Friday, July 30, 2010

White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Blondies

"What is a blondie?"

This is what everyone asked me at work. I laughed after the 10th time I heard it and thought to myself that maybe I should stick with brownies. I could just trick people by telling them it is a brownie, maybe then I won't get the blondie inquisition! Not even spell check recognizes the word blondie.

After Hawaii I have found that nothing sounds good. I think it was all the different and fresh flavors we had on vacation that are prohibiting me from craving something back at home. One thing that I couldn't get away from were the macadamia nuts! They were in everything we ate, so naturally I bought a bunch before we left to bake with. An interesting fact about macadamia nuts: they contain the highest amount of monounsaturated fats, the healthy fats, of any known nut. So consider this your healthy snack!

White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Blondies

2 cups white chocolate chips
5 tbsp butter, chopped into pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup macadamia nuts, toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. To toast the macadamia nuts, use a small baking sheet and spread out macadamia nuts in single layer. Bake for 3 minutes, shake the pan, and bake for additional 3 minutes. Set aside to cool and chop when they have reached room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper leaving a small lip over the side. Grease parchment paper and remaining pan sides.

Using a double broiler or a bowl over simmering water, melt butter pieces and 1 cup of white chocolate chips. Continually stir till mixture is combined and smooth. Remove from heat, set aside, and cool to room temperature. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside. In a large mixing bowl combine sugar, egg, and vanilla till you get a thick yellow mixture. Add in cooled chocolate/butter mixture till combined. Add in flour mixture till combined. Using a spatula add in remaining 1 cup white chocolate chips and chopped macadamia nuts. Spread in pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until edges are slightly browned. Cool completely and cut into 2-inch squares.

I would recommend chopping the macadamia nuts by hand. I used my pampered chef chopper and it did not chop them as evenly as I would have liked. Another thing that I did was bake my blondies in a 9x13 pan. I prefer a little thicker brownie/blondie and these were pretty thin, so in the recipe it says to bake in a 9x9 pan instead. This will make your blondie experience much better.

Your welcome.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sweet Cream Brownies and Thank You

...and we're back! Hawaii was fun and fabulous. If you are looking for some pics, you can check out my home blog MeettheKadlecs as I will be posting there. In summary though, I have eaten too many pieces of famous "Hana banana bread", I am addicted to macadamia nuts, and I know what Taro is, but don't really plan on eating it again anytime soon. Instead let's talk about something you can't stop staring at...

Before Hawaii I getting ready by shopping at the Galleria here in Houston. As I was heading into Nordstrom, which is always a long stop for me, I found myself famished. The hubby and I decided to share some coffee and a irroestiable looking Sweet Cream Brownie at the Nordstrom Cafe. It was the most delicious brownie I think I have ever had! As any of you bloggers know, when you try something so beautiful you have to figure out how to make it yourself, am I right? Here was my attempt of the melt in your mouth sweet cream brownie...

Sweet Cream Brownies

Cheesecake filling:
6 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp irish cream

Super Chewy Brownies:
1/3 cup dutch-process cocoa
1 and 1/2 tsp instant espresso
1/2 cup and 2 tbsp boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup and 2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 and 1/2 cup granualted sugar
1 and 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chunked

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and move oven rack to lowest position. Line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray, this will help you get the super chewy brownies out of the pan without crumbling them. Combine cream cheese, butter, sugar, egg, and irish cream and mix until smooth, set aside.

Whisk together cocoa, espresso powder, and boiling water until the chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. While continually whisking, add in eggs, yolks, and vanilla until mixture is smooth. Add in sugar until completely mixed in. Slowly add in flour and salt, then chocolate chunks and mix with spatula until combined.

Pour brownie batter into prepared pan. Drop spoonfuls of cheesecake filling into brownie mixture. Using a knife, swirl the brownie batter and cheese filling together. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until edges of brownies have browned. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Lift brownies out of pan and refrigerate till chilled. Cut brownies into however you can handle it and serve chilled.

Well, I have to admit, my sweet cream brownies were not as seductive as those of the Nordstrom Cafe, but they were pretty delicious. I kept mine in the fridge the entire time as they live up to their chewy name and because they were so rich, I ended up cutting them in half. I used the best chewy brownie recipe I have ever tried, Brown Eyed Baker did all the research and found a recipe for brownies that are meant to taste like those yummy store bought boxed brownie mix. I mixed her recipe up with the cream cheese filling of Sinful Southern Sweet's Boozed up Brownies.

