Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Quick Coffee Cake

I'm getting better, slowly but surely. Thankfully, the sore throat is gone, but now comes the stuffiness and congestion. But as I said, I'm slowly pulling through, and the sickness wasn't enough to keep me out of the kitchen. I baked this up the other day when I got a craving for it for breakfast. (And made sure to wash my hands multiple times, of course.) This coffee cake is super great, and really lives up to its title "Quick." I looked for a coffee cake recipe a long time ago, but all the recipes I found included yeast or sour cream, which are two things I never have on hand. But finally I came across this recipe, found that it was composed of ingredients that are always on hand, made a couple of changes based on reviews, and voila! I found my go-to coffee cake recipe.

I find that a lot of store bought coffee cakes are quite tough, but this cake is nice and moist and soft. The cake itself is not too sweet, so it's a great base for the sweet and buttery brown sugar cinnamon topping. Usually when I make this cake, the topping melts into the cake a little bit and doesn't look too attractive, but this time it stayed in a nice and even layer without sinking in. I guess it's just the luck of the draw. Either that or it somehow knew that I would be taking its picture this time, ha ha. If you're in need of a quick breakfast, this cake is prepared and baked up in basically the same amount of time muffins are made and baked. Or, if you want, you could probably even make coffee cake muffins out of this!

Quick Coffee Cake (adapted from Allrecipes)
Makes 1 8x8 or 9x9 inch cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • slightly rounded 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter, cold and cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8 or 9 inch square pan. (I used 8'll produce a thicker cake.)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the 1 1/2 cups of flour, baking powder, white sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the butter is the size of peas. (You can also do this with a stand mixer or a food processor for ease. I always use my stand mixer and the butter is incorporated in no time.)
  3. In a separate, small bowl, mix together the egg, milk, and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the flour and butter mixture all at once. Blend just until combined. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, and cinnamon until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly on top of the cake.
  5. Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (If you're using an 8 inch pan, start checking at 20 minutes. If you're using a 9 inch, start checking at 15.)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ultimate Stand Mixer Chocolate Chip Cookies

Springtime has gotten the best of me. I'm currently typing this up with a horrible sore throat and stuffy/runny nose, most likely thanks to all of the pollen and whatnot in the air. I baked these up two days ago when I felt the sickness coming on, so as to bake them when I was still well enough and when I was still able to taste things. I came across this recipe on Cookie Madness and they sounded really great, so I knew I had to try them. They're called "Ultimate Stand Mixer" CC cookies because you use a stand mixer to beat a ton of air into the butter, sugar, and eggs. I started out with cold butter that I beat for 5-6 minutes until creamy. Then you add the sugar and beat for another 4-5 minutes, and then add the eggs and vanilla gradually, beating again for about 4-5 minutes. You end up with an extremely delicious light and fluffy cookie dough that I honestly had trouble keeping my fingers out of.

I ended up having a serious soft spot for these cookies because they reminded me of my childhood. I think that's because their flavor is extremely similar to Tollhouse's chocolate chip cookie, which I always used to bake up with my mom when I was little. The difference is that these cookies are wonderfully thick and chewy. When I was little, the Tollhouse CC cookie was the best thing in the world to me, but in recent years, I've found that they're just too thin and crispy for me. I like a nice, thick cookie, and these cookies have that. I don't think these beat my current favorite CC cookie, the Cook's Illustrated CC cookie with that wonderful browned butter flavor, but they're still really great cookies with the traditional CC cookie flavor.

Ultimate Stand Mixer Chocolate Chip Cookie (W. Richard Stevens' recipe. A more printer friendly recipe here.)
Makes about 30-35 cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (as I said, I just started out with cold butter)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (Generally I fluff up the flour and then measure, but I packed a little bit more flour into my measuring cups than usual. This helps to make the cookie thicker. Just know that the heavier handed you are with the flour, the thicker the cookies will be.)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped (I omitted)
  • 3 cups chocolate chips (I just put in enough for my liking)
  1. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Beat butter using a stand mixer at medium speed until it is lighter and clings to the bowl (30-45 seconds). (If starting with cold butter, beat until creamy, about 5-6 minutes.) Keeping the mixer at medium speed, add the sugars in a steady stream. Cream the sugars and butter for 4-5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
  3. Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a small bowl. Add the egg mixture very gradually, keeping the mixer on medium speed. Continue to beat 4-5 minutes.
  4. Turn the mixer down to the lowest speed and gradually add the dry ingredients. Add the walnuts and chocolate chips just before the flour is completely incoporated. Mix just until the dough comes together.
  5. Shape the dough into golf ball-sized balls and place on a baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight. Remove and let warm for 30 minutes at room temperature. Flatten slightly into hockey puck-like shapes. (Alright, I must admit...I didn't follow this exactly. I refrigerated all of my dough together over night, and then just scooped dough onto a cookie sheet. I didn't leave them out for 30 minutes, I basically put them in the oven from the refrigerator. I also didn't flatten them. But I do this because I like the thickest cookie possible.)
  6. Bake at 400 degrees F for 8-10 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on the sheet, then remove to wire racks. (400 degrees was a bit too high for my cookies. I turned down to 375 and it was perfect.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Just Plain Good Cupcakes

