My toddler has been eating almond butter on toast for 2-3 meals a day for the last week, so when my dog pulled the last few pieces of bread from the counter and ate them while we were out, I took this opportunity to get back into bread-baking, gently.
Gently, I say, because I opted for super-easy. I didn’t particularly feel like baking bread. I wanted (and we needed) bread for toast, but making yeast bread, even a simple recipe, didn’t fit into our schedule. Since I planned to feed this to Amelia (and myself) multiple times a day, the bread needed to be healthy (whole wheat).
This whole wheat molasses bread (adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything) was exactly what I wanted. It’s a soda bread with a little extra. You simply mix a handful of ingredients, plop the batter into a loaf pan, and bake it. No kneading, no waiting for dough to rise. The bread has a dense crumb, more like a banana bread than a traditional loaf of sandwich bread. I could easily cut it thinly with a bread knife, and the slices were perfect for toast with peanut butter or almond butter. This bread is sweet from the molasses, but the molasses flavor wasn’t overwhelming. This was a great, faster alternative to making sandwich bread, but it has more moisture than sandwich bread, so eat it within a few days of baking.
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When I found the recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake on the Smitten Kitchen website, I knew that it would be what I made Alex for his birthday. And I did, a little late, in 2014. It turned out beautifully, perfectly, but I never got around to blogging about it. So this year again, I baked for his birthday.
This is a fantastic cheesecake. The chocolate cookie crust was delicious, as was the peanut butter cheesecake, as was the chocolate fudge layer hidden beneath the cheesecake layer. Chocolate ganache covers the entire thing (and hides any cracks or flaws you might have, though mine surprisingly didn’t crack). The peanut butter cheesecake was smooth and creamy; it paired perfectly with all the chocolate. Overall this was a dense and rich cheesecake. I needed to cut slices very thin – about as thin as I could with a cheesecake – in order to be able to finish a slice. The only downside was that the crust was a little dense and hard in the corners where the sides met the bottom; that was the case two years ago as well, and I wish I knew how to fix that.
Given the separate layers, I find this an impressive dessert to make. No layer was particularly difficult to make. It took a little time and planning, but I didn’t have trouble making it with my toddler watching me (though it helped that she snacked on chocolate animal crackers in the meantime). I had it done in a morning, aside from the ganache on top.
If you love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, this is definitely a dessert for you.
Continue reading Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
Anyone who’s read this blog knows I love chocolate. Let me introduce you to one of the purest and most delicious chocolate things I’ve made.
Over the weekend, I finally made time to make the Belgian Brownie Cakelets from Smitten Kitchen. This weekend was dreary, bringing colder weather as well as snow for the first evening of spring. I didn’t have much in my house that I wanted to cook, though it was a good weekend to cook. This recipe really brightened the whole weekend.
The ingredient list is simple but decadent. Lots of chocolate, butter, and eggs; some sugar; a little salt and flour. It’s rich, but worth every calorie. The recipe itself was easy to assemble as well. Just melt together butter and chocolate; whisk in everything else; let rest; scoop into a muffin tin, then bake. It’s not a flourless cake, but it’s pretty darned close, and is better than most of those cakes that you find. You could substitute in some cocoa powder if you needed to make it gluten-free.
These were amazingly good, just as dense and rich and chocolatey as you might imagine. The cakes were soft and moist; when we microwaved them for 15-20 seconds, they became even richer and more decadent. They’re perfect for entertaining, since they’re individual desserts. Just garnish with a dab of whipped cream and a raspberry or mint leaf. It’s also perfectly fine to split a batch with your husband, for no reason at all except you can.
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Happy Pi Day!
I had a bunch of frozen blueberries, so I made a blueberry pie. I have a cold right now, so this recipe was about as much effort as I wanted to put into a pie – minimal.
I made this recipe in 2010 when I first started this blog, and it’s still a good, straightforward pie. Not too sweet. I think it turned out better this time. The recipe called for optional cinnamon, which I omitted. I think some lemon zest (probably one lemon) would be a nice addition. I used frozen wild blueberries but extended baking time by about 15 minutes.
I used refrigerated pie crusts as well, since I just don’t have time or inclination to make my own. I find that refrigerated pie crusts stick to whatever pie plate I use, but I always forget to grease the plate in advance. Don’t make my mistake!
Continue reading Blueberry Pie (updated)
I love fall. It’s hard to believe how far into fall we are. However, it’s also hard to believe I have an 8-month old.
One of the things that I enjoy, and that I missed doing for a few years, is apple picking. I finally went in St. Louis last year right before Alex and I moved. So I decided I had to see if there was a good orchard in New Jersey where I could get good apples. The one I heard of was near Philly, so I drove up there when my parents came to visit.
