Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sweet Potato Doughnuts with Maple Glaze







I absolutely love fall. I'm guessing you love fall too, because really, who doesn't? But you probably don't love fall quite as much as I do. If you ask me, the other seasons simply exist to allow my anticipation and excitement for fall to build. I can't even wait until summer is officially over; as soon as September begins, I get the overwhelming urge to do fall things. For me, this includes one or more of the following:


I've already done most of these things at least once this year, and fall only officially started a week ago! Today, I baked my first fall-themed recipe. Having been inspired by my (mostly) successful first attempt at doughnuts, I decided to try another doughnut recipe, and this one sounded decidedly autumnal.



The first doughnuts I made were yeast-raised, whereas these doughnuts are leavened by a combination of baking powder and baking soda. I thought that they would end up being like cake doughnuts, but they really weren't. The texture was actually very similar to the aforementioned yeast doughnuts.


The flavor was good, but not as great as expected. I am inclined to blame this on the fact that I am not a very skilled deep-fryer, nor do I really have the proper equipment to do so. But fear not! I love doughnuts more than the average person, and I am determined to produce perfect doughnuts at home eventually. Until then, good doughnuts are better than no doughnuts at all!

Sweet Potato Doughnuts with Maple Glaze
Adapted from Paula Deen
Yield: 10-12 doughnuts, plus doughnut holes

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mashed sweet potato
Vegetable oil, for frying

Directions:

1. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.

2. Using a stand mixer, beat together eggs, sour cream, and sweet potato until combined. Reduce the speed to "stir," and gradually add the flour mixture.

3. Turn dough out onto a heavily floured surface. The dough will be very sticky, so knead in flour with your hands until the dough reaches the consistency at which it can be rolled with a rolling pin. Roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thickness.

4. Cut out doughnuts with a doughnut-cutter or round cookie cutters (2-1/4-inch and 3/4-inch). You may re-roll the dough as needed.

5. In a large pot, heat vegetable oil over medium heat to 360˚F. Cook the doughnuts and doughnut holes in batches 2 minutes per side or until lightly browned. Be sure not to fry too many at once, or it may lower the temperature of the oil. Drain the doughnuts on paper towels after removing from oil.

6. Prepare the Maple Glaze: In a small bowl, combine 2-2/3 cups powdered sugar with 1/4 cup milk. Stir well, and add additional milk to reach the desired consistency. Add 1/4 teaspoon maple extract and whisk to combine.

7. Dip doughnuts in maple glaze and allow them to set for 1-2 minutes. If desired, dip doughnuts a second time to create a thicker layer of glaze.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fudge Cake with Chocolate Frosting





You may find this shocking, but for most of my life I did not like cake. I have to attribute this to the fact that my experiences with cake were mostly limited to what was served at birthday parties, which more often than not were grocery store bakery cakes. I absolutely hated (and still hate to this day) that fluffy, gritty, way-too-sweet frosting with confetti sprinkles. Gross.


Needless to say, my feelings about cake changed when I started baking them myself, and cake and I are now on very good terms. My favorite is carrot cake (with cream cheese frosting, of course!), but Stephen, who always prefers things that are simple and classic, loves chocolate cake. The fudge cake I made this week is actually his (somewhat belated) birthday cake, and in his words, it is unbelievable.


I did run into a couple problems along the way to the finished product, but as you'll see, all's well that ends well. My first problem was that I don't have a food processor, so I had to chop the baking chocolate by hand. Since I couldn't get the chocolate as finely chopped as a food processor would have, there were tiny chocolate chunks throughout the batter. 


Most of the chunks melted while the cake was baking, but there were still bits and pieces in the finished cake. Luckily, Stephen had actually requested a chocolate cake with chocolate chunks, which I had forgotten about, but ended up doing by accident anyway! Success.

The other problem I encountered was that the frosting didn't "lighten and hold its shape" like it was supposed to. Having been thwarted by this problem before, I decided to just pour the frosting onto the warm cake and let it set up overnight. I felt a little rebellious for not following the instructions, but my gamble ended up paying off. The frosting was rich and fudgey, and it was the perfect complement to the delicate chocolate flavor of the cake. This is definitely the best chocolate cake I've made so far, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


Fudge Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Adapted from Alton Brown

For the cake:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2-1/4 cups brown sugar
3 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 cup boiling water

For the frosting:

1 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup unsalted butter
2-1/2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter and flour a 9x13-inch rectangular pan.

2. Finely chop the baking chocolate by hand or using a food processor until only very small chunks of chocolate remain. Combine the chocolate with the flour, baking soda, and salt, and whisk to combine.

3. Beat together the eggs and vanilla extract.

4. Cream the butter in an electric mixer on medium speed for about one minute. Add the brown sugar gradually until all of the butter disappears into the sugar.

5. Reduce the speed to stir. Add the egg/vanilla mixture gradually, scraping down the bowl as needed.

6. Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two batches of sour cream.

