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Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

Confession – I just finished a bowl of vanilla ice cream with a chopped Reese’s cup, chocolate syrup and caramel sauce. I’ve been thinking about blogging these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars all day and my craving for peanut butter and chocolate was out of control. Craving satisfied. I can now blog about these delicious bars without wanting to eat the screen.

Do I even need to state that peanut butter and chocolate is one of my all-time favorite flavor combinations after the above commentary? I’m a bitembarrassed by the number of starred items in my Google Reader involving peanut butter and chocolate. This recipe was one of those items.

We went to a family reunion in the Western North Carolina mountains over the July Fourth weekend (read about it here and here). There were about 60 people in attendance and our family was in charge of dinner one night. I contributed these bars, brownies and oatmeal raisin cookies to the dessert spread.

These bars were incredible and definitely lived up to my high expectations. Of course, the first night I made them Brandon had to sample them warm with ice cream on top (a recurring theme if you read this blog!). I thought they were great plain. Don’t shy away from adding the salt to the recipe even if you’re using salted peanut butter. The salty/sweet flavor is part of what makes these so good. I will actually probably add a little extra salt next time.

I doubled the recipe to accommodate a 13 x 9 pan. They took quite a bit longer to cook than the original recipe stated so I would recommend checking them every five minutes after the suggested baking time until you reach your desired doneness.

This is definitely the best blondie-type recipe I’ve tried for peanut butter chocolate chip bars and I will be making them again in the future and plan on playing around with mix-ins next time (chopped Reese’s anyone!?).

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
(Recipe source Bake at 350)

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup natural chunky peanut butter, salted or unsalted (I used Trader Joe’s chunky salted)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt (might want to add a bit more if using unsalted peanut butter)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease an 8 x 8 pan. (Note that I doubled the recipe and used a 13 x 9.)

Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream butter and peanut butter together on medium speed until smooth. Beat in the sugars until mixture is lightened in color and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition and then add vanilla. Reduce mixer to low speed and slowly add in the flour mixture. Add the chocolate chips, stirring until combined.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes. Remember, you might need additional baking time so just keep checking. Cool completely before cutting.

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Let’s get straight to the point. These are without a doubt the best homemade brownies I’ve ever had. Ever. They are chocolaty, fudgy, rich and indulgent. The best part about these brownies is that I didn’t have to make them! We visited my parents in Atlanta several months ago and my dad had these ready for us when we arrived. We actually had dinner reservations that night at Top Chef contestant Kevin’s restaurant, Woodfire Grill, but I couldn’t resist sampling them. Totally worth slightly spoiling my appetite over! :)

Over the course of the visit I ate my fair share of these brownies. We took the leftovers home with us and made them even more ridiculously indulgent by serving them sundae style with ice cream and chocolate syrup. There was no brownie left behind.

All brownie lovers must try this recipe – even if you usually rely on boxed mixes. They are truly outstanding and will put any boxed brownie mix to shame. I will admit that I used to use boxed brownie mixes until I realized several years ago how easy homemade brownies are and produce far tastier results. They are so worth the little bit of extra effort required!

Chewy, Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies
(Recipe source Cooks Illustrated, May 2000)

Ingredients :

5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate , chopped
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into quarters
3 tablespoons cocoa powder (either Dutch-processed or natural cocoa works well in this recipe)
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Directions:

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Fold two 12-inch pieces of foil lengthwise so that they measure 7 inches wide. Fit one sheet in bottom of greased pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan. Fit the second sheet in pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray. The foil overhangs will help you lift the brownies out of the pan.

Place a medium heatproof bowl over a pan of almost-simmering water. Melt chocolates and butter, stirring occasionally until mixture is smooth. Whisk in cocoa until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. Alternatively, you can melt chocolates and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Cook on 50 percent power, stopping to stir ever 30 seconds, until mixture is smooth.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk warm chocolate mixture into egg mixture; then stir in flour with wooden spoon until just combined. Pour mixture into prepared pan, spread into corners and level surface with rubber spatula. Bake until slightly puffed and toothpick inserted in center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, 35 to 40 minutes.

