Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ooh La La! French Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe was chosen by Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook. Thank's Di!

Mmm mmm. These French Brownies were good. Admittedly, I didn't completely follow Dorie's recipe, but I think she'll understand. I elected to amp up mine by omitting the raisins and adding extra cinnamon, toasted hazelnuts and Nutella to my batter. They are truly delicous.

I don't drink coffee very often anymore, and when I do it has to be decaf and unsweetened, but back in my days as a barista, one of the latte flavors I liked best was hazelnut cinnamon. If you're a sweet latte drinker (a dying breed, which is a good thing really) you must try yours like this. Make sure to top your milk foam with cinnamon sprinkles as well. Oh, and tip your barista if they are nice and make you a good drink!

Some of you likened the original recipe with flambed raisins to Raisinettes. I LOVE Raisinettes (people only eat these at the movies, right?), but I didn't have the rum and I have a husband who is not a raisin fan. I don't like to bake anything that he won't eat because I end up making up for his abstinence by eating more and this is not the season to be fooling around with extra, extra calories. One serving of rich, hazelnut brownies are just enough.

I know I'll make this recipe again-it was so easy and produced a delicious brownie. After the "photo shoot" I left 3 out, then I wrapped the rest of these up and threw them in the freezer. They've joined cupcakes, flourless chocolate cake, and chocolate lava cakes. I like having a freezer full of this stuff as they are perfect mix ins for ice cream when you have that burning need on any given night for a treat. Plus, brownies defrost wonderfully. In fact, as an update, after seeing Sex and the City on Sunday, and proceeding to drink too much wine back at my house with my girl friends, these already came and went. Au Revoir French Brownies!!Thanks for being there waiting for us when we really needed you after too much wine on a work night.

So, go ahead and splurge. If you're like me and you have a big Costco bottle of Nutella or any other chocolate hazelnut spread sitting in your pantry, I recommend you try the recipe my way. The Nutella added a delicous boost in chocolate flavor as well as extra richness.

French Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours


1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
6 ounces good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Scharffen Berger 60%)
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 Cup Nutella
2 Tablespoons Frangelico (optional)
3/4 Cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
powdered sugar for dusting

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter and flour the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, Frangelico and Nutella, stirring until it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment. Alternatively, you may choose to melt the chocolate in the microwave on half power, stirring regularly.

Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the hazelnuts.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Halfway through the baking time, rotate the pan in the oven.

Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil. Dust with powdered sugar if you'd like.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns, Tuesdays With Dorie

Tuesdays With Dorie you've done it again. Another deadline which means another sweet treat to concoct in record time because of course, these Tuesdays sure do sneak up on me. The Tuesday after a Memorial Day weekend spent away from home sneaks up even faster.

I have to give this recipe another shot. The thing with delicious, nutty, gooey treats like these is that they CANNOT BE RUSHED.

Check back for this recipe redo. Dont' worry sticky buns, I'll be back-just not after a 12 hour drive in the car from Portland Oregon to NW Montana with my husband and 2 dogs. Next time I'll be more coherent and less road weary and I will then master you.

The recipe, from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours is below. I did cut and paste it, so I apologize for the lack of pretty formatting.

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns
Makes 15 buns

For the Glaze:
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces1/4 cup honey1-1/2 cups pecans (whole or pieces)

For the Filling:
1/4 cup sugar3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar1 tablespoon ground cinnamon3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Buns:
1/2 recipe dough for Golden Brioche loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating it overnight)

Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan (a Pyrex pan is perfect for this).

To make the glaze: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissovle the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out asbest you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heatproof spatula. Sprinle over the pecans.

To make the filling: Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl. If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft, smooth and spreadable.

To shape the buns: On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months . . . . Or, if you want to make just part of the recipe now, you can use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder. Reduce the
glae recipe accordingly).
With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends of the roll if they're very ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into 1-inch thick buns. (Because you trim the ragged ends of the dough, and you may have lost a little length in the rolling, you will get 15 buns, not 16.) Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between them.
Lightly cover the pan with a piece of wax paper and set the pan in a warm place until the buns ahve doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The buns are properly risen when they are puffy, soft, doubled and, in all likelihood, touching one another.

Getting ready to bake: When the buns have almost fully risen , center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Remove the sheet of wax paper and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away merrily. Pull the pan from the oven.
The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven. If you do not have a rimmed platter large enough to hold them, use a baking sheet lined with a silicone mate or buttered foil. Be careful - the glaze is super-hot and super-sticky.

What You'll Need for the Golden Brioche Dough (this recipe makes enough for two brioche loaves. If you divide the dough in half, you would use half for the sticky buns, and you can freeze the other half for a later date, or make a brioche loaf out of it!):
2 packets active dry yeast (each packet of yeast contains approx. 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

What You'll Need for the Glaze (you would brush this on brioche loaves, but not on the sticky buns):
1 large egg1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.
Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.
Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight. (After this, you can proceed with the recipe to make the brioche loaves, or make the sticky buns instead, or freeze all or part of the dough for later use.)

The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans.
Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)
Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.

Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Oh Kauai, oh vacation. How I miss you both together. I'm now left with some photos and many great memories of thoses 10 days in paradise-the beautiful flowers, delicious fruits, perfect ocean water, rain showers at night, laughing harder with my husband than we had in months and finally the evil know as jet lag. The time difference is only 4 hours, but it does a number on this girl. I'm finally returning to my right self after 4 days home. I can't deny that I spent my first few days back at work doing a very good form of sleep walking. The worst thing about vacation is when it ends.

BUT-what a fabulous time we had! Paul's aunt who has a heart of gold had rented a private home in the hills of Kilauea on the island of Kauai. The home sat on about 5 acres; 5 acres that were brimming with avocado, mango, meyer lemon, lime, grapfruit and pommello trees. Of course there were also plumeria, gardenia, hibiscus and an amazing view of the ocean below us. It was pure paradise. Oh, and I have to mention the salt water pool, which initially I didn't think I would care for; I thought who needs a pool when you have an ocean- that is until I slinked in there one evening and realized how spectacular that pool would be treating us for the rest of the stay.

We spent 10 days at our favorite beaches-Hanalei, Tunnels, Kee, swimming, snorkeling and surfing in the ocean. Yes, I finally learned how to surf and that means I got up on that board and road waves in! It was so fun- I loved knowing that when I fell off, and I did fall off, I was only dropping into 75 degree water and not onto an icy or snow packed mountain like with skiiing or snowboarding.

We also took short breaks from the beach to visit the "sunshine markets". Fresh pineapple, cold coconuts (I simply can't pass those up), papayas, lychees, jackfruit, cacao pods and passionfruit awaited us. I love those markets. Everything is so bright and flavorful and fresh. The farmers are usually very willing to let you try fruits that you've never had before and we found some wonderful ones. One was brown and small and round and had firm flesh that tasted like molasses and cinnamon.

Island life I like you, I really really like you. I have a feeling I would fit right in-just like this beautiful Honu, who lives the dream.