I tend to like making complicated creations, even though they aren’t very popular with people who work, have kids, or have a life. But today I made something easy.
Easy and unspeakably delicious, if I do say so myself!
I gave some to my guinea pig neighbor, Pam and she called them Chocolate Raisin Puffs because they were so light. I don’t know if they qualify as “puffs”, but it was a very nice compliment.
These chocolate oatmeal cookies are made with espresso powder and chocolate covered raisins, and when baked for precisely twelve minutes, have a slightly crispy outer layer (like the edge of a brownie) and are very tender inside. Seriously, I’d rather have these than brownies any day!
I made some in a silicone mini-heart pan, and they popped right out in a very cooperative manner. They may not be the prettiest cookies I’ve ever made, but in this case I truly believe it’s what’s inside that counts.
I really think that the combination of Special Dark cocoa and espresso powder took the flavor over the top. And unless you have a real aversion to raisins (in which case you could use chocolate chips) don’t skimp on the chocolate covered raisins. The cookie dough isn’t overly sweet, so the sweet, chewy raisins add important texture and sweetness. Here are what the drop cookies look like inside:
Makes 36 average cookies, or 72 small heart-shaped cookies using a 24-cavity silicone heart mold. These cookies are SO addictive, you may want to double the batch.
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon espresso powder
¼ cup Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups quick-cook oats
11 oz (about 1¾ cup) chocolate covered raisins
Heat oven to 350 F
If you are making drop cookies, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and creamy - at least 2 minutes.
Add the eggs and beat 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl often. It will lighten in color and look just a little curdled; that's fine!
Add the vanilla, espresso powder, cocoa, flour, salt, and baking soda. On low speed (cover the bowl if possible, or stir by hand first to avoid a mess) mix together until well blended.
Stir in the oatmeal and chocolate covered raisins.
Drop by rounded tablespoons onto parchment. The cookies won't spread much, so an inch and a half between each is fine. If you are using a silicone heart mold, fill each cavity ¾ full. (No need to grease the mold.)
Bake for 12 minutes. Move baking sheet or silicone mold to a cooling rack and allow the cookies to cool. Cookies may be moved to the rack when barely warm. If you are making hearts, let them cool completely in the pan before turning them out.
Last week I told you my next post would be Valentine’s Day related, but that was before the Seattle Seahawks won the game that will send them to the Super Bowl. Again.
Valentine’s Day will just have to wait. I have footballs to make!
Beer is a must for the big game of course, and beer and pretzels just go together. Since filling these little football-shaped pretzels with cheese sounded good, I decided that filling them with ham and cheese sounded even better.The nice thing about this recipe is that it’s so flexible. Add hot sauce or onions, skip the ham, try different types of cheese. Make the filling your own!
Of course, the bombs can be made in nice little round shapes – but for the big game I wanted footballs. In my first batch there were about half that would be easily recognized as footballs, and half that were…well…deflated. (Dare I say that? Sorry, Patriots fans! The deflated ball jokes have been flying all week.) Cheese will ooze, and personally I love the crispy bits of baked cheese that stick to the bottom of the footballs. For the sake of appearance, however, I experimented. A lot.
I thought that maybe a longer boil would toughen the outside, keeping the cheese in as they baked. I seemed to have at least as many blow-outs, so my assumption was flawed. Because there was no “give” as the footballs baked, the cheese simply found a weak spot and broke through.
I tried a very short boil, with the theory that the footballs would remain more flexible, and give when pressured by the cheese. The cheese still blew out. Stiffer dough, softer dough, hotter bake temperature, lower bake temperature. Vent holes. I found that mozzarella is a little more explosive than cheddar, and using half of each helped a bit. I think I tried it all – at least everything I could think of.
The bottom line is this: CHEESE OOZE HAPPENS. Embrace it. Leave the crispy bits attached to the bombs…people will still love them.
They ain’t purty, but they taste just fine!
Beer and brown sugar add a little extra flavor to the pretzel dough, and an egg wash adds a pretty sheen. This recipe makes about 64 small bombs. Remember, that’s going to be about 30 attractive footballs. The rest should be immediately eaten for quality control purposes (wink wink). The bombs can be wrapped in foil and popped in the freezer after they’ve baked and cooled; they reheat beautifully. Or make 32 larger two-bite-size bombs.
It would be ideal if you had a helper, because two people would make this process a lot easier. One can be forming footballs while the other is boiling and baking. I did it by myself, so it’s do-able, but if you can bribe or enlist someone, I recommend it!