I wish I could have shared them with all you, everyone is so sweet and supportive in their comments, it really makes blogging my projects fun. I received a few blogging awards while on vacation and wanted to say thank you to Chef Dennis of MorethanaMountful for "A Blog with Substance" award and the "Stylish Blogger Award" and Lisa of KoreanAmericanMommy for the "Sunshine Award". Thank you both for reading and enjoying my blog!

Now to pass them on to the bloggers that inspire me. To Sarah at Baking.Serendipity I would like to give the Blog with Substance award. She has really been a busy blogger and all of her recipes are right up my alley, many of them starred on my reader, so go check her out! I want to give the Sunshine Award to MorelloCherry at Frosted Rosepetals, she is always so cheerful in her comments and her blog posts and is quite creative with recipes and her DIY posts. For the Stylish Blogger Award, I want to point you guys to Jessica 's blog TheNoviceChef, she takes some amazing photos and has the cutest blog design and banner.

Thanks and Enjoy!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Chewy Granola Bars

or I would call these "I'm going on vacation to Hawaii bars"!

Yep, I leave for Hawaii tomorrow for a whole week of nothing but Pina Colada's and fresh Mahi Mahi. I will be sad to not get to bake for a whole week, but I did a lot of pre-vacation baking to get it all out of my system. I wanted to make some granola bars because they are easy to pack and seemed like the healthier option with all the vacation eating that will be going on. Does anyone else own "vacation shorts" or is that just me?

I couldn't decide which type of granola bars to make, so I made both. Making two nearly identical recipes at the exact same time is a great idea. One kind is for the chocolate lover in me and it has dark chocolate chips, raisins, almonds, and sunflower seeds. The other is a Hawaiian themed bar with white chocolate chips, crushed almonds, dried mangoes, apricots, and pineapple chunks. They are both amazing, it really just depends on what mood you are in to decide which one to eat first!

Chewy Granola Bars

1 and 2/3 cup quick rolled oats
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 cups dried fruits and nuts
1/3 cup peanut butter
6 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup, light corn syrup
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper, then grease exposing pan and parchment paper. Combine oats, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and dried fruits and nuts, set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together melted butter, honey or syrup, light corn syrup, and water. Mix wet and dry ingredients, adding in peanut butter, until well combined and crumbly. Press mixture into pan, try using a greased piece of plastic wrap. Bake bars for 25-30 minutes or until slightly brown on edges. Let bars cool to room temperature, then place in refrigerator for 30 minutes or until chilled. Remove from pan, cut bars, and enjoy.

This recipe was adapted from the King Arthur Flour site. It called for Sticky Bun Sugar, which I have never heard of so I didn't have it. The site gave a substitution of 3/4 cup granulated sugar + 2 tbsp light corn syrup + 2 tbsp melted butter, which you see above in the recipe. I also did not add as much sugar as suggested because I added a bunch of fruit and chocolate, if you are using less sweet fruits and nuts then I would recommend adding more sugar. For the chocolate granola bars I used honey, but ran out so for the Hawaiian granola bars I used maple syrup and you could taste both in each bar, both tasted equally great! Lastly I did not have oat flour, so I used 1/3 cup of oats and put it in the food processor for 15 seconds.

Also in preparation for my trip, I have really been trying to learn the features of my new camera. I took a class at the Houston Center for Photography with a friend and it has helped immensely. I used the granola bars as practice for trying out the different lighting settings and manual focus on the camera.

Below are camera light settings Tungsten, Sunlight, and Auto taken in a room with all the window blinds open at 5PM and my overhead kitchen lighting.

Looks like auto setting wins for my inside food photography.

Something you cannot get with a point and shoot are all the focusing options. Here I used manual focus to bring each object in the scene into focus.

Any last minute photo tips for landscape and water photography?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Potato Frittata, Hakuna Matata

Am I crazy or does Potato Frittata sound a lot like Hakuna Matata?

This dish makes me want to sing old Disney songs. Come on, I know your singing Hakuna Matata in your head now..."it means no worries, for the rest of your days...". Sorry, but it will be stuck there all day now.

