Triple Layer Coconut Cake

Thomas Keller's Coconut Cake
Amazingly dense, rich, saturated with coconut flavor with a light, fluffy, creamy frosting that only compliments and doesn’t overpower the rich, dense and super-moist cake.  Yes, of course, this was the best coconut cake we’ve ever had.  And why, is that? Because it’s Thomas Keller’s recipe, and as anyone who has ever heard of or seen one of his cookbooks will know, everything he touches is gold.  This recipe, however, is not found in any of his cookbooks, but was featured in an article on Saveur magazine online.  It was a recipe that took him back to his childhood, to having a cake very similar to this in a small town diner.  We had this recipe bookmarked for months and finally gave it a go.  While you can tell from the pictures that my layering techniques leave something to be desired, the flavors were amazing.  Spot on.  I even took it to a picnic in 80 degree weather and it held up (barely).  This cake needs to be chilled the adequate time recommended, for sure.  Even with my missteps and imperfect execution, it was one of the best cakes I’ve had in years.

Go forth!  Be bold!  Make this cake!  We changed nothing – this is just one of those “I made it, so can you” kind of posts,  so I’ll simply copy the recipe for you, here!  Happy Weekend!

Keller's Coconut Cake

Triple Layer Coconut Cake

FOR THE CAKE:
Unsalted butter, for greasing
2 cups flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1½ cups sugar
eggs, separated
1¼ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup coconut milk
½ cup, plus 1 tbsp. buttermilk
2 tsp. coconut extract
2 tsp. vanilla extract

FOR THE MERINGUE:
6 egg whites
1⅔ cups sugar
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut

INSTRUCTIONS

Make the cake: Heat oven to 325°. Grease three 9″ cake pans with butter and line with parchment paper; set aside. Whisk flour, desiccated coconut, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Place sugar and egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment; mix until fluffy. Add mayonnaise, coconut milk, buttermilk, coconut and vanilla extracts; mix until combined. With the motor running, slowly add dry ingredients until batter forms; transfer batter to a bowl and set aside. Clean stand mixer bowl and add egg whites; replace paddle with whisk attachment. Whip whites until soft peaks form; fold into cake batter. Divide batter between prepared pans, smoothing tops with a rubber spatula; drop pans lightly on a counter to expel large air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cakes cool for 20 minutes in pans; invert onto wire racks and let cool.Make the meringue: Using an electric hand mixer, beat egg whites in a bowl until medium-stiff peaks form, 5–7 minutes; set aside. Bring sugar and ¼ cup water to a boil in a 2-qt. sauce pan fitted with a candy thermometer; cook, without stirring, until temperature reaches 250°, 4–5 minutes. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle hot syrup into egg whites until combined. Increase speed to high; beat until meringue forms stiff peaks, about 3 minutes more.

Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer on a cake stand and spread 3 cups meringue over cake; sprinkle with ¼ cup coconut. Repeat with second layer. Place remaining layer on top; cover top and sides with remaining meringue and cover outside of cake with remaining coconut, pressing lightly to adhere. Chill cake 30 minutes to firm meringue; serve chilled or at room temperature.

copied from Saveur 
Coconut Cake

Baking Challenge: Triple Berry Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Triple Berry Cinnamon Swirl Bread
I love a good challenge.  And Joy the Baker gave everyone a wonderful one!  She teamed up with King Arthur Flour (our favorite flour to use and the one Matt uses for all his bread) to create a baking challenge using four different flours from King Arthur’s extensive selection.  Go here to see the contest rules for yourself and be sure and watch the video – it’s so inspirational!  She makes everything look so easy 🙂

Matt chose two and I chose two – a true Family Meal collaboration!  He went first with the Triple Berry Cinnamon Swirl Bread.  It really didn’t seem that difficult for him and the recipe seems pretty forgiving.  I think no matter what your dough looks like when you put it in the pan raw, it’s going to bake up beautifully.  We brought this to our church class this morning and it tasted like one huge cinnamon roll filled with fruit.  In fact, I think if I were to redo this recipe, I would make them into berry cinnamon rolls with an orange icing.  Okay…that sounds awesome.  You heard it here first, folks.  That’s gonna happen.

Go take this challenge and have fun!  Post your pics on Instagram with the hashtag, “#bakingbootcamp”  and enjoy the process!

