Web-Hopping vol. 26

It’s been a while since I did a web-hopping post! That doesn’t mean my actual web-hopping stopped, though. I add dozens of recipes to my “must bake” list every week. Right now, I’m all about fall flavors. From pumpkin to zucchini—I’ll take them all.

Apples are particularly top of mind for me this week, because friends are starting to post their apple picking pictures. I love apple picking, and used to go every year when I lived in the midwest. It’s a tad harder when you live in San Francisco and don’t own a car…but I’m sure I can make it happen!

In the meantime, I plan on scooping up tons of apples from my local markets. Here are the six apple recipes I’m most excited to try this year, and few old favorites.

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Pretzels from Baked by Rachel

Apple and cheddar soft pretzels: I’ll be honest: I get lazy about making yeasted recipes. But these have been on my list for years (literally) and maybe this will be the year I finally make them happen!

Caramel apple shortbread bars: I mean, what’s not to like? A buttery cookie-like base, topped by the classic combo of caramel and apple.

Apple cinnamon zucchini muffins: Zucchini makes for moist, flavorful baked goods so it’s the perfect solve for muffins—which are often too dry for my taste. And in this recipe, chunks of apple take things to an even better place.

 

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Snickerdoodles from Bob’s Red Mill

Apple pie-stuffed snickerdoodles: I mean: just look at that picture. You cook up apples like you’re gonna throw them in a pie…but instead, you throw them in the middle of snickerdoodles. And you all know how much I love a good stuffed cookie!

Apple shortcake with honey, cinnamon and lavender: Naturally, I’m intrigued by the lavender in here. I can’t quite imagine how it will taste…which makes the recipe super compelling! (Warning: this recipe is in Hebrew. If I ever make it, I’ll report back on whether translating the page works out!!!)

Ginger apple molasses cake: I’m a sucker for anything ginger or molasses, so clearly this is a must-make. I also love that it has mascarpone frosting!

And just in case you’re craving more: here’s a handy roundup of apple recipes I’ve shared with you in the past.

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Strawberry Saffron Chocolate Chip Cake

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You know when you get your heart set on making a certain recipe? And even though there are other options that are totally easier for one reason or another…it doesn’t matter?

Ladies and gentleman: Welcome to my brain when I made this cake.

The recipe itself is super simple. But it turned out that getting my hands on the right ingredients wasn’t so easy. This post may say “strawberry cake,” but the original recipe called for figs. And in a silly, produce-naive move, I was trying to make this cake before fig season kicked into full force. (Ahem: I made this cake in April…so now you know I’m not always the most punctual with my posts 🙂 )

I had already bought the other ingredients when I realized my faux pas. I tried four grocery stores, but there were no figs to be found. Still: I really wanted to make this cake. I’d been eyeing this cake for months, and was so curious about what a saffron-tinged cake would taste like. Plus, I’d already bought the yogurt and saffron. Time for Plan B!

Lucky for me, the recipe’s author helped me out. I commented on Alejandra’s blog asking if she thought dried figs would work ok. And she gave me so much advice! She suggested other recipes on her site that were fig-less, but similar. She suggested a way to rehydrate dried figs. And she also suggested swapping in berries instead.

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Ta-dah! We had a new plan. Since I stubbornly wanted to use the saffron and greek yogurt, swapping in another fruit was my best option. I got some strawberries to replace the figs, and finally this cake and I got to have our moment in the sun.

I brought the finished beauty to my cake party and it was a total hit. Friends kept commenting on how different it was from other desserts they’d tried before. They couldn’t put their finger on the saffron, but they loved how it tasted!

The cake is super moist, thanks to the olive oil and greek yogurt in the batter. Saffron and almond extract combine for a really unique flavor that’s a little earthy, but balanced. The strawberries add a bit of juiciness and a sweet topping before you bite into the cake itself. Alejandra mentions you can omit the saffron if you want to…but I don’t think you should.

In the end, it all worked out. Thank to Alejandra for all her help! I’m definitely going to try this again now that figs are actually in season!

Strawberry Saffron Chocolate Chip Cake

Original recipe: Always Order Dessert. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: One 9-inch cake

Suggested equipment: It’s best to use a springform pan, if you have one!

Total Time: 1.5 hours

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain, whole Greek yogurt
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Whisk together your yogurt, eggs, olive oil, vanilla, almond extract and sugar until the mixture is smooth
  3. Combine your heavy cream and saffron in a small bowl. Microwave the bowl until the cream is hot—should take about 20 seconds
  4. Whisk the cream, and let it sit for 2 minutes. That gives the saffron time to steep into the cream
  5. Pour the cream into your bowl of batter, and mix it together
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk your flour, baking powder and salt
  7. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until it’s just combined
  8. Grease a 9 inch springform pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper
  9. Pour your batter into the prepared cake pan
  10. Arrange strawberry slices and chocolate chips all over the top of your cake
  11. Bake the cake 40-45 minutes, until it’s golden on top and on the sides. A tester in the middle should come out clean and free of liquidy batter!
  12. Let the pan cool for fifteen minutes. Then, remove the sides of the springform and transfer the cake to a wire rack so it can cool completely

Note: I actually thought this cake tasted even better the day after I made it, so feel free to prep ahead!

