Red Velvet Brownies


I have seen this recipe floating around several blogs for some time now. I have been delaying making these since they didn’t say “Summer” to me. Now that the air is cooler, I thought it would be great to give these a try. I printed this recipe off so long ago, I am unsure where I originally found it. Google “Red Velvet Brownies” and you can take your pick at who should get credit for these.

Typically in our household chocolate, peanut butter or lemon has dominated our top favorites. These little brownies however took our hearts. They are dense with a slight chocolate undertone. My Taste Tester described them as “tasty”.

I typically do not care for cream cheese frosting but I loved it on these. I made my own frosting recipe up combining butter, cream cheese, vanilla, milk and powdered sugar until I achieved the flavor I liked. It was light, creamy with a slight cream cheese flavor. Overall it was great.

I would make these again, they would be great for a potluck or school function. I think these would please chocolate lovers and non-chocolate lovers (those people exist?) alike. You can double the recipe easily to make a larger pan for large groups if needed. For the 2 of us the smaller size was perfect.

I rate these a 8

Red Velvet Brownies

3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz red food coloring (this is one small bottle or a scant 2 tbsp)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick)  butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8″x8″ baking pan.

In a small bowl, slowly stir together the cocoa powder, food coloring, and 1 tsp vanilla into a thick paste until no lumps of cocoa remain. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then stir in the remaining 1 tsp of vanilla.  With the mixer off, add in the cocoa mixture, then turn the mixer to medium and beat the two mixtures together until they are one uniform color.  Slowly add in the flour and salt and mix on medium-low speed, just until combined.  Do not overmix.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir up the batter with a rubber spatula once or twice just to ensure all of the flour has incorporated from the sides of the bowl and there isn’t anything stuck on the bottom of the bowl.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the brownies.

Allow brownies to completely cool in the pan on a baking rack, about 45-60 minutes.  Frost with favorite frosting

Peanut Butter Cookies

Today I share with you the very first recipe my Taste Tester ever made for me. We had only been dating about a month and he surprised me with these when I stopped by to visit one rainy afternoon. After the first bite of these warm and gooey cookies, I knew, he was a keeper.

I ate far too many of these that afternoon. This recipe produces big, soft chewy cookies with a nice peanut butter flavor. He found the recipe in some old church cookbook his mom (now my mother in-law) had purchased for him. Little did she know it would help him snag a wife :)

Whenever I have a bad day, or if he just wants to cheer me up, these are cookies he makes for me and they always bring a smile to my face. If you are looking for a great basic peanut butter cookie recipe, here is one to try!

I rate this recipe a 9

Peanut Butter Cookies
no author

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup butter flavor Crisco (or butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth)
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Reese’s Pieces (as many as you want)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly spray mini muffin pan with cookie spray

In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla. Continue mixing until incorporated. Slowly add the flour, salt and baking soda. Mix until combined. Stir in Reese’s Pieces.

Using a cookie scoop, scoop out about 2 TBS of dough, shape into a ball. Slightly press down on baking sheet.

Bake for about 8-12 minutes or until golden. Do not overbake.

.Remove from oven to cool.

Crepes

Please Please do NOT judge this recipe by the photos. I think we can all appreciate that light yellow/tan foods do not photograph well unless you play around with retouching the picture. Let’s face it, I have better things to do than retouch my pictures. Like baking. And eating.

On to the recipe. My Taste Tester and I recently went to Europe and fell in love with the Crepes in France. I had been terrified of making them for years but decided after much begging and pleading on the part of my Taste Tester I would give them a go (though I gave no promises as to the end result. I mean I was competing with Paris!). Let’s just say that I had nothing to fear! These were so super simple and a breeze to whip up, no special Crepe pan needed!

A Crepe is basically a very very thin pancake (at least as I see them). They have a mild taste and are not sweet at all on their own. They are really best for filling with a variety of goodies like fresh fruit, peanut butter, etc. Think of them like a tortilla, except not.

Now, I will admit, that I did not follow the directions for making the crepes exactly. I prefer my crepes with a bit of a crispness (not much, but a bit) to the outside so I cooked mine a bit longer than stated. Also, this made them so easy to flip (I used my fingers and it worked perfectly. If you are sensitive to heat you may want to use tongs). We also played around with filling them with a variety of goodies but Nutella was our favorite followed closely by ham and cheese.

