Hazelnut Browned Butter Cake

Hello all, sorry for my extended absence. I'm going to do my best to keep up with things from now on. Of course, I've made that promise a number of times, but I really am going to try this time.

Lots has happened since the last time I posted anything. I worked on a farm all summer, returned to Berkeley, became the kitchen manager of my student housing facility... Not least of all however, I became absolutely obsessed with browned butter. Obsessed. After after any recipe I try, I can't help but think "I wonder what this would taste like with browned butter" Mmm....

This obsession has lead to a number of wondrous concoctions however. I've perfected the browned butter chocolate chip cookie recipe (thought the last one was too complicated well..this one's simpler, and better tasting!) Perhaps the best concoction however was the marvelous browned butter hazelnut cake from over at smitten kitchen.

It's like nutella met a torte and had a delicious love child...only better. It has the rich caramelized toffee flavor of browned butter pared with the earthy warmth of hazelnuts topped off with decadent dark chocolate ganache. I'm pretty sure it's destined to be my birthday cake for years to come.

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake

Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

5 ounces (about one heaping cup) hazelnuts, blanched to remove dark skins*
1/2 pound unsalted butter plus extra for greasing the pan
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting the cake
1/3 cups all-purpose flour
5 extra-large egg whites
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast in oven for 12 to 15 minutes until they're golden brown and nutty. Let them cool. (If you're not using pre-blanched hazelnuts you'll need to remove the skins, one handy way to do this is to wrap the warm nuts in a dish towel, let them steam for 5 minutes and then rub them together vigorously in the towel to remove the skins)

Cut out a circle of parchment paper 10 inches in diameter. Coat a 10 inch round cake pan with a thin layer of butter and place the circle in the bottom of the pan.

Cut the butter into chunks and place in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Cook the butter, stirring frequently, until it smells nutty and the solids in the bottom of the pan turn dark brown (5 to 10 minutes). Set aside to cool.

Grind the hazelnuts and with the confectioner's sugar in a food processor until they're finely ground. Add the flour and pulse to combine. Transfer to a large bowl.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (or place in a large bowl and use hand held egg beaters) add the granulated sugar and whisk on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes until very stiff peaks form. Transfer whites to another large bowl. Alternate folding the dry ingredients and the browned butter into the egg whites 1/3 at a time, Fold in gently.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake 30 to 50 minutes. Cool on a rack for 30 minutes and then run a knife along the edge of the cake and turn it out onto whatever you're serving it on. Cover it with chocolate ganache

Chocolate Ganache for a 10-inch Cake

4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or finely-chopped chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream

Melt the chocolate and heavy cream in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle and spread over the top of the cake (I use the back of a spoon)

Oatmeal Pecan Spice Pancakes

It's always nice to return home. Even after an awesome adventure there's something so comforting about curling up in a couch you're familiar with and with a warm breakfast and a hot cup of tea. For the past few weeks I've been living in Pennsylvania, exploring the east coast and working on an organic farm. It was a wonderful, spending my days working outdoors, cooking with fresh ingredients, and learning more than I ever imagined about planting growing and harvesting produce. I'm slowly compiling the pictures I took there so I'll post more about my trip later.

Anyway, this morning I woke up with the urge to make something special for breakfast and so, after a bit of thought, I decided on oatmeal pancakes. Not just any oatmeal pancakes though, oatmeal pecan spice pancakes...oh yes, they were amazing.

Oatmeal Pecan Spice Pancakes

3/4 cup old fashoined oats
1 1/2 plus 2 tbsp buttermilk
3/4 cup flour (whole wheat or whole wheat pastry is best)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
Generous grate fresh nutmeg
pinch cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp packed brown sugar
1/2 cup pecans toasted and roughly chopped

Soak oats in buttermilk 10 to 20 minutes

Whisk oats soak, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg and salt.

Mix oat/buttermilk mixture, egg, butter, and brown sugar with the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in pecans.

Heat a griddle over medium heat until hot and lightly brush with oil or butter. Working in batches pour 1/4 cup dollops of batter onto the griddle and cook until the edges solidify, bubbles appear on the surface and the bottoms are golden brown. Flip with a spatula and cook the other side until golden brown. Make sure griddle remains oiled in between batches

Top with maple syrup, butter, or whatever you prefer and enjoy!

