Monthly Archives: March 2011

Spiced Carrot Bread with Coconut and Browned Butter

When I started baking, my dad’s first request was carrot cake. I couldn’t fondly recall any carrot cakes that I really liked, so I assumed I didn’t like carrot cake at all. Long story short–I was wrong. Even if you aren’t crazy about carrots, does not mean you won’t like carrot cake. To say that carrot cake tastes like the name makes it sound, is like saying that chocolate cake tastes like cocoa powder. Obviously that’s not all there is to chocolate cake, and carrots is not all there is to carrot cake, or carrot bread for that matter. The difference between this carrot bread and a favorite carrot cake recipe I have made (and will eventually share with you) actually isn’t much if anything. So technically this could be a cake, but I made it in a loaf pan. What can I say? I was in the mood for a quick “bread”. To spice it up, I used a little bit of browned butter in combination with vegetable oil (ok I’m on a browned butter binge right now), dark brown sugar, a tiny bit of Irish Whiskey, plain yogurt, and shredded sweet coconut. I love the texture that shredded coconut gives to cakes and quick breads.

This ended up tasting better than I thought, and it is full of flavor. It goes perfectly with a cream cheese icing (I actually used leftover Neufchatel icing from some delicious Guava and Cream Cheese Puff Pastries I made *and am going to share the recipes with you very soon, of course*..but you can use cream cheese and it will taste even better).

Spiced Carrot Bread with Coconut and Browned Butter

Makes one 9×5 inch loaf

  • 1/4 cup (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Jameson whiskey (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 cup grated carrots (about 2 large)
  • 1/2 cup lightly toasted shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

    2. On a baking sheet, spread 1/2 cup of shredded sweetened coconut and toast for 5-7 minutes until lightly toasted.

    3. In a skillet (not non-stick) lightly brown 1/4 cup (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter on medium heat. Whisk constantly, for a few minutes, until the bubbling has slowed down and it begins to foam and darken in color. Remove from heat.

    4. In a heat safe bowl, combine the browned butter, vegetable oil, granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, vanilla extract, and Jameson whiskey. Allow to cool a bit, and then add the yogurt and 2 eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly.

    5. Allow toasted coconut to cool, while you mix together the dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold in the grated carrots and the coconut. Stir flour mixture with the wet mixture until just combined. Don’t overmix.

    6. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake on middle rack for about 40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow pan to cool on wire rack for about 15 minutes, and then invert the carrot bread onto wire rack to cool completely before serving.

    *Note*: You could omit the browned butter and replace with equal amounts vegetable oil. The flavor and texture will come out differently than my recipe, however.

    For Cream Cheese (or Neufchatel) Icing (optional)

    • 2 ounces of cream cheese (1/4th of an 8 oz package), softened
    • 1 tablespoon milk
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2/3 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar (so that there are no lumps)
    • Mix ingredients together with an electric or handheld mixer until fully blended and creamy. You may want to double on this if you like a lot of cream cheese icing, but this was enough for me.

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Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter

I have baked so many brownies in the past couple of months, so in my mind, I thought A. I should not bake brownies today and B. Nobody would be interested in reading about them. I forgot that I had never posted a recipe for brownies on this blog thus far, with the exception of one that still lingers in my ‘Drafts’ because it was the batch of brownies that made me sick of brownies for a good few weeks. Which is a tragedy altogether. These brownies exceed most brownies I have ever eaten. You are probably thinking,”And who are you exactly? I’ve never heard of you or your blog.” I won’t convince you as to why you should take my advice, because in the culinary world, I am nobody but someone who loves to eat. Since almost everybody loves to eat, I remain insignificant. My blog is new and has no readers (except you….if you’re actually there or I’m just talking to my imagination), so I really have no comeback for that one. Hmmm…yeah, I guess you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. Yeah, right. Like I’m the only one who knows about these brownies? Let’s say I am a tad over fashionably late on this one.

Plenty of people love these brownies and discovered them before me…including Craving Chronicles, Try Anything Once, Culinary Covers, In Good Taste, and even a Gluten Free version at Tasty Yummies..just to name a small handful that popped up on a Google search. I am just bringing this recipe to you, incase you miraculously (like me), missed it before.

