150127 Brownies (1)


If I was to believe what I was hearing on every news outlet (and alerts on my phone) I would have thought today was really the end of the world as I know it.  When you live in Rowe it snows pretty much every. single. day. so I was at least expecting 5 or 6 inches on the ground when I woke up this morning.  Nope, maybe 3 with it blowing all around.

The hype did get me into gear in the baking arena though and I made a huge pan of my favorite chocolate comfort food.  I found the recipe for these brownies almost 7 years ago in Yankee Magazine.  Julies’s Brownies is my go to brownie for a crowd or just for days when chocolate is the only thing that will do.

I am NOT a brownie baker – my kids will attest to that.  I have made so many variations of brownies over the years – all of which were dismal failures. This recipe, followed to the letter is a winner and the best you will ever have.  It makes a huge pan of brownies and I often put nuts on half and leave the other plain (for those walnut haters).  I then cut them up and freeze half.  There are always brownies available and they freeze perfectly.  I’ve linked the recipe but here it is as well.  They are that good.

Julie’s Brownies

Total Time: 35

Yield: about 40 pieces

Sometimes you just need chocolate to get things on an even keel. My dear friend Julie Fox makes these killer (and easy-to-do) brownies. They taste even better if someone makes them for you, so consider baking them for someone you love.


  • 1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, for greasing
  • 4 tablespoons plus 3-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 12×17-inch jelly-roll pan and dust with 4 tablespoons sugar. Discard any sugar that doesn’t adhere to pan. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine 3 sticks butter and chocolate. Cook, stirring occasionally, until both have melted. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat eggs with 3-1/2 cups sugar until blended but not “frothy.” Stir in vanilla, then chocolate. Add flour, stirring until just combined. Fold in nuts if you like

Spread batter in prepared pan and bake 35 minutes, or until set. (A wooden toothpick inserted in the center should come out almost clean.) Let cool completely before cutting.

So make yourself a batch – whether it’s storming out or sunny.  You know why?  They make the world’s best breakfast.

150127 Brownies (2)


Today’s Culinary Experiment

141210 Butter (1)

There are things I have never done.  Sometimes it takes being cooped up in the house for a couple of days to give me a little push.  There actually were a number of factors that contributed to the butter experiment today.

A couple of days ago, with the impending bad weather, I decided to find Side Hill Farm in Hawley.  It’s the closest dairy to me and they sell raw milk.  I was thinking cheese but went to stock up for the inclement weather.  This farm has a wonderful little store that is run on the honor system (something you don’t see much anymore).  There are freezers full of pastured pork and beef as well as the cooler full of dairy.  I got a half-gallon of milk and a half-gallon of cream (hey, it was cheap and I figured I’d just mix my own half and half).

This morning I mixed my half and half – the cream was as thick as sour cream, it was a feat getting it out of the bottle.  I then had a quart and a half left along with a slip of paper with instructions to make butter that I picked up at the farm next to the cash box.  I pulled out the food processor and the experiment began.

There’s something about the properties of milk.  Every time I make cheese, yogurt, pretty much anything I feel like a scientist.  Things all have to stay within certain parameters but it with any of these things the milk is transformed.  Butter is no different and it’s amazing to watch.  It churned for a good 3 to 4 minutes looking like cream whirling around in the bowl.  Suddenly it turned into butter and whey.  It was crazy to watch.  I made it in two batches, washing one while the other churned.  Once the whey was kneaded out I added salt and packed it into a container.  It made a little over a pound.

141210 Butter (2)Before putting this into the refrigerator I confess to slathering a good bit onto a piece of toast.  Mmmmm, definitely worth the trouble.  The bonus is how soft my hands were after playing with butter for a half an hour.


Bread and Jelly

141103 Bread and Jam

I finally broke open a jar of Elderberry Jelly yesterday.  When I had made it I thought I was going to be stuck with jars of Elderberry syrup. I put the jars into the cupboard with hopes that given a little time it would set up.  Turns out it’s perfect and delicious.

With cooler weather here and the wood stove going it’s also time to start making bread once again.  I had high hopes of making it all of the time but found that I was throwing away a lot of it during the summer because it would mold before it was half gone.  Another reason to love the cooler weather.

I also hear that eating Elderberry jelly or syrup daily helps ward off colds and flu.  I’m feeling some sniffles coming on.


Fig Bars

140727 Fig Bars

After baking these and posting this photo yesterday I had a number of requests for the recipe so here goes.  This comes from the King Arthur Flour Baking Companion – a book that I’m slowly baking my way through.