Completely cool brownies on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours. (This is a very crucial step – I know it’s hard but you have to let them completely cool!) Remove brownies from pan using foil handles. Cut into 1-inch squares and serve. (Do not cut brownies until ready to serve; brownies can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated up to 5 days.)

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 67

Apologies for my disappearance the last week but I’m back with the final two recipes to wrap up 68 Days of Gourmet. And promises of lots more deliciousness to follow after the project is complete. I also want to point out the newly created 68 Days of Gourmet page (found above) that categorizes all of the recipes from the project.

Now that the housekeeping details are out of the way, let’s talk about the Warm Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake. I saw this cake while browsing The Gourmet Cookbook and loved that it was elegant but relatively easy. This is the type of cake that would be perfect for a dinner party or date night dinner. Another plus is that it can be made ahead of time and reheated.

The frosting is poured into the bottom of the cake pan and the batter is poured on top. When you invert the cake from the pan your frosting is all melted and gooey on top of the cake. This cake is very moist and the raspberry jam in the frosting and cake adds a nice flavor dimension. The only change I would make next time I bake this is using a higher quality jam to really step up the raspberry flavor.

This is an impressive cake that requires minimal effort and is sure to be a crowd pleaser – especially with the chocolate lovers!

One year ago: Crash Hot Potatoes, Chocolate Biscotti

Warm Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake
(Recipe source Gourmet, January 1999)

Ingredients:

FOR THE FROSTING
3 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), roughly chopped
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam (about 5 ounces)
1/2 cup heavy cream

FOR THE CAKE BATTER
1/2 cup boiling water
1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam (about 3 ounces)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and generously butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan.

FOR THE FROSTING
In a small heavy saucepan over low heat bring jam, cream and chocolate to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Pour frosting into cake pan.

FOR THE CAKE BATTER
In a bowl whisk together boiling water and cocoa powder until smooth and whisk in milk, vanilla, and jam. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time,  beating well after each addition. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt and add to egg mixture in batches alternately with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating well after each addition.

Pour batter evenly over frosting mixture and bake in middle of oven 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean (frosting on bottom will still be liquid). Cool cake slightly in pan on a rack, 10 to 20 minutes.

Run a thin knife around edge of pan and twist pan gently back and forth on a flat surface to loosen cake. Invert a cake plate with a slight lip over cake pan and, holding pan and plate together with both hands, invert cake onto plate. Frosting will cover cake and run onto plate.

* Cake may be made 1 day ahead, cooled completely in pan and left in pan, covered, at room temperature. Reheat cake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

Yield: 6-8 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 66

North Carolina strawberries just came into season and Brandon sweetly picked up a flat for me at the farmer’s market last week. Strawberry is my favorite flavor of ice cream and ever since I received the KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment last Christmas, I’ve enjoyed trying homemade ice cream recipes. I was thrilled to see that Gourmet had several no-cook strawberry ice cream recipes.

We had friends in town visiting last weekend and I thought this Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream would be the perfect dessert for our cookout Friday night. It was so easy to put together since it didn’t require any cooking. You just throw all the ingredients in a blender then into the ice cream maker to freeze. I made it on my lunch break the day I served it. Not surprisingly, the ice cream was a hit. Who doesn’t love homemade ice cream?

One year ago: Baked Eggplant Parmesan, Mississippi Mud Pie

No Cook Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream
(Recipe source Gourmet, July 2000)

Ingredients:

3/4 pound (1 quart) strawberries, chopped
8 ounces softened cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Place strawberries, cream cheese, sugar, milk, lemon juice and salt in a blender. Blend until just incorporated. Stir in the heavy cream and chill. Follow the directions on your ice cream maker to freeze ice cream.

For the KitchenAid I slowly added the chilled ice cream base and mixed on the lowest speed for about 15 minutes, until the ice cream was the consistency of soft serve. Place in an airtight container and put in freezer to freeze completely.

Note, you may want to take the ice cream out to soften 10-15 minutes before serving.

Yield: about 8 servings

And I can’t resist sharing this picture that shows you how good the ice cream base tasted but I won’t reveal how much unfrozen ice cream I ate!

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 49

And yet another dessert recipe makes its way into 68 Days of Gourmet. I told myself that I wasn’t going to make any more desserts and that I really needed to make appetizers instead but then I found myself with a serious craving for an apple dessert last night.