Today's recipe is one of my all-time favorite cupcake recipes. It's originally from the book Small-Batch Baking by Debby Maugans Nakos. I've made this recipe countless times, and the recipe as is was good, but through experimenting, I've found that two small tweaks I made to the recipe make it excellent. This recipe and my post on the yellow cupcakes are my two absolute favorite vanilla cake recipes. I find that vanilla cake is much trickier to make homemade because sometimes a recipe can be kind of dry, not flavorful enough, or sometimes it can even end up tasting like cornbread. But these cupcakes are wonderfully moist, have a nice and noticeable vanilla flavor, certainly taste like a cupcake, and really are just plain good. They're actually so moist that a little bit of the cupcake always sticks to my silicone liners!

The changes I made to the recipe to make it great were super simple. Subtract just a tiny bit of flour and up the vanilla. As I said, the cupcakes were good as is, but each time I made them I found them to be a little dense and the vanilla flavor wasn't as strong as I wanted it to be. I find that when you're working with just vanilla as a flavor, you really can't be shy when it comes to the vanilla extract. You have to add in a good bit otherwise the flavor just won't be noticeable enough. So I doubled the vanilla and subtracted a little less than 2 tablespoons of flour, and they were absolutely perfect. I really encourage you to try out the recipe. It only makes four, but you can certainly double it or quadruple it if you like. Plus, it's a super quick and easy recipe. You don't need electric mixer or anything. I whip them together with a sturdy whisk just fine.

Just Plain Good Cupcakes (adapted from Small-Batch Baking by Debby Maugans Nakos)
Makes 4 cupcakes

  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, lightly spooned and evenly swept
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (You can just use the sour milk trick that I always use. Place a 1/4 tablespoon [you can eyeball a half of 1/2 tablespoon measuring spoon] of lemon juice or vinegar in a 1/4 cup measuring cup. Fill the rest of the way with milk and let sit for 5-10 minutes before using)
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 4 muffin cups with liners.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the melted butter to the flour mixture and stir until pasty and moist.
  3. In a small bowl, combine buttermilk (or sour milk) and baking soda. Stir to mix. Stir in the egg yolk and vanilla. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a sturdy whisk until well combined.
  4. Divide the batter evenly among the 4 muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
You can frost them with whatever frosting you like. Mine are frosted with one of my favorites: French Silk frosting. (Just halve the recipe there to make enough for the four cupcakes.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cocoa Powder Brownies

I haven't been posting a lot recently, and I know it. Life has gotten in the way, I haven't been baking as often, and when I have, I just plain haven't had the motivation to blog. But I've only been blogging since January and I guess it takes a little while to get into the groove of blogging. But just recently, I joined Daring Bakers! I'm very excited about it. I just registered, and there's a waiting period, so I won't officially become a member until May, so my first recipe with them won't be posted until May 27th. I'm a little saddened by that, and I do hope that I don't miss out on a good recipe this April, but like I said, this is most likely going to rejuvenate my interest in blogging. I might not post anything in between the DB recipes, but I'll do my best. So on to today's recipe.

This recipe came about from a big chocolate craving of mine. I've been craving chocolate, but there's been none in solid form in the house! No chocolate chips, candy, anything. I've had chocolate ice cream, but that didn't have the chocolate pow I was looking for. So I thought about a brownie that used cocoa powder since, like I said, I didn't have any chocolate in solid form. I came across this recipe on Epicurious which had a four fork rating and, for the most part, rave reviews. What's great about this recipe is that it's super quick, so I whipped them up in no time. They were good...really rich and dark and fudgy, maybe even a little too dark and rich for me. So I put a little whipped cream on mine and that helped to cut some of the richness and I liked them better that way.

They're dubbed "Best Cocoa Brownies," and are they? I'm not sure. I think I've only made one other brownie recipe before that had cocoa powder in them and they were super low fat and not very good, actually (which I should have expected). I will say that I don't think this recipe beats out a brownie that has chopped chocolate in it, though. I think I was a little disappointed in these...I felt they were missing something, and I think that something is only achieved when adding chocolate in solid form. But that doesn't mean at all that I didn't like them. All in all, these are really great when a chocolate craving comes about and you only have cocoa powder on hand; simple, quick, and good.

"Best" Cocoa Brownies (from Epicurious)
Makes 16 large or 25 smaller brownies

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process) (I used natural, and like I said, they were already dark, rich, and fudgy...probably will be even darker if you use Dutch-process!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cold, large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces, optional (I omitted)
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
  2. Combine the butter (cut into pieces), sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until the butter has melted. Stir until the mixture comes together. (The original directions used the double-boiler method, but that just dirties up more things and takes longer. Seriously, microwave is much easier and quicker). Set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
  3. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, and stir vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well-blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
  4. Bake until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a cooling rack. Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner and cut brownies into squares.