We have even had these for dinner some nights, ham and cheese for the meal and Nutella for dessert! YUM. The only downside is that you can really only make 1 at a time so be prepared to keep them in a low heated oven until all are made. Or you will be eating alone :(  These remind us so much of wandering the streets of Paris and are much cheaper than hoping on a plane!

I rate this recipe a 9

Crepes
adapted from America’s Test Kitchen cookbook

1 cup flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Sift flour and powdered sugar into a mixing bowl.  Add eggs, milk, butter, vanilla, and salt; beat until smooth.  (can chill covered for up to 1 hour at this point)

Heat a lightly greased 6-inch skillet. 

Add about 3 tablespoons batter and tilt skillet so that batter spreads to almost cover the bottom of skillet.  (I did not do this as I used a NON-stick pan, SO easy, and saves calories)

Cook until lightly browned; turn and brown the other side. (after I flip it I then add the fillings like Nutella etc.Then I fold it over in half and let it get nice and melted. I fold one more time, so it is now if fourths before serving. I like to sprinkle the sweet versions with powdered sugar)

Repeat process with remaining batter, grease skillet as needed.


 

Serendipity Deluxe Bars

Do you ever see a recipe and just know that you need to make it ASAP? That is what happened when I saw these over at A Southern Grace. My oh my. These bars are great!

They came together in no time and though there are a few components to the recipe (a pattern with recipes I have been making lately) overall they are a cinch to make.

You start with a shortbread type crust that is then topped by what I can only describe as a fudgey-gooey chocolate layer and lastly topped off with an oatmeal/brown sugar/nut mixture that turns into a caramel like top layer after baking. Each layer of these bars tastes great but together they create a dessert that you will find yourself craving until the pan is gone (which around here was about 2 days).

My Taste Tester loved these bars and could not get enough. He enjoyed them warm, room temperature, with ice cream, plan, with hot fudge, I can’t even name how many times I came into the room to see him eating another bar. That is when you know they are good. 

Next time I may add some walnuts as well, as I actually prefer those to pecans.

Take some time this weekend and make these to enjoy with friends and family. They will thank you.

I rate this recipe a 9

Serendipity Deluxe Bars
as seen here
Crust:
1 cup butter, cold and diced
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Truffle Filling:
1 cup corn syrup
1 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Caramel:
1/4 cup corn syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1 cup oats
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely ground
3/4 cup (6 oz) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 13×9-inch pan.
To prepare the crust, combine all four ingredients in a food processor and pulse until coarse crumbs are created. Press into the prepared pan and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling by microwaving together the corn syrup and chocolate chips, stopping to stir occasionally until the chips have melted. Let cool, then add the remaining filling ingredients and beat to combine. Pour over the hot crust and bake for 27 minutes, or until the outer edges are firm and the center is only slightly jiggly.
While the filling bakes, prepare the caramel layer by stirring together all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. When the pan is deemed ready to remove from the oven, let it sit for 10 minutes before dolloping on the caramel layer and spreading it evenly over the chocolate layer. Then return the pan to the oven for another 25-35 minutes, or until the bars are just set. Let cool completely before cutting. 

Taste Tested Lemon Bars

As you know, my Taste Tester loves a good lemon dessert. Instead of whipping up my tried and true cheesecake, I decided to use another blogger’s detailed taste-tested research and recipe reviews to whip up a great pan of lemon bars.

As Bridget suggested I used the crust recipe from Tartine and the filling recipe from Cooks Illustrated. The end results were great.

We do prefer the lemon cheesecake over these bars, but they were great none-the-less. The crust was slightly sweet, a bit crumbly and a tad buttery (just the way I like it). The filling was tart with a lovely lemon flavor. It was a bit overpowering with tartness at first but with a bit of powdered sugar sprinkled on top the flavor mellowed out a bit. Overall these are a great desert to take to a summer picnic or potluck. They were easy to make and scream ‘summer’.

I would recommend keeping them chilled and would advise not layering them as they will stick together and the crust will become a bit soft. They will still be good but just not ‘as good’ ya know?

