Happy Birthday Ian!

2010/05/12

I really like brownies. The very first recipe I ever posted was for a brownie with fruit and nuts. I like to experiment with brownies; once I made a pan that included ginger, cayenne pepper, and pine nuts.
The brownies I made last Monday night, however, were not for me. I made them for Ian to take to work for his birthday. (Honestly, I was not even sure I would get to taste them, but there was also a cake so a couple of the brownies were brought home.) Keeping in mind that Ian really likes caramel, and that pecans are one of his favorite snacks, I decided to make him turtle brownies.

For the brownie base, I used my tried and true brownie recipe, and mixed in one and a half cups of pecan pieces (the whole bag) and a little less than a cup of chocolate chips (I did not measure, but just eyeballed it). About halfway through the baking process I sprinkled some more pecan pieces on top of the brownies.

While the brownies were baking, I made a caramel sauce to go on top. While there are many caramel recipes floating around the internet (and in cookbooks) I decided to use the rather straightforward one found here. I liked that it didn’t have a lot of ingredients. The blogger who posted it did stress the importance of not undercooking the caramel, which is probably why I burnt it the first time. (Or it might have had to do with the size of the pan; the second time I used a wider pan and the shallower caramel didn’t keep cooking so rapidly.) Anyway, the second sauce turned out perfectly, so that was good. I didn’t have the time or crockery for a third.

After the sauce cooled a little, I drizzled it on the cooled brownies. Ian and his coworkers seemed to really enjoy them, and the one I had was pretty good. Happy Birthday!

Turtle Brownies:

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, melted
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli cocoa powder.)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans (plus more for the top if you want)
  • 1 cup (or less) chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or line a 9×13 inch pan.
  2. In a large bowl, blend melted butter, sugar and vanilla until combined. Beat in eggs one at a time until combined.
  3. Add the flour, cocoa, and salt and mix until smooth. Fold in pecans and chocolate chips.
  4. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, or until brownies begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Add more pecans to the top halfway through, if desired. Let brownies cool, then drizzle with caramel sauce.
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Black Bread v. 1

2010/04/02

The other night, I made my first loaf  of bread without exactly following a recipe. Actually, what I did was take two recipes, and combine them. For quite a while, I have been in love with this recipe for Black Bread, by Deb over at smitten kitchen. However, I own a bread machine and therefore find the process of making bread without it completely overwhelming, particularly on a weeknight. However, my go to compendium of breadmaking knowledge, The Breadlover’s Bread Machine Cookbook, had a recipe for “Bohemian Black Bread” that was not very different. It did however, lack some of the SEVENTEEN ingredients that Deb’s version had. So, I combined the two recipes, to not quite bad results. I am going to keep working on the proportions in the recipe – it lacks the depth I am looking for – but when I am finished, I will post it.

The bread didn’t rise much (almost not at all), and at first I was worried, but it didn’t taste gummy like the loaf I made that failed. It was just dense, and in this style of bread, that is not a bad thing. As is, it actually isn’t a bad knockoff of the pumpernickel from La Brea Bakery, you can find it at the Harris Teeter by my house, as well as many other locations, but that is not quite what I am looking for. Well, back to the drawing board.


Not My Egg Salad Sandwich

2010/02/27

In my life, I have made many different egg salad sandwiches. In fact, every time I make egg salad it is slightly different. That is because, despite what most delis will have you believe, egg salad is extremely versatile. Different mustards, spices, cheeses, even nuts, can create new and interesting combinations. I have made horseradish egg salad with pickled beets on black bread, curried egg salad with pistachios in pita pockets (there used to be a recipe for this on Whole Foods’ website which is where I got the idea, but I didn’t follow the recipe), and even wasabi egg salad with avocado inside rice balls. Even the bland stuff at deli can be blank canvas for tasty garnishes. At a DC area sandwich chain (whose really strange name shall remain unsaid), I like my egg salad on a spinach tortilla with provolone cheese, tomato, hot pepper rings, and sprouts. It is tasty. But I have said enough about the way I like my egg salad, because as I said in the title, the subject of this post is not my egg salad sandwich.

This egg salad sandwich belongs to someone else. A very special someone else. It was even named after her. The name of my blog would probably annoy her, but that is a different story. I am too far away today to get a real sandwich from the ice cream parlor that sells them, so I decided to make one myself.

