chocolate brownie cookies with pecans

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There are so many great things about brownies. They are unparalleled in their chocolate flavor among other baked goods because you can use a lot of chocolate without the texture suffering (in fact, the chocolate creates the fudgey texture we’re going for). They’re are moist, rich, and super easy to throw together.

But don’t think that I love cookies any less. Cookies beat brownies in some areas, too. For instance, a brownie, while being delicious, is not the most pretty thing out there. Cookies, however, can look pretty darn glamorous (especially these, with their crackly top). Cookies are neatly portioned out and perfect size for dipping into milk. Also, they bake faster, which is nice because who likes to wait for 40 minutes for their treat to come out of the oven? More like, 15 minutes or less because that chocolate needs to be in my belly, pronto.

Instead of a cookie vs. brownie war, what about a compromise? If these cookies are a compromise, I need to be making compromises more often! These cookies are more like the best of both worlds! We take what we love about brownies and combine it with what we love about cookies to make something awesome.

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Chocolate Brownie Cookies with Pecans

Adapted from the Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups chocolate chips (I like a mixture of semisweet and bittersweet)

2 large eggs

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling on top after baking (optional)

1 cup pecans, toasted and cooled

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, melt the butter and 1 cup of the chocolate. You can do this in the microwave or in a double boiler. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, chop the pecans finely and whisk together the flour and baking powder in a small bowl.

Add the eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla to the melted chocolate and whisk until combined. Add the flour mixture and stir gently until just combined. Stir in the pecans and the remaining 1 cup of chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into a shallow dish like a pie plate. Freeze for 10 to 15 minutes, until the dough hardens and is scoop-able.

Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes until the tops are dry and cracked. Sprinkle with sea salt, if desired. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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raspberry swirled cheesecake tart

imageI finally got a tart pan for using a gift card I got for Christmas, and it has been love ever since. On the lengthy list of why I love my tart pan (after it’s removable bottom and lovely fluting) is that it allows me to make thinner versions of delicious things. Case in point: cheesecake. Did I want a cheesecake that filled an entire spring form pan, used 2 pounds of cream cheese, and could feed upwards of 20 people? No. I wanted a thin, petite, adorable cheesecake with half the batter and enough servings to feed my family and a few guests. I think this version is better, at least for me, because who honestly needs to feed 20+ people dessert?* More like I just wanted a nice slice of cheesecake after dinner. Plus, this version also solves another main problem keeping me from cheesecake: the pesky water bath. This version has no need for a water bath, which also means no need to line the pan with foil that always leaks.

This cheesecake reminds me why I love cheesecake. The chocolate crumb crust is delicious (why would we ever use graham crackers again?) and it’s rich but not too heavy. The raspberry swirls give it a bright freshness that really compliment the tanginess of the cream cheese. Plus, have you ever seen something so pretty? If you served this to guests, I’m sure you’d never hear the end of it because they’d be so impressed.

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Raspberry Swirled Cheesecake Tart

recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Note: In the picture, my tart is served with raspberry and chocolate sauce, but I actually like it better without the chocolate sauce – that way, the raspberry really gets to shine.

for the crust:

1 1/2 cups finely ground chocolate cookie crumbs

4 1/2 tablespoons  unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons sugar

pinch salt

for the raspberry swirl:

6 ounces raspberries (fresh or frozen, thawed so it can be pureed)

2 tablespoons  sugar

for the filling:

16 ounces softened cream cheese

3/4 cup granulated sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs, at room temperature

 Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together the cookie crumbs, butter, sugar, and salt. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch round tart pan. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven until it is sett, about 10 minutes. Allow the crust to cool while you prepared the filling and swirl.

In a food processor or blender, puree the raspberries with the sugar until smooth. Press the puree through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl. Discard the seeds and set the raspberry sauce aside.

Beat  the cream cheese  in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the sugar in a slow stream and scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl frequently and mixing until just combined.

