a sweet deal

Guess what?

It’s pretty exciting!

I … bought … my VERY FIRST CAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously.  I’ve never owned a car before … I’ve always been happy to walk, ride my bike, take the bus, or the train… or a plane.  But I’ve never owned a car.  Not until Thursday that is.  Last Thursday was the day I took the leap – I went to a dealership and test drove a car … and then bought it (don’t worry … I did my research).

I pick it up on Monday.

A-MAZ-ING.

What does that have to do with baking you might ask?

Well … I decided to go to the dealership prepared … I brought along some brownies.  That’s right.  My car salesman was given a container full of brownies upon arrival.  :0)

I actually didn’t give him the brownies you’re about to see.  No – I twisted my own twisted brownies – but you’ll get the picture.  Both versions are good.  The brownies you’re about to see were a party treat (a birthday party treat).

I had actually blogged about this recipe two years ago (to the day): but that was when I wasn’t taking as many pictures – so I felt it was time for a recipe update.  You might want to check out the original post, plus another update (I make these brownies pretty regularly) – or stick to what you see here.

These brownies are gluten free.

Please continue reading.

These brownies are also AMAZING.  Seriously – anyone who tries one loves them.  They are moist in the centre but get a little hard on the sides ... oh so good.  For the purpose of this party I decided to divide the brownie batter in half – a layer on the bottom, then add a layer of peppermint patties, which were then covered by the second layer of chocolate brownie.

WOW.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of the peppermint patties kinda expand in the oven … it just adds to the cool effect of the brownies.

Peppermint isn’t your thing?  How about adding some Hershey’s kisses – caramel kisses to be precise.  Yeah … that’s what I brought along to the dealership.  Another success.  Unlike the super cool effect of the peppermint patties (just look at that white centre); the caramel kisses melt into the brownie batter, allowing the caramel taste to shine through (obviously, you could make homemade caramel and use that … your choice).

Two options – both extremely simple.  There is absolutely nothing difficult or complicated about these brownies.  Just make them in advance.  You need to allow the pan to sit in your freezer overnight.  I know … normally when you bake something you want to be able to cut right into it.  Not these.  I swear they get better the longer they sit in a very cold place.  Trust me.  Once you try these – - you’ll be willing to bake a night ahead… I promise.

peppermint patty gluten free brownies

1/2 c. salted butter, cut into cubes

6 oz. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 c. brown sugar

2 eggs
1 tsp. mint extract (vanilla if making the caramel version)

1/4 c. brown rice flour

1/4 c. tapioca flour

1 package peppermint patties (or many caramel Hershey’s kisses), unwrapped

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Line a square pan with foil – spray the foil with non-stick spray.  Set aside.

Melt the chocolate.  Do this using a double boiler – place a heat proof glass bowl over a pot of simmering water over medium-low heat (you don’t want the water to touch the bowl).  Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl and allow it to melt – don’t get to fussy with it – let it sit and stir from time to time.  Once the chocolate is smooth and shiny – remove the bowl from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

No need for your stand-mixer – a bowl and whisk will do for these brownies.

Whisk the sugar and eggs together – you want a nice and silken looking base.  Add the mint (or vanilla) extract.  Whisk again.

Toss in both flours – whisk to incorporate.  Finally, add in the melted chocolate/butter mixture – this batter is thick and gooey.  That is a very good thing.

Spread half (to 2/3rd of the batter) of the batter in the square pan.

Layer your unwrapped peppermint patties (or caramel kisses) on-top of the brownie base – don’t place them right next to one another – leave about 1/2 inch of space between them.

Spread the remaining brownie batter over the candy layer – I needed to use a frosting spatula to spread the batter around – it’s almost like a really thick buttercream at this point.  Cover the candy.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

They are ready.  I promise.

Remove from the oven and place the pan (brownies and all) into a bath of cold water (fill your sink with ice water – about 2 or 3 inches of water will do). I usually leave the brownies in the ice water bath for about an hour.  When ready – toss the brownie pan into the freezer (cover with foil).  And then walk away.  Go to bed (best to make these brownies after you have brushed your teeth and are getting ready to go to sleep).

Wake up and trim the sides off the brownies.  Eat a piece of the trimmings.  Smile to yourself… now go ahead and tell yourself how awesome you are :0)  Cut the brownies into squares (usually I’ll then cut the squares into triangles) … wrap them up …

And then go buy a car (don’t forget the brownies)…

marmalade-walnut brownies

I love marmalade.  I didn’t use to.  Actually – I thought it was vile.  I’d get upset if I mistakenly selected the jar of marmalade from the fridge and slathered it on my toast.  But my grandmother loved it – and loved making it.  Every year, she would spend a weekend making her marmalade, jarring it up and passing it out.  She even did this while she was in Spain (it’s true – she went out and picked her own oranges that year and made some jam while on vacation).  Now that I am older and wiser and have developed an appreciation for marmalade, I think of my grandmother.  That’s a good thing :0)

This time round however I didn’t think of my grandmother.  I thought of Chloé’s mom, Céline.  Céline gifted me with a jar of her homemade marmalade last year – she had made a particularly good batch and was spreading the love :0)  Since today is Céline’s birthday – I thought it would be appropriate to make these brownies – and use her marmalade.

This recipe is worth making (even if you aren’t a marmalade lover).  Why? 

Because …

1.  My entire kitchen smelled of oranges and chocolate.  Not a bad thing.

2.  The brownies are really dark and gooey. 

3.  The batter tastes AMAZING (yes … I’m admitting to eating more raw batter … I honestly just licked the spoon… I was super curious to see how it would taste).

