Christina Lane’s Best Ever Frosted Brownies

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I don’t usually publish on Thursday but today we are celebrating!  Last Friday I handed over my Christmas money to my best friend, Steph, and sent her off to buy me a new computer while I finished working.  Steph is my tech guru so I trusted her to get me the best computer she could within the confines of my budget and with the features I wanted.  Steph not only got me a terrific deal, she got me features I didn’t think I could get with my small budget, like a touch screen.

I love my new computer!  It is going to make my life so much easier.  Well, at least it is going to make my blogging life easier.  I have been a blogger without a computer since last March.  How does one blog without a computer? I wrote everything out long hand in a notebook. then on my  one weekday a week off I would go to the library and type, edit, add pictures, proof read and schedule all my posts for the week.  That is great when it isn’t cold, I am organized, or I don’t have something else I have to do on my one weekday off. It’s not so great the rest of the time.  Now I can go back to lying in bed and watching reruns of Chopped, Iron Chef and Iron Chef America while I compose my posts on any day I want to, at any time of day I want to.

To celebrate, I made the brownie recipe from Christina Lane’s new cookbook, Sweet and Simple, to share with you all.I am not going to go into the cookbook because I will be doing a post about it soon.  So enjoy your small batch of frosted brownies while I wipe the frosting off my touch screen.

Christina Lane's Best Ever Frosted Brownies

Brownies

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp fine sea salt

1 large egg

1/2 cup all purpose flour

Frosting

6 TBS unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup cocoa powder

3/4  cup powdered sugar

2 to 3  TBS milk or cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a 9 inch bread loaf pan with parchment paper.  In a microwave safe bowl, combine the butter, cocoa powder, and sugar.  Microwave at full power for 30 seconds.  Stir the mixture and return it to the microwave for another 30 seconds.  Stir again.  Add one more 30 second pulse if the butter isn’t mostly melted.  Let the mixture cool for 1 minute.  Stir in the vanilla and the salt.  Stir in the egg.  Finally, add the flour and stir vigourously for about 1 minute or 50 strokes. Scrape the mixture into the loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes.  The top of the brownie surface should appear dry and be starting to crack.  Do  not over bake because you want the inside to be fudgy.  Meanwhile, beat together all of the frosting ingredients, adding milk or cream as needed to make the frosting spreadable.  Frost the brownies once cook and cut in half to serve.

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A Small Batch Christmas — Peanut Brittle

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I often tell people that cooking and baking aren’t  talents you are born with.  Cooking and baking are skills you learn through practice, error and more practice.  Just because a recipe didn’t turn out doesn’t mean you can’t cook or bake. There are a lot of crappy recipes out there, even when they were written by a famous “chef”.  Even when the  recipes are perfectly written, a person often needs to make it multiple times to learn and perfect the techniques given.  Don’t forget, that even the best cook or baker in the world can have an off day where nothing quite goes right.

I made this recipe for peanut brittle 4 times before I got it anywhere close to right.  The first time I tried I cooked the sugar in a pan that was too big and misread the recipe and added too much water so it never caramelized.  The second time I caught the water mistake but still cooked it in too big of a pan over what I discovered was way too low of heat.  The third time I used the right amount of water, the right sized pan, and turned up the heat.  The problem this time was I got distracted for just one second and the sugar went from caramelized to burned.  The fourth time I made it, I got it just about right, according to the picture it could have been a little more caramelized but it still tastes like good peanut brittle should.

A few points to remember about making peanut brittle

  1.  Pay attention — the time between having perfect brittle and a brittle mess is very short.
  2. This is very hot, melted sugar.  It can burn you and burn you badly so pay attention to what you are doing.

Peanut Brittle

softened butter for greasing the pan

2 cups white sugar

1 cup roasted peanuts

1/3 cup water

1/2 tsp salt, if the peanuts are unsalted

Use the butter to grease a pan with a low rim.  Put the sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small pan over low heat.  Cook until the sugar dissolves and becomes a light brown, caramel color. Watch the sugar mixture carefully.  It can go from caramel to burnt in a heart beat.  Don’t stir the sugar mixture.  Stirring the sugar causes it to crystallize, which isn’t good.  When the sugar mixture is ready, stir in the peanuts and immediately pour it into the prepared pan.  Let the brittle cool completely at room temperature, then break it into pieces. It will store indefinitely in at room temperature in a covered air tight container.

