12 Weeks Of Christmas | Week 4: Brownie Cookies

I could only manage one post last week since we were off in Goa for a little break. But now it’s back to baking, full steam!

Brownies were one of the first things I learned to bake well. Back in the day, I’d use packaged brownie mix, but once I found a recipe that worked, I never looked at boxed mix again.

Since then, I’ve made different variations of brownies, drifted into blondie territory, and returned to the brownie zone with a 2-ingredient Nutella brownie. This made me realize, once again, how comforting a simple brownie could be. And that’s when it struck me: there’s been a lack of chocolate around here for a while.

I know Christmas calls for pumpkin spice lattes, hot apple cider, cranberry scones, and all kinds of spiced + fruity bakes and treats, but in my book, it ain’t a party until you’ve laid down some chocolate.

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So I present to you the brownie cookie. A recipe I bookmarked eons ago when I discovered Purple Foodie.  It lives up to its name: a cookie that’s crisp on the outside and along the edges, but a little underdone in the centre. These require a little patience, because you need to melt the chocolate using a double boiler. These are so, so good dunked in milk. How do I know? Because as I was trying to take a photograph, the cookie, teetering dangerously on the rim of the glass, fell in. (This happened with 3 cookies in successsion, FYI.)

I followed the recipe as is, but the quality of the chocolate was not top-notch: no Callebaut or Lindt, just regular Morde “cooking chocolate” from the baking aisle at Dorabjee’s in Pune. And it made for a pretty good cookie! So I can only imagine how decadent a cookie baked with Callebaut would be.

BROWNIE COOKIES (Via Purple Foodie.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 225g dark chocolate
  • 155g flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 110 g butter
  • 225 g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 75ml or 1/3rd  cup milk

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 175°C.
  • Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
  • Melt the chocolate using the double-boiler method, by putting the chocolate in a bowl and placing the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once the chocolate has melted, set aside.
  • Sift together the, flour, cocoa powder and, baking powder in a bowl and set aside.
  • In a large bowl beat the butter until creamy.
  • Slowly add the castor sugar until it’s dissolved in the butter.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
    Next, add the vanilla and melted chocolate beat until well incorporated.
  • Add the milk.
  • Fold in the flour mixture until no streaks of flour can be seen in the batter.
  • Drop tablespoonfuls of batter onto the baking sheet and press down gently with the tines of a fork, if you want to. Leave at least an inch of space between each drop of cookie dough.
  • Bake for 7 minutes at 175 C.
  • Allow to rest and firm up before transferring to a cooling rack.

 

ON MELTING CHOCOLATE

♥ Double-boiler: Place a pot of water on the stove, allow the water to simmer. Put the chocolate in another bowl, and place this bowl above the pot of simmering water and melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. (Make sure the bowl you put the chocolate in fits snugly onto the rim of the pot- you don’t want the pot shifting around too much.)

♥ Cooking chocolate:  It’s best to use good-quality cooking/baking chocolate for recipes like these, dark chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa solids.

♥ My chocolate is seizing up/coagulating/getting thick and crumbly/powdery: Don’t throw it out just yet. Lower the heat and add a little bit of fat- a spoonful of butter or a little drizzle of flavourless oil (pls don’t add coconut oil!) and your chocolate may smoothen itself out and melt evenly. If it still doesn’t work, it is best to start over- and avoid stirring the chocolate too much.

♥ Can I use Cadbury’s Dairy Milk? I love Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. I grew up eating it and still enjoy it. The thing is, since Dairy Milk is a processed milk chocolate (with a lower percentage of cocoa solids compared to something like a Lindt 70%) it isn’t the best chocolate for baking. However, I did use Dairy Milk once to make chocolate cake- I couldn’t find dark chocolate anywhere and I was in a hurry. I melted the Dairy Milk pieces in a double boiler, but added a shot of oil to help bring it together as it began to seize up. Since there was extra fat in the cake batter because of the oil, I had to add extra flour to bring the batter together. The cake still turned out well. So yes, I suppose one can use Dairy Milk, but it’s a matter of trial, error, instinct and (dare I say) luck!