I started with the filling because it needs to cool before making the cookies.

1 pound dried figs

1/4 c granulated sugar

1 c water

1 tbsp orange juice

1 tbsp lemon juice

Grind the figs in a food processor or blender until a sticky, cohesive mass form.  (They say you can snip them with scissors but I have to tell you, without the food processors these cookies wouldn’t happen.) Combine the figs with the other ingredients in a saucepan, stir well, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is very thick, 3 to 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

The cookie dough.

1/2 c shortening

1 c packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 c all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

In a large mixing bowl beat together shortening, sugar, eggs and vanilla until creamy.  In a separate bowl whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt and baking powder.  Add this mixture to the wet ingredients gradually, beating until blended thoroughly.  Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Heat oven to 375.

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll it on a lightly floured surface to 14″x 16″.  Cut the dough into 4 strips 4″x 14″.  Spoon filling evenly down the center of each strip.  Lift the sides of each strip over the filling pressing the edges together to seal.  Cut the strip in half crosswise, making a total of eight 7″ strips. Place the strips seam side down, leaving 3 inches between them, on  lightly greased or parchment covered baking sheets.  Cut each strip into seven 1″ pieces but don’t separate them yet.

Bake the cookies for 13 to 15 minutes, until they’re puffed and firm to the touch.  Cool for several minutes on the baking sheet before separating them and cooling completely on racks.

This makes 56 cookies.

They are delicious.  Reminiscent of fig newtons but fresher tasting.  The fig really shines.

When reading through the recipe I thought these might be more trouble than they are worth.  There’s a lot of dough manipulation that goes on.  The only thing about this is that you have to work fairly quickly once the dough is rolled out.  As it warms it’s more difficult to work with.  All in all it’s worth the effort, I probably will never buy a fig newton again.

Food Friday – Brownies

One of my absolute favorite things to do is cook for other people – especially baking goodies.  There are times when nothing will do but chocolate.  There is comfort in it, there are lifetime memories associated with it, chocolate is love.

I was asked to bring “brownies or something” to Paul’s celebration of life tomorrow.  I immediately knew the recipe I would use.  For years I had a reputation with my family members (especially my children) that I was the master of disaster when it came to baking brownies.  As the girls got older they would bake brownies often using a mix.  They had no trouble at all.  Me, well let’s just say if it comes out of a box I am completely incompetent.  I would burn them, or they were so undercooked they would be inedible.  I think it was because I followed the directions, messed up and then over compensated on the next try.  Amanda had it down, knocked off a couple of minutes for the particular pan she was using and they always came out perfect.

I took this as a challenge in the back of my mind, one day I would conquer my relationship with brownies.   I read this recipe years ago in Yankee Magazine and it completely changed my outlook on brownies.  It’s called Julie’s Brownies and really is the best recipe ever – deep chocolate, sugar crust, brownie perfection. The only caveat is it makes a HUGE batch.

Brownies (1)

The recipe starts off with 8 ounces of unsweetened chocolate and 3 sticks of butter set on low heat to melt together.  I once made the mistake of using semisweet and although it was a near disaster there were many people who liked their cloying sweetness.  (I wasn’t kidding about my problem with brownies).

Brownies (2)

While the chocolate/butter is melting butter your pan and sprinkle it with sugar.  I just dump a mound in the middle of the pan and shake it around until the pan is coated, then dump the excess in the sink.

Brownies (3)

This has such a wonderful smell while it’s heating through.  Once melted let it cool to room temperature.

Brownies (4)

Now I know not everyone likes walnuts in their brownies (or anywhere for that matter) so I chop about 3/4 of a cup to be sprinkled on half of the pan, this way everyone is happy.  I buy walnuts and pecans in bulk, use a vacu-sealer and freeze a cup and a half per bag.  I always have nuts for that impromptu baking session.  That nut grinder?  If you don’t have one get one, they are awesome and go right into the dishwasher.

Brownies (5)

Half a dozen eggs go into the stand mixer.

Brownies (6)

Along with 3 1/2 cups of sugar.  You read right, 3 1/2.  I measure carefully knowing this is another potential hazard for me – losing count.

Brownies (7)

Once the eggs and sugar are mixed you add the vanilla.  I made this for Christmas presents a couple of years ago – it is amazing.  There’s another disaster story that goes along with this.  One time I was making these brownies, grabbed the orange extract and put in the two teaspoons – aarrgh.  Those were an epic fail.

