Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ummm.... got a problem maybe?

So, is anyone else concerned that I've only posted a handful of things in the last 6 months, but two of them already were crips?  Isn't that just weird/wrong?  That said-- I am going to try something with red meat or thai food or both in the next few weeks and also a chocolate mint torte (that i made a few times in high school and college to rave reviews, but need to make again to see if it was as good as we all remember)... and then... something with liquor. Them's the goals people, them's the goals.  And I need to let the crisps and brownies go for while.  Tough to do, but them's the goals!
BTW - the chocolate torte came to mind when I was interviewed for an article in the local paper recently... where I claimed that as one of my specialties.  Now there are people expecting it.  Sigh... wish I'd just claimed the dang brownies as my specialty.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Apple Crisp ala Scottie

So, we picked apples off of the apple tree in my mom's backyard.  It's completely loaded with apples and looks really beautiful.  We weren't sure that the apples would really be any good for a number of reasons, one of which is that there are lots of worms and bugs because we don't really do anything with the tree. Every couple of years a beloved friend comes and trims it (he knows about fruit trees) and then we get to watch it be pretty for a few more years.  But this was our first time successfully getting some apples that could be used for something.  So we thought about a pie, but Scott is not a pie fan with the exception of Tyler Florence's Ultimate caramel apple pie, which takes a TON of time (and we were too lazy and tired to do that).  He can live with a crisp (I don't get it, really, it's beyond me, but that's what he can live with).
So we made a little apple crisp. Turns out that I didn't miss having pie.

Here's our version of apple crisp:

Preheat oven to 350
grease a 9x14 inch baking dish

Mix together
8 or so apples peeled and sliced
1 cup of raisins (we like golden raisins)
1/3 cup of sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
and the juice of 1 lime (or lemon- we like limes and they are just meant to keep the apples from turning brown)

for the topping:
again mix together
1&1/2 cups flour
1 cup oatmeal (quick cooking)
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Cut in 1/2 lb of butter until butter is "pea sized" and mixed throughout...

Pour apples into baking dish and sprinkle the topping across the top.  Bake at 350 for an hour or so, until the topping is a golden brown and apples are soft and bubbling.
We enjoyed ours with some premium vanilla bean ice cream.  Warm apple crisp + cold ice cream= happy.  Great way to end a full and fun weekend.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Mighty Brownie: King of Chocolate Baked Goods

So, you have heard me express my feelings about chocolate cake....harrumphhh.....  

But the brownie. Well it's the  KING of chocolate baked things.

 It is always perfection.

The best brownies ever are actually Courtney Harvey's brownies.  They involve almost no flour, 2 Cups of sugar and close to nine eggs I believe.  I tried to find a recipe like that-- but ended up with one that had 5 eggs and 2/3 cup flour ... still 2 cups of sugar tho!
So, these are not as good as Harvey's - but they are still mighty good and well worth the effort (until we wrestle that recipe out of her.)

I found the base for this on Epicurious, but couldn't help adapting it -- so here's my version:

2 sticks unsalted butter
8 Oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cocao if marked)
2 Cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-3 teaspoons instant espresso pwder mixed with 1 tablespoon hot water
5 large eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa pwdr  (I mixed Hershey's dark which is a dutch-process pwder with regular cocoa pwder  
                about half and half).
1/2 teaspoon salt

4 oz. Semi-sweet chocolate chips if desired.

Preheat oven to 350˚. Butter and flour a 13x9 inch pan.

Melt butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring, until smooth.  Remove from heat and cool to luke warm.  Whisk in sugar, vanilla, and espresso.  (this does NOT make the brownies taste like mocha or coffee, it simply brings out more of the chocolate flavor... really!)
Whisk in eggs, 1 at a time, until mixture is glossy and smooth.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt, then whisk into chocolate mixture until combined.
sprinkle semi-sweet chips across the top if you just want even more chocolate in your chocolate.

Spread in pan and bake until a pick inserted in center comes out with crumbs, 25-35 minutes.  Don't over bake! This is what ruins a good brownie in my opinion... really, just check it and catch it when you just think they are starting to "set".
 Cool completely. Enjoy immensely.

Isaac agrees with the recipe and says "you should wait until they cool, so that they aren't too mushy."
 I on the other hand say... bring on the ice cream right now!

Friday, September 17, 2010

What our Monkeys love...

My kids love bananas.  
Red bananas, yellow bananas, little bananas. 
Under ripe, overripe... my little monkeys love a banana. 

 It was even one of Ike's first words-- only he called then Baneenas.  So when he started talking more and would talk to his "Nanas" (grandmothers) he called them Neenas or Ninas (they each spell it differently).  And all of his cousins call them that too.  

So at our house there is much love for neenas and baneenas, and now for that special use of the way too ripe baneena:  Baneena bread (yeah, banana bread by any other name still tastes as sweet).  Maxie calls it banana cake, and I think she is on to something with that.  

Another odd note-- 
part of why I haven't made this before is that, when my dad retired he took to making banana bread.  A lot.  And when he got Alzheimer's disease, he made a loaf every 3 days or so (no joke) he didn't even let the bananas get ripe.  Well, we all got tired of banana bread, and we all dreaded seeing that loaf.  

