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Today I had the pleasure of hosting a baby shower for a friend of mine.  She is expecting her second little one and is VERY ready to have her little girl out of her belly and into her arms.  I know she is tired and ready to no longer be pregnant, but she looked beautiful and radiant (and round).

It’s so much fun to host things at our new house.  I love having the chance to cook for lots of people in my wonderful, big kitchen.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could just cook and bake and enjoy myself in the kitchen and the dishes would magically wash themselves.

When I was pregnant there were two sweet things that I always craved.  Chocolate and Lemons.  Really, when cooking for any large group of women can one really go wrong with chocolate?

I made brownies and lemon bars.  The brownies are based on a recipe I found about a month ago.  I’ve experimented with it a little bit and think that what I’ve come up with is a wonderfully rich brownie that strikes a good balance between the richness of a fudge brownie and the flavor of a cake brownie.  These brownies have a light flaky crust and a rich chewy center.  When making these brownies be sure to use a good natural or Dutch-processed cocoa.  My favorite is Green & Black’s.

Today was my first attempt at this particular lemon bar recipe.  I adjusted a few things from the recipe while I was cooking.  After making them I have adjusted the recipe a little bit to make them a wee bit more tart.  These lemon bars have a hearty, crunchy crust, a smooth, custardy middle, and a crispy, flaky top.  I was very pleased.

I hope you enjoy trying these recipes and making them your own.

Brownies
  10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  1 1/4 cups sugar
  3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  1/4 teaspoon salt
  1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  2 cold large eggs
  1/2 cup all-purpose flour

With a rack in the lower third of the oven, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.

Place a medium heatproof bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water.  In the bowl combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt.  Stir occasionally until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth.  Set the bowl aside to cool until the mixture is only warm.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Stir the mixture vigorously after each egg.  When the batter is well-blended and shiny add the flour.  Stir until completely combined.  Beat vigorously for AT LEAST 40 strokes with the wooden spoon.  Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes (until a toothpick poked in the center emerges slightly moist with batter).

Allow to cool in pan 10 minutes.  Lift the ends of the parchment and transfer to a wire rack.  Allow to completely cool before cutting.

Makes 24 Small Brownies

Lemon Bars
Crust:
  1/2 pound salted butter, room temperature
  1/2 cup granulated sugar
  1 cup whole wheat flour
  3/4 cup unbleached flour

Filling:
  7 large eggs, room temperature
  3 cups granulated sugar
  2 tablespoons lemon zest (4-6 lemons)
  1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1 cup unbleached flour
  Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 9 by 13 inch pan with parchment paper.

For the crust, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer.  Add the flour and mix on low until just combined.  Allow to sit at least 15 minutes.  Dump the dough onto a floured surface and gather into a ball.  Flatten the dough and press into the 9 by 13 inch pan.  Crust should be 1/4 to 1/2 inches.  Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Return parchment and crust to pan.

For the filling, whisk together eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour.  Pour over the crust and bake 30 to 35 minutes.  When the filling is set remove from oven.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

Dust with confectioners’ sugar and cut.

Makes 20 squares or 40 triangles.

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March 2010
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