Brownies (8)

The chocolate/butter is added, then the flour and mixed until just combined.

Brownies (9)

Then poured into that nice sugar coated pan.  This is a 12 x 17 jelly roll pan.  That’s a lot of brownies my friends.

Brownies (10)

Before they go into the oven I sprinkle on the nuts.  These look delicious and smell heavenly while baking.

Brownies (11)

And here they are out of the oven, perfect. Once cooled I will cut them into squares and arrange them in a basket to be delivered to the church tomorrow.  Some of the people I love the most will be there and even though they probably won’t  give a thought to who made the brownies I will know how much love was put into them.



A New Way with Cauliflower

Buffalo CauliflowerCauliflower is an amazing vegetable, it takes on the flavor of pretty much anything you cook it with.  You can cook it soft and mash like potatoes, rice it, eat it just with butter.  I read a recipe last week on Leite’s Culinaria for Buffalo Cauliflower and knew I had to make it.

There is nothing simpler than this recipe, really.  I had a large head of cauliflower so it took closer to 50 minutes to roast and probably continued to cook a little as it cooled. It was that delightful crisp tender texture when I cut it into pieces.  I used 1 cup of Frank’s RedHot Sauce and skipped the Sriracha (because that’s what I had).  I also had some blue cheese dressing so this was truly the lazy man’s way.

Instead of wings on Superbowl Sunday I had cauliflower and didn’t miss the chicken at all.



140118 Snickerdoodles (9)This is what I do on a snowy, winter day – bake cookies.

I put out a call for requests and this was one.  Not having made these for many years I reached for my King Arthur Flour cookbook but knew instantly it wasn’t the right recipe.  The one in my memory called for cream of tartar so I dug out the 1950’s version of the Betty Crocker and there it was.

The ingredients –

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose or unbleached flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
140118 Snickerdoodles (2)The shortening, butter, eggs and sugar are creamed together, then add the dry ingredients until incorporated (except the additional sugar and cinnamon).  Couldn’t be simpler.
140118 Snickerdoodles (1)I use a tablespoon cookie scoop and place the dough ready for rolling on parchment paper.  It looks like scoops of vanilla ice cream doesn’t it?
140118 Snickerdoodles (3)Mix the 1/4 cup of sugar with the cinnamon, roll the dough into balls and then coat with the mixture and set on the pan about 2 inches apart.
140118 Snickerdoodles (5)I line my baking sheets with parchment as well.  Have I told you about my love affair with parchment?  It changed my life a few years ago when I discovered I didn’t have to grease and wash my cookie sheets when I was done baking. (Ever notice how those pans never fit in a dishwasher or the sink?) This is the one time-saving device I would have a hard time giving up – that and the cookie scoop due to my ocds about size and shape but that’s a whole different blog.
140118 Snickerdoodles (6)Put the cookies in a 400 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, they will just barely be getting brown.  This is another cookie that I drop the pan on the floor (see Soft Molasses Cookies).
140118 Snickerdoodles (8)
Let these babies cool for a few minutes and serve warm, preferably with a nice cup of tea or coffee.
By the looks of today’s forecast I will be pulling out the parchment paper in Enfield tonight.

A Hogwarts Inspired Dessert

140104 Potter PastiesAt our little gathering last weekend one of the sweets I made was Pumpkin Pasties.  These were far more delicious than I expected and were incredibly easy to make.

For the filling I made my regular filling for pumpkin pie, baked it until set and then just scooped it out of the baking dish as I filled the pastry.

The dough couldn’t be easier although it requires some work.  It’s 1 1/2 cups of four, a stick of butter and 8 ounces of cream cheese.  The butter is cut into the flour as you do when you make a pie crust.  Once that is done you add the cream cheese and  mix until it sort of holds together.  Dump it out onto a floured surface and knead it until it holds together.  This takes quite a bit of work, I honestly didn’t think it would ever hold together but eventually it did.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill it for a minimum of an hour – I left it overnight.

I rolled the dough out (quite a bit of work in itself) until it was about 1/8″ thick.  Using a 4 inch round cutter I cut the dough.  This dough is very pliable, easy to roll out and fill.  Putting each round in my hand I filled them with about a tablespoon of filling.  I had beaten an egg with a little water and used my finger spread a little on the edge then pinched the edges together to seal.  After putting them on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper I brushed them with the egg wash and sprinkled them with sparkling sugar.  Then I cut a couple of vents in the top of each one.

Bake them in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. They will be a nice puffy pastry when they come out of the oven, quite beautiful.

