Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fudgy Peanut Butter Squares

It's been a fun past couple days. We've taken over toilet paper duty, for rationing purposes, so our room has packages and packages of it. I thought it would be funny to build a wall for my roommates who dont have wall out of it. We sent pictures to the administration.. It got a couple of laughs. And then, one of the girls "stole" a whole package, so E and I have been going back and forth between stealing it back and having her take more toilet paper. It's just been funny. In baking land, I finally decided to buy some peanut butter (because I haven't made anything with that in aaaages) and corn syrup, for an arm and a leg. I came home last night, after a tiring day of school and an hour long meeting with M and decided to bake these Fudgy Peanut Butter Squares. Chocolate and peanut butter are a classic and winning combination and one that I haven't profiled since the Crispy Bars so I thought I was due. Making these bars required first making a crumbly peanut butter base, pressing it into a pan, and baking it. The topping was a moist brownie batter. Truthfully though, moist is not even a good description. They were beyond that. The recipe called for corn syrup which somehow resulted in a delicious, crystalline, fudgy texture. The contrast of the chocolate against the crunchy peanut butter base was brilliant. But just imagine this. Fifteen girls who smelled something baking, crowding around my single counter kitchen, waiting anxiously for that something to come out of the oven, all the while insisting that they didnt really need to be cooked completely before being edible... The line was enormous, and the girls even locked others out so that they could have first dibs! It was intense! They insisted on having them fresh out of the oven, without cooling... and I had no choice but to oblige! These bars, with all the pressure riding on them, met with unanimously rave reviews. They disappeared into eager hands within seconds. I almost didnt have a chance to photograph but one of my girls SMB, took pictures of the final product for me. Arent they great???

Fudgy Peanut Butter Squares
adapted from KAF Bakers Companion or Cookie Companion

4 tbsp butter
1/3 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour

3/4 cup unsweetened baking chocolate
8 tbsp butter or margarine
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup plus two tbsp sugar
1 cup flour
2 eggs
Chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350.
For the crust: In a medium bowl, place the margarine and peanut butter.
Cream until soft and well blended.
Add the vanilla and sugar,
and blend to combine.
Add the flour.
Beat until the mixture is crumbly but homogeneous.
Press into a parchment lined 9x13 pan. Bake for ten minutes. Set aside while you make the filling.Place the margarine, chocolate and corn syrup in a saucepan. Melt.

Add the sugar, salt and flour and blend until combined.

Add the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition.

Add the chocolate and fold in. Pour the mixture on top of the cooled crust. Bake for 22-24 minutes. The top should look shiny and feel set. Dont overbake!!!
Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Cut into small pieces. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sourdough Carrot Bundt Cake

University, as previously mentioned is in full swing. I'm going in three days a week, every other day and taking nine courses all together. All the traveling is well balanced by in between off days- I come home so tired from [boring] classes and all that time spent on buses and in tremps. Besides sleeping, I find that baking, as it usually does, helps me unwind. I've unofficially begun to designate Monday and Wednesday as baking days. After I refreshed my starter (after using it for Pain Au Levain- more on that later), I decided to use some of it in a sweeter application and since I'd made the sourdough chocolate cake and had some carrots sitting in the fridge, I decided to make this Sourdough Carrot Cake from the KAF site, a recipe that I printed with the intent of making ages ago, but only just got around to making. The hardest part of this was grating the carrots. After that, it came together smoothly. I thought the sourdough would be difficult to incorporate but everything smoothed out once the eggs were added in. I omitted all the extras that were called for, including the pineapple and nuts because IMHO, carrot cake should be about unadulterated carrot flavor and not be hidden by lots of extras. That's why I liked the coarsely grated carrots- they add texture and allow you to actually taste the carrot. Needless to say, I omitted the frosting, too. It's hard to know exactly what the sourdough adds, but I will say that the cake turned out super, super moist, and really yummy, if a bit crumbly. The cake pretty much disappeared, which is a good thing, because, due to my total lack of patience, I flipped it too soon, thereby dismembering the entire half of the cake.... No laughing, please! Anyway, this was a fun one to make- try it sometime when you have some sourdough toss off to use and the itch to bake!

Sourdough Carrot Bundt Cake
adapted from the KAF site

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups grated carrots
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350. Generously grease a large bundt pan, two nine inch pans or a nine by thirteen inch pan.