Anyways, this dish is delish! I made it for weekend breakfast and we ate leftovers as a side for dinner this week, I could eat it anytime of the day it is so versatile. Somehow the egg and cream mixture oozes in between the thin red potato slices and mixes with the spices, caramelized onions, and green onions to make each bite full of flavor. If you don't know what a frittata is, it is an egg based dish like a quiche, but without the crust.

Potato Frittata

8 small red potatoes
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced
1/4 cup water
8 large eggs
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
2 tbsp green onion, diced
3 tbsp heavy cream
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash, peel, and thinly slice red potatoes, set aside. Heat a saute pan over medium heat and add in 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and sliced yellow onions. Cook 8-10 minutes or until onions are caramelized. Next add in 1/4 cup water and cook for 5 minutes, or until water has evaporated and onions are a uniform brown color. In a roasting pan toss together cooked onions, sliced potatoes, 1 tbsp butter, and 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover roasting pan and cook for 25 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Set potatoes aside for 15 minutes and reduce oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together eggs, heavy cream, parsley, green onion, salt, and pepper. Heat a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat and add 2 tbsp butter. Coat entire surface bottom and sides with melted butter. Add in cooked potatoes to cover bottom of skillet. Pour egg mixture over top and cover the skillet. Bake for 30 minutes, remove cover and bake for 10 additional minutes. Serve warm.

The original recipe, courtesy of called for 4 large russet potatoes, but I adjusted a few things, one being that I used 8 small red potatoes instead. For the potato lover in me, I would also like to try some nice Yukon golds next time. This was also my first time caramelizing onions, I followed the directions exactly and it worked, amazing. I guess I always thought it would be a lot harder than it was, so thanks Joy!

This also gave me an excuse to break out my new birthday gift, a cherry red Le Creuset french oven. It performed just as expected, every inch of the frittata was cooked evenly and the top and edges crisped to a beautiful brown. I was debating between investing the money in this or buying a pre-seasoned skillet. I found out Le Creuset has a lifetime warranty on their products and I live near a Le Crueset outlet store which was having a sale so that helped too.

Hakuna Matata!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fourth of July Red Velvet Cupcakes

Happy Birthday USA!

I love themed baking, as if I need another excuse to buy cute cupcake wrappers or sprinkles! Fourth of July always reminds of a hot summer day, with the barbecue going, colorful summer desserts in the making, and fireworks in the sky. This year we are heading over to a friends house and praying that the rains stops in Houston for just one night!

Last time I made Red Velvet cake I tried to substitute 1 cup cake flour for 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. This was a trick, the cake was red, but the texture was not the light crumbly feeling that you get from using real cake four. So this time, I went out and bought real cake flour, which totals my flour variety count to 6 in my pantry. Why do I have so much flour!? I also used a soft-gel red food coloring last time, which I dissolved in water before hand, I don't know if I did something wrong, but the cake was more of a medium-dark red swirl. This time I used liquid red food coloring, which gave me a nice solid bright red color, beautiful!

Red Velvet Cupcakes and White Chocolate Frosting
2 and 1/2 cup cake flour
1 and 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, room temperature
1 and 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 tbsp red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white distilled vinegar

1/2 cup white chocolate chips
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp sour cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with cupcake wrappers and set aside. In medium bowl sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, and salt. In a large bowl beat eggs, vegetable oil, food coloring, buttermilk, vanilla, and vinegar until well combined. Add in flour mixture and beat until thoroughly mixed, then beat for 2 minutes on medium-high speed. Spoon batter into cupcake wrappers until 2/3 of the way full and bake for 20-22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and place on racks to cool completely before icing.

Melt white chocolate in microwave or in double broiler. Stir constantly till melted and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally to maintain liquid consistency. Beat cream cheese, butter, and sour cream on high just until combined. Add in cooled white chocolate and vanilla, beat on high until combined. Ice cupcakes generously and enjoy!

Previously I used
Smitten Kitchen's recipe for Red Velvet Cake, which I assume would be great (as everything is from her kitchen) if I had used the correct flour, but then I read The Way the Cookie Crumbles comparison of 4 red velvet cake recipes and went with her favorite. It also appealed to me the most as it was a quick mix of wet and dry ingredients and had a beautiful bright red color. So thanks to Apple A Day for the best red velvet cupcake I have yet to taste! For the icing I went with a White Chocolate Frosting, just because I wanted something different and the combination is something new and fabulous!

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