It's been 5 years since anyone in my family made banana bread.  Dad is gone, and we are healing both from the loss and the damage that disease did to our relationships.  My kids had never had banana bread before, and dang it,  it's right up their alley.  And, I guess I'm ready to let go of some woundedness and bake things that are lovely and maybe reclaim a little of the Church family in me in the process.

So here was my first attempt at making my mom's recipe for banana bread, just like my dad made it so very many times. It's pretty standard, very little spice (cause that's how we always rolled at the Church household) and it is just delicious 
baneena-ey, cakey, goodness.

Baneena Bread:

1/2 cup oil
1 Cup sugar
2 eggs beaten
3 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
2 Cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp Milk
1 tsp Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Grease and flour a loaf pan(9x5x3)
Beat oil and sugar together.  Add eggs and banana mash, beat well.  Add sifted dry ingredients, milk, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Pour into the loaf pan and bake in preheated oven for about 1 hour.  Cool well and store overnight before cutting ( though we couldn't wait that long, and it was delicious just an hour later as an after school snack.  The monkeys will attest to this.)

Now, for those of you who wondered about the reviews on the chocolate birthday cake from the last post, well, it was good.  It was chocolate cake.  

The buttercream was delicious if risky (did ya catch that raw egg yolk in there?  Yeah, risky with the population that lives here at Chez Crazy House)....we lived, and we enjoyed it.  But it comes down to this.  That cake was still chocolate cake. Ike loved it, I was not impressed.  My take = meh.  it wasn't anything I'd bother to make again.  
Now, as for the brownies I made to send on to the Mexican Independence Day celebration-- they were in a class of goodness all to themselves.   More on that next time. :) 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ike turns 6. We get cake!

So, I have lots of wonderful things we've made in the last two weeks (fried chicken and banana bread recipes to come)... but the most intriguing for me has been today's enterprise:  Chocolate Birthday cake from an Ina Garten recipe.  Chocolate cake is not my favorite thing, in fact, I would never order it at a restaurant and I have never asked for it for my birthday, and I usually turn it down when offered it at a party. I often would rather have NO cake instead of chocolate cake.  Now a brownie-- well--- that's a whole different thing!  I think it has to do with sweetness, moistness and how disappointing most chocolate cakes are to taste compared to how they look ( just like pies from the grocery store-- usually a sorry and sad disappointment).

But when your 5 year old says that for his 6th birthday all he wants for dinner is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and all he wants with it is chocolate cake (can you say- "all sugar meal") ... well...  you make the damn cake!

Anyhow I chose this recipe out of the gazillion I found because it got such rave reviews.  I'll post later what our reviews are (since it isn't time to cut it yet... not till Scott gets home). But this is what it looks like

From the smidgeon of cake I broke off and the testing of the icing both Isaac and I did before putting on the sprinkles- I think we may have made the first chocolate cake I've ever really liked.  but I'll let you know when I come down off of the sugar high tomorrow!
Here's the recipe in case you can't wait for the review and want to just go ahead and bake some cake.

The Recipe is a Barefoot Contessa Recipe called Beatty's Chocolate Cake, and I just have to say, I really like her recipes, cooking and her style...


  • Butter, for greasing the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups good cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee


Chocolate Buttercream, recipe follows
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Frosting:

6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (recommended: Callebaut)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don't whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Gratuitous pictures... not of food...

My kids are really funny and fun. This may not be a food pic, but this is a first day of school taken at the breakfast table pic, and a quick hug leaving the kitchen and those are super good too!

Fruit Crisp = heaven

So, we've moved. We've got a great kitchen, and we've finally had a chance to start cooking in it.  And so far it's been a lot of fun.  One drawback is that we haven't yet replaced all of our spices and baking type things (I hadn't been able to bake since last summer) and so.. we didn't have everything on had that I wanted and needed to make dessert.  So - on Monday night -- I decided to make something with what he had on hand.  We had cherries, lemons and cinnamon (this allowed me to make a delicious cherry sauce) that i thought I would pour on some shortcakes, cause we had biscquick on hand.  BUT, we didn't have time then at the end of the night to make the shortcakes.  So - on Tuesday I went out and picked up flour which allowed me to make a crisp with the cherries and the other fruit we had to use up from the fridge.  It turned out great and was something I never would have made if it hadn't worked out in this weird, awkward, and wonderful way.  Here's what I did if you ever want a little taste of heaven...

Fruit Crisp:
2-3 peaches peeled, pitted and cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup of blueberries
cherry sauce (see recipe below)

1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
vanilla ice cream as an accompaniment if desired

Spread peaches and blueberries evenly in the bottom of a buttered 8-inch-square pan.  Pour cherry sauce over the top. In another bowl blend the brown sugar, the flour, the oats, the salt, the cinnamon, and the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture evenly over the fruite and bake the dessert in the middle of a preheated 375°F. oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until it is crisp. (For a crisper topping, after baking the crisp broil it under a preheated broiler for 2 minutes.) Serve the crisp warm with the vanilla ice cream.

Cherry Sauce:
2-3 Cups of Cherries, pitted
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup red wine
juice of 1/2 half a lemon
3 tablespoons of sugar (or less, if cherries are very sweet)
cinnamon to taste

Simmer cherries over medium high heat with all of the other ingredients for at least 20 minutes, or until the liquid reduces and cherries are soft.

So-- the cherries on their own, delicious, but with some peaches and blueberries- heaven....there were no pictures to be had-- cause we inhaled it!!!