 

M&M Blondies

Sometimes I do things like bake basil into cupcakes. Other times…I just want something simple.

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Such delightful color!

These bars are certainly simple, but they’re also incredibly good. Brown sugar makes for an excellent blondie base, and Mini M&Ms add a bit of chocolate to every bite. The M&Ms also add a nice burst of color—which is never a bad thing.

This is an easy recipe that comes together quickly, but you’ll want to allow for a couple of hours of chill time. That helps the bars firm up and locks in the flavor so you get the best blondie possible. I won’t tell anyone if you sneak some extra M&Ms while you wait for the bars to cool…

M&M Blondies

Original recipe: Inside BruCrew Life. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: 30 bars

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: 3 hours (includes a couple of hours for the bars to fully cool and firm up)

Cook Time: ~22 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Mini M&Ms

Instructions 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Beat the butter and brown sugar together until they’re creamy
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla, then beat the mixture again
  4. Measure out a cup of the M&Ms, and mix them into the batter by hand
  5. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray
  6. Pour your batter into the dish
  7. Sprinkle your remaining M&Ms over the top of the batter
  8. Bake 22-24 minutes. They’ll look a little under-done when you pull them out, but will firm up as they cool
  9. Let the bars cool for a couple hours, then cut them into squares. Bars keep well in a covered container.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip S’Mores Bars

As I assembled this six-layer dessert, I literally said “this is ridiculous” out loud.

And it’s true—these bars are utterly ridiculous. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip S’Mores Bars are a fun, indulgent riff on s’mores. Think chocolate chip cookie bars, but with layers of goodness inside. You’ve got peanut butter,  chocolate, graham cracker and marshmallow fluff in there. That all adds up to six insanely delicious layers.

IMG_4709I found this recipe during one of my s’mores-inspired recipe hunts. I’m a little obsessed with s’moresinspired treats, and constantly add more recipes to my collection.

The original recipe calls for store-bought dough, and you could certainly do that—there’s so much happening in these bars, you probably wouldn’t even notice the difference between store-bought and homemade dough. Still, I decided to make mine from scratch, and used the dough from my Gooey Chocolate Chip Fudge Bars. It worked out great: the dough was sturdy enough to keep the bars together, and the original recipe’s yield scaled perfectly to what the s’more bar recipe required. Whether you buy dough or make it, pay attention to measurements: you’ll need two 9×9 layers of dough to make this recipe work!

I was so excited to try these, and anxiously waited for the bars to cool so I could cut them up. My patience was definitely rewarded. Every bite of these bars is a trip down Delicious Lane. You get a bite of cookie, then a nice hit of chocolate, a spot of peanut butter, a spot of fluff…and more cookie. The graham cracker crumbs add a bit of texture, and help break up the fluff a bit.

My coworkers agreed that these bars were ridiculous, but in a totally amazing, have-to-eat-more way. We kept sneaking more bars from the kitchen all afternoon!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip S’Mores Bars

Original recipe: Cookie dough comes from Back from Seconds; Six Layer S’Mores recipe from Cookies and Cups. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: 25 bars

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~3 hours, including chill time

Cook Time: ~25 minutes

Ingredients

For the cookie dough

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

For assembly  

  • 4 standard Hershey chocolate bars (I used dark chocolate)
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 5 graham crackers, crushed into crumbs
  • 7 oz of marshmallow fluff (about 1 1/2 cups)

Directions

Make your dough

  1. Use your mixer to cream together the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until it’s light and creamy
  2. Add eggs, vanilla and salt, then mix well
  3. Add baking soda and flour. Mix until combined
  4. Stir in your chocolate chips

Assemble and bake

  1. Line and spray a 9×9 pan
  2. Take 1 1/4 of your cookie dough, and press it into the bottom of the prepared pan. Try to make the layer as smooth as you can
  3. Top your cookie dough with a single layer of chocolate bars
  4. Spread peanut butter on top of the chocolate. This might get tough: I ended up “finger-painting” with the peanut butter to make it work!
  5. Sprinkle your graham cracker crumbs on top of the chocolate
  6. Use a spoon to put dollops of fluff all over the graham crackers, then use an offset spatula to smooth it into a single layer
  7. Use your remaining cookie dough for the final layer. It’s easiest to just put bits of dough on the top, and then smooth them out with your fingers so it’s a single layer
  8. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until the top is golden. Mine took 24 minutes. It’s a little hard to tell if they’re done since there are so many layers…make sure to use a toothpick to test if the insides are baked through
  9. Allow the pan to cool for 2 hours on a wire rack. Then, transfer them to the fridge to cool completely.
  10. A little before you want to cut the bars, take them back out of the fridge. Use a shape knife to slice them up!

