Sunday, September 30, 2012

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chunk Brownies

Sometimes, like this weekend, I've got things to do.  Like trying to sneak in a 90 minute work out, running errands, showering, getting dressed cuz I need to be ready 20 minutes ago, cleaning up my room and shoving some kind of nutrient down my throat all while baking something amazing that will make a hot boy with abs fall in love with me.

Bet you're a little impressed with me at this point right?  Well  you can be (especially if you're this mysterious aforementioned boy with abs), but this time I actually had some help when I made these salted caramel chocolate chunk brownies (from heaven).  That help was from The Women's Bean Project in Colorado.

Let's explain.  To be specific, the women there helped me out by putting together the brownie mix that I used.  Yup, I used a mix. So these are half from scratch.  And it's okay for three reasons.  1).  I am not good at making brownies.  I have burnt more than one flat, lack luster batch. I am awful at it, so someone taking over the difficult task of telling me how to put it together is quite welcomed.  Especially when they TASTE good.  2). I looked at the ingredients first.  Flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, vanilla.... all legit stuff i'd be using anyways!  Nothing weird or artificial.  3)  I get to tell you about this great non profit-org that you probably have never heard of before.

The Women's Bean Project is a social enterprise that offers a transitional job in gourmet food manufacturing to women.  The women hired at the Bean Project have histories of poverty and unemployment.  The program is designed to provide immediate income, arrange support services to overcome barriers to employment, and teach the job readiness skills needed to get and keep a job.  The Women's Bean Project does not employ women to sell its products.  They sell its products in order to employ women.  

My friend Samantha (who I met while vacationing in Europe last year) works there and contacted me earlier this month to ask if she could send me a few of their mixes for me to try out.  The aim was to find a few new and interesting ways to spruce up the mixes.  So I googled the organization and their products and was more than stoked to try something out.  Their gourmet products include cookie and brownie mixes.  Right up my alley!  Hopefully you will see 1-2 more post about them in the coming weeks.  Because as Sam promised, a big box arrived at my house a few days later  from the Women's Bean Project.  Every mix was hand packaged by someone.  So thanks Gloria, whoever you are, for putting together "Cindy's Sinfully Chocolate Brownie Mix" for me.

The recipe below can be used with any boxed brownie mix but hopefully if you know that you'll be busy this holiday season, (and I mean who wont be?) and want to stock up on brownie mix you'll skip the Duncan Hines ready mix and consider helping The Women's Bean Project instead.  You can find more information about them here, and purchase their affordable products here.

To continue with my September caramel theme, I decided to slather a whole bunch of it on top of the brownies.  With some coarse salt because salted caramel is the only thing better than regular caramel.  But it needed a layer of chocolate chunks too so that came first.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chunk Brownies 

1 bag of Cindy's Sinfully Chocolate Brownie Mix
1 4 oz bar of good chocolate, chopped coarsely  (I used Ghirardelli cuz im a SF chocolate snob)
8 oz unwrapped caramels
1/4 cup heavy cream
coarse salt for sprinkling

1. Mix brownie batter, per recipe instructions.
2. Line an 8x8 inch pan in aluminum foil and butter/spray.  This will aid you in easier clean up, removal and ultimately consumption.  Fill pan with brownie batter.
3.  Place pan in oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, just enough for the batter to start to set but not for it to bake completely.
4.  Remove pan from oven and spread chocolate chunks over the top of batter.  Return to oven to finish baking; approximately 10-15 minutes. When done remove from oven and set aside to cool.
5. While brownies are baking, place unwrapped caramels in a saucepan with heavy milk and stir until melted.
4. Once caramel sauce is ready, drizzle over the tops of the brownies.  You can either do this with a spoon or use a bottle.
5.  Sprinkle brownies with coarse salt.
6. Once cool, remove foil and brownies from tray and discard foil.  Cut brownies into small pieces.

The result?

Just this.  Fudgey, crunchy, sweet and savory.

The brownies are super fudgey and moist, just as promised.  The added crunch you get when you let them cool and the top chocolate chunk layer has solidified itself again. (Not that there is ANYTHING wrong with eating a warm brownie, of course.)  The caramel is the sweet, and those pretty salt flakes is what makes the savory.

This week's eating well was a total wash, MyFitnessPal is super mad at me, and I am going to have to eat spinach with dust dressing for the next 30 days to stop being so squishy for my upcoming cruise.  Though I will admit, it was super worth it.

