Mascarpone Brownies

I should've known from the very start. The desire to sit down with a spoon and just eat the batter was a hard one to beat. That should come to no surprise, though, since every single thing that I've made that uses mascarpone cheese has had that same affect on me.

Without a doubt, these are the best brownies I've ever had. Ever. There was swooning involved in that first bite. Heaven in my mouth. The sun shone just a little bit brighter, a little bit warmer, within that first mouthgasmic bite. Prone to dramatics? Not I! ;)

This has been on my "to make" list for far longer than I'd like to admit. I don't know what caused me to overlook it, but obviously the baking gods had to make sure I was fully ready for such deliciousness. LOL Originally found on Recipe Zaar and adapted from a Food Network Canada recipe, I altered it just a little bit, mostly due to laziness. (At least I'm honest, right?) It worked out well, and that remaining 4 ounces of mascarpone sitting in the fridge now knows its fate. The brownies are light, yet fudgy; their dream-like quality even extends into the cutting: the knife went through there was if it was melted butter.

Wow. :)

1 cup butter, melted
3 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
½ cup cocoa
½ cup mascarpone
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
½ cup flour
¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease an 8-inch baking dish.

Pour melted butter over chocolate; let side for 30 seconds before stirring until the chocolate is fully melted.

Sift together sugar and cocoa in mixing bowl, then pour chocolate mixture into it, beating until combined. Add mascarpone, eggs, and vanilla, beating until smooth. Gradually add flour and salt. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake at 325F for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting into bars.


Marshmallow Brownie Cups

Starting out maybe three years ago, I decided that my birthday should be celebrated for more than just one day. Not necessarily in a party/drinking sort of way, but an adventure and experience kind of way. Last year, we went to Disneyland. This year, since funds were tight, we went out for Mexican food on the 22nd itself, then I gave myself a present by taking Friday off. Yesterday, Dave took me up to the Museum of Science in Boston, then out to Cheesecake Factory, which has been a celebratory restaurant of choice for, well, a few years now, between birthdays and anniversaries and what not. (It was also our first official date, too. Awww lol) It was a lot of fun.

Also on the 22nd, we got some fabulous news: Dave's dad is taking a good portion of the family (minus two sisters that are in school) on an ALASKAN CRUISE in honor of Dave's mom's 60th birthday in May! *chairdance* I am superduper excited, as I've never been on a cruise or gone to Vancouver or Alaska. Yay for new places to eat! And magnets. :)

All birthdays aside, I really wanted to make something with marshmallows this weekend. It just sounded like a good idea. After some time searching, I found a new (to me) blog, Talida Bakes, and the recipe, adapted from Cooks' Illustrated, fit perfectly. Personally, I could have just sat there dipping marshmallows into the brownie batter for quite some time, but even baked, they do taste yummy. One word of caution: don't fill the cups too full, as the marshmallow will 'drip' and become thin and candy-like. They taste good, very brownie-esque. I do so like brownies masquerading in cupcake liners. :)

7 oz. dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa), chopped
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into quarters
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. salt
1 cup flour
1 cup mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray mini-muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with paper liners.

Melt chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until mixture is smooth. Whisk in cocoa until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Beat together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in medium bowl until combined. Beat in warm chocolate mixture. Gradually add flour, beating until fully incorporated. Stir in mini marshmallows. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, about half-full.

Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes, or until slightly puffed, and a toothpick inserted near center comes out with just a small amount of crumbs attached. Cool completely on wire rack.


Butterfinger Blondies

I did a Very Nice Thing today. Yep. Early in the morning, too. Less than half an hour after waking up.

I let Dave choose what I was making today. :)

I showed him some of my options and he wasn't thrilled by any of them. And then he held up the bag of Butterfinger Jingles and said, "Do something with these!" A bit more discussion - no peanut butter this time, no extra chocolate - and here we are.

He was even nice enough to chop up the Butterfingers, too. (I told him I'd post that, too LOL)

This is my go-to recipe for blondies, because it's super easy and involves little clean up. There's a nice brown sugary taste to them that goes well with the Butterfinger flavor. I used about half a cup of them, but you could do more or less, depending on how much you like the stuff. :)

1 cup flour
½ tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
½ to 3/4 cup Butterfingers, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch baking pan.

Sift together flour and baking powder; set aside.

Cream butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla until well combined. Gradually add flour mixture. Stir in Butterfinger pieces. Spread in prepared pan.

Bake at 350F for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting into bars. Makes 16.


Peanut Butter Munchies

For all the warnings of the big, bad Internet, I think I've been really lucky. Over the past... 16 years (holy moly!), I've made some really great friends. Friends that I know will be around my entire life. Two, in fact, have been around for more than half my life already.