I played around with the recipe a bit … I wanted to add a little more punch to the flavour – dried cherries and orange zest did the trick. 

marmalade-walnut brownies

ingredients:

1 1/2 c. sugar

1 cup butter, melted

3 eggs

1/2 c. orange marmalade

1 tsp vanilla

1 c. flour, sifted

3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 c. walnuts, toasted and chopped

Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Line your rectangular baking pan with parchment paper or foil, spray the liner with non-stick spray; and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together.  Set aside.

In a large bowl stir together the sugar and melted butter. 

Stir in the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition.  Add the marmalade and the vanilla, beat well into the batter.  Fold in the flour mixture until well combined.

Stir in 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips and all of the nuts.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan, evenly spreading it out. 

Bake for about 30 minutes – the centre should be set.   FYI you kitchen will start smelling of chocolate orange.  This is when you should attempt to sell your house :0)

Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.   Once they have cooled down, you need to dress these babies up a little.

topping

ingredients:

1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 tsp vegetable oil

1/2 c.  dried cherries, chopped

zest of 2 oranges

In a small saucepan, over low heat, melt the chocolate chips and vegetable oil – it should get nice and smooth.

Cool slightly.  Then grab a whisk and dip the end in the melted chocolate.  Drizzle the chocolate over the cooled brownies.  Top the melted chocolate with the dried cherries and the orange zest.

These make for a truly festive treat.  Perfect to chase those winter blues away … or to celebrate a birthday.

Joyeuse anniversaire Céline.  Et merci bien pour la marmelade.

that takes the cake

Donna is retiring.  She’s been working on the Hill for over 40 years.  43 to be exact.  13 years longer than I’ve been alive.  I was completely and utterly gobsmacked when I heard that.

IN-SANE. 

Obviously that calls for a celebration of sorts. 

And so we threw her a party.

Yesterday afternoon, everyone took the time to set aside their work, leave their cubicles, and gather around Donna as we all thanked her for her tremendous work and wished her the best for the future.

There were speeches.  There were presents.  Pictures were taken.

And then we ate.

I had been asked if I minded baking the cake.  Of course not!  I even got Emily to help me out with the decorating.   Vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream.  Exactly as Donna had requested (I figured it was best to check and make sure she got the cake she wanted).

*Donna likes going to the casino … and we wanted to make sure she got her royal flush!

I was then asked if I wouldn’t mind baking another little treat … or two (or four).  Done!

I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to make …. cranberry bliss barsBlack & white toffee bars?

That’s when I found this recipe.

To say that I was excited would be an understatement.  You see – when I was 12 years old, I was gifted my first recipe book.  It was an A to Z cookbook – with a recipe assigned to each letter of the alphabet (I remember that X was xylophone cake).  

My personal favourites to bake were the lemon squares and the espresso brownies.  They were … incredible.  I remember the lemon squares were mouth puckering tart, and that the espresso brownies tasted of a rich mocha … they made me feel so grown up.  I’ve since lost that book (if anyone knows which one I’m talking about … send me a quick email … I’d love to get another copy), but the memory of both those recipes sneak up on me from time to time.

These brownies brought me right back to my childhood.  Only this version is a little more grown-up.  I got to use my coffee liqueur – that ingredient wasn’t in my original recipe ;0)

If you’re looking for something to quickly whip up for the holidays – these squares … aren’t really what you are looking for.  Easy – yes.  Quick … well you need to include cooling time … so I’m not classifying these as labour intensive – simply as slightly time-consuming… but only slightly

These babies pack a real punch – full of mocha and chocolate.  Oh my my.  Delish!  Coffee and baked goods all in one bite (plus a little shot of coffee liqueur)

Made in two different stages – the brownie base, and then once cooled the espresso topping – these will make your coffee loving heart sing as they bake. 

triple espresso brownies

ingredients:

1/4 c. water

2 tbsp instant espresso powder

1 c. butter

1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. packed brown sugar

4 eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

2 c. flour, sifted

1/2 c.  chopped toasted pecans

1/2 tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Line your rectangular baking pan with parchment paper (or foil), grease with nonstick spray and set aside.  Lining the pan with parchment paper or foil simply allows you to easily lift the entire pan of brownies out and cleanly cut them – not necessary if you are fine with just cutting them straight out of the pan :0)

In a medium saucepan, combine the water with espresso powder.  Add the butter and the chocolate chips.  Heat and stir over low heat until the mixture is smooth. 

Remove the saucepan from heat and whisk in the sugars, vanilla and eggs – whisking the entire time so that the eggs don’t curdle.

Grab your wooden spoon and stir in the flour, pecans and salt.  Spread the batter evenly in the pan.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes (middle rack, and until a toothpick comes out clean).  Cool in the pan on a wire rack.  Do not remove the brownies from the pan yet.

Step two: making the frosting.

espresso frosting

ingredients:

3 c. powdered sugar, sifted

1/4 c. butter, softened

2 tbsp boiling water

2 tbsp coffee liqueur or 2 tsp espresso powder

1/2 tsp vanilla

Place the powdered sugar in the bowl of your stand-mixer.  Add the butter, boiling water, coffee liqueur (or espresso powder), and 1/2 tsp vanilla.

Beat on low-speed until combined (use your paddle attachment), then increase the speed – allowing the batter to get fluffy and smooth (if needed, add a little milk to loosen up the batter).

Spread oven the cooled brownies (while still in the pan). 

Sprinkle with some cocoa powder and then some chopped chocolate covered coffee beans. 

Allow these brownies to chill a little – either in the freezer for about 30 minutes or in the fridge (wrapped in plastic wrap).  This will make it much easier to cleanly cut them into pieces.

Lift the brownies out of the pan (the beauty of that parchment paper) and then cut into small cubes – you should be able to get about 60 squares.  Perfect little one-bite treats for any social gathering.  Especially one as memorable as Donna’s farewell.