June 30, 2017

Brownie Pudding

It's my birthday weekend! Yes, I am stretching my birthday into multiple days of forcing my fellow interns into attending various Chicago activities and eating copious amounts of food. I'm still debating if designing a bakery crawl and baking my own birthday cake will give me instant diabetes, but for now I'm sharing one of my personal favorite dessert recipes: brownie pudding. While neither a brownie nor pudding, this gooey, chocolatey concoction is so good my sister has actually attempted to stab me with a fork for more.

If you've followed my blog for any period of time, you'll know I'm a sucker for anything chocolate. From double chocolate shortbread to extra slutty brownies to chocolate lava cake if it has chocolate you'll find me eating it. That's why I love this recipe so much; it is pure chocolate heaven. It's also an amazing balance of textures since it has a crisp, crackly crust (think that thin crunchy layer on top of brownies but extreme) covering an incredibly rich, gooey center. I don't care if you're team fudgy or team cakey brownie; this is an entirely different level.

This recipe isn't anything like your typical brownie batter. You start by whipping eggs and sugar together until they reach the ribbon stage, essentially where they turn pale yellow and fall in thick ribbons when you pull the beaters out. I add a splash of vanilla and a splash of Kahlua for flavor (it is my birthday after all), then gently sift and fold in flour, lots of cocoa powder, and salt. Lastly, a stick of butter is stirred in because you can't have a good dessert without a cow's worth of butter. You can always fold in some chocolate chips, but if you use good cocoa powder you won't need the extra chocolate.

The first time I baked this, I used an 8x8" ceramic pan (glass works too). Big mistake. It baked up perfectly and was presentable right out of the dish (you're not going to want to try and get this out until you eat it). However, my overeager sister was unwilling to share and I faced losing out on my share vs getting chased around the house with a surprisingly sharp fork. I learned my lesson and now bake this in multiple vessels. I have one ceramic baking dish that I love for presenting and photographing, and I also made a second mini one for my sister to have all to herself. As I said, this works perfectly well with an 8x8" pan (or something similar) so it stays gooey in the center and is thick enough to have textural variation. The key to getting those different textures is the water bath; the inside doesn't firm up too much since it doesn't exceed water's boiling point (212F) but the top gets nice and crispy.

Honestly, I'd be perfectly happy if my birthday consisted of some good pizza, a good movie, and my own pan of this brownie pudding. Hopefully I'll get to do some sightseeing, but as long as I get my chocolate I'll be fine. You can make this for whatever occasion calls for a tasty chocolate dish; it can easily be dressed up with some good ice cream and homemade whipped cream or just eat it in your pajamas while binge watching Netflix. I'll probably be doing a little bit of both.

2 Eggs
1 Cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Kahlua, Optional
1/4 Cup Flour
1/3 Cup Cocoa
Pinch Salt
1 Stick Butter, Melted

Heat oven to 325F and grease an 8x8" baking dish.

Whip the eggs and sugar together for 5-10 minutes or until pale yellow and ribbony. Fold in the vanilla and Kahlua, then sift in the flour, cocoa, and salt. Gradually stir in the butter until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and set in a larger baking pan. Pour boiling water into the larger pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the 8x8" dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until set.

Recipe Adapted from Ina Garten

June 20, 2017

Bourbon Peach Pecan Galette

I know it's peach season when I can find them all the way up north. Sure, they're not quite the same as the local Georgia peaches, but they are decent and I know anyone in the south has some tasty ones. Peach pies are always tasty (I'm still perfecting a raspberry peach pie that you may or may not see on here next summer), but I'm a crust girl and am always looking for ways to adjust the ratio in my favor. Here, I toss fresh peaches in a bit of sugar and a lot of bourbon, pile them onto a pecan crust, and sprinkle with more toasty pecans. It's everything southern in one bite, and it makes the perfect ~adult~ dessert for all your summer barbecues (make sure to put it on your July 4th cookout menu!).

You all know by now all my secrets for making the perfect pie crust. Keep everything cold, don't overwork the dough, and cover the edges if you need to so you can cook everything through without burning the crust. What makes this crust so special is that there are extra pecans INSIDE the pastry. Yes, you read that right. I toast some pecans and blend them right into the pie crust so your mouth goes *nuts* with every bite. I do like to toast the nuts to maximize the flavor, but you absolutely have to let them cool before blending them because they will warm up the rest of the ingredients and also turn into pecan butter if they're still hot.

As for the peach part, I slice around 2 pounds of peaches and toss them with some sugar so they can macerate. It's the same process that I use for the berries in my lemon berry scones. Adding a few spoonfuls of sugar makes the concentration higher outside the peach cells than inside, so water moves out of the cells to balance everything out. The whole point of this is to remove water here so the peaches don't bleed out and make a soggy mess when you bake them.

Once the peach juice has time to settle out, I toss the peaches with cornstarch, a bit of brown sugar (since most of the sugar was left in the juice; adjust this to how sweet your peaches are), a pinch of cinnamon, and all the bourbon. You can either add the remaining pecans in at this point or wait until you transfer the peaches to the crust so they are sprinkled all pretty on top.

I bake this in a big round tart pan, but you could turn it into a pie, a freeform galette, mini tartlets, or any other pans you have lying around. Like I said, I prefer the crust to filling ratio of a tart pan, so I would consider making this a double crusted pie (the regular pie crust plus the top crust, as opposed to an open pie like a pumpkin pie) if the pecan dough cooperates. If you are having a particularly large gathering, you could even double (or triple) the recipe and make a big slab pie on a rectangular pan or cookie tray. This recipe is just so perfect for summer that you could serve it at just about any shindig you're throwing in the near future.