Ivy (originally from CA) and Sandy (from IL), these girls have been my best friends since were 11 and 12 years old. It started out as a mutual love of Mickey Mouse Club, which then progressed into being penpals, and then back to the Internet again. We don't talk all the time, but I know that no matter where I am in life, they can always be considered a friend. I finally got to meet Ivy this past summer, when Dave and I drove through Phoenix. No awkwardness or anything. In fact, I think Dave might have felt a bit left out, what with all the inside jokes and memories that were shared. Oops. Sorry, honey. :)

My other lifetime friend is Courtney, also in IL. By best reckoning, it's been about ten years now. I was doing fundraising for RAINN and what began as her ordering some tshirts (was that it?), lead to emails and eventually "conversations" over the computer. Anyone remember v-stream, where you could call up an 800 number, say whatever you wanted, then email the confirmation number to the intended? Yeah, we did that for a while. We've been through a lot in life, and I've never, ever felt that she didn't support my choices 100%, and vice versa. :) She was the one who passed on this recipe, originally from Midwest Living, describing them as a "mouthgasm". The girl does not lie, let me tell you. These are fan-freakin'-tabulous.

They're very reminiscent of a Girl Scout cookie, the tagalongs, I believe? The ones with the peanut butter inside the chocolate dough. Just minus the chocolate coating on the outside. They're definitely worth the work. And they're the first cookie that I've made in nearly a year. At least it was something worthy. ;)

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
½ cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Stir together flour, cocoa powder and baking soda. Set flour mixture aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, sugar, brown sugar, and the ¼ cup peanut butter with an electric mixer until combined. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Form chocolate dough into 32 balls about 1¼ inches in diameter. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine powdered sugar and remaining ½ cup peanut butter till smooth. Shape into 32 (3/4-inch) balls.

Slightly flatten a chocolate dough ball and top with a peanut butter ball. Shape the chocolate dough over the peanut butter filling, completely covering the filling. Roll dough into a ball. Repeat with the remaining chocolate dough and peanut butter filling.

Place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Lightly flatten with bottom of glass dipped in remaining sugar.

Bake at 350F for 8 minutes, or until just set and surface is slightly cracked. Let cookies stand for 1 minute. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Makes 32 cookies.


Nutella Cupcakes

Admittedly, I'm generally behind on most things. Except for time. I'm very good at being on time. But movies, sometimes books, current trends? Yeah, forget it. Most movies that everyone and their mother have seen (with the exception of LOTR and all the Harry Potter movies), I probably haven't seen yet. Forest Gump? Saw it for the first time maybe four years ago? Star Wars? Bits and pieces, but have never seen one in its entirety. (Please don't throw anything at me) ;)

This recipe, originally created by Donna Hay, seems to be very popular. Although most posts that I found about it were from four years ago. Again, behind. But it's okay; they were worth the wait. And, in my defense, I didn't read food blogs four years ago.

Since the introduction of Nutella to this household, my parents have become addicted. I'm worried that I might need a 12-step program for them or something. Seriously. Since I'm not usually off of work today, I thought I'd surprise them with these. Dave gets his peanut butter baked goods tomorrow, if all goes as mentally planned.

My only complaint about these was the swirling in of the nutella. That could be due to the fact that I was using a cake tester since there are no toothpicks in this house. But other than that, I'm pleased. Really easy to make, not much to clean up - good deal. :)

10 Tbsp. butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
½ tsp. vanilla
1-3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
Nutella (about 1/3 cup)

Preheat oven to 325F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Beat butter and sugar until light, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated, then add vanilla. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; add gradually to the butter mixture.

Fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full, then top with about 1½ tsp. of Nutella. Using a toothpick, swirl the Nutella with the batter, creating a marble-y, swirly pattern.

Bake at 325F for 20 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.


Happy New Year!

I hope everone had a fun, safe evening on NYE. We tried valiantly to stay up, but alas... early morning work schedules were what defeated us. Next year, Dick Clark. Next year. ;)

So my first baked good of 2009 proved to be a bit of challenge. Mainly because of one thing: Dave and my mom used up the last of the brown sugar. Do you know how many recipes call for brown sugar? Especially if you're feeling like something with peanut butter? HMPH!

After a lot of searching, I found these over on AllRecipes... Czechoslovakian Cookies. Which led me to the following thoughts:

-I was the only kid in my 3rd and 4th grade classes that not only knew that Czechoslovakia existed and where it was, but I was also the only one that could spell it properly. :) (I really liked maps as a kid lol)

-Czechoslovakia no longer exists. As of some-year-I-can't-remember, it's now Czech Republic and Slovakia.

That out of the way, these bars. Cookies, if you will. Pretty darn easy to make, but not nearly enough jam. I didn't measure to begin with, just covered the dough, really, but it definitely could have used more. I found the use of cardamom in them to be interesting. Maybe it's just me, but cardamom, in what I've used it in, gives it a slight citrus-y flavor. Does anyone else ever get that? *shrug* It worked out well, though; I used seedless raspberry preserves and thought it went nicely together.

1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
¼ tsp. ground allspice
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
½ cup jam of choice

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease an 8-inch baking dish.

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, then vanilla. Whisk together flour, spices, and pecans (if using), then gradually add to the butter mixture.

Spread half of the dough onto the bottom of prepared pan. Carefully spread jam over the dough, then cover the jam with remaining dough.

Bake at 325F for 55-60 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool completely before cutting into bars.