Triple Berry Bread Uncooked Triple Berry Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Click here for the very helpful recipe with photo tutorials!

 

Palmiers for Palm Sunday

almond palmiers
Matt suggested I make Palmier cookies for Palm Sunday to take into our church class this morning.  I love word play and an excuse to make a cookie and I hadn’t tried making them before, so I figured I’d give it a shot!  Turns out – it’s the easiest cookie to make, looks refined and tastes amazing with a cup of coffee!  I’m a big fan of keeping a box or two of puff pastry in my freezer for various recipes, and now I have a new go-to cookie to make on the fly if someone is stopping by for coffee or just because!

Palmier

Palmiers
makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1 box frozen puff pastry – sheets separated and thawed
1 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract

Spread a half cup of the sugar out on a clean surface evenly and lay both sheets of puff pastry out on top of the sugar.  With a rolling pin, roll the sheets a bit flatter in each direction until about an 1/8th of an inch thick. In a bowl with the remaining sugar, add the almond extract and stir with a fork until blended and the sugar resembles wet sand.  Spread the almond sugar over the surface of the puff pastry sheets.  From each end, start rolling up the pastry as you would a cinnamon roll.  It’s like rolling up a scroll!  When both sides almost meet in the middle, lay one side on top of the other, like shutting a book.  Press down slightly and lay on it’s side, cutting 1/4″ slices and placing the cookies on parchment lined baking sheets.
photo 1
(bad pic, but you get the visual)

It’s important to line your baking sheets with something because the sugar needs to caramelize to make these cookies what they are and you may have a hard time getting them off the sheets unless they are lined.

Bake cookies in a 450 degree oven for 6 minutes.  After 6 minutes, flip one and if it’s golden on the under side, flip them all and bake for another 5-6 minutes.  If they aren’t browned, yet, leave them in the oven for another 2-3 minutes.  You’re aiming for a good, golden caramelization on each side and each oven bakes different, so you may need to rotate your pans during the baking process.

Let the cookies cool completely before serving.  Have fun with the filling.  You could add lemon zest, orange zest, jam, vanilla – whatever you want to the sugar on the inside of the cookies.  Have fun with it!

Palmiers
riding in the car on the way to church this morning 🙂

The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Brownies

The Ultimate Brownie
Just look at them.  Super dense.  Fudgy.  Chewy.  Crisp around the very edges and topped with a square of caramel chocolate so it oozes out when it’s cut.  Simply put: the best brownies you will ever eat.

The Bread Man made these a few years ago when we decided to host a Brownie Battle and invite about 20 of our friends to all bring brownies to taste test and enter into the competition for the Golden Whisk.  Yes, there was a golden whisk trophy.  We are serious about our food battles.  Matt baked these brownies and topped his with dark chocolate toffee bars, which is his favorite combination.  They tied up with another contender for Best Traditional Brownie out of about 20 pans of brownies!  When I went to make them last week, I bought Ghiradelli bars – the individually wrapped ones.  And I bought sea salt caramel (as seen pictured) and sea salt soiree with almonds to place on top of the batter.  Check it out, sinking down into the glossy batter…
Ultimate Brownies
This recipe is super simple and I nearly have it memorized.  We’ve adapted it from a stunning UK recipe and put it in slightly easier steps and terms for everyone.  I hope you make these soon.  If for nothing else than to cry with happiness.  It’ll happen.  And be creative with the type of chocolate bars you put on top!  There’s so many to choose from!  I thought if I were in the mood, a dark chocolate mint bar on top would be good.  Or dark chocolate and strawberry!  The fun thing about going with the individually wrapped bars is that it’s instant perfect portioning for cutting!  Have fun and let me know how you like them!

The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Brownie

The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Brownies
makes about 16 depending on how to slice it 😉

8 oz unsalted butter
8 oz dark chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli 60%)
10 oz superfine sugar (I used Baker’s Sugar)
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
pinch of salt
5 oz cake flour
Your favorite chocolate bars for topping (I used these two kinds)

Preheat your oven to 400F.

In a double boiler (or a medium saucepan over low heat filled a couple inches up with water with a big heatproof glass bowl setting on top) melt the butter and chocolate together and stir with a rubber spatula until completely incorporated.  Gently stream in the sugar and whisk constantly until fully incorporated and smooth.  Whisk in the vanilla.  In a separate bowl, crack your eggs and lightly whip them up with a pinch of salt.  Take the bowl off the double boiler (if you haven’t already) and whisk in the eggs until smooth and then add the flour in two batches, stirring well to smooth out as many lumps as possible.

