A mom's journal of the sweet things in her life...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Kit Kat White Chocolate Blondies

Hello. Remember me? 

I'm the girl who told you that  you should melt chocolate bars with butter and make squares with them. I also pretty much told Weight Watchers to take a flying leap. Yuh. Sure did. All this just earlier today.

As soon as I hit "publish post", I started browsing other food blogs. I still had Mars Bars stuck in my teeth when I stumbled upon yet another recipe that uses chocolate bars.  Kit Kat chocolate bars on top of a white chocolate Blondie. I liked this concept. Definitely worth exploring. Non?

What are the chances I would have Kit Kat bars in my cupboard? They were left over from Halloween. Surely it was a sign that this was meant to be. It appeared that my chocolate bender was not over. Not by a long shot. It had only just begun.

No sooner had I finished washing the cutting board and knife that I used to chop up Mars Bars and I was pulling them out again. I needed them to chop up Kit Kat bars this time. Say goodbye to the skinny jeans.

I found this recipe on Picky Palate. She used a muffin top pan instead of the 8" square pan that I used, you can use either. She commented that they weren't anything pretty to look at. She wasn't lying. They weren't. They were ugly as hell. Hers looked pretty good - mine sunk in the middle leaving an abnormally high crust. I'm thinking the muffin top pan might be the way to go.

As much as I love the idea of baking with chocolate bars, I think the Blondie aspect of this recipe could be tweaked. Perhaps baking it in a slightly larger pan (9x9), perhaps mixing half the Kit Kat bits into the batter and then sprinkling the rest on top. Perhaps a tad more salt. Perhaps.

After I cut off the crust part, and granted some people really like that part of a brownie but I'm not one of them, I was left with no more than nine flat pieces from the centre, which were somewhat more appealing. 

At first I thought they seemed a little greasy and I was disappointed. But I left them on the counter,  took the kids to the park and forgot about them. Then later, I walked past them on the counter and I tried one. It was good. Not outstanding, but good. I think it's important to let them cool to room temperature before you try them. 

The final verdict? Make these if you have Kit Kat bars lying around, but I wouldn't run out and buy them specifically for this. Unless you must. Then do so. It's up to you. Really. Who am I to tell you not to? I just made Mars Bar Squares and Kit Kat White Chocolate Blondies in the same afternoon.

1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
10 individual Kit Kat sticks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place butter into a microwave safe bowl and melt. Stir in white chips until melted and smooth.

Place sugar, brown sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and white chips into a mixing bowl, stir in melted butter/white chocolate  

then stir in eggs and cream.
Pour batter into a 8×8 inch baking dish lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray and top with cut up pieces of kit kat bars. 
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cooked through, let cool then cut into squares.

P.S. - If you happen to be a member of Weight Watchers, please don't tell them what I've been up to. I will be banned for life. Thanks.

Mars Bar Squares

Don't even try to tell me that melting chocolate bars with butter is a bad idea. What's that you say? Fat grams? Calories??!! La la la la la. I'm covering my ears. La la la. I can't hear you. Seriously though. Shut. Up. What could be better than Mars Bars melted with butter, mixed in with rice krispies and pressed into a square?  It's delicious. No, it's fantastic. But that's not it, it's gets better. After you've made your chocolate squares, you melt more chocolate and...wait for it...butter! and then you have your topping. Screw Weight Watchers. They can take their points and shove them. Even chocolate bars deserve to liberated into decadent squares from time to time.

Many years ago I worked at a coffee shop that actually still serves these. I asked for the recipe. They swore me to secrecy. I promised I wouldn't tell and I kept my promise for years. (Except I did tell my sister.)  Then one day a friend of mine came over for a BBQ and she brought these along with her. My first thought: "There's been a leak!" Eventually I saw different versions of these squares popping up all over the internet on various sites. Clearly it was safe to say that the coffee shop I once worked for did not invent them.  They call them "Galaxy Squares". Get it? How clever.  I call them "Mars Bar Squares" - because that's what they are. They're bad for you no matter how you spin it. But everyone loves them, you will make friends if you serve these. For real.

