Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Oreo Brownies

It was time for another person's birthday treat. This particular young man requested brownies. As you've probably noticed, I HATE making standard, normal desserts. Like plain brownies. They obviously needed to be jazzed up somehow! Complicating this matter was the fact that I don't know this guy particularly well outside of the dance studio that we both dance at. So I wasn't sure of his tastes. I needed inspiration. I turned to one of my favorite blogs: Beantown Baker. And sure enough, I stumbled across a recipe for Oreo Brownies. Now, I already have an all-time favorite brownie base recipe, so I wasn't going to use the recipe she posted, but I gladly took inspiration from her post! And I'm glad I did! The birthday boy loved these! They were too sweet for my taste, but everyone else told me I was nuts when I expressed that opinion. So, by majority rule, these were awesome.

Oreo Brownies (adapted from David Lebovitz via Smells Like Home, with inspiration from Beantown Baker)

  • 1 c. butter
  • 8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 1/2 c. sugar (feel free to decrease I said, they turned out REALLY sweet)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 package of Oreos, roughly chopped

Combine butter and chocolate chips in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until chocolate and butter are thoroughly melted. Stir in sugar and vanilla extract, then beat in eggs, one at a time. Sift together flour and salt, then mix this into the chocolate mixture, stirring just until combined. Stir in the Oreos. Pour batter into a greased 9x13" pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted about an inch from the edge comes out clean.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Destination Post: Pumpkin Mousse Tartlets with Maple Drizzle

Welcome to a destination post! As I mentioned in my last post, I have a new job--baking! This post is brought to you from the kitchen at my job, rather than from my home kitchen. We celebrated Thanksgiving early for the kiddos and did a whole Thanksgiving meal, complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, roasted green beans, mashed sweet potatoes served in cute little orange halves, and...pumpkin pie! Sort of. Actually, pie shells filled with a pumpkin mousse and drizzled with maple icing. I'll do my best to re-create the recipe here, but we tinkered with it substantially over the course of making these, so it'll be a close approximation.

You see, I had to make 500 tartlets. That's a lot. In fact, I really had no concept as to exactly how many until I had seven industrial-sized sheet pans filled with pre-baked tart shells. And it was right about then when I realized that the amount of pumpkin mousse I had made (by multiplying this recipe by SIX) was not going to be enough. It wasn't even going to be close to enough. Thankfully, that same day, I had been making tiramisu filling. In contrast to the pumpkin mousse, the tiramisu recipe made a LOT of extra filling. So, I folded some into the pumpkin mousse, figuring I could always add more cinnamon/nutmeg/ginger to increase the pumpkin flavor. And then I tasted the pumpkin mousse. And it was PERFECT! Score! These were a big hit with both the kids and the staff (the executive chef, who claims he doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, ate THREE right in front of me!).

Pumpkin Mousse Tartlets with Maple Drizzle (adapted from

  • Dough for a 9" double pie crust
  • 1 (1/4-oz) envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 c. cold water
  • 1 (15-oz) can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 2 1/4 c. powdered sugar, divided
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 4 Tbl. milk, or as needed

Roll out the dough to a thin layer. Cut into approximately 3" squares using a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Fit each square into a well of a well-greased, normal-sized muffin tin. Grease the BOTTOM of another muffin pan, and put it on top of the first, to act as pie weights. Bake the crusts at 375 degrees F for about 8-10 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Cool.

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a small saucepan. Let bloom for about 1 minute. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until gelatin is completely dissolved. In a large bowl, cream the mascarpone (can substitute cream cheese) with the brown sugar. Mix in pumpkin, spices, salt, and gelatin mixture until well-combined.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Add 1/4 c. powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla, and continue whisking until it forms stiff peaks. Fold about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture, to lighten it. Then, fold in the remaining whipped cream. Refrigerate overnight to let the mixture set.

In a bowl, mix 2 c. powdered sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, maple syrup, and enough milk until the mixture is smooth and at a drizzle-able consistency.

To assemble:
Pipe about 2-3 Tbl. of mousse into each pie crust shell. Drizzle the tarts with the maple icing.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pumpkin Nanaimo Bars

So, you've probably noticed that my posting frequency has gone down. Substantially. Ironically enough, now that I actually have the funds to bake to my heart's content, I no longer have the time. Yup, that's right. I got a job. I'm now the resident baker at a private school in my town. The school previously did most of their baking from store-bought mixes, and they hired me to transition it more toward from-scratch baking! Sweet! The head chef also allows me a lot of freedom to try new recipes, so if there's something we need to make, he encourages me to bring in my own favorite recipe and to tweak it to fit my tastes! It's mostly breakfast baking--muffins, scones, eventually biscuits and quick breads--but there is some dessert baking, too. I made 500 pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for the kiddos last Friday!

So, while I am really excited to have this job and am really enjoying it, the fact that I work 75 hours a week between my two jobs is kind of cutting into my baking time. Phooey. I promise not to abandon you completely, though, faithful readers (all ten of you). And thus, I bring you this recipe. A fall twist on a traditional Canadian dessert. And boy, were they good! I mean, pumpkin and chocolate? Trust me, WANT to make these. They're rich, though, so cut them small (we're talking 36-pieces-out-of-an-8x8-pan rich).

Pumpkin Nanaimo Bars (adapted from The Eclectic Cook)

  • 1 c. plus 2 Tbl. butter, softened, divided
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 5 Tbl. cocoa powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped almonds
  • 1 c. unsweetened coconut
  • 3 Tbl. heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tbl. instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 c. pumpkin puree
  • 1-2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine 1/2 c. butter, granulated sugar, and cocoa powder in small saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until the sugar is melted and the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and slowly drizzle into the beaten egg, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens. Stir in the graham cracker crumbs, almonds, and coconut. Press the mixture into the bottom of a well-greased 8x8- or 9x9-in baking pan. Let cool while you prepare the next layer.

Beat 1/2 c. butter until smooth. Beat in whipping cream, vanilla pudding mix, powdered sugar, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin pie spice until well-mixed and smooth. Feel free to adjust the amounts of pumpkin, powdered sugar, and pumpkin pie spice to your own taste. Spread this layer evenly over the cooled crust. Chill in the fridge until firm, while you prepare the third layer.

Melt chocolate chips and butter together (I prefer the microwave, but feel free to use a double boiler). Pour this over the top of the middle layer, and spread it so that it evenly covers the middle layer. Chill in the fridge until firm. Remove from fridge about a half hour before cutting so that the top chocolate layer can soften up a little (making it less likely to crack while cutting it). Devour.