Line a 9×13″ pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Pour the brownie batter in the pan and smooth out the surface.  Dot the entire surface with chocolate bars and bake for 20 minutes.  It’s not going to look done, but take that sucker OUT and let it cool COMPLETELY before cutting.  Restrain yourself.  Plan ahead.  Gently lift the foil out of the pan and place the sheet of brownies on a cutting board and cut into squares.  Enjoy your life more than you ever have before. You’re welcome.

Double Dark Chocolate Brownies

 

Chewy Mexican Chocolate Cookies

Mexican Chocolate Cookies 3
This is one of my most favorite cookie recipes.  I found it a few years ago in a baking issue of Cooking Light magazine.  I’ve made it several times and I always get requests for the recipe.  The original recipe is soft out of the oven but then it hardens up pretty fast and becomes sort of like a short bread or pecan sandy texture.  I love the original, crunchy, good-with-coffee version, but I’m a soft and chewy cookie kinda gal.  So I adapted the recipe a bit to make the cookies more flat and chewy and I LOVED the results!  Crispy along the edges, soft in the middle – with a bite from the pepper and cinnamon!  As you can tell, I’m a fan of the Mexican chocolate flavor and I hope, within my life, to incorporate it into as many baked goods as possible.

Chewy Mexican Chocolate Cookies
I hope you try this recipe out!  If you’d like the cookies to be the original crunchy style, leave out the extra egg and cut back to 4 TBS butter.  But I don’t think you will want that after you taste these 🙂

Chewy Mexican Chocolate Cookies
makes about 30 cookies

5 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I use Ghirardelli 60% chips and skip the chopping)
3.4 oz AP flour (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
a few grinds of black pepper
a pinch of cayenne
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 TBS butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the chocolate in a small glass bowl and microwave for one minute, stir and microwave 30 seconds more to fully melt.  Stir with a rubber spatula to full incorporate and ensure it’s all melted and set aside to cool.

Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, cayenne and black pepper and stir well with a whisk.

Combine sugar and softened butter in a large bowl and beat with a mixer or by hand until well blended.  Add the eggs and beat well.  Add the cooled chocolate and vanilla and beat until just blended.  Fold in the flour mixture until fully incorporated.

Drop by level tablespoons 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I’ve tried it without and they will come off a regular sheet pan if you spray it with enough oil.) Bake at 350F for 12 minutes or until cracked on top and almost set.  Let the cookies cool on the pan for a couple minutes and then transfer to a wire rack until cooled completely.  Dust with powdered sugar if desired!

Mexican Chocolate Cookies 2

*recipe adapted from Cooking Light magazine, 2010

Challah French Toast with Caramelized Bananas and Toasted Almonds

Challah French Toast with Caramelized Bananas
So when Matt made Challah a couple weekends ago, the leftover loaf sat on our counter among other homemade rolls he made.  We ate the rolls, but the Challah just sat there, threatening to mold.  So I stuck it in the fridge to prolong its life and waited for the weekend.  Saturday rolled around and I turned that almost-moldy bread into amazing French toast.  Cinnamon, vanilla bean, a touch of almond extract made the batter extra decadent.  I pan fried some bananas and almond slices in a touch of butter and agave nectar and sprinkled them on top.  It was so good and once again, I got the satisfaction of knowing I didn’t let Matt’s bread go to waste!  

Happy Weekend!  
Challah French Toast
Challah French Toast
batter makes enough for about 8-10 slices of thick toast

4 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
8-10 thick slices of bread – any bread will do, but dense, enriched bread works best
2 bananas, sliced
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Butter for pan
Syrup of your choice – I chose dark amber agave nectar

*Give yourself a 30 minute head start so the bread can soak! Heat your oven to 200F.  

Whisk the eggs, milk, cinnamon and extracts together and pour into a 9×13″ pan.  Arrange the bread till it fills the pan and let it soak on one side for 15 minutes, then flip and let it soak for another 15 minutes, pressing down to soak up more batter.  

Heat a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat and add butter.  When butter starts to bubble, add the slices of bread (work in batches) and cook till golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes per side.  As they finish, put them on a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm while you finish the rest.