7. Add the boiling water and continue mixing until the batter is free of lumps. The batter will be very loose.

8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300˚F and bake for another 30 minutes. The cake is done when the internal temperature is between 175˚F-180˚F. A cake tester will come out clean halfway between the edge and the center, but will not come out clean in the center. The cake will continue to cook as it cools.

9. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before transferring it to a cooling rack. Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting. Or, do what I did, and pour the frosting onto the cake while it is still warm and allow it to set for several hours or overnight.

To make the frosting: Combine the chocolate, cream, and butter in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until melted and smooth. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the powdered sugar. When the sugar is completely dissolved, place the pan in a bowl filled with ice and beat with a hand mixer until the frosting lightens and holds its shape.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sugar Cookie Bars


I have been wanting to make these bars ever since I first saw them on And Now For Something Completely Delicious. This recipe takes something incredibly delicious (frosted sugar cookies, duh!) and makes them incredibly easy to make (by turning them into bars). There's no waiting for the dough to chill in the refrigerator. No rolling the dough out and inevitably having it get stuck to the countertop. No cutting out cute little shapes that aren't so cute after they tear when you're trying to transport them to the pan. No waiting for batch after batch of cookies to bake and cool before you can frost them.

This is not to say that I don't enjoy this process from time to time; you can definitely look forward to adorable shaped and frosted sugar cookies around Christmastime. But on a Wednesday? Sugar cookie bars are the way to go.

I don't have much to say about these bars except that they are delicious. And addicting. And completely adorable when topped with pink frosting and rainbow nonpareils. Fact: the frosting will coat your mouth with butter, the taste of which will linger for several hours. Don't worry, I think you can handle it.

I didn't realize until I was in the middle of making the dough that I only had about 1-1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract left, so I ended up having to substitute 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract. The frosting also called for 1 tablespoon of vanilla, which I substituted with only 2 teaspoons of almond. . . because that was all I had left. Whoops. (This is probably why the butter flavor was so prominent in the frosting). The almond was actually very good, but I definitely want to try this recipe again with vanilla!

Sugar Cookie Bars
Adapted from And Now For Something Completely Delicious
Yield: 24 bars

For the cookie dough:

1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

For the frosting:

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4-5 tablespoons milk
Pinch of salt

Directions:


1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Grease a 13x18-inch sheet pan or two 9x13-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside. In an electric mixture, cream the butter for about one minute. Gradually add the sugar to the butter and cream together until light and fluffy.

3. Lightly whisk the eggs in a small bowl. Gradually add the eggs to the creamed butter and sugar, mixing after each addition. Add the vanilla.

4. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined.

5. Press the cookie dough into the pan(s). To spread the dough evenly, coat your fingertips with cooking spray and gently press the dough toward the edges of the pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

6. For the frosting: Cream together the shortening and butter. Mix in the vanilla and slat. Gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing after each addition. Cream together on medium-high for about a minute. Add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time, until the frosting reaches a light, spreadable consistency.

7. Spread the frosting onto the cooled cookies. Slice into bars.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Outrageous Brownies


You may recall that I made chocolate brownies just four weeks ago. Generally, my goal is to make something entirely new to me each week, but I am making two exceptions: chocolate chip cookies and chocolate brownies. Why? I am hoping to find my absolute favorite recipe for each of these universally popular treats among the thousands upon thousands that are out there.

I have to admit, I was pretty underwhelmed by the last brownie recipe I used. They were too thick and cakey. I prefer a brownie that is chewy with a flaky crust and about 1/2-inch thick. I have to confess, I actually love brownies that come from a boxed mix, and I am hoping to find a from-scratch recipe that produces the same texture and flavor.

This week, I chose Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies for two reasons. First, I already tried her Peanut Swirl Brownies, and I suspect that Outrageous Brownies are the same recipe, sans peanut butter. Second, this recipe has 150 reviews on Food Network's website and a solid five-star rating. I don't always agree with the majority opinion, but I decided to trust it on this one!


I'm much happier with these brownies than I was with the last ones I baked. They are intensely chocolate-y and almost melt in your mouth when you bite into them. My only complaint is that they are very crumbly, but I'm sure this is because I used large eggs instead of extra-large. I definitely recommend this recipe--just make sure you have someone to share these with because you're going to have a lot of brownies on your hands!

Outrageous Brownies
Adapted from Ina Garten
Yield: 20 large brownies

1 pound unsalted butter
28 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee granules (omitted)
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups sugar
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups chopped walnuts (omitted)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Prepare a 12x18x1-inch baking sheet or two 9x13-inch baking sheets.

2. In a bowl over simmering water, melt together the butter, one pound of the chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate. Allow the mixture to cool slightly.

3. In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, coffee, vanilla, and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and allow to cool.

4. In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of the flour, the baking powder, and the salt. Stir into the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and remaining chocolate chips in a small bowl with the remaining flour. Add this to the chocolate batter, and pour the batter into the baking sheet(s).

5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars or squares.