Note that these are a little tough to cut: it’s too hard when the bars are gooey, but also too hard to cut if they’re super chilled. So I suggest chilling them to let the bars set, but taking them out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to cut and serve.

These bars last nicely in an airtight container, and are best within 3 days of baking.

 

 

And a handy Pin for the Pinners out there:

The world's mostbike-friendly cities

Bittersweet Brownies with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting

One of my dearest friends visited San Francisco last week. Hila was one of my first SF pals, and one of my best friends in town until work moved her to LA. She frequently benefitted from my baking experiments when she lived nearby, but now she’s usually relegated to reading about my baking rather than tasting it. So when she booked her flight to visit over the 4th, I promised I’d bake something delicious to celebrate her arrival. A few days before she got here, I asked her favorite flavors so I could bring a treat to brunch. Her list back? “Dark chocolate, peanut butter and almonds.”

And so I started digging through my Pinterest boards and recipe lists. I sent Hila and our other friend Netta an email with some options to choose from. Hila picked these delectable Bittersweet Brownies with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting, Netta confirmed it sounded like a good plan – and off I went to find bittersweet chocolate!

IMG_0276These brownies are truly decadent. The combo of bittersweet chocolate, baking cocoa and espresso powder makes the base super chocolatey, with a bigger punch than many other brownie recipes. Espresso adds intensity to chocolate recipes, so it’s a good add when you want to dial up your chocolate flavor. Browning your butter is also always a good choice, and adds a little nuttiness to this brownie’s base.

Once you’ve made your brownies, you whip up a rather simple peanut butter frosting. The “salted” part is actually from a salt sprinkle, and not salt in the frosting itself. Adding salt on top of these brownies results in the ultimate salty-sweet treat. I didn’t have time to let my brownies cool before frosting them, which made the frosting melt a little and thin out. My fine sea salt sprinkle sort of melted into the frosting, too. The result tasted great, but if you want thicker frosting and chunks of salt, you should wait for the brownies to cool entirely before icing them. This also makes it easier to cut the brownies, since warm brownies fall apart if you try to move or cut them. (see photos below for evidence!)

IMG_0282Hila and Netta loved these brownies, and I’m sure you will too! We started eating them while in line for brunch… and then again right after we left brunch. This picture to the right is what it looks like when you pull containers of brownies out of your bag and hand them over to friends while walking around town. Nothing like strolling around San Francisco, catching up with good friends – and enjoying brownies while you’re at it!

Bittersweet Brownies with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting

Original recipe: The KitchnI’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: 16 brownies

Suggested equipment: Mixer makes the frosting easier 

Total Time: ~ 1 hour 45 minutes, including time for the brownies to cool 

Cook Time: 30-35 minutes depending on your oven

Ingredients

Brownies: 

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 oz bittersweet chocolate (You can use chopped chocolate or chocolate chips as long as you add it up to 3 oz)
  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (You can omit this if you don’t have it, but it does add a lot of chocolatey depth!)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Frosting: 

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (You want to buy something like Jif Regular PB. PB with separated oil just don’t work as well for frosting!)
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon flake or fine sea salt (The original recipe suggested flake but I only had fine and it was just fine! Heh.)

Step by Step Directions

Brown your butter

  1. Preheat your oven to 325F.
  2. Grease an 8×8 square metal pan, and line it with parchment paper that hangs a couple inches over the edge. Once it’s lined, lightly grease the parchment, too. I use Pam spray for this but you could use butter instead.
  3. Put your butter in a medium saucepan and melt it over medium-high heat. Keep a really close eye on the butter as it cooks – butter can go from nicely browned to sadly charred quite quickly. You want to see the solids bubble up, then settle into the and turn a caramel brown. You’ll know it’s done when the solids are golden and the butter gives off a nutty aroma. It usually takes about 3-5 minutes to brown butter like this.

Make your brownies

  1. Pour the browned butter into a medium bowl, and add your 3 oz of chocolate.Make sure to do this when the butter is still warm – these next few steps depend on warm butter! (Unlike many recipes where you let the butter cool before using it)
  2. Let it stand for 1 minute so the chocolate begins to melt into the butter.
  3. Then, whisk the chocolate mixture until it is blended together.
  4. Add in your sugar and vanilla, and whisk it all together until it’s smooth.
  5. Stir in your eggs, salt and espresso powder. Mix it with a wooden spoon until the entire mixture is well-blended.
  6. Add in your cocoa powder and flour. Use a spatula or spoon to fold the ingredients together until they’re just combined. You shouldn’t see any specks of dry ingredients but also want to be careful that you don’t overmix – overmixing leads to tough brownies!
  7. Pour the batter into your pan and bake until a toothpick in the middle comes out clean. Start checking around 25 minutes to see how your brownies look. Mine took 35 minutes to fully bake, but my oven was acting up a bit.
  8. Let the brownies cool all the way before you start frosting and slicing.