It was totally worth it. Does it get any better than warm apple pie/cobbler/crisp and vanilla ice cream? So basic but so satisfying. Comfort food dessert.  I love how easy crisps are – no fooling with pastry crust. I think this was ready to go in the oven in less than 20 minutes – including peeling and cutting the apples. There is nothing fancy about this recipe – it’s just basic and delicious.

I must recap my weekend for you. It was definitely jam packed on the fitness front. Friday morning I attended hot vinyasa at Y2. I am convinced that this is the perfect way to start off a Friday and kick off the weekend. I literally pop out of bed when my alarm goes off at 5:45 and I am NOT a morning workout person!

I taught BodyPump Saturday morning. I was still pretty sore from teaching last Thursday (I guess my body was a little weak coming off of the sickness) but there’s nothing like seeing 21 people up bright and early on a Saturday to get you motivated! I’m really loving that I’m starting to recognize faces and get to know some of the regulars in my classes.

Saturday afternoon was all about the yoga. Last week I signed up for a 3-hour yoga boot camp at Y2. It was 2 hours of hot vinyasa and one hour of long slow deep (holding positions for 5+ minutes). Being relatively new to my practice, I was pretty nervous. I am so happy to report that the class was awesome and I not only survived but felt great. I even managed to be one of 3 or 4 people to hold a plank for 5 minutes! I love the feeling I have at the end of a big fitness achievement (finishing a race, surviving yoga boot camp, etc). It’s great to know that you’ve given it everything you have!

So maybe that gives you a little more background on why I was so ready for my apple dessert last night! :wink:

One year ago: Spicy Thai Noodle Bowl with Tofu

Apple Crisp
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

FOR THE TOPPING
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/8 teaspoon cinnamon (1 just kind of eyeballed it – probably more like 1-1 1/2 teaspoons)
3/8 teaspoon salt (again, probably used more like 1 teaspoon)
2 sticks unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into tablespoons
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped

FOR THE APPLES
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 pounds apples (recommended fuji or jonagold)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 navel orange

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3 1/2 to 4 quart baking dish.

FOR THE TOPPING
Combine flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt in a food processor and blend until well combined. Add butter and pulse until mixture forms large clumps. Transfer to bowl and mix in pecans with your fingers. Alternatively, whisk together the flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt and work in butter and pecans with your fingers or a pastry blender.

FOR THE FILLING
Whisk together sugar and cinnamon. Peel, quarter and core apples and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices. Add apples, lemon juice and orange zest to sugar mixture and mix until well combined.

TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE
Spread apples in prepared baking dish. Crumble topping evenly over apples. Bake until topping is golden brown, 45 to 60 minutes. Let cool a bit and serve warm.

Yield: 8-10 servings

*Note: I easily cut this recipe in half and used a smaller baking dish.

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 44

I’ve wanted the ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid mixer for years now. They’re not that expensive, I don’t know why I didn’t just buy it for myself. I was so excited to finally receive the attachment this year for Christmas. I conducted a little poll a few weeks ago on Twitter to see what flavor of ice cream I should make for the first batch. The crowd favorites were Salted Caramel and Maple Butter Pecan. I decided to go with the Maple Butter Pecan because the method was a little simpler. But the Salted Caramel will definitely be making an appearance soon!

This ice cream is so good. How can it not be with pure maple syrup, heavy cream, whole milk and toasted pecans? It’s definitely a splurge. I could only eat a small scoop of this at a time because it was so rich – and this is coming from a huge ice cream fan! I think that I’ll save recipes like this for special occasions and try to use lighter ice cream recipes for everyday consumption.

So after taking two rest days last week, I managed to step it up on the fitness front over the weekend. I attended two 90 minute hot yoga classes and ran 3.5 miles with the pup (in the snow!!!). My leg is definitely still super sore and I have to ice it right when I get in from running but I can make it through short distances. I’m excited to share that my yoga practice was on this weekend. I was feeling really strong and balanced. Loved it.

This morning I taught BodyPump and couldn’t resist taking Sullie for a quick 3-miler when I got home from work. Love that it’s staying light until after 6 p.m.

