Thursday, August 30, 2012

salted caramel brownies

bonjour, bonne nuit, bon bon!
notice some little changes around these parts?
i made a new doodle and stuck it at the top of the page. i like it! it feels new and fresh.

AND and. this blogthing is now yusss, yay!, cool.

a lot of people ask me how i got so into food.
and actually, i don't really know, it's hard to answer.

i never knew how much i truly loved food when i was younger. i was too busy laughing or crying or playing bop-it.
but my life is full of these little food memories, ones that let me realize that my love for food was always there, it was never chosen.

i used to eat lemon slices for 80% for attention, the other 20 because i liked it.

i would order penne alfredo at any restaurant that would make it, and i felt fancy doing it.

i sucked on pistachio shells because i liked the salt and the clicking noise of the shells together.

i'd make one piece of cinnamon toast and one piece with butter and jam, because i liked them both, and because couldn't decide. i'd slice them in triangles and switch off bites of each.

i remember accidentally running through a swarm of gnats while i was eating one of those giant carnival twisty rainbow lollypops. and i remember being so upset after i realized they were all stuck to it.

and box mix of the greatest things that could happen in a day.

i remember taking a trip to the mountains, i must have been 6 or 7. a family and friend weekend gathering for skiing and snow and making fires in a cabin.
seriously, the only thing i remember vividly about that trip is licking a bowl of brownie batter, playing uno, and thinking to myself 'this is my favorite part of the trip'., yea that sounds about right.

and while i've never met a brownie that i didn't welcome with open arms, it is now, after all these years of brownies, that finally, i've found it. my brownie nirvana.

this brownie, i do believe, is the perfect brownie for me.
i know that a perfect classic fudgy brownie, left in its purest form with no trace of caramels, or fruits, or peppermint patties, is a beautiful thing.

but my perfect brownie, the one i would want probably before any other, is this one. with salted caramel. and more salt.

sea saaaalty. i go at the maldon with a heavy hand, and i stand by it.

these taste exponentially better on the second day. like seriously, a totally noticeable difference in flavors. the first night, they were unbelievably rich and chocolate intense, quite delicious, but by the next day, they were truly something to be gushed over.

the ingredients settle together, the caramel nestles perfectly into the chocolate, and every flavor sings a joyous tune without being overpowered by the intensity of the chocolate.

and then i start singing.

thank you, salted caramel brownie. thank you for your existence. i know we will spend many great years together from now until forever.

Sweet and Salty Brownie
from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

for the caramel filling:
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp fleur de sel
1/4 cup sour cream

for brownie:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces quality dark chocolate (60-72%), coarsely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract

fleur de sel and coarse sugar for sprinkling

for the caramel filling, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1/4 cup of water in a medium saucepan, stirring carefully so as not to splash the sides of the pan. cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350℉ or until the mixture is dark amber in color, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, and slowly add the cream, and then the Fleur de Sel. Whisk in the sour cream and set aside to cool. 

for the brownie, preheat the oven to 350℉.
butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light colored metal 9 x 13 inch pan. Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper, and butter the parchment. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder.
place the chocolate and butter in the bowl of the double boiler set over a pan of simmering water, and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. 
turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler, and add both sugars. whisk until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. the mixture should be at room temperature at this point.
ddd three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. ddd the remaining two eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. don't overbeat the batter!  or your brownies will be cakey.
Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until there is a just a trace amount of the flour mixture visible. 

to assemble the brownie, pour half of the brownie mixture into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. drizzle about 3/4 cup of the caramel sauce over the brownie layer in a zigzag pattern, taking care to make sure the caramel does not come in contact with the edges of the pan or it will burn. use your offset spatula to spread the caramel evenly across the brownie layer. In heaping spoonfuls, scoop the rest of the brownie batter over the caramel layer. Smooth the brownie batter gently to cover the caramel layer. 
bake the brownies for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. 

remove the brownies from the oven and sprinkle with an extra 1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel and 1 teaspoon coarse sugar.

