soda. Place the pretzels into the boiling water. Boil for 30 seconds. Remove from the water and return to the baking sheet.

Brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture. Sprinkle on the pretzel salt.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes or until dark golden brown. Brush the tops with melted butter, if desired.

Michelle did a few variations on a sweet glaze.

Cinnamon Vanilla Glaze

2 tablespoons melted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon vanilla (to taste)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vwater

Add all dry ingredients to the melted butter and water. warm in microwave until sugar and salt are dissolved. Stir in vanilla and honey. After 15 minutes of pretzels baking, brush on and finish cooking.

Pecan Glaze

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon melted butter
handful chopped pecans
1 teaspoon pecan praline liqueur
2 teaspoons water

Add ingredients together and warm in the microwave until sugar is dissolved. If needed, add 1-2 more teaspoons of water to thin the glaze. Brush on the glaze with five minutes of baking left. Bruch more glaze on after the pretzels come out of the oven.

Rosemary Sourdough Bread

I received from my friend Gillian a packet of Goldrush San Francisco Sourdough Starter a few months ago. As the necessities for the care and feeding of starter can become burdensome if you don’t bake bread every few days (or are willing to toss out a cup every few days), I decided to wait until cooler weather to begin the process.

It took a few days but now that we’re finally beginning to bake from it, I decided to make herbed bread that I first read about in Breaking Bread with Father Dominic, which was incidentally my first bread making cookbook. The original had caraway seeds, sage, nutmeg and whole wheat flour, none of which I cared to use. I just loved how the smell of baking bread and rosemary filled the house as these loaves cooked and the finished product tastes pretty darn good, too.

bread

Rosemary Sourdough Bread

1 cup sourdough starter
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons honey

Make the sponge and let it sit on the counter, covered in plastic wrap overnight or up to 72 hours. The longer you let it develop, the more distinctive the sourdough flavor will be in your final bread.

2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (1 package)
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
3 cups all purpose flour

Proof the yeast in the warm water for several minutes. Add all the ingredients to the sponge and mix together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Coat in oil and let rise for 2 hours in a warm place.

Once the dough has doubled in size, dived into two loaves and put into well oiled loaf pans. Let rise for 2 hours more.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake loaves for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until they turn a dark, golden brown. Breads with honey can darken too quickly, so you might need to cover the top with aluminum foil for the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking. Remove from the pans and cool on racks.