 

A Small Batch Christmas — Fudge

472The first time I made fudge the traditional way, I got out my candy thermometer and carefully brought the chocolate mixture to the proper temperature and kept it there for the required amount of time.  I watched the mixture spread out in creamy, chocolatey swirls in the pan.  I was so exited to cut into it!  I could hardly wait for it to set!! After the required amount of time to set, I pulled it out of the fridge and set it on the counter. I was ready to cut into it and enjoy the fruits of my labor, Only to have the fudge go “thunk” when the tip of my knife hit the surface.  Yep, my fudge set so hard I couldn’t chisel it out of the pan with a jackhammer.  I eventually had to throw the fudge away pan and all.

Fortunately, for all of you guys, I have an absolutely fool proof recipe for fudge that will never fail you.  I should know, I tested it three times. LOL!  The recipes comes to you courtesy of Christina Lane at her absolutely awesome blog, Dessert for Two.

Christina Lane's 2 Ingredient Fudge

3/4 cup, 7 ounces, sweetened condensed milk

1 1/2 cups, 9 ounces, semisweet chocolate chips,

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted, optional

Instructions

Line a 6″ round cake pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray (I didn’t use the the foil. I used a 6 inch spring form pan.) In a small saucepan over VERY low heat, add the condensed milk. Stir in the chocolate chips. Slowly let the chocolate melt into the condensed milk, stirring constantly.  Once everything is smooth and melted, stir in the almond extract. Pour the fudge into the prepared pan, and sprinkle the slivered almonds on top, pressing them lightly so they stick, if using.  Place the pan in the fridge and chill for at least 4 hours. Lift the fudge out of the pan using the foil, and then cut into slices and serve.

A Small Batch Thanksgiving — Cranberry Pie

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Can you believe there are only 3 more weeks until Thanksgiving?!   I work in retail and am so not ready for the craziness that comes with that.  I am ready, however, to make a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner for me and a couple  of my co-workers.

Pie probably isn’t the first thing you think of when you think of cranberries but it should be. Cranberries make a wonderful filling for a non traditional Thanksgiving pie.

Usually, cranberries are paired with another fruit like apples or pears to help tame the cranberries tartness. Not this pie.  This pie has straight up pucker power but not in a bad way.  I think cranberry pie is a nice contrast to the other sweet, sweet desserts, like pecan pie and pumpkin pie, on our tables at Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Pie

1 cup whole cranberries
1 cup chopped cranberries
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of salt
1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 tsp butter
1 egg white
1 1/2 tsp water
1 recipe for a double pie crust
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put cranberries, sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg, salt and walnuts in a medium bowl. Mix well with a spoon and set aside.  Divide the dough for the crust into 2 pieces, on slightly bigger than the other.  Roll out the smaller piece of dough and place the dough in the pan.  Dot the top of the cranberries with butter cut into small pieces.  Roll out the remaining dough so it is slightly bigger than the pan.  Carefully lay the dough over the filling and crimp the edges closed. Cut a few vents into the crust.  Seperate the egg white from the yolk.  Gently beat the white with a fork.  Brush the white onto the crust and sprinkle a 1-2 teaspoons of sugar over the top.  Bake on the middle rack of the oven until the crust is golden, about 40 minutes.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

A person can tell what kind of day it is going to be when the strawberry rhubarb crisp they so lovingly crafted for today’s photo shoot ends up getting smeared all over the floor.  The pancakes they made to replace the crisp in the photo shoot, a recipe they have made a million times before, ends up up burning to a crisp.  Yeah, I am going back to bed.

In the meantime, you will just have to imagine a lovely blush pink filling covered by a rustic, golden brown crust.  Fortunately, I did get to taste a piece of the crisp before it hit the floor so I can honestly say it tastes very good.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Ingredients

Topping:

6 TBS all purpose flour

4 TBS rolled oats

1 /4 cup brown sugar

4 TBS butter, room temperature

1/4 cup chopped pecans, optional

Filling:

1 cup  rhubarb, cleaned and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

1 cup strawberries, hulled and halved

2 TBS sugar

3/4 tsp cornstarch

1 1/2 tsp fresh orange juice

Prepare the topping by combining the flour, oats and sugar in a bowl.  Cut in the butter with your fingers or two knives until the mixture resembles course crumbs; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, and orange juice.  Transfer to a shallow two cup baking dish.  Dot the topping over the fruit mixture.  Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until the crisp is golden brown.