Monday, August 27, 2012

rosemary focaccia + little caprese sandwiches

sunday night is now officially my frIIIday night!
the sunday night blues have now been converted to the tuesday night blues.

thus, monday mornings are couch relax time.
coffee time. scratch my back and zone out time.

bread baking is a part of my daily life now.
i spend a lot of quality time with sourdough and naan, soft pretzels and steamed buns, bagels and sticky buns.
the quality time is often hot, messy, and stressful.

but even when i am stress running around and have dough in my eyebrow, i can still stop for 10 seconds to crack my back and admire the coolness of what i'm doing, what i'm making.

i made some rosemary focaccia not at work couple weeks ago. it was perfect, everything an olive oil crusted bread should be. crisp and salted. soft chewy innards. the top, sprinkled with flakey sea salt and a little bit of raw sugar.

(the small bit of sugar does great things to bring out all the awesome bready flavors)
(it's not gonna taste like sweet dessert bread, SIR.)

and THEN.
three days ago, focaccia was added to our grand list of breads to churn out.
coincidence? yes.
more work and another thing to stress about? yes.
delicious? yeeesh.

it was served as the base of a sandwich, open faced, layered elegantly with fresh hummus, heirloom tomato + cucumber salad, slices of grilled chicken, and olive pesto.

i just stuffed some caprese salad inside the the bread leftovers and called it an afternoon.

mozz bomb. juicy tomatoes. spinach pesto. i can be content any day with just these things.

but i do appear to have been majorly one-upped by my own job.

Rosemary Focaccia
barely adapted from pastry affair

4 1/2 to 5 cups bread flour
2 3/4 cups warm water
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp coarse sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
2 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1 1/2 tsp raw sugar

in a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, water, and yeast. cover the bowl with plastic and allow to rise in a warm dry place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until dough has tripled in volume and is bubbly. 
in a stand mixer, attach dough hook and mix in salt and rosemary. knead dough for an additional 5-7 minutes. dough will be loose and sticky. 
( if not using a stand mixer, turn dough onto a floured surface and knead dough, mix in salt and rosemary at this time. add more flour as needed. dough will be difficult to handle, but try to incorporate as little flour as you can, as it will result in a softer bread)
cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for another hour, or until doubled in volume. 
in a 13x17 inch rimmed baking pan, evenly distribute 2 tbsp of olive oil to coat the pan. turn out dough onto pan and with oiled hands, pull dough to the edges of pan. the dough may resist, but with some patience it will stay put. cover dough with a clean dish towel and allow to rise for an additional 20 minutes. 
preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 
using your fingertips, dimple the top of the dough. drizzle remaining olive oil evenly over bread and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, black pepper, raw sugar, and rosemary. bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. let cool slightly in pan before serving warm. 

on the next day, toast the leftovers and make sandwiches. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

plum topped zucchini muffins

i will take one summer fruit and one summer vegetable, and turn them into sweet breakfast.

i should, after all, be overloading myself with summer produce..because hello end of august, hey end of summer (swhaat!?), you always sneak up fast.

sweet breakfasts. can't stop won't stop.
and muffins, they're the cutest.

i want them in the morning, i want them in the evening. and that's the problem, because i'm an annoying muffin eater to everyone else but me.

i'll ruin the tops of your muffins in no time. and when i say ruin, i mean eat off.
i know it's the selfish thing to do, i'm sorry for acting selfish. i'm sorry for ruining your box of muffins by nibbling the tops off every last one.

i've truly pissed some people off, and i totally understand, people love the muffins. i love the muffins. and everyone is well aware that the top is by far the best.
i'm going to need to make more muffins.

soft zucchini-flecked muffins, lightly spiced, topped with streusel, and plums. and then more streusel.

they have big delicious tops. you are.

