Into Darkness Brownies

My dad celebrated his birthday this past weekend and like any great dad he celebrated by helping my husband Kevin build a deck.

So like a good daughter I decided that alone was worth a pan of brownies just for him. Now my dad is a fan of very dark chocolate, in fact the darker the better in his opinion, so I wanted to make a dark chocolate brownie for him to enjoy.

Now I’m familiar with the concept of using stout beers to enhance the overall flavour of chocolate baking and I decided that this would be the time to experiment as my mission was to produce the darkest brownies I’d ever made before. Bolstered with my recent success using Rickard’s White in my Chicken Fajitas I decided to go with the Rickard’s Dark as my beer and began to assemble my experiment.

I dusted the recipe my mother calls “Worth the migraine” (chocolate gives her migraines) and decided to play with it.

Our collection of flavour. One bottle of Rickard's Dark, 6 ounces 70% Cacao chocolate squares, 50% cacao chocolate chips, and semi sweet chips.

Our collection of flavour. One bottle of Rickard’s Dark, 6 ounces 70% Cacao chocolate squares, 50% cacao chocolate chips, and semi sweet chips.

I started with assembling my flavour quartet which ended up being Rickard’s Dark, 6 ounces of 70% cacao in 1 ounce chocolate squares, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and dark chocolate chips made from 50% cacao.

Combination of flour and cocoa.

Combination of flour and cocoa.

I started with combining my flour and cocoa. You could add a 1/4 teaspoon of salt at this point but I held it back as I was using salted butter in the recipe. My dad suffers from high blood pressure so I knew that leaving the salt out would be a good idea and I was counting on the beer to enhance what I was trying to accomplish.

Butter, chopped chocolate, and chocolate chips.

Butter, chopped chocolate, and chocolate chips.

While preparing my chocolate and butter for melting I realized I needed 8 ounces of the chocolate squares and I only had 6. So I brought out my kitchen scale and used some semi sweet chips to make up the short fall of 2 ounces. Also used the semi sweet chocolate here because I felt the 50% cacao would be perfect sprinkled on top to add a melted chocolate component to every bite.

Successful melting!

Successful melting!

Now I found I had two road blocks to my melting chocolate.

1) I have failed more than once in my attempts to make melted chocolate without having the chocolate seize on me so I was concerned I couldn’t get the chocolate the way I needed it.

2) I lack a proper double boiler.

For #1 all I could do was take it slow as I attempt to melt and be sure to whisk continuously.

For #2 I took one of my metal mixing bowls and kept placing them on the bottom pot of my steamer set until I found one that fit nicely and then set the water to boil. Once it was boiling I placed the bowl on the top of the pot and started furiously whisking my chocolate and butter while they melted. Once I have it completely melted I pulled the bowl off and it kept the chocolate warm until I wanted to add it to my egg and sugar mixture.

Eggs and sugar

Eggs and sugar

Another lesson learned from this recipe was how to bring eggs to room temperature  Usually you would bring them out overnight but trust Kevin to tell me that if I placed my eggs in lukewarm water for 30 mins or so they would be room temperature.

The reasons that the eggs should be at least room temp becomes clear with this next step…

Melted chocolate meet eggs and sugar.

Melted chocolate meet eggs and sugar.

With the warm chocolate being combined with the eggs and sugar you definitely didn’t want your eggs to start cooking.

Finished batter with beer and flour/cocoa mixture added.

Finished batter with beer and flour/cocoa mixture added.

After adding the chocolate to the eggs/sugar and combining them I added the flour and cocoa mixture.

Finally I poured in my beer…

And it foamed up like crazy at me as I turned on the mixer and there was a small wave of beer over the edge of the bowl but in the end I had this lovely batter shown above.

Parchment lined 9 x 13 pan with batter and sprinkled with the 50% cacao chips.

Parchment lined 9 x 13 pan with batter and sprinkled with the 50% cacao chips.

I am still loving the parchment paper trick of lining my baking pan with at least 2 inches of  parchment up over the sides of the pan for easy removal from the baking pan and a clean pan when you are done.