Since I made these this morning, I've been on a bit of a bender. I can't stop eating them. My sticky fingers are messing up my keyboard as I type. But seeing as I finally got into my skinny jeans last week, I figured it was time to celebrate. Or self-sabotage. Whichever you prefer. I promise to call my Weight Watchers sponsor. Tomorrow. 

4 regular sized Mars Bar chocolate bars
1/2 cup butter
3 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup of chocolate chips
1 Tbsp. butter

Cut the Mars Bars into bite sized pieces. Melt with 1/2 cup butter in medium sized pot over medium heat. Stir constantly. At one point the mixture will appear to separate and look slightly curdled, keep stirring! It will come together shortly. Once smooth, remove from heat immediately. (If you over-cook the sauce, the squares will be hard.) Add rice krispies and stir to combine. Press into greased 8" square pan. Allow to cool.

Melt chocolate and butter, stirring till smooth. Pour over top of squares and allow to set. Cut into squares.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Chocolate Glaze

All I wanted was a Bundt Cake. A moist, chocolate, Bundt cake that I found on another blog. That was the plan. Bake a cake, and then eat it. By myself. It was a Thursday night and my husband was out. I called my sister. I told her my plans, she is privy to pretty much all my thoughts and ideas, at the very moment of their inception. Sometimes I think she wishes I didn't feel the need to keep her in the loop all the time but she humors me. She is kind that way. We discussed the fact that baking a cake for myself when no one was around to eat it might be wasteful. It's never stopped me before. But then she suggested a BBQ on the weekend. A BBQ was the perfect excuse to bake a cake. And it would make me feel less pathetic if there were other people around to eat the cake with me. She was right, so a BBQ was had. 

I swore I'd keep the menu simple. After all, my sole purpose of the BBQ was to eat cake. My menu was to consist of sausage and buns, chips and dip, coleslaw and - of course - cake.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies- Trial 2

This is my second batch of chocolate chip cookies in as many weeks. I'm taking my research for the perfect CCC recipe very seriously. Okay, I'm not serious at all. I've just felt like CCC lately, and I don't have a favorite recipe yet so I'm trying everyone else's. 

The first batch was courtesy of Alton Brown via the Joy the Baker blog. Those were fantastic. This recipe I found on the Barbara Bakes blog and she found it on Alice's blog, Savory Sweet Life. Blog surfing - it's what's keeping my floors dirty and the laundry from getting done. 

Alice (Savory Sweet Life) claims that these are the best CCC ever. I love when someone makes a bold statement like that, it makes me want to test them out. She also claims that they having a great caramel chewiness. I'll give her that one for sure.

But ALL cookies taste amazing when they're still warm, and they continue to taste good for the rest of the day that they're baked (I make a point of eating one at different times throughout the day - it's the prudent thing to do). But how good are they the next day? That's the real question. And the answer is that these cookies were not nearly as good the next day. I still ate them, however, but I threw them out on the third day. The Alton Brown recipe, on the other hand, was still delicious on day 3 - and they all got eaten. 

So...while this recipe is super yummy when eaten fresh, I have to say that it's definitely not the best one out there. Sorry, just thought you should know. I'm keeping it real. The next recipe I'm going to try is the infamous NYT recipe. I have a feeling those ones are going to get me into trouble.

Recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 sticks of butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups (12 ounces) all purpose flour
1 tsp. coarse sea salt (not table salt)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 360 degrees. (That's no typo.)

Cream butter, sugar and brown sugar until fluffy (approximately 5 minutes). Add both eggs and vanilla and beat for additional 2 minutes. Add baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour  and mix until cookie batter is fully incorporated. Add chocolate chips.

