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    Caramel Brownies

    Brownies.

    I love brownies.

    I’m not much of a sweet tooth person, but I am a total sucker for a good brownie. Tell me I can make brownies  in a small batch and you’ve won me completely.

    Most of my brownie recipes call for an 8×8 pan, so to me these aren’t really small batch, but still totally worth it.

    I am totally addicted to Dessert for Two … not just desserts, but dinners for two as well. With just the Dear One and I at home these days, I always have a hard time cooking for just two people. Christina is the solution for everything … desserts, mains, drinks, cookies! It’s all there!

    We invited our dear friend Dave for dinner and while dessert isn’t usually on the menu, one of the dear daughters brought chocolates, lots of chocolates to the house. One of the selections was Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt Caramel squares. The stars aligned. Tonight we needed dessert and this had to be the one.

    • 10 T unsalted butter, diced
    • 1 1/4 C granulated sugar
    • 3/4 C + 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 1/2 t vanilla extract
    • 1/2 t espresso powder
    • 1/4 t salt
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/2 C all-purpose flour
    • 9 caramel-filled chocolates

    NOTE: I used Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate & Salted Caramel squares.

    Preheat the oven to 325, and make sure an oven rack is in the lower third of the oven.

    Line a 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper in two directions, overlapping. Leave enough excess to make handles so it’s easier to pull the brownies out once they’re baked.

    NOTE: My parchment paper is really wide, so I just used one piece and tucked it in. I always find it hard to keep the paper in place and those large metal clips do the trick.

    Next, in a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar and cocoa powder.

    Microwave for 30 seconds, stop and stir, and microwave for another 30 seconds. The mixture will be quite hot.

    NOTE: So we don’t have a microwave. I know. I know. I’ve been living int he woods for far too long. But when someone who will remain nameless put something with metal in the microwave, she did us a favor. We really only use it to start potatoes and melt butter. Why take up all the cabinet or counter space? I did this on the stove top and it was fine.

    Let the mixture rest on the counter for a few minutes to cool, stirring occasionally.

    When the mixture feels warm, not hot, stir in the vanilla, espresso powder and salt. Finally, stir in the eggs.

    Add the flour to the batter, and using a spatula, vigorously stir the mixture for 50 strokes. This activates the gluten and makes for a rich, chewy brownies.

    Spread the batter into the prepared pan evenly.

    Bake for 23-26 minutes, until the top is dry.

    Unwrap the squares while the brownies are still hot, and press into the top of the brownies evenly. Slice and serve.

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    Coffee Madness Ice Cream

    Ready

    Now that the fear of making ice cream and my first chocolate ice cream is under my belt … and so fabUlous … I have this desire need to try more flavors, add in different flavors and textures. Who knew making ice cream could be so easy? Well, easy thanks to my Kitchen Aide Ice Cream attachment.

    After a kitchen powwow with a fellow ice cream with lots-o-stuff lover, coffee ice cream was the next flavor. But it needs chocolate! And something crunchy! Okay … brownies? Heath Bar pieces?

    OH! YES!

    The Dear One went to the store for me, list in hand, clearly saying MILK. I didn’t think I needed to be more specific … like, whole milk versus 2% milk. So into the house came 2% milk. Yucky to begin with, I wasn’t sure it would fly in the ice cream, but the thought of driving ALL the way to the store again made my head want to implode, so I went with it.

    The 2% milk made this slightly less creamy. I also think my helper let the custardy part cook a *tiny* bit too long.

    All that said, it was GONE without a problem in a couple of days. Freezer door opening, lid popping open, spoons digging in for just a spoonful.

    But, really, how can you go wrong with coffee ice cream, brownies and toffee bits? You can’t!

    • 1 1/2 C heavy cream
    • 1 1/2 C milk
    • 3 egg yolks
    • 2 whole eggs
    • 3/4 C sugar
    • 1/2 C very strong coffee
    • 1 1/2 C bite sized brownie pieces
    • 1/4 C Heath bar bits

    Combine eggs, yolks and sugar in a bowl and blend thoroughly with a whisk or electric beater for about 5 minutes. Heat milk and cream in a medium saucepan; do not let boil, just “scorch” it, bringing to a near-boiling hot. Turn off heat. Very slowly pour in 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, beating rapidly with a whisk.

    NOTE: Just as an aside, the reason for pouring a bit of the hot liquid into the eggs while whisking is so you temper the eggs. If you just poured the eggs into the hot milk, you’d have scrambled eggs!

    Once it is all beaten in, pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the milk mixture while beating. Heat mixture under medium low, stirring constantly, for a few more minutes or until the consistency is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon when dipped in. Turn off heat.

    Pour mixture into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the liquid (this keeps the mixture from forming a skin). Chill overnight or until completely cool.

    Pour mixture into ice cream maker and follow machine’s directions for how long it should churn. Add the 1/2 cup of CHILLED coffee halfway through churning. Toss in the brownie bites and Heath bits during the last minute of churning. You may need to finish mixing by hand before placing the ice cream in the freezer for a couple of hours. Store in an airtight container in the freezer.

     

    Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies

    Brownies

    I am the eldest child (well, at least chronologically). Not an easy task. As the eldest, you are the experimental child. Your parents really have NO clue what to do with a baby, a toddler, a child, a tween, and (EEK!) a teenager.

    When you get to the youngest child – especially if there is a gaggle of children – that youngest child can pretty much juggle knives and it’s okay.