When you’re done with the toast, wipe the skillet out with a few paper towels and over medium high heat, toast the almonds until brown and fragrant.  Remove and add one tablespoon of butter, a swirl of syrup and the bananas and cook until golden on each side, about 1-2 minutes per side.  Top the toast with almonds and bananas and syrup and serve!

 

Candied Apple Pie – a family recipe

slice of candied apple pie

My brother in law, Justin, is pretty amazing with a pie plate.  He’s been known to ship his cherry pies across the country just because someone requested it.  I tasted one the first year he was married to my sister in law, Julie, because he mailed one to us in Tulsa for Thanksgiving since he and Julie couldn’t come and were stuck working in Atlanta.  It was amazing and it made me doubly glad he married into the family. 🙂  He is a man of many talents and you’d never expect this hunter/carpenter/plumber/electrician type guy to be a whiz with baking, but he is!  And he loves it and you can tell.  There’s a pride in what he bakes that can literally be tasted.  Matt and I feel so fortunate that we have two more enthusiastic hands in the kitchen around the holidays in Justin and Julie.  We’re a family centered around the table with forks in hand!

This recipes was one he made over the Christmas break.  He first made a candied cherry pie and followed that up with this candied apple pie, which was so beautiful and rustic, I had to take pics and then, I had to have the recipe after I tasted it – amazing.  I know pie season is over and New Years Resolutions are done, but if you have room in your heart for one more pie this winter, make it this one.

candied apple pie

Candied Apple Pie
makes one, 10″ pie

For the crust:

2 1/2 cups flour
2 sticks of butter, very cold and in small cubes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup ice water, more or less as needed

In a stand mixer, add the first cup and a half of flour, the salt and sugar, and gradually beat in the butter by small handfuls until each addition is pretty well incorporated.  When all the butter has been added, add the last cup of flour and mix slowly to combine.  Add tablespoons of water until the dough just comes together when pressed between your fingers.  Wrap the dough in a plastic bag (I use a bread bag) and flatten out into a disc and let chill for at least 30 minutes.  When ready for the pie, take it out of the fridge and let it warm up a bit on a lightly floured counter space for about ten minutes, and then divide the dough, not exactly in half, but let one half be a bit bigger than the other.  You’ll use the slightly smaller half for the top of the pie.

For the Filling and Assembly:
3-5 lbs Granny Smith apples (or any firm, tart apple), cored, peeled, halved and sliced thin
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick of butter (8 tbs)
1 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 egg white

In a 10″ cast iron skillet melt the butter and add the brown sugar. Stir until brown sugar is dissolved.  Set aside.

Peel and slice the apples (this little gadget is worth buying!). In a large mixing bowl,  stir 1 cup granulated sugar with the cinnamon and mix in the apples. Set aside.

Roll out the bigger of the two pie crusts and lay into the skillet, on top of your brown sugar/butter mixture.  Fill crust with apple mixture.  Roll out the smaller crust over the top and crimp edges and and trim any excess. Cut several single blade-width vent slots. Baste top with lightly whipped egg white then sprinkle with white sugar. Cook at 350 degrees for one hour.

Serve right out of the pan with ice cream or wait a bit for it to cool and the caramel in the bottom will be extra gooey.  It’s up to you.  If the bottom seems to be sticking and won’t come out, simply warm the skillet on a burner over low heat until the caramel melts and you can remove a slice.

Enjoy!

skilled apple pie

Red Velvet Cake – a family recipe

Red Velvet
This is the best red velvet cake I’ve ever tasted.  In general, I am not a fan of cream cheese frosting.  I feel it overwhelms a cake’s delicate flavors and just makes everything taste like cream cheese.  But on a red velvet cake, it’s the only conceivable option.  In fact, I get rather annoyed when bakeries sell red velvet cupcakes with a generic butter cream frosting.  Who are they kidding?  I feel lucky that I ran across this recipe and even MORE lucky that this recipe originates within my own family!  My sweet mother-in-law, Peggy, is the owner of this amazing cake recipe and the first time I had it, I was rather astonished with how perfect it was.  I guess it was one of those instances where I didn’t know what I was missing until I had something  better.  I didn’t know that all this time, I’d been having sub-par red velvet cakes, but when I tasted hers, I knew instantly this was the only recipe I’d ever use for red velvet, ever again!

