Thursday, March 28, 2013

Monkey Bread with Peeps

It's been awhile since I brought monkey bread into my office. I try to do it before a long weekend but I've been slacking. I didn't do it for MLK Day weekend nor for Presidents Day weekend.

But then inspiration popped into my head. Or should I say peeped into my head?
"Can I incorporate Peeps into monkey bread?"
After some research, I decided that yes, yes I could! 
I decided to melt some electric pink Peep bunnies with some butter to make a topping to put on the baked monkey bread.
These cute little bunnies with somewhat scary eyes were about to enjoy a butter jacuzzi and become...
A molten lava of pink goo.
Cool, right?
The marshmallowy topping poured nicely over the top of the baked and inverted monkey bread. It added a slight taste of Peeps to the bread, but over all just created more sugar to eat. Perfect!
Have a happy Easter!

Monkey Bread (aka Pull Apart Rolls) with Peeps (adapted from Mom's Best Recipes cookbook)
2 cans of biscuits (I prefer the extra buttery and fluffy ones)
1 C sugar
2 t cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 C brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1 package of Peeps
3 T butter

Generously grease tube pan with Crisco. In paper bag, put sugar and 2 t cinnamon. Using 1 can at a time, cut biscuits into quarters. Place in paper bag and shake to coat. Place evenly in tube pan.

(Second Part)
Boil together butter, brown sugar, and 1 t cinnamon. Pour mixture over biscuits. Bake 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before inverting.
While it's cooling, melt 8 Peeps with 3 Tablespoons of butter. Stir until completely melted.
Invert bread and pour Peep mixture on top.
Let guests pull apart.
Bake well and prosper!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Beer and Pretzel Cookies

To keep adhering to my New Year's resolution of baking outside of my comfort zone, I made these beer pretzel cookies.

I know what you're thinking: "But Erika, you bake cookies all the time." This is true. But I hate beer. Seriously. I hate the taste and smell of it with a passion.
Therefore, I introduced beer into my kitchen. I've never bought a bottle of beer from a bodega before. Mike's Hard Lemonade, sure. Beer? Ew, no!
This stout even had hints of organic Mexican coffee in it. And guess what. I also despise coffee.

So there I was in my kitchen having to boil this stout down to a syrup. The smell made me gag a couple of times. I've never gagged before from smells emanating from my kitchen. What a weird experience!
I actually didn't mind eating the cookie dough. However, I didn't like these cookies right out of the oven because the beer flavor was stronger. Once they had cooled off I had no problem eating them. (I made special non beer frosting for my own private stash.)
These were a hit for St. Paddy's Day. If you're a big beer and pretzel fan, I highly recommend this recipe.
Beer and Pretzel Cookies (found at Cookies & Cups)
1 (12 oz) bottle stout, minus 2 Tablespoons reserved for frosting
1 cup butter
1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp espresso powder or 1 tsp ground espresso (Erika's Extras: I didn't use this ingredient)
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups flour
2 cups quick oats
1 cup coarsely crushed pretzels
1 cup chocolate chips
Reduce beer (minus 2 Tablespoons) in saucepan over medium heat until there is only 1/8 cup left. This will take 25-30 minutes. Watch the beer on the stove, as it will foam up easily at the beginning. Remove from heat and allow to cool. (Erika's Extras: Feel free to stir occasionally, but not too often.)
Cream butter, brown sugar and espresso powder together until light and fluffy.
Add in eggs and reduced stout and mix until combined.
Turn mixer to low and add in baking soda, salt, flour, and oats. Stir together until just combined.
Finally add in pretzels and chocolate chips, stirring until evenly incorporated.
Let dough chill for at least 2 hours, or overnight. (Erika's Extras: I chilled my dough for around 6 hours and found the dough to be very tough to deal with until it was a little warmer. I would chill for only 2 hours.)
In small saucepan heat butter and heavy cream over medium heat until just boiling.
Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate chips until smooth.
Add 2 Tablespoons reserved stout, stir to combine.
Chill frosting for an hour or two, until spreadable consistency.
Preheat oven to 350°
Drop by heaping tablespoon size onto a parchment lined baking sheet, pressing dough slightly, so cookies aren't so rounded. (Erika's Extras: I rolled my dough into a ball and then pressed it down onto the parchment paper.)
Bake 9-10 minutes until golden around edges.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
When cookies are cooled and frosting is ready, spread on a teaspoon sized amount onto each cookie and top with a pretzel twist
Bake well and prosper!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Whole Wheat Banana Bread with Cacao Nibs

Did you know that when you buy cacao nibs they are never ending? At least that's how it feels to me. It's like the chocolate that keeps on giving. 
In my kitchen I had an abundant smount of cacao nibs and a couple of ripe bananas. What to make was a no-brainer. 
Then I wondered what else I had that I could use to make this banana bread different. Whole wheat and buckwheat flour became the answer.
This yummy banana bread was the love child of all those ingredients mixed together (plus some others.) The wheat factor compliments the cacao nibs and creates a subtle smokey flavor.
I shared with my next door neighbors. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. Maybe next time I'll also add some bourbon to the batter...
Whole Wheat Banana Bread with Cacao Nibs
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2  teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups bananas, mashed (about 3 medium bananas)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup cacao nibs + more for the garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Add the mashed banana until just combined.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and cacao nibs. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and spread to distribute it evenly. Sprinkle on some cacao nibs on top of the batter. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Bake well and prosper!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dark Chocolate Lovers Brownies

I created this recipe because I had many bars of dark chocolate and I had a bag full of cacao nibs.
Why did I have so many bars of dark chocolate? Because I was in Duane Reade (a drug store) and they had Sweetriot chocolate on sale for $1! ONE DOLLAR!!! So, naturally, I grabbed a lot. 2 each of 60, 70, and 85% dark chocolate bars. These are organic, fair trade chocolate bars. I should have bought the whole bin of chocolate!
After making these brownies with an 85% and a 60% dark chocolate bar I REALLY should have bought the whole bin full of bars! The rich and smokey flavor of the brownie satisfied everyone from the people who needed a sugar kick to the dark chocolate lovers.
The cacao nibs were a sweet extra touch that added a nice crunch on top.
Dark Chocolate Lovers Brownies (adapted from the NYTimes Supernatural Brownie)
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (try sweetriot's chocolate)
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark brown sugar, such as muscovado (Erika's Extra Note: light brown sugar works fine as well)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
2 Tablespoons cacao nibs (or more)

1. Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking pan and line with buttered parchment paper. (Erika's note: This recipe is so buttery I've never needed to use parchment paper.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In top of a double boiler set over barely simmering water, or on low power in a microwave, melt butter and chocolate together. Cool slightly. In a large bowl or mixer, whisk eggs. Whisk in salt, sugars and vanilla.

2. Whisk in chocolate mixture. Fold in flour just until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle cacao nibs on top of batter.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until shiny and beginning to crack on top. Cool in pan on rack.

Yield: 15 large or 24 small brownies.

Note: For best flavor, bake 1 day before serving, let cool and store, tightly wrapped.
 Bake well and prosper!