Friday, November 18, 2011

Best brownies ever

Since I was stranded in bed with my iPhone last week recovering from a pulled muscle in my back, I spent quite a bit of time on the Epicurious app.  I found what looked to be an easy, quick brownie recipe with great reviews.  While in Atlanta a few weekends ago I visited Your Dekalb Farmers Market, which is a post in and of itself, and picked up a jar of Dulche de Leche.  Up to this point I'd only made my own and seeing it there on the shelf reminded me how much I liked it, and that it would be so super yummy with some chocolate!  Hence, brownies with dulche de leche!

I like my brownies moist, but not overly sweet.  These brownies are rich from all the butter and a little bite suffices nicely.  They were so delicious Chicky and I made two batches that week because they were so popular.  Both times I made the brownies I dropped dollops of dulche de leche on the top and spread it with an off set spatula. Another option, for a more candy-like top on the brownies, is to wait and spread on the dulche de leche after the brownies come out of the oven and cool for a little while.

cocoa brownies
Best Cocoa Brownies Evah!
from Epicurious

Makes 16 large or 25 smaller brownies

Use the best cocoa you have for these - any unsweetened natural or Dutch-process will work.

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Special equipment: an 8-inch square baking pan.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water.  Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.  When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or rubber spatula.  Stir in the nuts, if using.  Spread evenly in the lined pan. Add dulche de leche by dropping a spoon full here and there and then spreading the dropped caramel lightly with an off-set spatula.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter. 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cool completely on rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer brownies to a cutting board.  Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

This is Alton Brown's Dulche de Leche recipe.  It's totally worth the effort and believe me, you will find a way to use up the extra.  It's good on ice cream, cake, and straight off the spoon!

1 quart whole milk
12 ounces sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Combine the milk, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a large, 4-quart saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the baking soda and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered at a bare simmer. Stir occasionally, but do not re-incorporate the foam that appears on the top of the mixture. Continue to cook for 1 hour. Remove the vanilla bean after 1 hour and continue to cook until the mixture is a dark caramel color and has reduced to about 1 cup, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to a month.


Friday, November 11, 2011

New Black Keys album coming out!

This is the video that convinced me my back had to get better soon, because I need to dance and this guy has the moves!


 Love the Black Keys.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Egg overload

The chickens are doing well - really well. They are happy moving around in the ark and digging in the compost for worms (they like bugs, but worms are their favorite) whenever they get the chance. And they lay eggs. Lots of eggs. Six chickens = six eggs a day. We've been having frittas, french toast, scrambled eggs, egg salad, and quiche on a regular basis for dinner and we've still got eggs left over.

Last week my brain remembered that I've made an egg hogging breakfast casserole at Christmas that uses two dozen eggs in one go! I also remembered having lots left over, but that was before the boys hit adolescence and they would actually get full at a meal. Those days are long gone and I had no doubt we'd finish it this time.

It's a filling casserole, thanks to the half loaf of bread in it, so I divided the mixture between two pans and we had one for dinner and the other for a breakfast. I added some sauteed veg to the egg mixture (because I think veg are delicious with eggs and sausage) but I'm betting the original recipe is fine without it.

Cowboy Christmas Breakfast
adapted from Gourmet Today
serves 12

1 (1-pound) package bulk breakfast sausage (not links)
1 (15" long) loaf of Italian bread (about 4" wide)
1/2 stick (4 T.) unsalted butter, softened
24 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch scallions, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped (optional)
1 small zuchhini, sliced (optional)
3 roma tomatoes, chopped (optional)

Put a rack in the middle of oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter a 13-9 baking dish.
Cook sausage in a 12" heavy skillet over moderately high heat, stirring frequently and breakingup large lumps with a fork, until browned, about 10 minutes. Pour off fat from skillet (I used some of this fat to saute the veg) and cool sausage to room temperature.
Saute onions in the same skillet, if you wish, until translucent. Add zucchini and tomatoes and continue to cook until tomatoes have slightly broken down.
Cut 1-inch-thick slices from half of loaf; reserve remaining halve and end piece for anther use.
Pulse butter and garlic in a food processor until smooth (I mixed mine together in a bowl, small chunks of garlic don't bother me). Spread a thin layer of garlic butter on both sides of each slice of bread, arranging bread tightly in one layer in baking dish. Sprinkle sausage on top.
Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until frothy. Whisk in scallions, vegetables, and half of cheese. Pour egg mixture over sausage (bread will float to the top) and push down on bread with a spatula to help it absorb liquid. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Cover with a large sheet of buttered foil (buttered side down) and bake for 30 minutes. Carefully remove foil and bake until top is slightly puffed and eggs are cooked through in center, about 20 minutes more.
Let casserole cool for 10 minutes, then cut into 12 squares.

Note: This dis can be assembles up to 12 hours ahead and refrigerated, covered with buttered foil. Bake as directed.