Once we hit the full throttle of fall and the holidays start stacking up around each corner of the calendar, I get the itch to bake. Of course, there are the requisite cookies, pies, and cupcakes but when it comes to breads of any kind, I mostly steer clear. That is, until now. So what’s with my sudden interest in bread baking?
It is due in no small part to a great new book out right now, called Make Ahead Bread, by my friend and former Virtual Potluck colleague, Donna Currie.
Donna’s new book takes you by the hand and makes it all seem so easy and fun, whether you’re a novice or a semi-regular baker, a full-force wheat belly or gluten-free glutton, she will get you excited about the idea of bread baking. (Plus, there is a totally freaking AWESOME giveaway below bound to make lots of people happy!) (more…)
I first tasted buttermilk brownies WAY back in the day, some 20 years or so ago. Back before my European travels and before I began writing professionally, in my “other life” as an optician. It has been nearly that long maybe 16 years) since I have had a pan of these fluffy, light, extra moist, chocolatey delights but with my birthday coming up in September — I had a sudden nostalgic hankering. (more…)
Chocolate! Oh, what can I say about chocolate that hasn’t been written before and better. Probably nothing. But still, I am possessed by the spirit goddess of the cacao bean and as devoted to spreading the beauty of her rich message as any disciple in history.
I enjoy chocolate in pies, cakes and cookies, in sauces and savories, and scenting massage oils, sugar scrubs, bubble baths and candles. I watch the movie Chocolat at least once each year and require a nearly religious stillness in my house to do so. (See the GrooVyMovies entry.)
My husband has on his hard drive, a spreadsheet dedicated to the brands of chocolate that I prefer and which flavor combinations are my favorites (Moonstruck’s Ocumarian truffle, Alma’s Salted Lavender Caramel, Godiva’s raspberry filled milk chocolate twirl and white chocolate star) so that he will never get it wrong — but how could he? The Goddess is never wrong and even in the cheapest derivations I can find some solace.
I prefer dark chocolate’s intense whisperings because they linger there on the tongue, revealing hints of orange peel or scents of fresh pipe tobacco or lush berries and I adore pairing fine dark chocolates with fruity red wines. But I have been known to curl my toes and roll my eyes towards the heavens over the creamy silken riches a good Swiss or Belgium milk chocolate can provide. I even have a healthy affection for the smooth butteriness of white chocolate, though technically not chocolate, this white siren transforms herself from the cocoa bean.
Buttermilk Bownies from A Well-Seasoned Life’s Blog
Since childhood, one of my most favored ways to indulge my chocolate lust has been with brownies. Cake-like, chewy, crunchy topped and fault ridden, buttermilk, homemade or boxed, frosted or topped with powdered sugar, dark or milk, with chips or nuts or cream cheese or just plain — I have always enjoyed brownies.
Warm brownie batter – YUM!
But my favorite preparation of brownies these days, is a recipe I’ve been playing with for the past couple of years, willing it just right. It is the most densely dark, moist, chewy and truffle-like brownie I have ever tasted and because of this, I felt it needed just a little something to juxtapose it’s darkness, to lighten its depth — caramel, came to mind but then I needed to balance its sweetness — I decided upon sea salt. The result is true cocoa’d perfection. Not one person who has ever eaten them has not dissolved into the sort of pleasure sounds and face-making that usually accompany another libidinous past-time. (And like that past-time chocolate is good for you these days too, don’t ya know?)
And the bonus — they are SO easy to make. (See my recipe for caramel sauce to top these dark ladies.)
Before heading into the oven ~ I never get the “after shot” because we eat them too fast
Densely Dark Brownies with Salted Caramel topping
*GLUTEN-FREE ADAPTATION BELOW*
Dense because they only use half a cup of flour, dark with cocoa and topped with homemade caramel sauce and sea salt — Scrumptious!
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 large cold eggs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1/8 cup homemade caramel sauce
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
Heat over to 350 and line the bottom and sides of 8 inch baking pan with baking paper or foil — be sure to leave a little overhang on the sides, this will help you lift a gooey brownie from the pan for easy cooling and cutting.
Heat and mix butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a double boiler or if you don’t have a double boiler, use one the metal bowl or small pot, inside a pot of boiling water set-up to make your own. Stir periodically, until the butter is melted and everything is mixed smooth. Remove from heat of boil and set aside until it cools to warm — not hot.
Stir in vanilla and add eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously until completely mixed. When the batter looks blended and shiny, add flour and stirring vigorously until well-mixed. Spread evenly into lined pan, drizzle the top with cooled caramel sauce and sprinkle the caramel trails with sea salt — course is best but fine will work too.
Bake until toothpick inserted into the center to test, is only slightly moist with batter, around 20 minutes. Allow to cool and caramel to set, then lift brownies out of the pan by their paper or foil for cutting and serving.
Makes one pan or 9 to 16 brownies depending on size of squares cut.
Gluten Free Adaptation
Remove flour and increase cocoa to 1 cup and baking soda to 1/4 tsp.