Go make these, nao. Serve them up on platter for you and your friends.

They'll be glad you did. You'll be glad you did.  Heck, i'll be glad for you too because I hope you're the sharing type.  I might kinda be out already...

Oh and pro tip;  put some vanilla bean ice cream on top of these if you're feeling daring. Ah-mazing.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Caramel Apple Fritters

September must be caramel month here at my feelings taste like cupcakes, cuz last week I  had those caramel pumpkin snickerdoodles, and just look at the caramel on that plate this week!  Nom.  Can't take full credit for these those, I had a lovely little baking partner this weekend.  My dear Rachelle, who I baked that soft chocolate cake with a few months ago, and I got together Saturday morning to churn out some quick donuts for a late dessert after brekkie.  Rachelle dates are the best.  They always involve food.

We adapted the recipe from here, but made one crucial change.  Instead of making a simple glaze (milk + powdered sugar) to coat it in, we drizzled it with caramel.  Yeah, just because caramels and apples are lovely and delicious.

Apple Fritters
Makes about 24 fritters, around 1.5 inches in diameter.
Fry at 375*  on each side as needed.

1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
dash of salt
2 tsp cinnamon (feel free to add more, we wished we had!)
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp butter, melted
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 – 1 1/2 cups of finely chopped apples

vegetable oil for frying
powdered sugar for dusting

1. Mix dry ingredients together.
2. In mixer, slowly add in vanilla, butter, egg,milk and beat until incorporated. 
3. Fold in apple pieces. 
4. Heat oil.  Should be around 375*. Test with a small piece of dough before starting to fry.  Place 2-3 scoops of batter at a time into oil and cook on each side until golden brown and cooked all the way through.  (Once we got the hang of it, it took about 3 minutes to get them cooked all the way.  

5. Place on paper towels to absorb oil
6. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while still hot

Easy Caramel Sauce
About 8 oz of unwrapped caramels
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1. Place caramels in a sauce pan over low heat and add cream

2. Whisk slowly until caramels are completely melted and sauce is smooth.
3. Drizzle over fritters and serve

So how do they look like when they're done and sprinkled with powdered sugar and drizzled with caramel?

Like this:

And when you bite into them, revealing those chopped up apples inside, they look a little like this:

Consume these ASAP because the warm insides and gooey caramel have a short shelf life.  Make sure that you have plenty of taste testers near by to help you do the job though.

Cuz the temptation to shove them all in your mouth is high.  They do smell, and look,  like caramel cinnamon apple deliciousness after all.

So put them on a plate, invite some friends over and have a fritter brekkie party.

It took a few to get the hang of frying them, I try not to use oil in anything I cook (granted, i can't cook) and neither does Rachelle but in the end they came out pretty awesome.  Now we feel confident that we will be adequately prepared for our next baking adventure:  churros.  I told you Rachelle dates are awesome.

But before we do that, we're hitting up Oakland's Eat Real Festival.  So no baking this weekend since I will already be eating 4x my body weight anyways. (I'm actually going for 2/3 days, haha.)  Check it out if you're in town.  It's 100% more awesome than any other foodie thing you've ever been to.



Monday, September 10, 2012

Caramel Filled Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Oh,  these Snickerdoodles look so normal don't they?  Stacked up in rows, showing off their cinnamony sugar goodness.  But are you looking close enough?  There's a little something that's..  off about them.

These kinda things to be exact.

Pinner of all things (that's me) found this recipe for pumpkin snickerdoodles and I kind of threw up my hands in defeat.  Yeah, Hi Fall.  Pumpkin, cinnamon, spices, gingerbread, eggnog... we'll play. And we're bringing some caramel into the picture too.

Caramel Filled Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
Bake at 350* for 12 minutes. Makes around 40 using a medium sized cookie scoop.

For Cookies:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar1/2 cup light brown sugar3/4 cup pumpkin puree1 large egg2 teaspoons vanilla extract3 3/4 cups flour1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder1/2 teaspoon salt1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For filling:
40 individually wrapped caramel candies

For Coating: 
1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Small dash of allspice

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and set aside.
2. In an electric mixer, beat sugars and butter together until fluffy.
3. Stir in pumpkin puree. 
4. Add in egg and vanilla.
5. On low, stir in the dry ingredients into the wet until fully incorporated.
6. Cover cookie dough and put in fridge to chill.