If you havent already, grate the carrots; set aside.
Place the oil and sugar in a bowl,
and whisk to combine.
Add the sourdough starter,
and whisk is vigorously as you can to break up the starter as much as possible.
Add the eggs one at a time,
blending well after each addition until you have a smooth, homogeneous batter.
Add the carrots and vanilla,
and whisk.
Add the dry ingredients,
and gently combine them without overmixing.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
For the bundt bake about 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Try to let the cake cool for at least twenty minutes before trying to unmold, lest you get something that looks like this.... At least it was still good.....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sour Cream Chocolate Rugelach

A few things factored into my making of these Sour Cream Chocolate Rugelach, AKA ruggies a few nights ago. M, our tireless director, mentioned in passing that she loves dairy rugelach, traditionally made with cream cheese. (I remember making them once and disliking them, all the while thinking they were inauthentic because they were not made from yeast dough as the ubiquitous rugelach here in Israel are.) In any case, I had a container or two of sour cream around and we had a meeting coming up, so winging it based on a recipe from Baking for All Occasions, I created my own personal version of her dough. I had no idea how they would turn out, honestly. I chilled the dough and hoped for the best. People always ask me if I make up my own recipes and I always respond that I have no time to really freely experiment with no thought to costs. But I do explain that I substitute and tweak until the recipe indeed becomes my own. This is one of those times. I used a certain amount of flour and all the margarine I had on hand and as much sour cream as was needed to form a cohesive dough. For the sake of convenience, I refrigerated the dough overnight and when I came home from school the next day, I rolled it and filled it with a simple chocolate filling. I neglected a glaze because I don't like the eggy flavor that such a glaze imparts. But they were still divine in all their pale glory. The first batch I baked directly after baking but the second batches I refrigerated after forming to solidify the fat. This is a good tip that prevents an oozy, soggy and nasty mess due to room temperature margarine melting before the rest of the cookie bakes up. Ever since my near disaster with the Plum Galette-- this is something I do with all doughs of this nature. The baked pastries were adorable to look at and so delightfully flaky. They were amazing, in a word. Little bites of oven, especially when enjoyed direct from the oven. Fortunately, they were not as redolent of dairy and not as heavy as the cream cheese variety. All around the reviews were unanimously positive. Feel free to fill as desired.

Sour Cream Chocolate Rugelach

290 grams flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
125 grams cold margarine or butter
200 grams cold sour cream
Desired Filling (I used a mixture of sugar, cocoa and oil)

Place all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined.
Break up the margarine and rub it in with your finger tips until the mixture is full of coarse crumbs. Add most of the sour cream at one time, stirring to form a shaggy mass.

Knead the dough a few times to make it come together. Refrigerate at least four hours, until firm enough to roll, or overnight.
The next day, divide the dough into three portions. Flour a work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Using one portion at a time, dust with flour. Preheat the oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Have your filling at the ready.
Roll the dough out into a large circle, as best as you can.
Spread a third of the filling over the dough, taking care to leave a circle in the center empty so that when you roll them up, the filling wont ooze out.
Cut the dough into eights or sixteenths. Eights makes larger pastries and the sixteenths making adorable little ones. Starting from the fat side of the triangle (not the point!) roll up the pastries into little crescents. Bake the pastries until they're lightly golden brown. I dont have an exact time, I just went by my eye.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in its pan for a few minutes. Once cool enough to handle, break off the chocolate oozy pieces. Remove to a rack to cool. Enjoy and Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Heavenly Brownie on Shortbread Bars

I'm so tired! Today, I accompanied the girls on a trip to the Gush Etzion area. (This happens to be home to the settlement where my sister lives and another settlement where my "adoptive family" lives. Lots of history there!) After seeing the area and walking on the Patriarch's Way, we got ourselves filthy by going into these mud caves that were, muddy (duh). The caves were filled with ice cold water that came up to our waists. I shrieked. It was that cold. Anyway... These Brownie on Shortbread bars were in competition the other night with the Banana Bread. Although that banana bread did go first, these bars weren't neglected and were too polished off shortly thereafter. This recipe too comes from Flo Braker's Baking for All Occasions and are similar in look to the Congo Bars but with a shortbread bottom layer instead of a blondie bottom. Although I really enjoyed the contrast in the crunchy cookie and the brownie, I think I liked the Congo brownie batter better and would next time use the Congo brownie top with the shortbread bottom. There's not too much else to say about them other than I think they're super cool for a party or even type thing. This recipe is made in 9x9 inch pan but I cut them into very small squares.

Heavenly Brownie on Shortbread Squares
from Baking for All Occasions

1 1/3 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 ounces margarine or butter
1 tsp vanilla

2/3 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
4 ounces margarine
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9x9 inch pan with aluminum foil.

Sift together the dry ingredients and place in a food processor. Process to combine. Add the margarine and vanilla and process just until it starts to clump together but does not yet form a ball.
Pour this mixture into the prepared pan,
and press it in as evenly as possible.

Bake for about half an hour until golden as such. Set aside to cool while you make the brownie.
Place the chocolate and margarine in a pot.
Heat until melted and smooth.
Add the brown sugar,
and stir until well combined.
Combine the dry ingredients and set aside.

In another bowl, place the eggs and whisk until smooth.
Pour in the chocolate mixture,
and stir until blended.
Add the flour mixture,
and gently fold until a smooth batter is created.
Pour over the baked crust,
and bake for about half hour. Cool completely.
Cut, plate and serve!