The dough is so easy to make. It’s a nice, sturdy dough that can be manhandled without causing any problems. Here’s the recipe:
Delicious little pretzel bites filled with ham and cheese. Don't expect them all to be pretty; they will ooze cheese, and some will take on interesting shapes! Embrace the crispy escaped cheese - that's the best part! Makes 60-64.
1 can (12 oz) beer
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3 tablespoons softened butter
1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups bread flour
6 ounces grated cheddar cheese (about 1½ cups)
6 ounces grated mozzarella cheese (about 1½ cups)
1 ounce cream cheese, softened
1 5-ounce can cooked ham chunks, drained, OR ½ cup (or more to taste) finely chopped cooked ham
½- 1 teaspoon Sriracha hot chili sauce
8 cups water
½ cup baking soda
1 egg whisked together with 1 teaspoon water (egg wash)
Pour beer into a small pan and heat until very warm - about 110 degrees.
In a large bowl (a standing mixer with a bread hook is best) combine the warm beer, white sugar, and yeast. Allow the mixture to sit 6-8 minutes, or until bubbly.
Add softened butter, brown sugar, salt, and 3 cups of the bread flour. Mix well.
Slowly add remaining flour, a little at a time, until the dough comes cleanly away from the side of the bowl and is not sticky to the touch. You are looking for a fairly stiff dough, but not dry. Dry dough is very hard to seal when you're making the footballs.
Knead for 6 minutes by machine, or 8 minutes by hand on lightly floured surface.
Shape dough into a ball and place in a large greased bowl, turning several times to coat the dough. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled - about 1 hour. WHILE THE DOUGH IS RISING:
Cover two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
Combine the cheese, ham, and hot sauce. Mix together very well. Go ahead and use your hands to knead it into a solid mass. Since your hands are already messy, save time later by rolling 64 balls of cheese mixture, about 1 teaspoon each. You may have a little left over. Save it for topping a casserole or for a grilled cheese sandwich!
When dough has doubled heat oven to 400 F.
Work with half of the dough at a time, leaving the other half covered. Separate dough into ½ ounce pieces (approximately 1 tablespoon). Roll into balls and flatten into rounds with the bottom of a heavy glass or a rolling pin.
Place one cheese ball in the center of each piece of dough and bring the edges up over the cheese. Pinch the dough firmly. Really....pinch the heck out of it! Roll briskly but gently between your hands. If you see a crack, pinch it and roll again. Roll either side of the ball firmly to create pointed ends if you are making football shapes.
Bring water and baking soda to a boil in a large tall saucepan and then lower the heat a little to get a gentle boil
Drop 8-10 footballs into the boiling water at a time. Allow them to boil for 30-40 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon or spider, and place onto prepared cookie sheets.
Using a razor blade (I used an X-Acto knife) or a very sharp paring knife, cut two short parallel lines in the top of each football, with a line in between. (Imagine a capital letter "I", laying on its side.) This will represent the laces. (If you want to get fancy, you can cut little laces too.) Be careful not to cut all the way through the dough or you are certain to have the cheese blow out the top! Note: If you are making round shapes instead of footballs, Cut a shallow "X" in each ball.
Brush with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.
Bake approximately 10-12 minutes, or until a rich brown.
I’m usually pretty fearless in the kitchen. If something doesn’t come out the way I’d hoped, I can almost always salvage it, even if it’s for another purpose. But after failing miserably at making pound cakes in the past, I’ve been hesitant to try again. There are so many other types of cake to enjoy, right?
But…a pound cake is just perfect for making petits fours, and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner (now you know what my next post will be), so I girded my loins pulled up my big girl panties and tried again, learning a few things in the process. My goal was to make a banana pound cake. I came up with two versions, slightly different, both of which met the approval of my tasting crew. A pound cake shouldn’t be heavy, but it is supposed to be dense, with a velvety crumb. If you want something lighter, keep looking; this is NOT an angel food cake! Pound cake is good on the first day, but better on the second – and fantastic on the third. Covered well and left at room temperature, this cake just gets more flavorful as it ages.
I love making traditional recipes, so tried to stick with the basic measurements our great grandmothers probably used: one pound of flour, one pound of butter one pound of sugar, one pound of eggs. I did use some leavening for insurance, though theoretically the cake should rise because of all the air that is beaten into the batter.