I didn’t get to taste this creation as my dad got to take the whole pan home. It was his birthday after all.  But he did share with me that they were cake like in texture, which is the perfect brownie texture in his opinion, and very rich and moist.

I named these brownies after the new Star Trek movie coming out this week in honour of my dad being a long time Trekkie fan.

Into Darkness Brownies

In honour of my Dad! A good guy who loves Star Trek and helps to build decks on his birthday.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter, room tempurature, cubed (I only had salted in the house so used that and omitted extra salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounce 70% cacao baking squares, chopped
  • 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 large eggs, room tempurature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup Rickard’s Dark beer
  • 1 cup 50% cacao chocolate chips

Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa and salt (if using) until well combined.
  3. Melt butter, chopped very dark chocolate, and semi sweet chips in a double boiler (or fashion one from a metal bowl and a pot of boiling water) and stir until it is thoroughly melted, over low heat.
  4. Remove from heat. In a seperate bowl, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until well combined.
  5. Add melted chocolate mixture to the eggs and sugar and beat until combined. Beat flour mixture in and then add beer.
  6. Pour batter into a 9 x 13 prepared pan. Prepare pan by lining it with parchment with 2 inches up on the side making handles.
  7. Sprinkle the 50% cacao chips over top of the batter.
  8. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes.
Advertisements

Of School Snacks and Healthy Choices

My kids’ school has a healthy snack policy. I’ve even had snacks returned for quote “not being healthy”. The downside to this is eventually kids get tired of the yogurt tubes, cheese strings and granola bars that tend to be the go to, affordable, nut-free selections when we go grocery shopping.

When I was younger I loved to bake. It was probably the thing in Home Ec that I liked to do the most. One comfort I take from baking is that it often requires a solid measuring process. It really isn’t go by your whims and going by my whims is usually when I fumble the most with cooking.

I plan to touch on my not so successful moments as I go along.

So it dawned on me that maybe I could start baking one night a week, something different yet still healthy, that could be an ideal size for my kids to take to school and get them out of the snack routine they have found themselves trapped in. Also I could use this time to expand my baking skill back to where they used to be.

I should also preface this part by saying I am a huge fan of  “Cozy Mysteries”. Nothing better than a warm cup of coffee, a fuzzy blanket and a mystery tied into food. Often there are recipes enclosed in the back of the book.

If you would like to learn more about the different types of Cozy Mysteries that are out there and the recipes you can expect to find from their authors please check out The Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen.

My recipes for this week’s experiments came from Cleo Coyle’s book A Brew To A Kill. I made her Oatmeal Cookie Muffins and (Healthified) Blueberry Pie Bars.

I’m going to start with what I learned from the Oatmeal Cookie Muffins.

First off always read the recipe before you actually start. The type of oats you use in this recipe matters and Cleo is always great about putting in good notes about ingredients. It is one of the reasons I enjoy cooking from her recipes.

The Oatmeal Cookie Mini Muffins about halfway through my evening of baking.

The Oatmeal Cookie Mini Muffins about halfway through my evening of baking.

Second buttermilk soaked oats make for really moist muffins.

Third it might be best to buy the parchment paper liners for my muffin tin next time. The cute ones from Dollarama stuck quite a bit despite the fact that I took Cleo’s advice and sprayed the liners with non-stick cooking spray.

Fourth I probably didn’t need to double the recipe as I went with my mini muffin tin and ended up with 6 dozen mini muffins. Luckily I had friends who were working all weekend and so I dropped off 3 dozen to them on Friday. I haven’t seen them to get their review of it yet.

I did find this recipe easy to work with. The batter came together easily and even my picky hates raisins kid gave these a thumbs up. They taste just like a chewy oatmeal raisin cookies and are low in fat and high in fiber. The mini muffin size made it perfect for lunch kits, on the go snacks and perfect for 3 year old hands to enjoy.

Very happy with these. I will make them again but next time I am going to try a standard sized tin just to see the difference.

I produced about 6 dozen mini muffins in about 45 minutes. Took about 10 minutes to bake in my oven.

What I learned from the (Healthified) Blueberry Pie Bars.

First frozen blueberries work really well in this. I wasn’t sure because sometime being frozen can be affect the taste of some foods. I wonder if it is the process they use to freeze sometimes.