Drop about 2 Tbsp. of dough on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until edges are nice and golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 2 minutes before moving to  cooling rack.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Modern Baker Challenge: Pain de Campagne

Dear Fellow Modern Bakers:

I've been a bad Modern Baker. I apologize. I've not been keeping up with the rest of you. It's not because I don't love The Modern Baker book because I do. I love it a lot. I think Nick Malgieri is a genius. His recipes are fool-proof and delicious and I've been baking from it regularly. (In fact I've made 4 quick breads that I haven't blogged about.) The problem is that I keep going back to those darn Cocoa Banana Muffins. The fact they're labeled 'muffins' and not 'cupcakes' does wonders in alleviating the guilt factor. I've made them 7 times. I'm hooked - and so are my kids. This addiction makes it difficult to tackle anything else. Damn those muffins!

However, the Modern Bakers are now on the bread section, and since I volunteered myself for the Pain de Campagne bread, I was determined to rise to the occasion, no pun intended. Besides, I made a batch of muffins yesterday so I'm all set. Time to move on. Even I can see that.

Baking breads is something I've managed to avoid for years. Yeast scares me - I had a bad experience a long time ago with buns that didn't rise. They felt and sounded like lead weights when I dumped them in my garbage can. I have steered clear ever since. Until now.

Phyl let us each pick which bread we wanted to bake and I chose the Pain de Campagne. I can't tell you why that bread specifically spoke to me, it just did. 

Since we aren't posting the actual recipes from the book, I took lots of pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. I'm giving a step-by-step pictured narrative for those who are interested. You are interested, right? Who wouldn't want to see picture after picture of a white blob of dough transform itself into a round loaf of deliciousness? 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Grilled Shrimp Tacos

I had an idea in my head for weeks. Maybe it was more of a craving. It involved grilled shrimp, fresh tomatoes, avocado, corn, black beans.  A nice sauce would be necessary too. And heck, why not wrap the whole thing in a flour tortilla?

I had the pleasure of experiencing a real fish taco in San Diego years ago. It was sublime. I loved it. And I've been thinking about it ever since. The crispy, deep fried fish with fresh salsa, cabbage and that sauce. What is that sauce? All I know for sure is that it's good. Real good. Eventually I will tackle the feat of trying to replicate it but, truthfully, it's a bit daunting. Having had the real deal I'm know that anything I come up with won't compare. So, instead of disappointing myself, I figured I'd do an entirely different version. Besides, I wasn't in the mood to pull out my deep fryer. So messy, and the smell it leaves behind...no, I'm not ready for that just yet.

If you google fish tacos or shrimp tacos on the internet, you will find a plethora or recipes and ideas that inspire, so narrowing it down is the hard part. 

I started with the 'salsa'. I used two Roma tomatoes, an avocado, fresh corn, the juice of 2 limes, 1/2 cup of black beans, minced garlic and jalapeno, and generous handful of fresh cilantro. Seasoned with salt and pepper to taste and then, on a whim, I threw in a dash of sugar. Happy with my salsa, I moved on to the shrimp.
Using more of what I already had chopped, I tossed the shrimp with some oil, lime juice, garlic, jalapeno, salt and pepper. I left it to sit for about an hour to marinate.
Next up, the sauce. I found a recipe on the Our Best Bites blog that intrigued me. It was called "Creamy Lime Cilantro Dressing" - it used a package of Ranch seasoning, 1 cup of mayo, 1/2 cup of milk, 1/4 cup of green salsa, a clove of garlic, cilantro and a dash of hot sauce. You throw all this in your blender and then chill it. This sounded like the perfect sauce to accompany my shrimp because it needed something to balance out the heat of the jalapenos that I used to flavor both the shrimp and the salsa. 

The final component to this taco: fresh chopped cabbage. While it might not offer much in the way of flavor, its crisp texture complimented the rest of the ingredients.
Since my husband was out for the night, I invited my 'BFF' over for dinner. We brought the circus of kids and dogs out onto the deck while we grilled the shrimp on the BBQ and assembled our dinner.
Never one to shy away from a culinary adventure, she was the perfect guest. There she is, opening the wine. Yes, it's red wine. No, I'm quite certain that it probably isn't the right wine to 'pair' with our dinner. But we didn't care - we don't know our wines. We don't pretend to. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
Once the shrimp were grilled - to perfection I might add - we began assembling. Warmed flour tortilla, handful of shredded cabbage, salsa, shrimp and then sauce. 
It was nothing like the San Diego fish taco, but that was okay. This was an entirely different type of fish taco. Probably much healthier too. It was delicious and perfect for the summer. I will definitely be making these again. And you should too. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Homemade Apple Pie