Everyone thought these were delicious.  The pumpkin filling was something unexpected in a tiny turnover.  I think I will make these again deviating from the Hogwarts Express pumpkin thing and make them with an apple or blueberry filling.  Maybe we just like our fruit better than our vegetables.

End of the Season

140104 RaccoonAs quickly as they ramped up the holidays are now over.  This is an occasion for me to breathe a sigh of relief.  The last of the gatherings was this past weekend with all of my family together in one spot.  That’s a rare event but a most welcome one.  The preparations were made in the week before – I researched and made some Harry Potter themed food for my sister’s girls, my sister and my youngest.  Yes, they are all well into adulthood but there is nothing more exciting than experiencing some of the foods that you’ve only read about.  If I could have turned the living room into the great hall at Hogwarts I would have but alas my wand was nowhere to be found.

The traditions around the holidays for us center around food.  This being the first time in 15+ years my brother and sister have been together for a holiday celebration lead me to bring out the suet pudding recipe with the two sauces.  This is a dessert my kids have heard about their entire lives yet had no recollection of having tasted it.  The recipes and mold came to me from my aunt when she passed the responsibility of making the dessert on to me.  I diligently made it year after year until the girls were little and we began spending a good part of the holidays with Bill’s family.  The Alixes were scattered and no one else even considered eating something with the word suet in it.

My sister and brother were ecstatic to see it as dessert and my brother ate three helpings.  It greased the wheels of reminiscing about food and we talked about our comfort foods in exquisite detail. It amazes me the power of taste and smell to bring back memories from so long ago.  It was also wonderful to have my siblings and their families all together to share in the stories even though they find some of the things we eat on the line of disgusting.  You know, it’s never going to stop us from eating it.  I think next time we get together I will make mac and cheese with tomatoes and serve a side of sliced onions and cucumbers in a bowl of cider vinegar and the three of us will sit around the table and talk about childhood.  I’m not sure what the rest of the family will do for food.

Bacon Jam

Bacon JamThis holiday season we will be attending a wine and cheese event given by Bill’s cousin.  He is kind of a foodie so I decided to make a batch of Bacon Jam to bring along with a bottle of wine.  I can’t imagine this not going well with cheese – or a cheeseburger or an english muffin or toast or your morning waffle or pancake.  This stuff is gold.

It all begins with a trip to Pekarski Sausage in South Deerfield.  They don’t have a website so I added a link to the reviews on Yelp.  This is a wonderful family owned business that makes artisan smoked meats and sausages.  We always have a stock in the freezer and somehow something makes it’s way into one of our meals on a weekly basis.

This is what I picked up – bacon, beautiful, lean bacon. One and a half pounds.  I picked up a smoked Cornish Game Hen as well for dinner with sister Sue.

Bacon Jam (1)The bacon was cut into one inch pieces.

Bacon Jam (2)

And cooked in a large skillet until the fat was rendered and it started to brown.

Bacon Jam (3)Meanwhile I diced two medium large yellow onions and smashed and peeled 4 cloves of garlic.  The recipe called for three but they were small and who ever heard anyone say “Wow, too much garlic”. Never happens in this family.

Bacon Jam (5)When the bacon was done I took it out of the pan with a slotted spoon and let it drain on paper towels.  Can you just smell this?  Awesome, as bacon always is.

Bacon Jam (7)The fat was drained (to be used for other cooking) and the onions and garlic cooked in about a tablespoon of fat left in the pan.  This smells pretty heavenly too.

Bacon Jam (8)The rest of the ingredients were assembled as the onions cooked to a translucent golden color.  Maple syrup, brown sugar, cider vinegar and coffee all go into the mix.

Bacon Jam (9)The pan is deglazed with the liquids and once it comes to a boil the bacon is returned to the pan.

And then it simmers slowly.

And simmers.

And simmers, filling the air with the complexity of all these ingredients.

It simmered through dinner and 6 rounds of Yahtzee with my sister.

It cooked for almost two hours until the liquid was reduced to a thick syrup consistency.

Bacon Jam (11)It then cools until lukewarm and is put into a food processor until chopped very fine.  All those ingredients melded together into a spread just waiting for your imagination.

Bacon Jam (12)This made a little less than three cups.  I filled two canning jars and one will be staying in the refrigerator for our holiday enjoyment and the other will travel as a gift to the host.  The recipe can be found at Leite’s Culinaria – my go to for great recipes of all kinds.

Now onto the Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies – don’t turn up your nose, they are spectacular!