Pour half of the cream cheese mixture into the tart shell. Pour the raspberry puree into a piping bag  or a ziploc bag and snip off the end. Squeeze little droplets  of the raspberry sauce all over the surface of the cream cheese mixture. Then, pour the rest of the cream cheese mixture over the top. Smooth the top before squeezing more drops of the raspberry mixture over the top (You will have extra puree, which makes an excellent  sauce for serving). Using a toothpick, swirl the raspberry droplets artfully around the surface. Be careful not the scrape the crust while you swirl.

Carefully place the tart into the oven (it should still be on the baking sheet). Bake until the filling is set but just a little wobbly in the center, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and place on a wire rack. Cool to room temperature and then chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving. Serve the tart in slices with extra raspberry sauce.

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whole wheat maple oat scones

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Spring is maple syrup season here in Wisconsin. I know two families who collect their own sap and boil it down to make maple syrup. The end product is delicious, and they have the fruits of their labor for pancakes for the rest of the year. It’s a pretty cool process to see.

First, you tromp around the woods, preferably in rain boots because spring in the woods can get pretty muddy, and collect the sap. There are buckets on all of the maples, hanging from spigots stuck in holes drilled in the bark. The sap that collects in the buckets is clear and cool. If a tree gives you a full bucket of sap, you must give it a hug as a thank you. The sap doesn’t taste like much, but if you really focus you can discern a faint sweetness and another aftertaste that can only be described as tasting like tree.

You pour the sap into larger containers and bring it back to the boiler. The boiler is a complicated thing with a lot of metal dividers that I don’t really understand. Basically, you pour sap in at one end and it moves its way through the chambers as it gets more and more concentrated. When it reaches the last chamber, it is maple syrup! What a transformation.

These scones celebrate maple syrup.  I love the idea that we are sweetening and flavoring our scones with something we got from trees! It’s even sweeter when you have kissed the tree that gave you the syrup.

These scones are very subtly sweetened, so a little maple glaze on top does wonders. With the oats and whole wheat flour inside, they have a nice heft and beautiful crumb that makes for a heartier treat. We don’t hold back on the butter, so they are rich and decadent while still remaining humble.

whole wheat maple oat scones

adapted from smitten kitchen

for the scones:

1 3/4 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting surface
1/2 cup (80 grams) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (35 grams) oats
5 teaspoons (1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons) baking powder
1 heaped tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Scant 3/4 cup (160 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup milk or buttermilk
1 egg, beaten (for glaze)

for the maple glaze:

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 cup powdered sugar

milk for thinning (as needed)

To make the scones:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like coarse bread crumbs (we are going past the pea-sized stage common in pie crusts and biscuits). In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup and milk or buttermilk. Add to the dry ingredients and gently stir to incorporate. You may have to turn the dough out onto the counter top to get it all together. If you need to add more milk, you can, little by little, but the dough should not be sticky.

Pat the dough out until it is 1 1/4 inches tall. Cut the scones using a 2 inch circular cutter and place on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg. Bake the scones until they have puffed up and are lightly golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the scones on a wire rack.

To finish the scones:

Whisk together the powdered sugar and maple syrup. If the glaze is too thick, add milk until it is thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle the scones with the maple glaze and allow the glaze to dry.

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mango coconut bread with mango butter

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Spring has finally showed its beautiful face here in western Wisconsin. While the air still has a bit of a nippy bite, the sun is often shining in the afternoon and the snow is melting. Everyone is loving the beautiful spring weather. And you know what else everyone is loving? Talking about the beautiful spring weather. I’m serious, as soon as March rolls around, small talk gets a face lift because everyone wants to small talk about the weather. We’re either obsessing about the day’s weather or checking next week’s forecast. It’s one of those things where you don’t realize how miserable something was until it’s over. During winter, we forget how amazing it is not to be constantly shivering. Then when spring comes, it’s like bam, OMG ITS SO NICE OUT.