And I leave you with a cute picture of Sullie in the powdery soft snow we received unexpectedly this weekend and the recipe for delicious Maple Butter Pecan Ice Cream!

Maple Butter Pecan Ice Cream
(Recipe source Gourmet, August 1997)

Ingredients:

3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon maple extract (I substituted vanilla extract)

Directions:

In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add pecans and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, to taste. Cool pecans and chill. (Buttered pecans may be made up to 3 days ahead and chilled.)

In a medium heavy saucepan bring cream, milk, maple syrup and salt just until boiling, stirring occasionally. In a separate medium bowl beat yolks until smooth. Slowly add hot cream mixture to egg yolks in a slow stream, whisking constantly, and then pour back into saucepan. Cook custard over low heat, stirring constantly, until a thermometer registers 170 degrees. (I did not have to reheat my custard in the saucepan, it was already 170 after being added to egg yolks.) Pour custard through a sieve into a clean bowl and cool. Stir in extract. Cover surface of custard with plastic wrap and chill, at least 3 hours or overnight.

Freeze custard in an ice-cream maker (following the instructions for your manufacturer). Fold in chilled pecans. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer to harden. Ice cream will keep for about 1-2 weeks.

Yield: 1 quart

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 42

Sometimes having a food blog has its perks. Like when I have a perfectly valid excuse to make chocolate cream pie on a weeknight. What kind of food blogger would I be if I didn’t give you guys some chocolate dessert ideas for Valentine’s Day? I am so glad that I selected this recipe to feature. It is simply just amazing. And this is coming from the girl who is firmly in the fruit dessert camp and not the biggest fan of super chocolatey desserts. The homemade pudding is definitely the “pièce de résistance” in this pie. And when paired with the chocolate wafer crust and freshly whipped cream – home run! Make this for your sweetie this Valentine’s Day – I promise you won’t be disappointed :)

And on to news on the fitness and nutrition front (so appropriate in the same post as chocolate cream pie). Last weekend was definitely an over-the-top indulgent weekend for me. Lots of dining out, dessert and Super Bowl snacking. But I also attended a hot vinyasa yoga class Friday night, taught BodyPump Saturday morning and ran five miles Sunday afternoon. About the running…I am so frustrated with it right now. It’s been almost two months since my last last race and I took the biggest running break that I’ve taken in years. I’m one week into my new training program and having terrible pain in my left leg in the achilles tendon/lower calf area. It feels like there’s a big knot there and it hurts when I run and stays sore for days after I run. I’m really bummed and hoping if I keep icing it and try to rest it that it will get better. Fingers crossed.

Stocked up on lots of healthy foods, fruits and vegetables at the grocery for the week. Putting last weekend behind me and moving on! It’s all I can do. We all have to splurge sometimes!

Chocolate Cream Pie
(Recipe source Gourmet, February 2004)
Printable Recipe: Chocolate Cream Pie

Ingredients:

FOR THE CRUST
1 1/3 cups chocolate wafer crumbs (from about 26 cookies such as Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers or Oreos with cream scraped off)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

FOR THE FILLING
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
3 cups whole milk
5 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), melted
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

FOR THE TOPPING
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar

Directions:

FOR THE CRUST
Preaheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together crumbs, butter and sugar and press on bottom and up side of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake until crisp, about 15 minutes, and cool on a rack.

FOR THE FILLING
In a 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt and yolks until combined well.  Add milk in a slow stream, whisking and bring mixture to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking constantly, 1 minute (filling will be thick).

Pour filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, then whisk in chocolates, butter and vanilla. Cover surface of filling with a buttered round of wax paper and cool completely, about 2 hours.

Spoon filling into crust and chill pie, loosely covered, at least six hours or overnight.

FOR THE TOPPING
Just before serving, beat cream and sugar in a bowl using an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Spoon on top of pie and serve with a dusting of cocoa powder or with fresh berries.

Yield: 8-10 servings

*Note: give yourself plenty of time to make this pie. You’ll want to make it the day before Valentine’s since you have to build in chilling time.

Other Valentine’s Day Treats
Lady Strawberry Cake
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Jamwich Cookies

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