You may be a little squeamish about using SO MUCH food coloring in this cake, but my thoughts on that are: 1. How often do you eat red velvet cake, anyway? and 2. You only need a small piece of this two-layer, rich cake to feel happy, anyway, and 3. get over it – it’s red velvet cake.  It’s supposed to be red!  If you still can’t take it, I’m pretty sure that someone out there has invented an organic red food coloring made out of beets – just ask Google and let me know how that goes.

My mother-in-law made this on Christmas Eve and I couldn’t help but feel, in that icy cold weather in northern Oklahoma with a fire going in the background, that this cake was extremely wintery and Christmassy.  We enjoyed it with a cup of coffee and the view of the woods covered in a thick layer of ice outside our window.  An experience to remember!  Merry Belated Christmas Cake to you all, and to all, a good night –

slice of red velvet cake
Red Velvet Cake*
makes a 9″-2 layer cake

2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tablespoon + 1 tsp white vinegar
1 ounce red food coloring

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray two, 9″ round baking pans with non stick spray and then line the bottoms with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, add the vinegar to the milk and set aside to curdle.  In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients with a whisk until fully blended.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk all the wet ingredients except the food coloring until completely incorporated.  Gently fold in the dry ingredients until just combined, then add red food coloring until desired color.  For full-on red velvet awesomeness, add the entire bottle.  Don’t worry, you’re not eating the whole cake by yourself (I don’t think.)

Pour batter into pans and bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, and then turn out on a cooling rack and let it cool COMPLETELY before assembling with the icing.

Cream Cheese Icing

16 ounces confectioners’ sugar
1 stick softened butter
1 – 8oz package of cream cheese, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream butter and cream cheese and vanilla together until fluffy.  Add confectioner’s sugar in batches until thick and creamy.  Place one round of cake on a serving tray and spread a thick layer of icing on top.  Then, add the second layer and finish icing the whole cake and let it set, if you can, for at least an hour before cutting and serving.

*I’ve never actually seen Peggy make this cake, but I’ve eaten it several times.  Some of the info is my interpretation from her recipe card that was pretty concise.  The cake instructions literally said, “mix all the ingredients together and bake it for 30 min at 350.  So I added some more detailed instructions 🙂 The part about lining the bottoms of the pans with parchment is all me because I’ve learned the hard way, one too many times with my cakes getting stuck to the bottoms of pans.  But Peg, if you see anything that needs changed, let me know!  

Red Velvet Cake

Cranberry Rosemary Biscotti

rosemary cranberry biscotti
As I type, I’m eating one of these merry little cookies.  The tart bite of the cranberry and the floral spring of the rosemary, combined with the sugary sweetness of white chocolate just tastes and looks like Christmas to me. More than the joy of eating these cookies is the tradition of making them.  I think holiday traditions are as comforting as coming in to a warm house from the cold.  Traditions are the glue that holds the holiday season together, no matter how hectic and scared we may get that Amazon Prime really won’t come in two days…

I’ve been doing too much, lately.  I got in over my head with a few embroidery projects because 1. I’m still new to the craft, but 2. I enjoy it so much that, 3. I think I am better than I really am, so 4. It takes me much longer to complete a project in real life than it does in my head.  I also feel that with a baby in the mix and a couple precious hours in the day to get things done, that I should have scaled back.  Baked less, bought fewer presents, gotten take-out a little more often.  But I felt compelled to keep the ship afloat and do everything I wanted to do, even if there was no time.

Amidst this feeling of being on a slowly sinking ship, I still hauled my tail into the kitchen yesterday morning and got the dough for this biscotti mixed up.  I don’t think I’ve ever made the same version of this recipe twice, but that stops this year.  I’ve finally found a combination of recipes that works and that tastes good.  I’ve tried everything you can imagine from a no-butter, all egg white recipe (sad) to a recipe that called for oil (weird) and switching between fresh cranberries or dried.  I don’t know why I tried so many variants when I knew in my heart that cookies need and deserve to be made with butter.  And after using dried cranberries every year, I tried fresh this year and I really love it.  It distinguishes the cranberry from what could have been any ol’ dried fruit.  Fresh cranberries tint the dough slightly swirly pink and with the flecks of green rosemary, these cookies just make me feel the season that much more.  Baking brings me closer to peace.  Being in the kitchen is a calm that I don’t feel anywhere else.  And so, even though Christmas seemed to come exactly 5.5 seconds after Thanksgiving this year, I found a pocket of time to keep the tradition going and bake my holiday anchor, also known as: Cranberry Rosemary Bisotti.

cranberry rosemary

Cranberry Rosemary Biscotti
makes about 2 dozen cookies

2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup  unsalted butter, room temp
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, cut in half
6 ounces white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or use a silpat.  Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl till fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in the rosemary and cranberries with a rubber spatula gently, until well incorporated.