For the Crust:
2/3 Cup Pecans, Toasted
1 1/4 Cups Flour
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
1 Stick Butter, Chilled & Cubed
1 Egg Yolk

Pulse the cooled toasted pecans in a food processor until finely ground. Add the flour, sugar, and salt and pulse until combined. Add the butter and pulse until small lumps remain. Whisk the egg yolk with a few spoonfuls of water and pulse until just combined. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

For the Filling:
2 lbs Peaches, Sliced
3 T Sugar
2 T Brown Sugar
1 T Cornstarch
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Cup Bourbon
1/2 Cup Chopped Pecans

Heat oven to 375F and grease a 9 to 11" round tart pan (or other desired pan).

Toss the peaches with the sugar and let sit for 20 minutes. Drain the liquid and toss with the brown sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Stir in the bourbon and pecans.

Roll the pie dough out to fit the desired pan. Press gently to adhere, then add the peaches. Bake for 24-26 minutes or until the crust is brown and the peaches are tender.

Makes 1 Tart

June 10, 2017

Cheesy Sausage Buns

It's almost Father's Day, so get your shopping list ready with seasonal dad-approved recipes like blueberry coffee cakecorn and tomato salsaribeye with vidalia compound butterzucchini fritters, and peach cobbler. If none of those fit your Father's Day aesthetic, find more tasty recipes in my recipe index. Today, I'm writing about a recipe that maybe won't do so well for a big grill fest or barbecue but is definitely one of my dad's favorite recipes. I'm not really sure what to call them (cheesy sausage buns are reasonably descriptive and snappy) since we found them at one of my favorite Madison bakeries--Batch--and I recreated them at home. Batch makes a bunch of different buns, but my dad is always disappointed if they don't have the one with andouille sausage and caramelized onions. I threw in some pepper jack cheese for good measure so he can have the pseudo Batch buns year round (and avoid the frigid Madison winters).

Since Batch makes all sorts of buns, it's easy to whip up your own combination of fillings. I tend to rotate the meat (usually some sort of sausage but diced chicken or beef would work too), the vegetables (I love my caramelized onions but I've seen black beans, grilled veggies, and corn), and of course any good melting cheese. Just cook up your protein and the veggies, let it all cool down, toss the filling ingredients together, and stuff and bake the buns. It is pretty labor-intensive, so I'll usually make a double batch and get it over with so there are plenty of buns to go around.

If you read my blog diligently, you'll notice this dough is the same as what I use for the pretzel nuggets with beer cheese dip and cheesy buffalo pretzel ring but without actually making it into a pretzel. Honestly, this would be delicious as a pretzel bun, so as long as you're confident in your sealing abilities go ahead and dunk the buns in a baking soda solution before baking. That would be especially delicious for a Philly cheesesteak bun with beef, peppers and onions, and lots of cheese. What I love about this dough is that it's so stretchy and elastic, which lends itself well to being manhandled into bun shapes. The trick is to make the edges thinner than the center (but still keeping it all pretty thin) so there's no giant hunk of dough at the bottom where you gather it all up. It definitely takes some skill to get the right dough to filling ratio without anything exploding, but a little extra bread never hurt anyone.

For my typical filling, I brown and dice the sausage (or dice and brown, if the sausage is firm enough). I then cook the vegetables in the sausage fat for maximum flavor and toss both with shredded cheese and spices. That gets stuffed into buns, brushed with egg wash, covered in more cheese, and baked until molten hot. I tend to make mine into hockey puck or hamburger sizes so they could constitute a meal, but you could also make these smaller for snacks or appetizers. Everything inside is cooked before it goes in, so all you need to do is make sure the outside is brown and the dough is cooked.

I've worshipped Batch as the type of bakery I'd want to open should I fail all my classes and abandon food science altogether. Their food is simple but done extremely well, and I can never decide what to order. My dad always makes a beeline for these buns and is ecstatic that I figured out how to replicate them at home but more to his liking, so a batch of these is always on the menu.

2 1/4 tsp Yeast
1 T Sugar
4 1/2 - 5 Cups Flour
1 tsp Salt
1/2 Stick Butter, Melted
1 Egg, Beaten
14 oz Andouille Sausage
2 Sweet Onions, Sliced
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Cayenne
6 oz Pepperjack Cheese, Grated

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast, sugar, and 1 ½ cups warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes or until foamy. Using the dough hook, stir in the butter, 3 cups of flour, and the salt. Knead for 5 minutes, gradually adding the remaining flour as necessary until it's not too sticky.

Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour. Line cookie trays with parchment or silpats. Roll the dough into approximately 16 balls, place on the prepared trays, cover, and let rise for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, dice the sausage. Heat some oil in a large skillet and cook until crisp and brown, about 4 minutes, stirring often. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add the onions to the skillet and cook over low heat until caramelized, about an hour. Stir in the baking soda and cayenne when they are almost done; season with salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 375F.

Stir the andouille, caramelized onions, and cheese together. Roll each ball of dough into a very thin circle and scoop a spoonful of filling onto the center. Pinch the edges of the dough together to form a bun and place bake on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling and brush with the egg. Bake for 16 minutes or until golden.

Makes 16