After spending a week learning about cooking and nutrition at her preschool, my sweet(ish) little(ish) Landry Kate came home with a chef hat, an apron, and an intensely unwavering interest to help me brownies.
Can we make brownies? Can we make brownies now? [yelling from inside the pantry] I can’t find the box of brownies!
Intensely. Unwavering. Interest.
But only in the “making brownies” part. (Maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll focus on Unloading the Dishwasher 101 next week.)
Like any 3 1/2 year old, some of her favorite things are measuring, scooping, whisking, and stirring. And like any human, her absolute favorite part is licking that last bit of batter from the spoon, scoop, or spatula. But not the whisk! You only have to get your tongue pinched once before you realize that thing is the devil.
We made peanut butter cookies last week and as we’re getting ready to scoop out the dough, she throws her hands out and yells in that panicky, shrill tone that sends a mother’s heart into high gear fight mode: Oh, no Mommy! We forgot the chocolate!
Drama. We has some around here.
There have been many times when I’ve joked whether or not she might have been switched with another baby at the hospital. Like that time when she ran up to pet the weird giganti-lizard on a leash at the zoo. [shudder] And that time when she brought me a “brown lady bug” (a June bug). [double shudder] Or all those times she peeled open a quesadilla, ate the meat and cheese and left the tortilla virtually untouched.
Soft, chewy peanut butter cookies studded with chocolate chips.
1 stick butter, at room temp
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment or a baking mat.
Cream the butter and peanut butter on medium high for 1 minute.
Add sugars and beat at med-high for another minute. Add egg and vanilla and mix until smooth.
Add flour, baking soda and salt on low speed until thoroughly combined. Mix in chocolate chips (the dough will be quite soft).
Chill dough for 15-20 minutes.
Drop the dough by the small scoopfuls onto a lined baking sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until edges are golden brown. For a crispier cookie, allow the entire cookie to brown. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
A few years ago, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to start making most of our own bread. With a little bit of scheduling and some room in the freezer, I could bake up sandwich bread, burger buns, english muffins, and bagels without having to buy very much.
Aside from burger buns, my favorite bread-thing to make is bagels. Partly because 1 batch will allow us to share a bagel for breakfast for nearly 2 weeks. And partly because the bagels from the nearby bakery place that we used to adore have really gone downhill over the last couple of years. Shelling out $12 for a disappointing breakfast for 2 isn’t the ideal start to a weekend.
This batch, we flavored the dough with some vanilla and added chopped semisweet chocolate. The dough isn’t overly sweet so you feel like you’re eating dessert for breakfast but there is chocolate. So you’re still kinda eating dessert for breakfast.
Chocolate Chunk Bagels
An overnight rest yields chewy, flavorful bagels studded with your favorite chocolate.
For the sponge:
1 tsp sugar
2 1/2 cups warm water (divided)
1 tsp active dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
For the dough
1/2 tsp dry active yeast
2 1/2 - 3 cups flour
2 3/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks
1 Tbsp baking soda
Cornmeal for dusting pan
To make the sponge, dissolve sugar into 1/2 cup warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Sprinkle yeast over top and let proof for 5 minutes.
Add the remaining water and flour and mix on low with the paddle until sponge is smooth and the consistency of pancake batter.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit until doubled, approximately 2 hours. (The sponge will be foamy and bubbly and will collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop).
To make the dough, fit the mixer with the dough hook. Add the additional yeast to the sponge and mix on low until combined.
Add 2 cups flour, all of the salt, sugar, vanilla, and chocolate, mixing on low until the ingredients form a ball, adding additional flour 1/4 cup at a time to stiffen the dough.
Knead the dough for 6 minutes. It will be firm but still pliable and smooth and should clean the sides of the mixer bowl. The kneaded dough should feels satiny and pliable but not be tacky.
Form the bagels: Divide the dough into 4 oz pieces and shape into rolls. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and let sit for 20 minutes.
Line two baking sheets with parchment. Shape the bagels by pushing a hole through the center of each roll and working the dough around your thumb, stretching out the hole to ~2.5 inches in diameter.
Place bagels 2 inches apart on the pan. Cover with a damp towel and let sit for 20 minutes.
Fill a small bowl with room-temp water. Drop one bagel into the water. If the bagel floats within 10 seconds, remove the bagel, pat it dry, return it to the pan, and place the pans in the refrigerator overnight covered loosely with plastic wrap. If the bagel does not float, pat it dry, return it to the pan, and test again in 10-20 minutes.
Baking the bagels: Preheat the oven to 500 with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the baking soda. Boil the bagels in batches 1-2 minutes on each side (for chewy bagels, go 2 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon or spatula.
Sprinkle the same parchment-lined baking sheets with cornmeal. Transfer the pans to the oven. Bake for 5 minutes and then swap the pans in the oven. Lower the oven setting to 450 and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels are golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.
To freeze: I slice the completely cooled bagels almost all the way through, enough that they flip open all the way but still are just barely attached so tops and bottoms stay together. A square of wax paper in the middle keeps them from freezing shut. I layer them in a gallon freezer bag and put in the freezer. To reheat, I place the frozen bagel halves in the oven when I turn on the broiler to toast. They thaw, heat, and toast perfectly
It was simple and boozy. And beautiful. And boozy.
In trying to brain storm a way to use those leftovers, I decided it wasn’t quite right for The Cranwich and I definitely didn’t want to be tied down to a big cake or full batch of cupcakes so close to “Pie-palooza.” And that’s when I spotted the box of Ghirardelli brownies I keep on hand in case of emergencies.
(And now you know how we define “emergency” in this house.)
I simply prepared the brownies as directed on the box and then I dropped the leftover boozy cranberry sauce over top by the tablespoon, swirling it together.
I don’t know why it took so long to come up with the idea of cranberry brownies. Cranberries and chocolate are a delicious and under-appreciated pair. Around the holidays, Costco used to (and maybe still does?) sell dark chocolate-covered cranberries. Those things were like crack, if crack made you gain 3lbs in 3 days. The dark fudgey brownie was the perfect compliment to the cranberry sauce.
Use your favorite brownie mix (I used Ghirardelli Triple Fudge, it’s insanely chocolatey… and has chocolate chips!) and leftover whole berry sauce (homemade is easy and takes almost no hands-on time).
Rich, fudgey brownies swirled with leftover cranberry sauce. Dessert couldn't be easier.
1 box brownie mix (or your favorite recipe) prepared in an 8x8 pan, according to package directions
~1/2 cup leftover whole berry cranberry sauce
Preheat oven according to the directions in your brownie recipe.
Prepare the recipe according to directions and transfer to a greased 8x8 pan.
Drop small spoonfuls of leftover cranberry sauce over the top of the batter (I used about 1/2 cup).
Using a knife held vertically, swirl the cranberry sauce and the brownie batter together.
Bake as directed in your recipe, (take note that my recipe needed an extra 8 minutes).
Let cool and then cut into 4x3 or 4x4 servings.
Leftovers should be covered and stored at room temp.