Thursday, October 22, 2009

Maria's Lovey's Food and Wine's Brownies OR the Simplest Brownies Imaginable

Our family friends Maria and Paul are pretty cool people. They moved into a house down the street a few years ago and I watch their house when they're traveling. Maria used to work for a catering company and she has an incredible cookbook collection. She's also an awesome cook, and on Labor Day she and Paul had a party. For dessert they had watermelon and brownies and ice cream. I've never been a hardcore brownie eater, but these brownies.... I melted with delight, they're scrumptious. These brownies are, as my dad would say, all that and a bag of chips. Seriously. 
Maria promised me that the recipe was the simplest thing imaginable and  gave it to me. She also left me with the very important instruction BEAT WITH A WOODEN SPOON, she said she wasn't sure why but those were the directions in the recipe and she's always followed them. I'll tell you why to beat with a wooden spoon. It increases DELICIOUSNESS. 

Maria's Lovey's Brownies from Food and Wine March 1990

8 oz. unsalted butter
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
4 eggs at room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease (or line with foil and spray) a 13x9x2 pan.

Melt butter and chopped chocolate in microwave (about 1 1/2 minutes), stir to finish melting chocolate
Add sugar and stir with WOODEN SPOON* until mixed.
Beat in eggs one at a time until mixture is shiny and each egg is incorporated
Add vanilla, flour and salt. Add nuts. 

Bake for 30 minutes and cool completely in pan before cutting. The brownies will be moist and soft in the inside and crusty on top. 

* (Maria's note) Use only a wooden spoon to mix ingredients- don't know why but those were the directions and I have always done it. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Perfect All-American Chocolate Butter Cake

The CAKE BIBLE. It sounds intimidating. But life is all about conquering fear and freeing yourself from inhibitions right?  So I made a chocolate cake with butter cream frosting. It was pretty damn good. A bit flat perhaps, because we had no cake flour, but still, pretty damn delicious. You should make it. You should eat it. 

It took an afternoon.It's a light chocolate cake. Soft, cakey, and when smeared with buttercream... In brief it lasted a day at my house. That's right, one day. 

Perfect All-American Chocolate Butter Cake

The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons (lightly spooned into cup)

1 liquid cup boiling water

3 large eggs

2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla

2 1/4 cups cake flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoons salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl whisk together cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cool to room temperature. 

In another bowl lightly combine the eggs, 1/4 of the cocoa mixture and vanilla. 

In a large mixing bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and remaining cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake's structure. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients. Scrape down the sides. 

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. The pans will be about half full. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. Cakes should start to shrink from the sides of pans only after removal from oven.

Let cakes cool in pans on racks for 10 minutes. Loosen sides and invert onto cooling racks. To prevent splitting reinvert so that tops are up. Cool completely before frosting. 

Classic Buttercream

6 large egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 cups unsalted butter, softened

Optional: Liqueur or eau-de-vie of your choice 

Have ready a greased 1-cup heatproof glass measure near the range.

In a bowl beat the yolks with an electric mixer until light in color. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan (Preferable w/non-stick lining.) and heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is boiling. Stop stirring and boil to the soft-ball stage or 238 degrees F. Immediately transfer syrup to the glass measure to stop the cooking

If using an electric hand-held mixer, beat the syrup into the yolks in a steady stream. Avoid getting syrup directly onto beaters. If using a stand mixer, pour a small amount of syrup over the yolks with the mixer turned off. Immediately beat at high speed for 5 seconds. Stop the mixer and add a larger amount of syrup. Beat at high speed for 5 seconds. Continue with rest of syrup. Continue beating until completely cool. 

Gradually beat in the butter and, if desired optional flavoring. Place in an airtight bowl. Bring to room temperature before using. Rebeat if necessary to restore texture. 

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Buckwheat pancakes, or Something New

Pancakes. Who doesn't love them? Hot, steaming, right off the griddle, doused in syrup and butter. What could be more delicious? 
Still on my Molly Wizenberg kick I made her buckwheat pancakes. Mostly because I had never had buckwheat. And also because I wanted to try something new. 
I love trying cooking new things. It's probably a bit of a reaction to my parents. I've grown up on three things, rice, beans, and homemade bread. In that order. With some homemade salsa thrown in. I've been pretty darn spoiled by it actually my mom makes some MEAN beans and rice, and what ever you try and tell me, there's ain't nothin' that can compare to homemade bread still warm from the oven. 
But even with food as delicious as this after a while... It get a little tedious. Especially if you eat it every day. That's why I like to try new things, and I know that, if they fail I'll always have my safety foods, rice, beans and homemade bread. 
So make these buckwheat pancakes, for something a little out of the ordinary. 
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 large egg, separated
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda. 

Pour the buttermilk and milk into a medium bowl. Whisk the egg white into the milk mixture. In a small bowl use a fork to beat the yolk with the melted butter. Whisk the yolk mixture into the milk mixture. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients all at once, and whisk until combined. Do not overmix. The batter will be somewhat thick. 

Meanwhile heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Brush the skill with oil. 

Ladle batter in scant 1/4 cupfuls into the skillet, taking care not to crowd them. When the underside of the pancakes is nicely browned and the top starts to bubble and looks set around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes, flip them. Cook until the second side has browned. 1 to 2 minutes more. 

Serve warm, with syrup and and fruit and whipped cream and butter. Lots of butter.