We got so many apples. Somehow apple pie came up. Mom wondered if you could make it without cinnamon, and I didn’t see why not. I told my mom that I would make an apple pie as long as I didn’t have to find the recipe for it. She found this Caramel Apple Pie recipe on All Recipes.
It didn’t turn out perfectly the first time, but it was tasty enough to tweak to try a second time. It’s a nice change from heavily spiced, overly sweet apple pie. I think this will be the apple pie recipe I make for a while.
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Last week we had DirecTv installed. We had it before we moved to New Jersey, but decided to cancel it for a variety of reasons. However, in our area we get ZERO channels via regular or amplified antenna, so we decided to get tv service again. Alex and I went through our complimentary (but temporary) premium channels, recording new movies that we want to see again or that we didn’t get a chance to see in theaters. I knew we’d want a few movie nights, so I immediately wanted brownies to go with them.
Within the past few months I bookmarked the King Arthur Flour Fudge Brownies recipe, and I knew that was what I needed to make. I’ve been dissatisfied recently with my go-to recipe, Hershey’s Best Brownies. It’s not the recipe’s fault. I’ve changed, and it just doesn’t suit my needs any longer. I like them a little better when I add M&Ms or chocolate chips to them, but really, I just need a new go-to brownie recipe. This one is it.
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My intermittent weekend baking continues. While Alex took weekend nap duty with the baby, I whipped up a quick and easy chocolate chip coffee cake (adapted heavily from Taste of Home) for him for Father’s Day. If you just have one coffee cake recipe in your rotation, this should be it.
Continue reading Quick Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake
This month I made Dark Chocolate Coconut Macaroons with some egg whites I’d previously frozen. I’d made them once before – the day before I gave birth, in fact. They were the perfect snack for being in the hospital – rich, two-bite indulgences that were very chocolatey and yet didn’t seem too decadent thanks to lots and lots of coconut, which made them filling. These were my go-to snack – I’d grab a few in the middle of the night before heading to the NICU to feed baby. They were both comforting and practical.
The recipe is similar to the Raspberry-Coconut Macaroons I made before; both recipes were very simple to make. The chocolate macaroons were just as rich and satisfying now as they were when I first made them in February. They are like a Mounds bar, but better since the cookies are not as sweet. The macaroons provide a real fix for a serious chocolate craving. And not only are they amazingly delicious – making them only took me 30 minutes from start to finish.
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My friend Kate came from St. Louis to visit us in New Jersey! She was the first of our friends to visit (aside from when she and Jen drove out here with me). Alex and I were very excited to have her as a house guest. We three and baby had a great time visiting the boardwalk in Ocean City (which I think I prefer over Atlantic City’s) as well as relaxing at home.
Kate didn’t just visit us – she visited on her birthday! I don’t yet have much of an opportunity to cook and bake (although hopefully that will change soonish), but I had to make her something. Kate is vegan, so of course the Vegan Clementine Cupcake recipe from King Arthur Flour jumped out at me when I saw it this month.
The cupcakes were incredibly easy to make. The recipe calls for peeled, finely chopped clementines or tangerines, but I think any flavorful seedless orange would work. I took a hint from the reviews, and used mandarins from Trader Joe’s and left the thin skins on them. Rather than chop them by hand, I whirred them in my bullet blender for a few seconds until it was slightly chunky pulp. These cupcakes are vegan, but they don’t take any fancy ingredients other than fresh citrus. Vegan or not, they’re the best orange cake I’ve ever tasted.
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Our baby is one month old! Recently my life has been changing diapers, nursing, and napping. It’s a good thing that I stocked my freezer with meals and all the bread I made last December, because we’ve gone through just about all of it. I don’t mind emptying my freezer or taking care of Amelia at all, but it does mean that I haven’t had two hands available to do cooking or typing/blogging. As baby gets bigger, spending time in the kitchen or on the computer should become a little easier, and I can keep updating this blog!
The only thing I made before last Saturday was baked oatmeal. It was very quick and easy to make in the evenings, and I only made it to streamline my breakfast during the week. My friend Jen reminded me that last Saturday was Pi Day. Was I going to make a special pie for a super-special Pi Day, since it was actually 3/14/15, the extended digits of Pi? It was a shame not to make a pie, since Alex would be home all day and able to watch baby. I hadn’t planned to make anything elaborate, but then I saw that Smitten Kitchen had posted the recipe for a Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie, and although it was more complicated than the super-easy Key Lime Pie I made recently, I couldn’t resist it.
This pie wasn’t too difficult overall, but it was a little more involved than I probably should have tackled with a 4-week old at home. When you have the time to make it, though, it’s totally worth it. As you can see, it didn’t last long in this house.
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