Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Word to You, the Reader

I don't know how many people actually come over here, but I've noticed the total chaos slight lack of organization here on buildabelly. How many of you would benefit from me adding labels in the sidebar so that you could search for recipes according to category? I don't want to go through the bother of adding labels (because I'm lazy) if it won't make a difference to anyone, so if you'd like some, let me know in the comments section, along with any suggestions for categories that you have.

With utmost sincerity, I remain
Your Builder of Bellies and Your Fill'er of Hup

Brownies with Brown Butter Frosting

A.K.A. "I Just Ate Three Sticks O' Butter!" Brownies

If you like the toffee twist of brown butter frosting, like this ponderous baker does, give these squares a try! The brownie layer may not have been the best homemade brownie recipe I've ever tried, maybe a bit less moist than I like, but I wouldn't know because after topping them with brown butter frosting, I thought that maybe, just maybe, my brother and his family wouldn't like the toffee twist of brown butter frosting. In a stroke of heart-clogging genius, I topped the topping with a layer of chocolate fudge frosting. Crazy. Who even cares about the brownie underneath?

Now, I know there are a million recipes out there claiming to be The Best Brownies EVER, and I'll make no such claim for these. It's not because they're not yummy; truly, they're deliciously rich and full of fudgy goodness. No, I make no such claim because I don't trust my ability to objectively judge brownies. I love them ALL.

*from Jeannette Haley's recipe

1 cup butter, no substitutes, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons baking cocoa
1/8 tsp. salt

Brown Butter Frosting
1/2 cup butter (no substitutes)
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tsp. half and half (I used heavy cream leftover from truffle-making mixed w/milk)
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Fudgy Chocolate Frosting
*No pun intended, but I totally fudged this. The amounts below are approximate.
Melt about 1 cup chocolate chips together with 1/2-1 tablespoon butter and some heavy cream. Stir until smooth and glossy.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Spread into an ungreased 13" x 9" pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Do not overbake (although, if you do, perhaps layering on a THIRD topping would offset your mistake...). Cool on a wire rack.

For brown butter frosting, cook and stir butter over medium heat in a heavy saucepan for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown. Pour into a mixing bowl; beat in the confectioners' sugar, cream, and vanilla. Frost cooled brownies. Prepare Fudgy Chocolate Frosting, if desired, and spread on top of brown butter frosting.

Eat ten or so and then blame me for your bellyache.
(It's okay. I give you permission.)

Almond Butter Sticks

Yes, more butter. I decided to do a themed posting tonight.

Growing up, these cookies are something I would have passed over on the cookie platter, and I would have totally missed out. I first had them several years ago at my mom's house and have thought of them ever since. Her recent birthday was the perfect excuse to make them (for her, not for me, though of course I had to eat a few just to make sure they weren't poison).

The taste is delicious, but the texture is what really makes them stand out in a crowd. The cookie itself is quite soft, but the layer of almond sugar in the middle hardens into a wonderful crunch. Biting into one goes something like this: Soft yummy cookie-- yummy CRUNCH!-- soft yummy cookie. And if you can't understand that technical baker's jargon, then you don't belong here.

They are so good. I can't praise them highly enough, and the only disclaimer I'll give is that you shouldn't try them if you don't like almonds or almond flavoring. There, now the rest of you can have at 'em.

Also, the ingredient amounts are kooky because this recipe is one of many cookie recipes that you can make using make-ahead cookie mix. The original amounts for the mix itself are normal, but it makes 8 cups of mix. Since this recipe only calls for two cups of the mix, I had to cut it in fourths. (I really should just post all the other cookies one can also make with this mix, 'cause they're all good, but I'm pressed for time.)

Make-Ahead Cookie Mix
6 tablespoons butter
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 and 1/2 cups flour
In very large bowl, combine butter, salt, and baking powder and blend well. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup and level off. Add flour to butter mixture; blend until fine crumbs form, scraping bowl often. Store tightly covered in refrigerator for up to four weeks, if desired.