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

First off, sorry for being away for so long...again, I promise this is the last time it'll happen. This time, however, I do have a legitimate excuse, somewhere in the midst of moving all my stuff from Berkeley back to Humboldt for the summer I managed to pack my camera (and thus all the pictures I took of my latest concoctions) away in some mysterious bag, it was only a couple days ago that I finally uncovered it. So, without further ado, I bring you the first update since Easter

Now, this is not my recipe however, this recipe is so amazingly delicious it has somehow managed to become a staple in my mental cookbook over the last few months. These chocolate chip cookies are by far the best I've even eaten (and being a huge chocolate chip cookie fan, I've tasted quite a few). They are everything a good cookie should be, densely chewy on the inside, crisp along the edges, rich, extremely buttery, and choc full of chocolate chips.

A few tips, for this recipe I brown the butter to a point bordering on dangerous. I wait until the little butter solids are very nearly black and the butter is a deep golden brown. So far it's seemed that the longer I brown the butter, the better the cookies end up tasting but be very careful not to go overboard and burn it or else you'll have to start over. Also, if you're more of a fan of a lighter cake-ier cookie, add 2 eggs instead of 1 egg and 1 egg yolk and you'll get a still rich and buttery but slightly fluffier version of this recipe. Finally, I halve the amount of chocolate chips in the recipe because I love the flavor of the browned butter in the cookie and I find it stands out a bit more when it's not overwhelmed by chocolate, but if you're a huge chocolate fan, go ahead and add the full ammount.

Since the recipe is not my own and I haven't done much of anything to alter it I'm simply going to provide a link to the website I got it from, but definitely try these out, they're pretty amazing.


Easter Eggs

Spring is a marvelous time of year. The weather is finally warming, plants are starting to bloom, so many different fruits and vegetables are at long last coming into season, and you can do ridiculous but fun activities such as dying eggs.

Now, I suppose that this isn't really a recipe, but it's still food related for the most part so I decided that it was worth sharing.
Egg dying is always a fun activity on Easter and so I decided to get some of the residents of my student co-op together this morning to do just that. I was amazed at how well they turned out. The eggs are like little mini works of art, it's going to be pretty hard to eat them.

Food Coloring Egg Dye

A number of hard boiled eggs
1 cup water
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
food coloring (until it reaches desired saturation)

Simple, combine all ingredients in a container large enough to hold and egg. Add food coloring until it reaches desired saturation (it will lighten substantially when it's on the egg so this should be pretty dark)

Marbleized/Speckled Eggs

A number of hard boiled eggs
1 cup water
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
food coloring (until it reaches desired saturation)
1 tsp vegetable or canola oil

Follow the directions for making food coloring egg dye (you can use commercial egg dye as well), mix in teaspoon of oil, stir until oil is broken up on the surface of the dye (you'll have to re-stir a number of times). Have fun dying eggs!

You can layer the different colors to create marvelous tie-dye eggs such as the one below

Giant Chewy Delicious Molasses Cookies

First of all, I want to sincerely apologize to anyone who enjoyed my blog for not posting for so long. All I can say is that times have been rough and it's been a while since I've felt up to cooking, let alone writing about it. Now, however, I'm back with one of my favorite new cookies recipes so I hope you enjoy it. This recipe originated from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. After a couple tweaks, it has become one of my all time favorite desserts. It is intensely molasses-y deliciously spicy (using half the spices in your cabinet) and wonderfully chewy. You can make them bite sized, or normal sized, but my favorite way to eat them is giant sized.

Dorie Greenspan's Modified Giant Molasses Cookies

2 1/2 cups flour (whole wheat pastry or all purpose works best)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
pinch of cloves
generous grate fresh nutmeg
12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 large egg

For Rolling
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a seperate bown mix together the dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg) and set aside. With a mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the brown sugar and molasses. Beat for approximately 2 minutes or until fully combined. Add egg and beat for another minute until fully incorporated. Add in the dry ingredients and mix until entirely blenged. Shape the dough into a ball and refrigerate for 1 hour up to 4 days (or you can freeze it and keep it around longer, most likely up to a month).

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mix the sugar and cinnamon for rolling together in a small bowl. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls (or double that for giant sized cookies) and then roll in the cinnamon sugar. Place the balls on the cookies sheet 2 to 3 inches apart (these spread quite a bit) and flatten with your fingers. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes until the cookies are set and a bit crackly looking (lower the time to about 10 minutes if you're like me and like super soft, chewy cookies) Remove the cookies from the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature (or if the smell makes you as impatient as it does me, scoop the hot cookie from the sheet into your hand and blow on it, careful not to burn your hand too badly, until it's cool enough to eat)

Do to the intensly spiced and chewy nature of these cookies, milk is almost a requirement.