In celebration of our new weather, which is around 50 degrees but feels downright tropical, I made you some tropical quick bread. The bread itself is a basic quick bread flavored with mango and flaked coconut. It’s moist and delicious, but the real star here is the mango butter you spread on top.  It’s like apple butter, but made from mangoes (!). Fruity and fresh, it makes the perfect accompaniment to our tropical bread. Bonus points because it doesn’t even need to be cooked.

coconut bread with mango butter

coconut bread recipe adapted from smitten kitchen

Note: I used thawed frozen mango, and it was absolutely fine instead of fresh. No one knew. (Don’t tell!)

ingredients: 

2 cups mango chunks (see note)

2 large eggs

1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups (315 grams) all-purpose flour (you can replace up to 1 cup of this with whole wheat flour)

1/4 teaspoon table salt

2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder

1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar

5 ounces (140 grams) sweetened flaked coconut (about 1 1/2 cups)

6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted

Butter for greasing pan

instructions:

Preheat the oven to grease a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan generously with butter. In a blender or food processor, puree the mango chunks until smooth. Measure out one cup and set aside the rest of the puree for serving (our mango butter is done!).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cup of mango puree, eggs, milk, and vanilla. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Whisk in the sugar and coconut. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the mango mixture. Fold gently until the mixture just comes together. Add the butter and stir gently until incorporated.

Pour the mixture  the prepared pan and bake until it is nicely browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean. This will take between 1 and 1 1/4 hours. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a cooling rack.

Serve in think slices slathered with mango butter. This bread is also great toasted.

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broccoli and spinach quiche

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Recently, I have realized the great qualities of quiche, and it has entered my weekend breakfast rotation. Quiche just has a lot going for it.

For starters, quiche is simple and easy to make, but when you bake it in a tart pan, it’s elegant and dressed up enough for company. Quiche is satisfying; a nice big wedge fills you up for several hours. Quiche also has it figured out in the balance department – we pack a lot of vegetables in the filling, which makes up for the butter in the crust and cheese in the custard. Plus, you probably have all of the major ingredients in your pantry (butter, flour, and eggs), and the minor ingredients (veggies, cheese) are super flexible. If you don’t have spinach, use kale! If you don’t have parmesan cheese, just throw in a little more cheddar!

broccoli and spinach quiche

crust recipe from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

note: I had a little extra filling that didn’t fit in my tart shell. If you have extra too, just bake it in a ramekin.

for the whole wheat pastry:

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour (preferably white whole wheat)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 oz) very cold butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice cold water

for the filling:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 small onion, diced

1 1/2 cups broccoli florets and tender stems, chopped finely

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups lightly packed spinach, chopped coarsely

1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half

4 large eggs

1/2 cup whole milk or half and half

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1/2 cup cheddar cheese

to make the crust:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, and salt. Add the butter. With a pastry blender or your fingers, work the butter into the flour until the butter is the size of peas. Stir in the water until the dough begins to hold together. Turn the dough out onto the counter top and knead gently about 5 times until the dough holds together well. Flatten into a disc and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured countertop, roll out your dough to a little over a 12 inch circle. Lift the dough over your rolling pin and place in a 9 inch tart pan. Press the dough into the edges and press the extra dough off the top. Prick the bottom with a fork. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up.

Line your crust with foil or parchment paper and fill with baking weights  or beans. Bake the crust on a baking sheet for 15 minutes. Then, take the foil/parchment and weights out and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the edges are beginning to brown and the bottom looks done. The pie shell should still be warm when you add the filling. Turn down the oven to 325.

Meanwhile, make the filling:

In a large skillet, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and broccoli and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 3 minutes more, until everything is tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the spinach and cook until it wilts, about 3 minutes. Pour in the cream or half and half. It will bubble up. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the liquid has reduced and almost disappeared. The vegetables should just be coated in a thick sauce.

Whisk together the eggs and milk or half and half. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the vegetable mixture, the parmesan cheese, and half of the cheddar cheese. Pour into the warm pie shell. Top with the remaining cheddar cheese and bake until the center is set and the edges of the custard are lightly brown 45-55 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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