I rate these an 8

Taste Tested Lemon Bars
as seen here

Crust (from Tartine)
½ cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1½ cups (7.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (2 ounces) pine nuts (optional) (I USED ALMONDS)

Lemon filling (from Cooks Illustrated)
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1⅓ cups (9.33 ounces) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest from 2 large lemons
⅔ cup lemon juice from 3 to 4 large lemons, strained
⅓ cup whole milk
⅛ teaspoon table salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

To make the crust: Sift the confectioners’ sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir in the flour. Add the butter and pine nuts (if using) and beat on low speed just until a smooth dough forms.

Press the dough evenly into the pan and allow it to come up about a ½ inch up the sides of the pan. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. (I chilled mine in the freezer for 10 minutes) Bake the crust until it is a deep golden brown, about 25-35 minutes. (I baked mine for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned)

For the filling: Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, sugar, and flour in a medium bowl, then stir in the lemon zest, juice, milk, and salt to blend well.

To finish the bars: Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Stir the filling mixture to reblend; pour into the warm crust. Bake until the filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack; cool to near room temperature, at least 30 minutes.

Transfer to a cutting board, fold the paper down, and cut into serving-size bars, wiping knife or pizza cutter clean between cuts, as necessary.

Sieve confectioners’ sugar over bars, if desired.

Peanut Butter Torte

Once again, I turned to Dorie’s book for a no-bake sweet to satisfy my summer dessert cravings. I just hate using the oven and heating up the house when it is over 90 degrees outside! After paging through, I knew I had found gold when I read the words “Peanut Butter’. Yes please!

If you love peanut butter and want a rich, creamy dessert but either don’t want to bake a cheesecake or are scared to try. You must make this recipe!

Don’t be scared by the (once again) LONG recipe. This dessert has a few steps but none are difficult at all! I will warn you though, the torte is best after chilling for a few hours so plan ahead.

I adapted the recipe slightly as typed below to suit our personal tastes. Instead of an Oreo crust I used Nutter Butters (as you know my Taste Tester does NOT like Oreos). I also omitted the peanuts in the filling as I don’t like chunks in what I feel should be smooth and creamy desserts. Since I am not a fan of cinnamon with peanut butter, I left that out as well. For the topping I tossed some peanuts in melted butter and then in brown sugar. I baked unitl they were golden and allowed them to cool before garnishing the top with the ganache and nuts.

With my modifications I must say that this was a hit! It was perfectly smooth and creamy, much like a cheesecake but a bit lighter and not so dense. The crust paired perfectly with the filling and the candied nuts really rounded out this recipe.

I love taking a great recipe and with a few tweaks making it suit our preferences. Feel free to play around with the recipe and make it your own. I bet Reese’s Peanut Butter cups chopped up would be perfect on top of this great treat!

I rate this recipe a 9

Peanut Butter Torte
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1-1/4 c finely chopped salted peanuts (for the filling, crunch and topping)
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder (or finely ground instant coffee)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (I DID NOT USE)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (I DID NOT USE
1/2 cups mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped semisweet chocolate)
24 Oreo cookies, finely crumbed or ground in a food processor or blender (I USED NUTTER BUTTERS)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt
2-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature (I USED 1/3 LESS FAT)
1-1/2 cup salted peanut butter – crunchy or smooth (not natural)
2 tbsp whole milk
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I USED SEMI-SWEET)

Getting ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9″ Springform pan and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Toss 1/2 cup of the chopped peanuts, the sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate chops together in a small bowl. Set aside. (I USED SOME CANDIED PEANUTS I MADE AS MENTIONED ABOVE)

Put the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in another small bowl and stir with a fork just until crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the Springform pan (they should go up about 2″ on the sides). Freeze the crust for 10 minutes.
Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a rack and let it cool completely before filling.

