One Pan Blondies (and yarn)

A couple weeks ago I had a hankering for some blondies. I have a few different recipes (Vanilla Garlic, Smitten Kitchen that I go to regularly, well as regularly as I make blondies) but I had also bookmarked this recipe, and that day it caught my eye because you only need one pan. A 10″ cast iron skillet (how awesome are 10″ cast iron skillets?). I did end up using a second pan to toast my pecans, but if I had decided on nuts ahead of time I could have done that before I melted the butter.  Oh, and the other joy of blondies, it is a cookie you can make from frozen butter (I generally have a couple pounds of butter in the freezer) and it is so very adaptable to mix-ins. Since I didn’t quite follow theKitchn recipe I’m going to write out my version.

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Blondies riffed from theKitchn Skillet Blondies
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted, lightly chopped pecans (or your favorite nut)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup candied* or crystallized ginger, chopped (aim for chocolate chip size)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Toast your nuts in the cast iron skillet in the oven. This takes around 5 minutes depending on the nut, shake a few times, sniff often. Remove the nuts from the pan and set the pan on the stove-top. Add your stick of butter and let it melt. Once it is melted add the brown sugar and stir (until dissolved says the recipe, mine never dissolved so I just made sure it was well mixed). While that happens grab everything else and chop or measure as needed. Pour and scrap the butter-sugar mixture into a bowl, let it cool a little bit before add the egg and vanilla extract. Add your dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, espresso powder) and stir together. Mix in your mix-ins. The chocolate chips will probably melt a little bit. Pour back into the cast iron skillet, you will probably need to press it down a little bit to make sure the batter is an even thickness. Bake around 20-25 minutes. Let it cool before slicing.

* I’m partial to a Trader Joe’s product called “Uncrystallized Candied Ginger” and it’s generally sold along side their dried fruits (when they stock it at all, which sadly they don’t).

I already have plans for tweaking the next batch, but one thing that is definitely staying is the candied ginger, every bite I got with a bit of ginger was so awesome (admittedly, I am a ginger-aholic – but it didn’t scream ginger to me, just a nice warmth and zing) I sliced it into 12 or 16 wedges and only had a few leftover (the picture above is the morning after baking).

What about that yarn? Well I brought these to what is normally my knit night, though that evening my LYS was hosting a yarn tasting of Shibui yarn. We got to check out sample garments and play with mini skeins of 7 different Shibui yarns. One of the sweaters caused me to exclaim, “I want to swim in a bathtub full of this!” it was so luscious and soft and drapey. I didn’t get very far on my own swatches and so I’m still quite a bit undecided about exactly what combination I want to work with the most (or what project) but I think that Silk Cloud will probably be in that mix.

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This photo below gives a slightly better representation of the three mixes I swatched so far.

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I started with Staccato, then Staccato + Silk Cloud and then Silk Cloud + Cima.

March 19, 2013. Tags: , . baking, Knitting. 2 comments.

Granola craving satisfied

I’ve been thinking about making granola again. The other morning I decided to just do it, that I’d probably have the granola done by the time I was ready to eat anyway. It worked. I finally got to cross, “make granola” off my mental to do list. Until I run out and crave it again anyway. Apparently I get the urge to make granola in the fall. And the last two morning have felt like fall – it is such a beautiful time of year here, but I find fall so sad, I mourn the loss of excessive daylight, and the ability to wear open toe shoes comfortably.

Recently I read about making granola stay in bigger chunks (I think it was while reading Cook’s Illustrated) so that has been stuck in my mind. But none of the recipes I had bookmarked seemed quite right so I sort of winged it. I started by following this recipe, and then eyeballed this recipe (note: also mentions the trick to bigger chunks of granola). I used brown rice syrup instead of honey because I have some I want to use up and am out of honey. I spiced it with cinnamon, ginger and vanilla. I did a mix of pecans, pepitas, and pistachios (oh hello alliterative nuts). I used coconut flakes, diced dried apricots and dried cranberries. Basically the only two ways I followed the first recipe is that I started with 2 cups of oats and used a teaspoon of cinnamon. I managed to have the right amount for one  tiny (10 x 15) cookie sheet. My tiny cookie sheets are as big as my oven will fit. A couple weeks ago I made scones, the recipe has a high yield that fills 2 regular (half-sheet) size pans; it took 3 or 4 rounds of baking to finish off the dough; And that favorite recipe has been shoved to the back of the recipe box. I did make the wonderful discovery, that since I now have a microwave, I could measure, mix and heat up the liquids all in the same pyrex measuring cup.

Granola

Back to the granola. Wow. It turned out some chunky granola. The edges ended up a little bit burnt, but the kind of burnt the teeters on the edge of dark caramel flavor. I nibbled on a few edges as though they were granola bar bits. I actually think I should have broken up the granola earlier, or maybe stirred it during the first half of baking. But I’m sure it will break apart a little more when I transfer it to the jar. I hope so because I like my dried fruit to be evenly distributed in my granola.

(It did break apart a little more, but next time I think I need to stir more before it cools completely.)

September 17, 2012. Tags: . baking, Cooking. 1 comment.

Valentines Ducks

Why?  Why not.  I think I started this tradition when I was in college, in possession of a rubber ducky shaped cookie cutter and no occasion to use it.  So I decided to make Valentines Ducks.  And it sort of stuck (except those years I forgot of course).  This year I kept it simple.  Sugar Cookies, confectionary sugar glaze (2 cups powdered sugar + 1/4 cup meyer lemon juice + red food coloring) and sugar sprinkles.