Form the dough into two logs, side by side on a baking sheet.  Shape into long, flat strips, about 10″x 3″ by about 1/2″ high.  Bake for 30 minutes until firm and then let cool about 20 minutes before cutting.

Cut the logs into 1/2″ strips and arrange the slices on the baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes, flipping over once during baking.  Let the cookies cool completely on a rack before drizzling with white chocolate.

Melt the white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl at 30 second increments, stirring after each time, until just melted.  With a spatula, dunk into the chocolate and fling it around the kitchen with wild abandon.  Or, just drizzle it over the biscotti until completely used up and everything is a huge mess.  Let it dry before storing in an air tight container for about 2 weeks.  These cookies keep a while, so they’re great for gifts!

Ollie and her biscotti

Chocolate Covered Espresso Brownies

Chocolate Covered Espresso Brownies

I was paid $25 to make this recipe.  Well, technically,  I was paid about $12.50, because Matt was paid the other half to make a loaf of his awesome bread.  Why?  Because an old co worker from his previous job had a Christmas party to go to and a twenty-five dollar limit to spend on a gift.  So he contacted us and said, “Make a couple things.”  The fun thing about these office party gift-exchanges is that the person whose gift got the most steals, or trades in the game, wins $100.

Gary won.  🙂 So I guess you could say these are $75 brownies.  Or $37.50.   Or probably less, because as I well know, it was most certainly Matt’s bread that won the contest.  Hey, Matt – guess what?  You won 1st place for your bread.  Only this time, instead of a $6 check like at the fair, some other guy got $100.  That’s better, right? 😉

The brownies were indeed, great.  I followed a recipe from Fat Witch Brownies (a most awesome brownie book) for an espresso brownie, and then I thought, “What could make this more show-worthy for a gift exchange?”  Covering it in a rich chocolate ganache!  Then, with some sprinkles of cocoa nibs, these brownies become a huge version of a chocolate-covered espresso bean, which in my opinion, is the ultimate adult candy.  They’re like one big “congratulations” for getting older.

And so are these brownies!  Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Brownies

Chocolate Covered Espresso Brownies*
worth $37.50

7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon hot water
1 cup AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 recipe dark chocolate ganache (see below)
cocoa nibs or crushed up coffee beans for sprinkling

Grease a 9×9″ baking dish with butter.  Dust with flour.  Or use that awesome flour spray.  Preheat oven to 350F.

Melt butter and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl at 30 second increments, stirring with a rubber spatula after each time, until smooth and melted.

Cream the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth, then add the cooled chocolate mixture and continue beating until incorporated.

In a small dish, mix the espresso powder with the hot water until dissolved.  Add it to the chocolate mixture and continue to beat until well combined.

Measure the flour and salt and then sift together directly into the batter.  Mix the batter gently until well combined.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 1 hour.  Make your ganache while the brownies cool.  After they cool, cut them into 16 squares and gently remove and place on a drying rack, or on sheets of waxed or parchment paper.

Dark Chocolate Ganache*
makes 1 cup of goodness from the heavens

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream

Over medium heat, place the heavy cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove the saucepan from the heat immediately after it has just started to boil.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and let them sit for a minute.  Then, with a rubber spatula, gently begin mixing the chocolate in tiny circles in the center of the bowl.  You will think it will never incorporate.  Keep mixing.  You will think your cream wasn’t hot enough.  Keep mixing.  Chocolate demands patience.  Then, just like magic, the chocolate will deepen its color instantly and you will only have a few more stirs, incorporating the sides and scooping down to the bottom of the bowl, to end up with one, big, glossy, gorgeous bowl of thick, dark chocolate ganache.  Take this and spread over the tops and sides of your cut brownies and sprinkle the tops of your brownies with the nibs or crushed beans and let it cool till the ganache firms up.

*both recipes adapted only very slightly from Fat Witch Brownies.  Go buy this book for someone for Christmas.

EAT! ENJOY!