Frost your brownies

  1. Once the brownies are cool, get to work on the frosting!
  2. Use your mixer to combine the butter, peanut butter and powdered sugar. You’ll know you’re done when the frosting is a light brown color, and the ingredients are fully smoothed together.
  3. Frost your cooled brownies with an offset spatula to get a smooth and even frosting.
  4. Once you’ve finished frosting, sprinkle sea salt on the top of your brownies.

Additional tips: 

  • The original recipe notes that you can make the frosting up to 1 week in advance, and the brownies up to 3 days in advance.
  • If your brownies are too dense to cut right away, you can refrigerate them for 30 minutes and then try again.
  • Like I mentioned above: if you want thicker frosting, don’t start frosting the brownies until they are 100% cooled. Otherwise your frosting will melt a bit and thin out, and the salt will melt into the frosting too. It’s totally awesome either way, so it’s just up to your textural preferences!

 

Web-Hopping vol. 22

Today is National Chocolate Chip Day. Is that a real holiday, you ask? Probably not… but I am more than happy to justify eating a lot of chocolate chips today. And I’m guessing you’re cool with the excuse, too. So, today’s round-up is full of chocolate chips! Here are some of the most drool-worthy chocolate chip links I’ve added to my “baking list” this week. I also plan to bake up some chocolate chip goodness later today… but haven’t actually decided what to make just yet! We have a bake-off at work tomorrow and I keep oscillating between trying to pick something I think will be a “crowd pleaser” vs. making something a little riskier. Stay tuned for how that one nets out…

In the meantime, here are some deliciously chocolate chip-y links for your Sunday drools.

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From Hugs and Cookies Xoxo

Cheesecake Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies: I’m not a huge cheesecake eater, but I do like cheesecake as a topping, filling, etc. I think these bars have just the right dose of cheesecake, stuffed into cookie bars.

S’mores Bars: I’m pretty obsessed with s’mores and have a really long list of bookmarked recipes that incorporate some combo of marshmallows/graham crackers/chocolate. I’m determined to make a ton of them this year.

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From Two Peas and their Pod

Mango Dark Chocolate Chunk Scones: Can’t wait to try these soon – I love fruit and chocolate together!

Orange Chocolate Chip Shortbread: Orange chocolate is one of my favorite fruit-chocolate combos, and this looks super easy. One of these days I just need to buy tons of oranges and knock off lots of the orange recipes on my list.

Peanut Butter Chip Shortbread: Yup, a second shortbread! I forget about shortbread and I should stop that – it’s so easy and satisfying.

Web-Hopping Vol. 21

Since I was on the road this week, I didn’t get to bake anything. But, I did take advantage of being in NYC this weekend to snag a few local treats. Thursday brought Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Cake and Peppermint Patty ice cream from Brooklyn favorite Ample Hills. On Friday, I finally tried the famous brownie from Baked in NYC’s Tribeca neighborhood and raved over its intense chocolatey flavor. I’ve made copycat versions at home before, and was excited to try the real deal. And then on Saturday, my boyfriend and I grabbed gelato at Grom in the West Village. Saturday was the perfect day for exploration, so we took our gelato in hand and spent a couple hours wandering Manhattan. Grom’s apricot chocolate chip gelato was the perfect accompaniment to wandering the sunny city!

Even though I probably won’t bake anew until this weekend, I do have a recipe to share later this week. In fact, I’m having a bit of a recipe backlog- so you can expect lots of new recipes soon! In the meantime, please devour these links from around the tasty webs.

Milky Way Blondies: These are just oozing goodness, right off my screen. These bars include chocolate chips, caramel bits AND Milky Way bars as inclusions.

Rosemary Snickerdoodles: As regular readers know, I’m obsessed with putting herbs in baked goods- so these have to happen soon!

Roasted Garlic Rosemary Pumpkin Hummus: After making the snickerdoodles above, I will throw the leftover rosemary into this lipsmack-inducing hummus. Yum.

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Raspberry Lemonade Bars via The Improv Kitchen

Raspberry Lemonade Bars: Aren’t these beautiful? I love this twist on lemon bars- they look perfect for a summer BBQ!

Carrot Cake Cheesecake Bars: I love the texture and taste of cheesecake but usually find a full slice of it overwhelming. So I love this combo, pairing cheesecake with a carrot cake layer and topping.

Orange Buttermilk Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting: I am super intrigued by this. I love buttermilk in cakes, I love the idea of orange cream cheese frosting. I’ll definitely need to try this one out.