Balsamic, Butternut, and Barley Salad

Sad times lend themselves to warm comfort food, fuzzy blankets, friends, and movies. Regrettably, however, they do not lend themselves to successful blog posting, and I have certainly had some very sad times lately. Even so, it seems that I have finally returned from the land of self-pity enough to update my much neglected blog.

Since my cooking has largely turned towards simple comfort food the past few days I've decided to post an old favorite that I have successfully served to many of my friends on a variety of occasions. It is the perfect blend of sweet, savory, nutty, and acidic to please almost anyone. The one drawback...it takes about a half hour to an hour of constant watching and tending and messing with three different things simultaneously (which, if you're me, is nearly impossible). Even so, the end result is well worth it and (an added bonus) this is the type of recipe that can be served hot (as a side grain) or cold (as more of a grain salad) and tastes even better after it's sat in the fridge overnight. It also makes a generous amount and so if you want, you could potentially live off of it for the better portion of a week. And so, without further ado, I bring you...

Barley Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Roasted Winter Squash and Red Onions, in a Balsamic Reduction Sauce.

2 cups pearled barley
2 teaspoons salt
5 cups water
3 cups butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large red onion cut into 8 chunks and pulled apart a bit
1 tablespoon fresh sage minced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup toasted walnuts
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon agave syrup (or 3 tablespoons sugar if you don't have agave)
2 tablespoons sage roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the barley and cook 25 to 30 minutes until done but still a bit chewy (you want the barley to have a bit of structure). After 20 minutes, taste the barley, and continue to do so every 5 minutes until it is done. Meanwhile, combine the squash, onions, olive oil, 1 tablespoon sage, and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar in a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. While the barley and squash/onions cook begin the balsamic reduction sauce. Combine the 1 cup balsamic vinegar, agave nectar (or sugar), and 2 tablespoons sage in a small saucepan over medium/low heat. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is reduced by half and has the consistency of maple syrup. Be careful not to reduce by too much or it will become bitter, also, watch out for balsamic fumes as it is cooking, they are quite acrid. After all the components are completed, place the squash mixture, barley, and walnuts in a large bowl and toss to combine. Pour the balsamic sauce over the mixture and toss once more to mix thoroughly. Serve warm or move to the refrigerator and serve cold.
serves 6 to 8 (with pretty generous portions)

M&M Cookies and a new family member

The past few days have been more than a little hectic. It's been a good sort of hectic for the most part however, just not the sort that lends itself to blog posting. On December 31st, I adopted a puppy from the local humane society. She is a two month old Rottweiler mix named Carly (like the children's book "Good Dog Carl" but feminized) and an adorable ball of nonstop puppy energy (as I write this she's attempting to gnaw on the corner of my laptop). Needless to say, the past few days have been spent wrestling, potty training, petting, and attempting to keep Carly from devouring my entire house rather than cooking. Even though this is a food blog, I can't resist showing her off and posting just a few pictures. They're a bit blurry since she is almost always in motion but, they're what I've got for now.

Here Carly is sitting in my friend Rose's lap gnawing on a stuffed bear that is by now pretty gross looking

And now for the cookies. I made these a few days ago for my brother who is down in the Sacramento area playing in a high school basketball tournament (send him good vibes for me please). Although he was happy to be playing basketball, he was not so thrilled about spending half of his Christmas break away from home. In order to cheer him up, I baked a big batch of m&m cookies for him to take along with him (and of course I saved a few for myself).

I used the Nieman Marcus chocolate chip cookie recipe (leaving out the instant coffee) and used m&m's rather than chocolate chips. I also made the cookies quite a bit smaller than called for in the recipe which decreased the baking time by a bit. Since the recipe is so good, and I did make a few adjustments, I'm posting it here for your baking pleasure. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

(adapted from the Neiman Marcus recipe found here)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar (light for a milder flavor or dark, as I prefer, for a stronger hint of molasses)

3 tablespoons raw sugar (alternately you could use regular granulated sugar)

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups White Whole Wheat or Whole Wheat pastry flour (alternately you could use all purpose)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips OR m&m's

Preheat oven to 300 F.

Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy and light in color (approximately 30 seconds). Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed until fully combined. fold in the chocolate chips/m&m's.

Using a tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper about 3 inches apart. Bake for about 12 0r 15 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie. Makes approximately 3 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies.


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