Snowpocalypse

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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.

Ingredients:

  • 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)

Instructions:

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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

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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.

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Half a dozen eggs go into the stand mixer.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

 

 

Soft Molasses Cookies

130929 Sof Molasses (2)

Baking season has once again arrived and I am one happy woman.  A few years ago the girls gave me the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion for Mother’s Day.  This is one of the best cookbooks I have ever owned.  Not only does it have recipes but it explains why things work the way they do.  Much like the movie “Julie and Julia” I decided to bake my way through this book.  It has notes written on recipes and batter stuck between some pages.  It also has other recipes printed and folded in between the pages.  That to me says it’s a great book when the “other” good recipes can be found stashed in it.

These particular cookies I come back too again and again.  Soft Molasses Cookies are what I refer to as an “adult” cookie.  They are highly spiced and not overly sweet – perfect with that afternoon cup of tea or coffee.  They are good right out of the oven but they are better the next day when they’ve completely cooled and developed that chewy texture.  They are rolled in sugar before baking which results in a crunchy sugar crust on the outside with the soft, chewy center.  Mmmmmmm.

Now I have to tell you a little secret about these cookies (or any soft cookie you may bake).  When you remove the pan from the oven hold it about a foot off of the floor and drop it so it lands flat. Yeah I know, sounds crazy but what it does is immediately compress the soft center of the cookie.  By doing this they stay soft and chewy for days.  I have a rug by the oven so they just come out and onto the floor.  Yes, my family thought I was crazy the first time they saw me do it but the proof was in the eating.

These are the things you learn when you take the time to read your cookbook.  It actually tells you to do this when baking soft cookies.  Although I must confess the first time I did it I made sure no one was around to see me do it.