My girl Kim was here this past long weekend. Who's Kim? She's my amazing friend who lives in Victoria. She visits regularly. I visit her. My kids call her Aunty. My dogs maul her. I get to unload and whine about all my frustrations. She listens. She's a good listener. She refills my wine glass unprompted. She helps solve the world's problems. She talks sports with my husband. She sits on the floor and entertains my kids while I get ready. When she's here I get to take long, hot showers instead of the usual rushed ones. Remember those? Pre-kids? She doesn't mind that she's covered in dog hair in our house. She even politely picks any stray dog hairs out of her food without so much as a comment. She tidies up. She feeds herself. She chops the vegetables for my salads. She dresses my kids. She combs their hair. She tucks them in at night. My kids adore her, she adores them. When puppy pees on the floor, she wipes it up. Once when my daughter threw up - she jumped on that puddle of vomit like a fat kid on a smartie. I didn't have a chance to protest. True story.

It's not hard to see why the whole family loves when Kim visits. So you can probably understand why I always feel a little sad when she leaves. I miss her already, she's been gone for 2 hours. It's like the day after Christmas around here. We were counting down the sleeps until Aunty Kim got here for weeks. And just like that - she's gone. Sigh.

So what did we do while she was here? We talked, we laughed, we ate fries, so many fries. We drank wine, we shopped. We took the kids to the zoo. More fries. Then we baked a pie. An apple pie. From scratch. To understand the enormity of the event, you must know this. (Kim I apologize for outing you.) But Kim used to live on frozen entrees. She never used to cook and then something happened. She's suddenly discovered that she likes to cook. She's learning fast, trying new things, slowly tackling the list of things I told her she had to buy to properly equip her kitchen. She's getting there, I'm proud of her - and that's where the pie comes in.

I found a recipe in the oddest of places. It wasn't even a cooking magazine - it was a gossip rag. But it had a recipe for Obama's favorite pie. So random. I'm not even American. But it looked yummy so we baked it. We also took over a hundred pictures. Prepare yourself.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Black Forest Cake

They say that imitation is the best form of flattery. I totally copied Brown Eyed Baker's idea and made a sort of 'cheater' Black Forest Cake. Having no time to fuss in the kitchen for the cake I was bringing to my family's Canada Day Barbeque, I did something I never thought I'd do. I bought a can of cherry pie filling. Let's be clear, I'm not typically one to take short cuts in the kitchen- and I never thought I'd see the day I would use fruit from a can when the fresh variety is so abundant in the stores. But let's face it, sometimes time is not our friend and you're forced to choose between a short cut or arriving at a BBQ empty-handed. The latter was simply not an option.

I did bake my chocolate cake layers from scratch - I used my old faithful recipe because it always turns out moist and delicious. After that, it was as easy as whipping the cream and - yes - pulling out the can opener for the filling. Does that make you cringe? I get it, I was cringing too, but I'm over it. Sometimes short-cuts are good so don't fight it, just roll with it. The end result was not a bad rendition of the classic.
Perfect Chocolate Chocolate Cake Recipe:
2 c. sugar
1 3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. cocoa (sifted)
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. baking soda 
1 t. salt
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 t. vanilla
1 c. freshly brewed espresso or coffee
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 9 inch round baking pans.
Whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed of mixer for 2 minutes.  Stir in boiling water (or coffee of espresso).   Pour batter into prepared pans. 
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to cooling rack.  Cool completely.
Whip about 3 cups of whipping cream sweetened with icing sugar to your taste. Place your first cake layer on your serving platter. Spread your canned cherry pie filling on top (I used maybe half a can). Spread about a cup or less of the whipped cream on top. Be conservative though - learn from my mistake. Cream oozing out middle of cake = mess. 
Place your second cake layer on top. Finish by frosting the cake with the remaining cream. Decorate with maraschino cherries and grated chocolate.


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