    Not convinced? Neither was Sandro. Our conversation sounded a bit like this:

    Me: “when I was your age …”
    Sandro: (eye rolling)
    Me: “Yes, I know, I was never your age. But, when I was, I had a midnight curfew!”
    Sandro: “What!?”
    Me: “Not that I ever came home on time, and was grounded constantly, but yes, at 21 I had a midnight curfew.”

    I couldn’t go away for a weekend with friends, just miles away, without a lot of guff. Sandro is going to CANCUN with friends. Le sigh.

    On the other hand, I never had hand-me-downs. And while knife juggling and staying out late wasn’t allowed, my parents’ life fit around my schedule, as opposed to all those that follow whose every move has to really fit around everyone else’s schedules.  Also, my parents let me try any activity that tickled my fancy. After a bunch-o kids, you already know when certain activities will last about 45 seconds before they flit on to something else and you become more hesitant to sign that permission slip.

    What does this have to do with brownies, you may ask. Absolutely NOTHING!

    Sandro Pan

    Oh, that ^ handsome fella is Sandro. And when I said I felt like baking something and then said brownies, his face lit up. So, really how could I refuse! What brownies to make? I had wanted to try these brownies since first seeing them in Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking: From My Home to Yours. This was the perfect opportunity.  As always happens, Sandro disappeared while I was getting ready to bake these brownies and he only re-emerged from his room once he smelled the just out of the oven brownies!

    These are really chocolatey. Nice crisp top and a gooey inside. They’re made in one pot – another BIG plus. Just pay attention to the part about BUTTERING the baking pan (I didn’t) and letting them cool completely before cutting (Sandro didn’t). They get better and richer as they sit. These definitely go into the brownie rotation!

    • ½ C cocoa or 2 squares (2 oz.) unsweetened baker’s chocolate
    • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
    • 1 C sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/4 C flour
    • 1 t vanilla
    • Pinch of salt
    • 1 C roughly chopped walnuts or pecans

    NOTE: Not having baker’s chocolate and being far TOO lazy to go out, I opted for the cocoa.

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

    Ingredient Pan

    Melt butter with the cocoa or chocolate together in a heavy saucepan over medium low, whisking constantly till blended. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour, salt and walnuts. Mix well.

    Ready to bake

    Pour into a well buttered 8-inch square baking pan. Bake for about 40 minutes till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

    NOTE: SEE THOSE WORDS … WELL BUTTERED!? I am just seeing them NOW! They were a bit difficult getting out of the baking pan.

    Baked

    Cool completely and cut into squares. These brownies are very fudgy and may be somewhat difficult to slice cleanly; use a sharp knife and a spatula to help them loosen from the baking dish.

    NOTE: Ah, the other problem with getting them out was that other foreign word … COOL!

    Cocoa Brownies

    Cocoa Brownies

    As the old song goes … you had a bad day… You’re taking one down … You sing a sad song just to turn it around … That song was the recurring theme with my loved ones this week. And this song just kept running through my exhausted, anxiety ridden brain over and over again.

    We have had relationship difficulties, crossroads in life, upsets with parents, children running amok, worrying, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, jobs being lost, jobs being gotten again, frustrations, ill parents, anxiety, anger. Yikes! And all that before Wednesday! Not enough sleep. Too much bourbon. Too many cigarettes. Too much thinking.

    You know the kind of thinking that is more like hamsters running on a wheel inside your head. They don’t stop. Then one tiny hill turns into Mt. Everest. I have named these little anxiety causing rodents Flo & Eddie (hopefully some of you out there remember who Flo & Eddie are).

    And the song. The song. That song … Coz you had a bad day … over and over again.

    Gotta turn this bad time around and quiet Flo & Eddie.

    My idea of turning any bad time around has cooking in it, baking, and definitely has chocolate in it. I am quite sure FLo & Eddie like chocolate.

    I already have a favorite brownie recipe, Loveys Brownies, but I have had this Cocoa Brownie recipe torn out of the Bon Appetit December 2012 issue staring at me, and then I saw it on Pinterest. Oh, Pinterest, how you tempt me! So I thought I would try something new.

    I may rename these fudgey, cakey, moist gems You Had a Bad Day Brownies. They seem to be quieting all the brains around me roaring out of control. Make sure to completely cool the brownies before you cut into them or they fall apart a bit.

    So there Flo & Eddie, take that!

    • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
    • 1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
    • 1 1/4 C sugar
    • 3/4 C natural unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/2 t kosher salt
    • 1 t vanilla extract
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/3 C all-purpose flour

    Preheat oven to 325°.

    Line an 8x8x2 inches glass baking dish with foil, pressing firmly into pan and leaving a 2 inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray; set baking dish aside.

    Melt butter in a small sauce-pan over medium heat. Let cool slightly.

    Dry

    Whisk sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl to combine.

    Panorama

    Pour butter in a steady stream into dry ingredients, whisking constantly to blend. Whisk in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. Add flour and stir until just combined (do not over mix).

    Ready to bake

    Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top.

    Baked

    Bake until top begins to crack and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes.

    Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cool completely in pan. Using foil overhang, lift brownie out of pan; transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares

    NOTE: So you had a bad day. Flo & Eddie are spinning the wheel. This brownie will make your day better and quiet the rodents. I promise. Worked with my loved ones … and ME!