Here's where things get real boys and girls.  Once the dough has been chilled enough to be firm but still malleable, take it out of the fridge and form equal sized balls.  A medium cookie scoop worked well for me. Then gather your filling and topping.

Next you'll want to either tear apart with your hands, or a knife like I did, the top half of the cookie.  Then place an entire caramel in the center then fully recover with the dough, rolling into a ball again.

Roll the dough in the topping completely, flattening slightly before placing on cookie sheet.

Bake in oven, and if you've done a good job at covering up all the sides you shouldn't have any spillage.  In case you haven't, that't okay too.

It gives for a sneak peak of what's to come.

And what's to come is a delicious cinnamony carmael bite of goodness.

I try not to eat too much of my baking, but I always have at least one.  I might have had more that one of these.  Or more than two.  Who's counting anyways? If Summer's over that means I'm allowed to pack on an extra 5 lbs of insulation right?  Winter's coming!

They taste very lightly of pumpkin.  Next time I'll try to amp that up.  But the caramel, especially if warm tastes oh so good with the cinnamon.  I also made a batch without stuffing.  Truth be told, those did not disappear as fast as these did.  I also did some with cream cheese.  I think I like stuffing cookies with things.  Best thing about these is popping them in the microwave for 30 seconds a day or two later.  Instant caramel goodness in your mouth.  

I'll be back real soon.  I have so many baked yummy things lined up, it's ridiculous. You're probably going to want to move into the guest bedroom now in preparation.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Cream Cheese Stuffed Cinnamon Blueberry Cookies

Do people give each other, or themselves, Labor Day presents?  Cuz I am, right now.  My present to myself  is to not wake up at the crack of dawn to go on a run.  Instead I'm eating brekkie in bed, watching one of my top favorite movies and blogging.  Because waking up at 7AM to sweat sounds laborious and that'd be the wrong thing to do on this holiday.

Do you know what else is wrong?  Summer ending.  The days are shorter, the mornings colder, there are pumpkins at the grocery store and only mismatched, heavily clearanced bikinis remain at the department stores. And worst of all, society expects me to wear pants again!  I hate pants.  But I am still clinging on to what remains of the sunshine and warm days, baking with berries while they are still readily available.  While wearing pretty summer dresses.

I made these cookies based off of  this recipe I found last month.  I pinned it but when I looked at the ingredients and saw the lemon, they screamed Summer so bad that I knew I couldn't find it in me to make them exactly.  So I used lots of vanilla and cinnamon/nutmeg instead.  I'll ease into fall slowly.

Nothing like busting out the sugar, eggs and butter.  And if easing in means getting to play with brown sugar, then let's have it.

Cream Cheese Stuffed Cinnamon Blueberry Cookies
Makes around 15, Bake at 350* for 12-14 minutes

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temp1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1.5 tbsp vanilla
1 egg, at room temp
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1.5 cup flour
1/2 cup blueberries
1/3 package of cream cheese

For dusting:  cinnamon/sugar mixture at a 1:3 teaspoon ratio. 

1. In mixer, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy.

2. Add in vanilla and egg.
3. In a new bowl whisk together the baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour.

4. Hand mix it into the wet ingredients.
5. Fold in blueberries carefully, trying not to break them.

6. The dough is really sticky.  Refrigerate or put in freezer until stiff. 
7. Scoop out 1 big tablespoon of dough into your hand slightly flatten.  
8. Place 1 small piece of cream cheese  (I used 1/4 of a package for 12) into center and fold edges over the cream cheese, making one cookie dough ball.

9. Repeat for the rest of the dough and place on cookie sheet to bake.
10. Immediately out of the oven and while still warm, transfer to a cooling rack and lightly sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.
11. Let cool completely before storing if not consumed immediately. These are really packed with moisture because of the blue berries, and will get mushy if you don't let them cool.  

At first, you can't even tell that inside there lurks cream cheesey goodness.  You just see some cookies with blueberries poking out.   They are sneaky, deceiving cookies.

With a closer look, you can see the sparkling cinnamon sugar.  Since you sprinkled the topping on while still hot, the cinnamon sugar will adhere to the tops in the most lovely way.  And if you look closely... that cream cheese starts poking out.  

But once you rip them open... well it's a different story then. 

Then you can see the cheesey goodness.  Then you can see the blueberries that burst open in the oven.

Remember that sharing is caring people.  And if that doesn't encourage your generosity, remember that gluttony makes you fat -- hand some of these bad boys out if you can.  I sent half of these away while they were still warm, it's that serious.