Friday, April 22, 2011

The Best Chocolate Chip Blondies

For me, this is the perfect blondie recipe. Won't ever try another one. There's nothing new or different about it, but I love it because 1) it works, 2) it is almost too easy (waaay easier than chocolate brownies), and 3) it  makes moist, dense, bordering on under-baked blondies that are better than the ones at the Boston College dining hall circa 2001 that used to haunt my dreams.

As far as I'm concerned, all the credit for this recipe goes to Anna at Cookie Madness, who is apparently my patron saint of desserts. When I decided to bake, I read SO MANY recipes before ultimately choosing one. It takes up a lot of my's sort of a problem. I always check out the huge Cookie Madness archive and frequently end up using one of the recipes. I'm afraid I don't know who Katy (see below) is, but she rocks!!!

The Best Chocolate Chip Blondies
Adapted from "Katy's Favorite Blondies" at Cookie Madness
Good chocolate is key! I used Ghiradelli bittersweet (60%) baking chips. I don't think leaving out the rum would be be a problem, but I haven't tried it. You can double this recipe and use a 9 x 13-inch pan. Baking time will be slightly longer, 30 to 34 minutes.

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (130 g)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, melted and very warm (8 Tbs)
1 cup packed dark brown sugar (210 g)
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs dark rum or bourbon
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (120 g)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8 x 8 baking dish (I tend to use glass for this) with nonstick foil, leaving some hanging over 2 sides to form a "sling," which you'll use to lift the blondies out of the dish. You can also use parchment paper or well-greased regular foil. Of course you can also just grease the dish and cut the blondies directly out of the pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In another large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar with a handheld electric mixer (this helps if your sugar is firm, but you can also do this with a whisk). If the mixture still feels hot to the touch, wait a few minutes before continuing. Beat in the egg, vanilla and rum.

Stir flour mixture into the egg mixture. If batter feels warm, wait 5 minutes, then stir in the chocolate. Spread evenly in prepared dish and bake in the center of the oven for 26 to 30 minutes (30 to 34 for 9 x 13 pan), or until edges are puffed and pale golden. A skewer inserted in the center will be covered in moist crumbs, and the edges will be just able to pull away from the sides of the dish. Cool in pan 2 to 5 minutes, then grab the foil and lift the blondies out of the dish and transfer to a rack to cool completely. Again lifting foil, tranfer to a cutting board and slice as desired (I cut 12). These are still excellent the next day. After that, I freeze, them and they are perfect when defrosted at room temperature.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Whole Wheat Beer Bread

I've known about beer bread for a while, but never saw a recipe that looked very enticing. Seems strange, right? But most recipes have very little fat--basically just flour and beer--making me think that the results would be rubbery and bland.

Well, not so. Not at all. I'm a big fan of quick breads. I make skillet cornbread a couple times a month at least, and Irish soda bread every so often. I think this is my favorite, and it's the easiest of the bunch to make. You just whisk up the dry ingredients in a bowl, stir in the beer and drizzle the batter with melted butter before baking. It has a light, soft crumb with a slight chew to the texture. The beer not only contributes its flavor, but a fabulous yeastiness.

I made this when I braised beef brisket, and it was the perfect go-with. It's amazing with butter, especially some really good stuff, like Kerrygold. You probably already have the ingredients, so there's no reason not to bake some right now.

Whole Wheat Beer Bread
Adapted from In Good Taste
I used Newcastle beer, and it was great. You will definitely taste the beer in this bread, so keep that in mind when you decide what to use. I would steer away from IPAs, which tend to be bitter. Most lagers and ales would work (Update: lately, I use something simple like PBR or Budweiser. DO NOT use light beer). I plan to try it with Guinness, and I think it would be amazing with one of my old favorites, Sam Adams Cherry Wheat. You can substitute all-purpose flour for the whole wheat, as well as white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour.

Makes 1 (9 x 5-inch) loaf

2 cups all-purpose flour (250 g)
1 cup whole wheat flour (125 g)
3 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
12 oz beer
1 Tbs unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan or line with nonstick foil, leaving some overhang (this makes it easy to lift loaf out of pan for cooling).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pour in the beer and stir until flour is moistened, taking care not to over mix. Scrape batter in loaf pan and drizzle melted butter all over the top. Bake in the center of the oven 50 to 60 minutes (mine took exactly 55). When done, the top will be bumpy and light golden brown; the bottom of the loaf will feel hollow when tapped. Cool in pan 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.