My craving for brownies suddenly started coming back to me after I baked Cook’s Illustrated’s ‘Classic Brownies‘ for a party with a lot of family members who love to eat. I ate one before surrendering the rest to various family members, whom I will gladly share my brownies with any day. When I got back into the kitchen after a few days of being out of town, there was a voice inside saying,”Noo, don’t make snickerdoodles, make browniesss” and,”You don’t want to labor over cinnamon buns, make the damn brownies!” So I told myself if I was going to make brownies, they had to be different. I knew going back to the Classic Brownies would be the easiest thing to do, except that I had only 2 ounces left of my Baker’s unsweetened chocolate. Uh, I was actually out of almost every type of chocolate but cocoa powder. So not many choices for me.

I wanted something new and something unadulterated. No marshmallows, no cheesecake swirls, no peanut butter, no, no, and no. I just want chocolatey brownies. I did a search on Epicurious, and found this recipe for Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts. I left the walnuts out because I didn’t want anything in the brownies and I was also, sadly, out of walnuts too. (Can you say I need to go grocery shopping?) The recipe was super simple, and I loved that it had browned butter. Since I had tried it before for CI’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (yes, that’s how new I am to baking, I’ve only browned butter once before) I knew it would not only give it great flavor, but that it wasn’t as daunting a task as I originally thought. I keep the heat at medium (no higher), and continue to stir with a whisk. It starts bubbling and foaming, and then it develops what looks like chili powder underneath the melted butter. At the point where it has a nice light auburn/brown color, I take it off the heat.

I am convinced that browned butter in cookies and brownies is my new favorite flavor. Move over vanilla, move over creamed butter, move over expensive chocolate. THIS is the best part of the brownie, and somehow it made it so that one of my new favorite brownies only requires cocoa powder, which means since I plan to always have an adequate amount of that, there is no need to run to the grocery store for these. I would have never guessed.

The browned butter gave it a flavor that reminded me of chocolate covered toffee, and the fact that you can get that flavor by doing nothing but lightly browning butter, blew my mind. Why people don’t do this for every single brownie recipe is beyond my comprehension.

Since my sink not full of dishes seemed very appealing to me, and I wasn’t particularly eager to change that, this recipe was even better. I browned the butter in the pan (I almost said brownied the butter O.O), added the sugar, cocoa, salt, water, and vanilla. Let it cool almost completely, but left it warm, and then beat in the eggs and stirred in the flour. That simple. I transferred it to a glass bowl just so that I could take pictures in between, but this can technically be considered a “one pan” brownie recipe with exception of the pan you bake it in. Nonetheless, my sink is not overloaded, making sink and myself happy.

What you get from these brownies is a richer, deeper, more intense flavor than you get from most brownies. Not only on a chocolate level, but the flavor of the browned butter takes it onto a road similar to that which I believe people try to achieve with putting espresso powder in their chocolate cakes and brownies. I noticed the browned butter seemed to have a subtle caramel flavor with just the right amount of salt. The balance of sweet, salty, and chocolatey for me, makes a perfect dessert. Texture wise, they were decadent, moist (without being too oily) and had a nice chew to them.

All other brownies are going to have an extremely difficult time living up to these.

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter (and walnuts, optional)

Makes 16 brownies

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, chilled
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup walnut pieces – optional

Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 8 x 8 x 2-inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and 1⁄4 teaspoon (generous) salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Stir in nuts (optional). Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 20 minutes (recipe says 25 mins but check earlier than that, around 20 mins, to see if they are done to avoid overcooking).

Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 brownies. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

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Filed under Brownies, Chocolate, Favorites

New York Style Coffee Crumb Cake

I have made this crumb cake 4 times in one week. Three of the times were with 8×8 square pans and the last time was with a 13×9. Two of them went to my parent’s house, and my parent’s didn’t get to try either of them because my siblings demolished it before it could be seen. The second time that happened, I had even left a huge note next to it saying,”For Dad: DO NOT EAT.” It was actually much more elaborate than that, but I won’t expose my paranoid antics. In the car the next night on the way to a party, with another crumb cake on my lap, I asked my dad if he tried the crumb cake.

No, I saw the note and lifted up the tin foil to see an empty plate.

