Saturday, 9 June 2012

Mozzarella Herb Bread

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I love bread. I mean, I really love bread. Nothing is better than a freshly baked slice of bread with a pat of butter spread on top. On top of that, I love baking bread. It makes me feel like a pioneer woman or something, having to bake their bread every day. That couldn't be farther from the truth, but hey, I can pretend once and a while. The problem is, I don't like kneading bread and I'm very forgetful. Which means that I will most likely lose track of how long my dough has been rising, how many times I have kneaded the dough so far... etc, etc.. The breadmaker is my solution to that. I get to bake homemade bread and feel like I'm living in the world of Little House on the Prairie, but I really just get to dump the ingredients in the breadmaker and wait a few hours. Win-win!

This bread is just awesome. It's cheesy and has a slight tang from the herbs. None of these flavours are too over-powering, however, so the bread is light and perfect as a side with dinner. And this bread was tested by my extremely picky nine-year-old sister, so it's totally kid-friendly. I love this bread, and I will definitely be making this recipe again!

Mozzarella Herb Bread
Yield: One 1.5 pound loaf (approx. 6-8 slices)

  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 cup dry milk powder
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 3 teaspoons dried Italian herbs
  1. Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. (Mine didn't specify when to add the cheese and herbs, so I added those last.) Select White Bread setting; press Start. 

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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Dark Chocolate Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting

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A thick, fudgy and chewy dark chocolate brownie topped with a light and fluffy peanut butter frosting. Are you intrigued yet? I don't know about you, but I absolutely adore peanut butter and chocolate. It's an adoration bordering on obsession, to be honest. I combine peanut butter and chocolate wherever I can: dipping my Oreos in peanut butter, swirling peanut butter into my chocolate ice cream, and slathering peanut butter on chocolate muffins: these ones, for example. The list goes on. It's true love, people.

These are slightly akin to the Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies I made, but instead of a peanut butter swirl baked into the brownies, the peanut butter is incorporated into a smooth and fluffy frosting that sits on top of the brownies. The frosting is super simple, too. All you do is cream the butter and peanut butter and then add the powdered sugar. If you have any fleur de sel (or any other flaky salt), I think adding that to the top of these brownies would be awesome, and would create a great sweet-and-salty combination.

These brownies were awesome! The brownies themselves aren't too sweet due to the use of Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder-- if you only have regular cocoa powder, however, feel free to use that. The use of Dark cocoa powder doesn't create that bitter flavour that (I find) dark chocolate often has.The brownies on their own are amazing: chewy and slightly dense, with that perfect crackly top. My little sisters wanted to eat just the brownies sans frosting, and they adored these. With the frosting, however, they're just phenomenal. The fudgy chewiness of the brownie combined with the light and fluffy peanut butter icing is just out of this world! If you're a lover of the chocolate-peanut butter combo, these are the brownies for you.

Dark Chocolate Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder (I used 2/3 cup Hershey's Special Dark, and 1/3 cup natural cocoa powder)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 pinches baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 baking pan. (I also recommend lining the pan with aluminum foil so it hangs off the sides of the pan. This will allow you to take the entire brownie out of the pan, making it easier to frost. Line the pan with foil before greasing, and then grease the foil and pan.)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  3. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the sugar and corn syrup. Add in the eggs one at a time, whisking until well combined. In a very small bowl, stir together the vanilla extract and the coffee/espresso powder until it dissolves. Stir this into the liquid mixture in the pan. Add the dry ingredients into the pan as well, and fold with a spatula until the flour has been incorporated.
  4. Pour the batter into the pan, smooth the tops with your spatula, and bake them on the middle rack of your oven for about 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Let the brownies cool completely before frosting.
Peanut Butter Frosting:
  • 12 tablespoons (1½ stick) softened butter
  • 1½ cup peanut butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Cream the butter and the peanut butter until combined (I used a hand mixer, but feel free to use a standing mixer). Slowly stir in the powdered sugar until completely incorporated. Spread over the cooled brownies. 
Brownie recipe adapted from Jane's Sweets.
Frosting recipe adapted from Not Without Salt.

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Monday, 28 May 2012

Double Chocolate Banana-Zucchini Muffins

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Making these double chocolate muffins was actually a bit of an accident. They were supposed to be the original chocolate chip zucchini muffins from Allrecipes. In the middle of mixing my ingredients, however, I realised I only had milk chocolate chips instead of the semi-sweet called for in the recipe. Since I had already added the sugar, I was worried that my muffins would be too sweet with the milk chocolate. So I decided to add some cocoa powder to cancel out a bit of the sweetness. And it turned out to be a great idea! These muffins aren't too sweet but still have a great chocolate flavour. I'm in love with them!

These muffins are actually healthy-- if you replace the oil with mashed banana (like I did), the muffins contain no oil or butter. I recommend substituting the oil for banana as it adds a spongier texture (which I love) and the slightest hint of banana flavour. My little sister who's insanely picky and hates bananas loved these muffins! If you are seriously against bananas, however, (or dislike spongy textures in baking), feel free to substitute the banana for vegetable oil.

Since they have banana and zucchini, they're healthy enough for breakfast, right? And it's okay to justify eating three of them in one sitting as well, right? Because these are seriously addictive. They're light enough for a guilt-free snack, but are still really really delicious. I'll be making these muffins again and again.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
Yield: 12 muffins
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1½ tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup mashed banana (approx. 1 whole banana)
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used skim)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (I didn't have any on hand, so I substituted apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a bowl, combine the first six (dry) ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, mashed banana, milk, lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar), and vanilla; mix well.  Stir into dry ingredients until just moistened. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips. 
  3. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin tins until two-thirds full.
  4. Bake muffins for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.

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Friday, 25 May 2012

Homemade Baked Beans

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I love, love, love baked beans-- but only the homemade kind! My grandma first made these for me last year, and I was obsessed with them. After I "grew up" I'd never been a fan of the canned beans, but when I tried my grandma's homemade recipe, I was blown away. These beans are kinda smoky and kinda sweet due to the bacon, ketchup and molasses. I love this recipe-- it's awesome.

I'm making these beans for a barbeque I'm going to for Memorial Day. I know the recipe looks daunting since the beans have to soak overnight and take so long to cook, but it's really simple and hands-off. All you do is combine the ingredients and throw it in the oven! Just make sure to keep checking the beans so you can add water as needed and keep them moist.
If you're going to a barbeque for Memorial Day (or Victoria Day, if you're Canadian like me!), I totally recommend this recipe! Everyone will be impressed :)

Homemade Baked Beans
Yield: 5-7 servings (as a side dish)
  • 1 pound (2½ cups) white navy beans
  • ½ pound bacon (preferably maple), cut into one-inch slices
  • 1½ cup onions, chopped
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup good maple syrup (only quality maple syrup! not mrs. butterworth. if you don't have access to good, non-sugary maple syrup, simply omit.)
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • dash salt and pepper
  1. In a large Dutch oven, cover the navy beans with cold water (cover the beans so that there's about an inch or so of water above the beans). Soak overnight
  2. After the beans have soaked, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  3. Combine all the ingredients except the beans in a medium size bowl. Pour into the Dutch oven with the beans. Cover the beans with 4-5 cups of water. 
  4. Bake the beans for about 2-3 hours (or until tender). As the beans cook, keep checking them to see if they have dried up and need more water. I add a cup of water at a time, about every hour or so.
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