Step 1) The Bread

I woke up to the smell of this baking this morning. Delay timers on bread machines are a good thing. This bread from The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook, is called Whole Wheat Cuban Bread, although I am not sure if it should still be considered whole wheat if you use half whole wheat flour and half white bread flour. But that is what the book calls it, I call it “half wheat bread”. It was still very good, crusty outside and soft inside with that nutty flavor that wheat breads have. Also it is vegan, which I found interesting. It doesn’t taste vegan.

Step 2) The Eggs

To make egg salad, you must first boil some eggs. I have boiling eggs down to an art; my yolks are always fully set and bright yellow with not even a hint of grey, and the shells peel of easily 99.5% of the time. To do this I start by covering cold eggs with cold water in a saucepan (this is the one time that it is better not to use fresh eggs). I bring the water to a full rolling boil (uncovered) over high heat and continue to boil for 5 minutes. Then I remove the pan from the burner, cover, and wait 20 minutes. When the timer goes off, I transfer the eggs to ice water and put them in the fridge for a few minutes (**this step is very important**). There you have it. Perfect eggs every time.

Step 3) The Egg Salad

Since this is not my egg salad sandwich, I wanted to make a simple, but still flavorful salad. To do this, I mixed 2 tsp mayo with 1/2 tsp honey mustard (it is the yellowest one I have on hand) and a smidgen of minced sweet onion for flavor. Then I chopped 2 eggs in the bowl (I don’t like to waste yolk on a cutting board, and you can actually chop eggs easily with a butter knife so it doesn’t scratch the bowl) and mixed.

Sometimes a sunny yellow egg salad can lift your spirits a little.

Step 4) Assembly

Assembling this sandwich was rather simple. All I added were some Red Oak lettuce leaves I picked up at the farmers’ market this morning. Lettuce is not really my favorite accompaniment to egg salad, but this is how this sandwich should be. Then I cut it on a diagonal, because that is what I do.

It was really quite good. Thank you for letting me share your lunch. 🙂


Bread 2.0

2010/02/22

Wow. 2 posts in one day; who would believe it? Well I have made my second loaf of bread, and I must say that this loaf kicks my first loaf’s butt.

1) This loaf had a much better rise. I’m not sure if you can tell by the photos, but this loaf is much taller than the first loaf I baked. I think this is because it used a starter (which proofed for 4 hours), instead of just yeast. The bread is still just a white bread (it is called Shepherd’s Bread in my cookbook, The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook).

2) It has a very nice texture. The outside is crusty, but the inside has a nice open crumb to it, with lots of air pockets, which makes it taste fluffy. This is also a result of the starter. If you look hard you can see the texture in the picture below of a buttered slice.

3) It tastes really, really good. Ian agreed, when we tried it our unconventional post-dessert “bread course” (read: the bread wasn’t finished until almost 10).

The next bread in the book is a wheat bread. I am really looking forward to trying it.


My First Loaf of Bread (plus an apology to my blog)

2010/02/17

Dear Blog,

I have neglected you. I am very sorry. I realize this when I read my last post about what I am doing with my summer, and look outside at all the snow on the ground. It’s not like I haven’t thought about you. There have been plenty of meals that I have wished I had photographed so I could tell you about them, but I forgot. But enough with the with the apology.

I am writing you now because of a very special event. Last night, I baked my very first loaf of bread. Mind you, I do have a bread machine (which I have had since my birthday last November; I don’t just procrastinate with blogging). I do not consider using my bread machine cheating. I am a busy woman with many demands on her time, and the bread machine will allow me to have my freshly baked bread without worrying about kneading and proofing myself.

For my first loaf of bread I followed a simple recipe: Homestyle White Bread from The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook. It was easy to follow and it came out good. As Ian said, “It tastes like bread.” I didn’t want to try anything too complicated, because I was not entirely sure what I was doing.

So there it is. Yummy, right? I thought so. It made a good egg sandwich for breakfast this morning and was really tasty spread with my homemade apple butter.

The only problem I encountered was that the mixing paddle baked itself into the bread. Has anyone else had this problem? The cookbook suggested greasing the paddle first as a solution, and I will try this next time, which will be soon.

And Blog, I promise to tell you about it.

Love,

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