On Monday afternoons, we often wander up to the local farmer’s market to buy treats, fresh bread, or artisan sheep cheeses. Robincommented that the brownie was the best he had ever had. Wait…what?! WHAT?! Well, throw down the gauntlet – it’s time to find a brownie recipe that challenges the baker at the farmer’s market.
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter 1 1/4 cups sugar 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process) 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 2 large eggs, cold 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven & preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom & sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, & salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted & the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
(I did the previous melting/mixing step utilizing our microwave & was just fine.)
Stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring after each one. When the batter looks well blended, add the flour & stir until you cannot see it any longer. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter (25 minutes for my oven). Let cool completely on a rack.
This is a start. Brownies using cocoa are so much less labor-intensive but I might have to up the ante & melt some actual chocolate to achieve this dream holy grail brownie.
Originally published on my old (now defunct) blog in September 2008, I just don’t want to give up my theories on brunch quite yet.
I have never been a breakfast person. My mum would have to resort to making me very non-breakfast foods so I would eat (ie: tuna fish, leftovers…). Even now, I have to talk myself into eating breakfast most of the time. I know it’s the “most important meal of the day” – but there’s a disconnect between that & what my stomach thinks. My stomach simply needs time & a bit of tea to wake up properly. My stomach is the type of stomach that likes lazing about the living room with the comics section of the newspaper, giggling at Snoopy, sipping tea, & reading its daily horoscope.
That’s why I like brunch. Brunch is the type of meal I can stand behind in the morning because it’s not thrown at you first thing. You can sit with a hot beverage & enjoy morning conversation. Rather than woof down sustenance for the rest of the day, you can leisurely munch.
We all know that I love pie. & trust me, there is a type of pie for every season. Above is a Apple Pear Gruyere Pie I improved a few years ago. Remember the show “Pushing Daisies” about Ned the Pie Maker? Not surprisingly… I really liked that show. & the pie. So here are a few pie links as we drift into autumn.
I don’t usually transport my pies too far away from their home oven – but check out this Pie Carrier! It looks like a polka dot hatbox, but it could really house your favorite pie or quiche for sharing (the interior has a non-skid bottom).
Mark Bittman seems to think that crust doesn’t pull its weight in pie – that the filling earns top billing: ” It’s that pie crust adds little to a fruit dessert apart from heft and calories.” While I don’t completely disagree (his recipes look quite yummy & friendly for the gluten-free) – I don’t think the crust is to be discounted. & the point of pie should never be how many calories it has. NEVER. I am quite adamant on the subject.
You know what sprinkles mean? A birthday. A birthday party. Oh yeah. Time to sprinkle it up. This Sprinkle Occasion is brought to you on account of Amanda’s birthday. She lives above the Zen Apartment.
Amanda lives a life of no gluten. I wanted to provide celebratory GF cake balls. I ended up using Betty Crocker’s Gluten Free Mix! I didn’t know they had GF offerings & was a little hesitant, but when has Betty ever led me astray? Never. The answer is…never.
I was so pleased with how they turned out. Bright & colorful & sweet.
& as always, everything is better when on a stick.
Remember when I made Apple Cafe Muffins? They’ve become a regular brunch occurrence in Zen Apartment 2.0. Robin makes breakfast burritos while I chop apples. We take turns choosing the soundtrack for brunch, seeing where the Genius mix button takes us. It usually takes us to gangster rap, which really amps up brunch in general.
So begins our play by play of the Muffin process. The ingredients’ class photo. Tallest in the back! Don’t make faces, vinegar! Stop blocking cinnamon out, salt!
Cinnamon. Baking Powder. Baking soda.
Mix mix mix.
Wait, these muffins have sugar in them?! I’ve been hawking them as healthy because of the apple…
Regular & brown sugar. Yum.
Cream. Mix mix mix.
Check out that egg cracking action!
Mix mix mix.
Chop up that delicious apple.
Swat hands that are trying to pick out pieces of delicious apple to munch on!
Ow. Pour homemade “buttermilk” (almond milk + vinegar)
Mix in dry ingredients into the bowl of wet ingredients.
Don’t mix too much. Don’t be too vigorous. Muffins are gentle creatures.
This is some legitimate (& delicious) lettuce straight from the Zen Garden (aka our balcony plants).
Do you know what my favorite lettuce quote is? –No?
Well, I’ll share it with you:
“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, & you show that you understand, you can love, & the situation will change.”
So, I haphazardly made these muffins a few weeks ago. I just wanted something delicious & easy for a warm brunch feel on a holiday Monday. & eureka! This recipe has been a hit, three times over. & I like to feel that since they’re chock full of apple, they fulfill the ‘apple a day’ motto.
Apple Cafe Muffins
Yields: 14 muffins (or 12, extra topped up)
1 cup whole wheat flour 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon cinnamon 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature 1/4 cup granulated sugar 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed, divided 1 large egg 1 cup buttermilk 2.5 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Grease & flour muffin cups & set aside.
Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt & cinnamon – set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter & add the sugar & 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg – mix well. Mix in the buttermilk gently (don’t over-mix or the mixture will curdle). Stir in the dry ingredients & fold in the apple chunks.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, sprinkling remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 400 & bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes & then turn them onto a wire rack to finish cooling.