Working with a stand mixer (fitted with the whisk attachment) or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, whip 2 cups of the cream until it holds medium peaks. Beat in 1/4 cup of the confectioners’ sugar and whip until the cream holds medium-firm peaks. Scrape the cream into a bowl and refrigerate until needed.
Wipe out (do not wash) the bowl, fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment (if you have one), or continue with the hand mixer, and beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until the cream cheese is satiny smooth. Beat in the peanut butter, 1/4 cup of the chopped peanuts and the milk.
Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in about one quarter of the whipped cream, just to lighten the mousse. Still working with the spatula, stir in the crunchy peanut mixture, then gingerly fold in the remaining whipped cream.
Scrape the mousse into the crust, mounding and smoothing the top.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight; cover with plastic wrap as soon as the mousse firms

To Finish The Torte:
Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Leave the bowl over the water just until the chocolate softens and starts to melt, about 3 minutes; remove the bowl from the saucepan (I heated my chocolate in the microwave in 30 sec. intervals).

Bring the remaining 1/2 cup of cream to a full boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and, working with a a rubber spatula, very gently stir together until the ganache is completely blended and glossy.

Pour the ganache over the torte, smoothing it with a metal icing spatula. Scatter the remaining 1/2 cup of peanuts over the top and chill to set the topping, about 20 minutes.

When the ganache is firm, remove the sides of the Springform pan. It’s easiest to warm the pan with a hairdryer, and then remove the sides, but you can also wrap a kitchen towel dampened with hot water around the pan and leave it there for 10 seconds.

Refrigerate until ready to serve

Quick Berry Tart

A quick post today as we are going to enjoy the warm, rain-free day!

This recipe has been featured on many many blogs and is originally from Dorie Greenspan. Please do not see the LONG recipe below and be scared. This is one easy dessert to make with very common ingredients you probably already have. This is not actually that ‘quick’ of a recipe unless you have the components ready to assemble so plan ahead by a day if you want to serve this. This dessert has been our ‘go to’ dessert for entertaining this summer. We can’t get enough.

The great thing about this recipe is that there only 3 components: the tart shell, the pastry cream and the berries. You can easily make the first two components a day or so in advance and then assemble when you are ready to serve. Like I said, that is where the “quick” comes in. Assemble and serve!

The Taste Tester is in love with this recipe. Quite literally, he has begged and pleaded for me to make this again, even though we just had this last week. He at the entire tart (well, all except for 1 piece  that I ate) in one day. I prefer if it is assembled about 3-5 hours before serving as the pastry cream softens the crust ever so much and makes it easier to eat with a fork.

I would not change a thing about this tart, it is easy to make, easy to assemble and such a great way to highlight fresh berries. Each component really does compliment the others and comes together to make this amazing dessert that is sure to impress your family and friends. The crust is light in texture with a slightly sweet flavor. The cream is rich and smooth with a slight vanilla flavor. The berries hold their own and make you thankful for summer.

I rate this recipe a 10

Summer Berry Tart
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan 

About 1 1/2 cups Pastry Cream, cooled or chilled (Recipe Below) (I used the entire recipe of pastry cream)
1 9″ tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough or Sweet Tart Dough with Nuts (Recipes Below)
2 pints fresh berries (for example: raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, or strawberries)
1/3 cup red currant jelly mixed with 1 tsp of water, for glazing (I did NOT use)

Smooth the pastry cream by giving it a couple of strong turns with a whisk. Spoon enough pastry cream into the tart crust to come almost to the rim, then even the surfact with a rubber spatula. Carefully lay the berries on the cream, arranging them in any pattern that pleases you. If you are using strawberries, either halve them from top to bottom or slice them, depending on the size of the berries and your whim.

*I did NOT do the step below
Bring the jelly and the water to a boil in a microwave oven or on the stovetop. Working with a pastry brush or a pastry feather, dab each berry with a spot of jelly. Or, if you like, you can glaze the entire surface of the tart, including the bit of pastry cream that peeks through the berries.

Pastry Cream
Makes about 2 cups
Storing: The pastry cream can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get into the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold, or, if you want to cool it quickly – as I always do- put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

Sweet Tart Dough
Makes 1 9″ Crust

Storing: Well wrapped, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, I prefer to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan and bake it directly from the freezer – it has a fresher flavor. Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 TBSP (9 TBSP) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in – you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses – about 10 seconds each- until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change- heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

Butter a 9″ fluted tart pan with a removeable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy-handed – press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

Preheat the oven to 375. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon.

Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (I dislike lightly baked crusts, so I often keep the crust in the oven just a little longer. If you do that, just make sure to keep a close eye on the crust’s progress- it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash.) Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.