 

12 Weeks Of Christmas | Week 3: Upside-Down Caramel Apple Muffins

I’m going to have to make this a quick post, because I need to pack for a trip!

While I’ve had many successes with cake, I can’t say the same for muffins. I’ve had more misses than hits in the muffin department, and I think it’s because of the way the ingredients are combined. No creaming, just mixing wet ingredients into the dry and baking. I don’t think I have the lightest hand when combining muffin batter, and it results in strange aftertastes.

I once made an atrocious muffin from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, and it had a harsh baking soda aftertaste. So, for the next muffin recipe I tried from HTBADG,  I halved the amount of baking powder and soda. And I got a disgusting, claggy, underdone, flat muffin.

So I learned my lesson: follow the recipe. Which is what I did with these upside-down caramel apple muffins. The recipe is from NYT’s Melissa Clark, a writer I adore. She elevates the everyday with a twist in technique or by adding an unusual element, and her laidback style (in front of the camera and on paper) makes the recipe easy to follow. In this recipe, she’s added fruit and baked it under dollops of muffin batter, so the apple slices get a lovely caramelization. Plus, they look pretty cute.

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The only substitute I used was yogurt in lieu of sour cream. The original recipe is over at the NYT cooking page. 

12 Weeks Of Christmas | Week 2: Orange Zest Pancakes

You know that box of pancake mix you reach for at the grocery store? The one you sometimes pick up for a rainy day, much like packaged Betty Crocker brownie mix?

image via | grababuggy.com

image via | grababuggy.com

Don’t do it. Because it’s so easy to make a batch from scratch. If you’ve got flour, some sugar, eggs and a little butter, you can make pancakes at home.

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Once you have the basic pancake recipe down, you can make whip up a batch anytime. And top them with whatever you like. You could go Nigella style, and add some bacon and maple syrup, for that irresistible sweet+salty kick.

Or you could take the popular muffin & cookie flavour combination of lemon and poppy seeds and whisk it into your pancake batter à la Melissa Clark. (I love every little flavour twist she has up her apron!)

And of course, you could add ricotta, because, why not?

You could also opt for eggless, gluten-free, dairy-free, (and ultimately taste-free!) buckwheat banana pancakes from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good. I made these and they were rather…well, for lack of a more subtle word, bleh. Maybe it was the quality of the soy milk I used? Either way, there was an overpower of soy milkiness and baking soda, and I had to slather my very short stack with peanut butter and cinnamon honey to get through. However, a quick internet search will reveal that many people luuurve GP’s vegan pancakes, so perhaps it’s just me.

Anyway, this is a pancake recipe for those who dare to consume AP flour and melted butter. Think of it as a holiday indulgence, and you won’t feel all that guilty about eating some. Like 1-2-3 cookies and buckwheat muffins, I followed Michael Ruhlman’s ratio for pancakes, from his book Ratio. If you have the ratio stuck to your fridge, you can make however many pancakes you want…whenever you want.

The Pancake Ratio: 2 PARTS LIQUID : 1 PART EGG : 1/2 PART BUTTER : 2 PARTS FLOUR

In my case, I took 1/2 cup as the unit. I added 2 parts or 1 cup of liquid (milk+orange juice,)  1 part or 1/2 cup eggs (works out to 2 medium eggs) half a portion of butter (1/4 cup butter,) and 2 parts or 1 cup of flour, along with a teaspoon of baking powder.  My ‘extras’ were castor sugar for sweetness, vanilla, orange zest and a pinch of nutmeg. In the end, I got a pretty, speckled, gorgeous-smelling batter.

 

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ORANGE ZEST PANCAKES (Adapted from Ratio

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4  cup milk
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract OR seeds scraped from a quarter of a vanilla bean
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp castor sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder

METHOD

  • Combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder) in a large bowl/jug and set aside.
  • In a another bowl, lightly whisk together the milk, orange juice, eggs, melted and cooled butter, orange zest, vanilla, and nutmeg.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir with a light hand till no lumps remain. These measurements will give you thick pancakes, but if you like your pancakes thinner, add some more milk.
  • Pour spoonfuls of batter onto a lightly greased griddle or pan, and cook over medium heat till done.