Plum Topped Zucchini Muffins

2 zucchini (1 lb), ends trimmed
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
pinch nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
2-3 plums, thinly sliced

2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup turbinado sugar (raw sugar)
dash of cinnamon and salt

preheat oven to 375. line muffin pan with papers or spray with nonstick cooking spray. shred the zucchini on a box grater and then squeeze the water out with paper towels. whisk together the sugar, melted butter, eggs, yogurt, and lemon juice together in a large bowl. in another bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt. 
next make the streusel by simply combining all the ingredients together in a small bowl til clumpy and crumbly. 
gently fold the dry ingredients into the yogurt mixture with the zucchini and walnuts. 
evenly divide the batter into the muffin tins. top each with a bit of streusel, then layer 2 plum slices on each. top with a bit more streusel and bake for about 20 minutes. 
makes about 14 muffins. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

peanut butter banana bacon & honey: a sandwich

check one. check one.

peanut butter. check.

honey. check.

banananananannanas. (bananas with tons of nanas!) check.

and le bacon. check two, check three.

smash it between soft crusty bread.

i like everything about this sandwich mic sesh.

did i just make this for snack? yes, do it.

it is my darling wonderful boyfriend guy's birthday today, a quarter century!

this person is very into movies, coconut things, and the weather.
he is pretend reading the grapes of wrath, he loves coffee, he paces around the room like a madman when he's on the phone.

this person and i had our first conversation when i was 16.
this person can lick his elbo.

And he loves the weather. i said that already. it's because this dude is reALly into the weather and earthquakes and atmospheric things. it's nerdy and cute.

sometimes i leave him weather doodles.

he would like this sandwich.
he didn't have any of this sandwich. because i only made one. and it was for myself.

but if he wanted one, i would make him one. because i am nice, and because it is his birthday, and because i love him.

Peanut Butter Banana Bacon + Honey Sandwich 
adapted from youth

peanut butter
banana, sliced
bacon, 1-2 slices  crisped
crusty bread, toasted

layer and smash together in sandwich fashion. 


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

a cozy weekend + buckwheat noodles with eggplant & mango

it was a splendid weekend, more special than most.

it started out strong with a stretchy car outfit and my favorite pillow, a playlist, and a stash of soba noodles and watermelon.

the soba noodles were filled with soft crisped eggplant and slices of mango. the watermelon was filled with water.

feeling free on the road. it was beach fog. it was a house on a hill. it was family love.

it was early mornings in a cozy bottomed bunk bed.

it was family dinner time in an old family dinner room.

it was bees eating peaches. it was humans eating plain marshmallows and jam.

it was tequila shot toasts. (ayiiiyiii!)

it was wishing that all seagulls would lose their ability to squawk.

it was puzzle and wine time. all the time.

tangly ponytails, and chilling on cliffs.

i never want to be away from baby belly laughs or cheesy biscuits.

twas such a precious weekend, surrounded by people who love each other so much.

and then there was the long, immediately nostalgic ride home.
bumpy nap included.

and a lapful of big sur bakery raspberry strudel flakes. .

and to close out the journey, just a few nonchalant zebras chilling on the side of the coastal highway.

because, as i always say, every great weekend ends with wild zebras.

(oh right, the soba noodles. easy, slurpable, and oh so delish. perfect to eat cold out of a tupperware, perhaps in the car or in a field. or just wherever you normally eat. ottolenghi can do no wrong!)

Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango
from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 fresh red chile, finely chopped
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 cup sunflower oil
2 eggplants, cut into 3/4 inch dice
8-9 ounces soba noodles
1 large ripe mango, cut into small chunks or thin strips
1 2/3 cup basil leaves, chopped
2 1/2 cups cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced

In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chile and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.
Heat up the sunflower oil in a large pan and shallow-fry the eggplant in three or four batches. Once golden brown remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain.
Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 5 to 8 minutes to become tender but still al dente. Drain and rise well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a dish towel.
In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, half of the herbs and the onion. You can now leave this aside for 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.