Should be 8 eggs there, but you get the idea 🙂
My first cake seemed a little too dense – more like banana bread. While I pondered the situation, I peeked at other recipes on the internet and found that most people use only half a pound of butter. I stalled long enough to test the cake again on it’s third day on the counter. Amazingly, it seemed even more flavorful, and the texture had improved. I loved this cake!
Still, I wanted to tweak the recipe a little, aiming for a lighter texture and color.
A little richer, a little heavier…yum!
I replaced one cube of butter with an extra half cup of sour cream, and even though I’m usually adamant about using real vanilla extract, this time I used Wiltons clear vanilla flavoring to keep the color from turning light brown. (Bananas and vanilla extract will do that!) I also reduced the leavening a little bit and paid more attention to beating the butter and eggs longer.
The result was a cake with a finer crumb, a beautiful yellow color, and a sweet, mild flavor. (Some of the credit for the yellow color should probably go to my hens, who lay eggs with vibrant yolks! If you use store bought eggs and want the cake to be banana-yellow, add a drop or two of yellow food coloring.)
I’ll give you the recipe for the lighter cake, since I’m guessing that’s what most of you will be interested in, but under that recipe I’ll tell you how to make the first cake, in case it sounds better to you. Personally, I think I preferred the heavier cake with the little brown specks. And I think the extra butter made it a bit more flavorful. Your call!
A sweet, dense cake with a fine crumb and subtle banana flavor.
1½ cups salted butter, room temperature (if using unsalted, add ¼ teaspoon salt to dry ingredients)
1 pound sugar (about 2⅓ cups)
1 pound eggs, room temperature (Weigh them in the shell! About 8 large eggs.)
2 teaspoons clear vanilla flavoring
2 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
1 cup sour cream
1 pound cake flour (about 3 cups) sifted
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
4 tablespoons heavy cream
Grease and flour (or spray with a flour/oil mixture like Baker's Joy) a large, 12-cup bundt pan.
Heat oven to 325 F.
In a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for at least 3 minutes.
Slowly trickle in the sugar, beating continuously and scraping the sides of the bowl often. Beat until light and fluffy.
With mixer on low, add eggs one at a time, beating between each egg for at least 30 seconds. Yes, this will take you 4 minutes, but don't cheat - it's really important!
In a small bowl, mix together the vanilla, mashed bananas, and sour cream. Pour slowly into the mixture in the large bowl, mixing just until combined.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda (and ¼ teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter). Gradually add to batter, stirring just until combined.
Spoon into bundt pan and smooth the top.
Bake on middle rack of oven for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a bamboo skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cake. Don't underbake or the texture of your cake will not be as smooth. If in doubt, give it 5 more minutes!
Cool on a rack for 20 minutes, and then turn out to cool completely.
Once the cake is cool, make icing:
Combine chocolate chips, peanut butter, and heavy cream in a small pan.
Heat on low, stirring frequently, until completely melted. Mixture should be thick, but spoonable. If too thick, add a small amount of cream or peanut butter, heating until smooth.
Drizzle (okay...glop) over the cake. Chill briefly to set the icing faster, if desired.
Keep covered at room temperature for up to 1 week.
To make the more traditional cake, follow the instructions above, except:
Use 2 cups of butter (1 pound)
Use 1 tablespoons vanilla extract
Use 1/2 cup sour cream
Increase baking powder to 1 teaspoon
Smoothing the batter in the pan.
Slowly melt ingredients for icing.
The chocolate icing I used is really more of a ganache. You can use a regular chocolate glaze if you prefer; I wanted thick and fudgy on this cake. I pictured a chocolate covered banana, and almost added chopped peanuts, but figured that might be going too far. Gilding the lily, huh? I think melted white chocolate with the peanut butter would be good too. (Think peanut butter and banana sandwiches.)
A few hints, words of wisdom:
This is one of those times when weighing your ingredients is very helpful. Hey, I’m pretty sloppy about measuring things, but I weighed my flour, eggs, and sugar on a digital scale for accuracy this time.
It’s really, really important to have your eggs and butter at room temperature. Please don’t use a microwave to soften your butter – just let it sit out until it can be beaten. Not too soft, not too hard.
This is pretty obvious, but the top of your cake will become the bottom, so if you want a smooth line at the bottom, take a sharp knife and cut off the top of the cake where it puffed up in the middle!
Now that I’ve found that I actually can produce a decent pound cake, I have a feeling you’ll be seeing a lot more of them. If I have some failures, pffft…they’ll just be made into trifle.
I’m moving into Valentine’s Day mode now though, so first…heart shaped EVERYTHING!