Second always check to make sure you have enough ingredients. I lucked out with just enough brown sugar to make the two pans I planned on but it might not have been so lucky.

(Healthified) Blueberry Pie Bars!

(Healthified) Blueberry Pie Bars!

Third that parchment paper trick you see in the photo is awesome. Though my husband uses it pretty regularly when he cooks but this was my first time using what I am going to dub as  “The Handle Technique”. Those long pieces of parchment made it easy to take the bars from the pan to my cutting board.

Fourth there is a really great flexibility about this type of baking. I can make small bars perfect for school lunches or bigger slices that I could serve in a bowl with a scoop of ice cream in a pie a la mode way.

Fifth a good hand mixer makes all the difference. My previous hand mixer was a Black and Decker and while no offense to them it didn’t have a slow or gentle speed on it. It pretty much went from 0 to 60 on the 1 setting. It recently bit the big one and we have upgraded to a Kitchen Aid Artisan hand mixer and I love it. The speed variation is nice and 1 actually means not throwing up bits of butter and sugar when you are trying to cream them.

Overall very happy with these two choices and my kids were happy with something different to put in the lunchbox. Esp something with blueberries.

If you would like to know more about Cleo Coyle and check out her books, recipes and she will even teach you how to make a better cappuccino please head on over to The Virtual Village Blend.

 

I Made Bread!

One of my culinary bucket list items was to successfully make a loaf of bread.

I can remember watching my grandma make bread and buns when I was younger that smell that comes with fresh baked bread.

I decided recently that I wanted to take the chance and really make an effort to produce a loaf of bread. Even if it wasn’t an ideal perfect loaf I would at least be able to tell myself I tried.

Today was the day. I went with a Traditional French Bread recipe from my WestBend Bread Machine Cook Book. I have arthritis and find an assist in one way or another will make it easier to tackle my culinary tasks. So I used my bread machine to make the dough for me.

When the machine had dealt with the initial blending, kneeding and the first rise I placed it on my table to rest for 15 mins.

After the 15 minute rest I rolled out the dough and proceeded to tightly roll it along the long side and make my loaf and placed it on my long bar pan which I had put some cornmeal on to prevent sticking.

Loaf rolled and placed on the pan.

Loaf rolled and placed on the pan.

First thing I notice is that my loaf is longer than my bar pan. So first lesson learned…the loaf probably needs to be a bit shorter.

However, overall I’m happy that I have gotten the loaf as the recipe suggests. It is rolled nicely and a good size so I will consider it a win :D.

I cover my loaf with a clean tea towel and tuck into my oven as I need to put the pan somewhere with no drafts that is warm and hidden from little curious fingers.

After the second rise!

After the second rise!

After 40 minutes in the oven I bring out loaf and score the top. Then a brush with egg white and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. I’m feeling pretty confident that this is working out well. Honestly it looks better than I thought it would for my first attempt.

Success!

Success!

I was overjoyed when I peeked in when the timer went off and found this amazing golden loaf of French Bread in my oven. I was successful in my first attempt in that my loaf was cooked nicely and edible. I learned though which is always the thing when I cook or bake.

There is always something I need to work on. Something I need to learn and about 100 questions I end up asking Kevin about what is a dice, what is a boil, does this look good to you….

I got many compliments on my first loaf and I’m pretty proud of it.

I served it with this Chicken Bacon Chowder recipe from A Taste of Home.

I did a few modifications on the recipe. I roasted my boneless, skinless chicken thighs slowly in the oven in a small Corelle Crock with a lid. I then used the drippings in the chicken stock portion of the recipe to give a bit more flavour.

I’m also feeling pretty grateful for our mini chopper. Best $8.00 we spent on a kitchen appliance. I used it to dice the onions and then get the bacon finely chopped after I cooked it.

If I wanted to make the soup on a week night for a warm up on a cold night I’d go with a rotisserie chicken from the local grocery store to make up the cooked chicken component. From start to finish it took about 30 mins to make the soup and we enjoyed it in our home on a -30 winter day.

So today I successfully baked a loaf of bread and made a big pot of soup to enjoy with it.

Pretty good day for a newbie cook.