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I finally got to use a bunch of the fun brightly colored sugar I’ve been collecting. Just a fyi, the large clear sugar crystals didn’t look all that great (middle duck, 2nd column from the right) and the large purple sugar crystals were just so so. The smaller sugar looks much better on the glaze. And I kept a few plain in case there are any sugar sprinkle hating people out there (are there?).

February 14, 2011. Tags: , . baking, Cooking. 2 comments.

Weekly Baking: Honey Wheat Bread

bread rises

Yes, a yeast bread.  I’m really not entirely sure why I was so scared, the recipe is quite similar to the pizza dough recipe (except rise times are different).  And I used my kitchen aid mixer plus dough hook so I couldn’t screw up the kneading part (also your hands don’t get as messy). It took me a bit to decide precisely which recipe to follow.  A white bread would have been a bit safer since wheat flour is heavier and often makes a dense loaf, additionally a lot of the recipes that I found are for 2 loaves and I didn’t want 2 loaves.  Finally I decided to half a honey-wheat recipe from a friend.  Except I kept the yeast the same (many recipes I looked at called for a packet of yeast per 3 cups of flour, while this recipe originally called for one packet of yeast per 6 cups of flour).  During the process I remembered how easy yeast bread can be when you use a stand mixer and it is actually the rise times that keep me from baking bread, I never remember to start at the “right time”.  Case in point, I started the bread around 8 pm and pulled this bread out of the oven around midnight.  I wouldn’t have baked at all that night except I forgot about that second rise time, it wasn’t until I was checking the recipe after the first rise that I realized my “mistake”.  But it worked out, we just stayed up a little late watching tv and being tempted by the smell of baking bread.  And it did keep us from cutting into the bread too soon since we just went to bed instead of wondering “is it cool enough to cut yet?”.

sliced

Honey-Wheat Bread
makes 1 9×5 loaf

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (or bread flour)
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/4 t salt
1 packet yeast (according to the packet that is 2 1/4 t)
5 T. of softened butter
2 1/2 T of honey
1 1/4 c. hot water* (about 115-125 F, use an instant read thermometer to check)
more all-purpose flour (probably 1/2 to 1 c.)
oil (I used olive oil, but really any mild oil will do)
butter (for greasing the pan and to rub on the finished bread)

*I have found that an equal mixture of boiling water and cool tap water get me in the vicinity of 115-125F.

Place the flours, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Combine (either by a quick whisk or turning it on for a few seconds and letting the dough hook mix things). Add the butter and honey and turn the mixer on low for a few seconds to combine everything. Raise the mixer speed to 2 and slowly pour in the hot water. Mix the dough for 1-2 minutes. Now start adding more all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, letting the flour mix in before adding more. Once the ball of dough has cleaned the sides of the mixer stop (it will now look like a ball of dough clinging to the hook, it will feel soft and a just slightly sticky; this takes about 2 minutes and I’m guessing 1/2 cup give or take of flour). Pour about a tablespoon of oil in a large bowl and coat the ball of dough, cover and let rise until doubled — about 1 hour.

When the dough has doubled, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 2-3 minutes until it is nice and smooth. Form it into a loaf shape and place it in a buttered 9 x 5 loaf pan. Let it rise for 45 minutes. About half-way through this rise time you should preheat your oven to 350F. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until is it a nice brown color and makes a hollow sound when you tap the top of the loaf. Turn out the loaf onto a wire rack, and if you like, rub some butter over the crust. We do this sort of like you would with corn on the cob, hold the stick with the paper pulled away from one end and rub it over the loaf. It uses somewhere between a teaspoon and tablespoon of butter. You might also decide to rub the excess butter off the loaf with a paper towel. Both buttering steps are optional.

look how even!

I was ridiculously pleased with myself and took way too many photos. I also discovered that a cake saver makes a decent bread “box”; the loaf kept nicely for the whole week in my chilly kitchen.

October 19, 2010. Tags: , . baking. Leave a comment.

Weekly Baking: Beer Bread

A tried’n’true recipe that I originally found on Epicurious and so simple I was astounded when I saw beer bread box mixes (though I have been known to mix up the dry ingredients and package them nicely with a bottle of beer and jar of jam for a nice little gift).
Beer Bread
We generally end up making this with whatever beer we have around the house. I’m rather picky about the beer I drink, but like to try new stuff and generally even if I don’t like drinking the beer it makes for decent beer bread (though there was one red ale that bombed), once I made it with a bottle of hard cider left at our house – that resulted in a sweeter loaf, but overall still tasty and successful. It is quite tasty untoasted with softened butter, makes great toast with jam and I often bake a loaf to take camping. I’ve made a couple small changes from the original recipe, first reducing the amount of butter and second skipping the “melt butter” step. My friend Liz makes a version with garlic and herbs that I really must try soon.

Beer Bread

Beer Bread
3 c all-purpose flour
3 T sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
1 -12 oz beer, at room temperature
2 T butter, cut into small pats (at least 6 different pieces)

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan.

In a medium bowl whisk together all the dry ingredients. Pour the beer into the bowl and stir until everything is just mixed (sometimes it foams up a lot so I wait a couple of minutes before stirring, if you have any other tips on this I’d love to hear them). Pour into prepared pan and dot the top with butter. Bake 35-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Try to let it cool before slicing it.

October 6, 2010. Tags: , , . baking, Cooking. 2 comments.