Almond Butter Sticks
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. almond extract
1/3 cup butter (plus one separate tablespoon butter), softened
one 6-oz. package cream cheese, softened
2 cups mix (voila! That's the exact amount you have, thanks to my cutting it in fourths!)
1 egg, separated (reserve white for glazing)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, if desired

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet. In a small bowl, stir together sugar and almond flavoring; cover and set aside. In medium bowl, combine 1/3 cup butter, cream cheese, and egg yolk. Blend until smooth. Stir in the cookie mix, and knead on floured surface about 25 strokes or until pliable. (The dough is quite sticky, and I used a dusting of confectioners' sugar instead of flour.) Roll or press out to a 12 by 12-inch square. Spread with the 1 tablespoon of butter. Cut dough in half; place one half on greased cookie sheet. Spoon sugar mixture to within 1/2 inch of dough edges. Place remaining dough half, buttered side down, over sugar.* Press edges tightly together to seal, and brush top of dough with slightly beaten egg white. Sprinkle with almonds and bake 22-30 minutes until golden brown.
*My dough was very sticky, and I used a metal spatula to help get the dough off the table in one smooth piece.

Cool at least 30 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet, if desired. Cut pastry in half lengthwise, and then in 1/2-inch strips crosswise. 48 cookies**

**I cut mine in more generous 1-inch strips because I'm such a generous person, which makes 20-25 cookies.

Millie's Crunchy, Fruity Granola

Brought to you by the monkey spoons...

and by this awesome cookbook.

Our Owen family gave the girls some cool cooking utensils for Christmas, and Millie put them to use our first week back. She and John made granola together, and it's so unhealthy that it practically melts in your mouth after you crunch it (that makes no sense, but it's true). The granola recipes I've made before are very dense, "granola-y," and, yes, healthier than this one, which has a phenomenal crunch and a really light taste. "Light" because the recipe calls for 3/4 cup of canola oil!!!! You heard it here first. Lotsa oil results in a light granola recipe.

I'm no diet guru, so you know what I mean, right? The texture is very crunchy and yet remains light and crisp because of the large amount of oil. There, now that that's settled, let's move on to the recipe.

3 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned oats)
2 cups combined seeds and chopped nuts (we had no nuts in the house, but sliced, toasted almonds would have been perfect)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup assorted dried fruit of small varieties, such as raisins, currants, cranberries, or blueberries (We used dried cranberries, which we purchased especially for the occasion)

1.Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 13x 18 baking tray (or rimmed baking trays of any size, as long as the granola mixture is spread in a single layer).

2. Combine the oats, seeds and chopped nuts, salt, and brown sugar in a large bowl.

3. Combine the oil, honey, and vanilla extract and pour into the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly and spread on the prepared tray.

4. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden. (Stir once or twice during baking.)

5. Cool on the tray. When it has cooled down and become crunchy, add the dried fruit.

6. Eat plain or with milk. (Or on top of plain yogurt...or for dessert.)

Note: We added white chocolate chips to a small amount for this picture, then I took them out because it's better with just the fruit (and almonds, if you have them). They look festive in there, though.

Molasses Spice Cutouts

*Recipe from The Complete Guide to Country Cooking

I promised some ladies from church this recipe at the end of 2007. Egads! Is it 2009 already?! I did take a picture of these week-old gingerbread people after they asked, but it's taken me a bit longer to actually post it.

They-- my friends from church, not the gingerbread people-- requested the recipe after exclaiming over the glorious, soft texture of these little cookies. I think the trick is the frosting, though. Any cookie will remain soft if it's frosted and then stored in an airtight container. If you want them to stay soft without frosting, you can try placing a piece of bread in the container with the cookies. The moisture from the bread will keep the cookies soft as the bread dries out.

I love molasses/gingerbread cookies, and these are no exception, but I usually cut the recipe in half because it makes so many.

1 cup butter, softened
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light or dark molasses (I use unsulphured blackstrap molasses, which is healthier*, dark, and has a very strong flavor)
1/2 cup cold coffee
6 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
-I add the spices to taste, and I usually put in a pinch or two of ginger, too

*It makes these cookies healthy! (Or at least that's what I tell myself.)

I use a basic butter frosting recipe, like this one.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar; beat in molasses and coffee. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and spices; gradually add to molasses mixture and mix well. Chill dough for 1-2 hours or until easy to handle (I always cheat and put mine in the freezer so it's ready faster). If needed, add additional flour before rolling. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with 2 and 1/2-inch cookie cutters dipped in flour. Place 1-in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until edges are firm and bottom is lightly browned. Do not overbake. Remove to wire racks to cook.

Yield: 7-8 dozen