My younger sister, sitting next to me, was smiling. She’s 17, but by looking at her you might guess 13. When I was 18 and walking her into elementary school, I was told to get to class. She has it the same way now. She’s also a kid at heart, innocent, and pure. Most of the time. Her smile turned into pursed lips and she explained,”I had some for breakfast.

What did you do with the rest?“, I asked, knowing that this is my little sister, who might be one of the pickiest eaters and neverrarely finishes anything she eats. (Incase she is reading: Love you T!)

I ate half of the other piece.”

What happened to the first piece? You never eat a whole piece of anything.

She just smiled at me again. I kept staring at her, with a very questioning look…waiting to hear her explanation.

I went downstairs and saw it there and ate it and I didn’t see the note until afterwards.

You ate the whole piece?

I wasn’t mad at her, and she knew that. I was just surprised. And before you think I’m mean, I left the rest of the crumb care there for her and my brother to eat. I had just reserved two pieces for my dad because everything disappears before he gets to try it. The note was on a piece of paper towel, and it had very clear instructions. I wrote a note to my mom on the bottom of it,”Don’t worry, I’m bringing another one to the party tomorrow night so you can try some too.” My dad decided to go at the last minute, so he too was able to finally try some.

Later in the night my sister said,”Don’t ever make that crumb cake again, the crumbs on top were so good. OH MY GOD, they’re like little balls of heavenly deliciousness. Err!” The “err” was an interesting addition, but I sensed what she was trying to say. It was frustratingly yummy? My sister will usually comment on the most delicious of food with,”It was good.” I’ve given her Nutella before, demanding she try it. She squinted while tasting it like a baby given a wedge of lemon, and said,”Eh….it’s ok.” So I knew this crumb cake was a hit..at least with her, my brother, boyfriend, and myself, up to that point.

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Traditional Irish Whiskey Cake


St. Patrick’s Day used to be a Holy Day of Obligation in Ireland, where people went to church in the morning and all of the pubs were closed. (Don’t worry! This is not going to be a history lesson. The cake recipe is coming, keep reading!) The only reason I know this is because I’ve heard my favorite author, the late Frank McCourt, and author of ‘Angela’s Ashes‘, talk about the St. Patrick’s Day as he knew it growing up in Ireland. I remember one entertaining interview where he talks about it in 1999. Of course, I’m sure Frank McCourt wasn’t bothered by the lack of pub being open on St. Patrick’s Day. He was probably bothered by having to get up early in the morning and go to church, as most kids would be….and it probably wasn’t memorable for the food since his family had so little of it. These days for us in America, our biggest concern on St. Patrick’s Day is whether we remembered to wear green….and what to bake. Like me.

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Simple & Delicious Go-To Yellow Cupcakes w/ Coconut Buttercream Frosting

So I did Coconut Macadamia Nut Biscotti, and then I did Key Lime Pie with Passion Fruit Whipped Cream. In between, I have tested countless brownies and banana bread recipes. I have thought about posting them, but I would have several posts a day trying to keep up with all my trials and errors. There was something more important and more delicious that couldn’t wait. I decided these were worthy for your time to read about. I’ve been looking for a basic cupcake recipe that I could build off of. Something easy, that wouldn’t let me down. Something that made sense, and wasn’t just throwing things into the batter without telling me why that recipe was any better than the next. Of course, I found my answer in Baking Illustrated, what else? I consider it my bible to baking, because they provide me with reasons and explanations. I want baking to make sense to me, and I want to know why I’m doing what I’m doing with each recipe.

They claim they tested all the ways of making these basic cupcakes perfect, and what they decided was that you don’t need to cream the butter, you don’t need to add the flour mixture in 3 parts, etc etc etc–in other words, you take the easy way out and it actually comes out even better? That’s what they say. So I tried it. I didn’t believe them, but I went for it anyways. I actually made two batches, first the regular yellow cupcakes to make sure they actually were delicious as they were said to be. They absolutely were. Then I went a little crazy and added some cream of coconut, shredded coconut, lemon extract, and some passion fruit jam. The texture came out a little different, almost like the top slightly caramelized and there was a chew to them, but they were still really good. All I have to say is, I have found my go to yellow cupcake recipe. If you are a fan of one bowl recipes that don’t require fancy work but are tasty, this is definitely for you! You mix the dry ingredients together, and then mix in the wet ingredients. Easy!

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