obesessed with these brownies

This brownies are the bomb.

Seriously.

And it all started because of this picture. Who wouldn’t see this picture and not be tempted to bake these brownies as well?  I mean … brownie and raw cookie dough.  A-MAZ-ING.  (for realz).

I was checking my email and clicked open an email from the brown eyed baker … saw these beauties and just knew that I had to make them.  IMMEDIATELY. 

I decided that I would follow the brownie recipe that Michelle (the brown eyed baker) used, but wanted to use a different cookie dough recipe.I went back to my roots … and pulled out an old stand-by … Jenna’s chocolate-chip raisin cinnamon cookie dough  – the recipe made famous as the raw cookie dough in the Whalesbone’s sundae bar (I also blogged about it last summer).  The result … well I learned a couple of things …

1.  1 regular batch of raw cookie dough is too much.  I really only needed half the amount.

and

2.  Baking in 40+ weather is not the brightest of ideas.  Especially in a tiny kitchen that holds in all that heat.  sigh.

These brownies were popular (I brought them to a rooftop party @ Platonic Jeff’s place, and they were the most popular item … after my lemon gelato ice cream sandwiches) – but I couldn’t stop thinking about how I could make them better.

That’s exactly what I did a couple of weeks ago.

Jenna told me I could bake whatever I wanted for the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market.  I opted for these brownies.  Only … with a twist.

I needed a raw cookie recipe that didn’t include eggs (tante Michèle would approve).  Plus I wanted to make something that combined two of my favourite flavours:  chocolate & peanut butter.

And that is how my peanut butter cookie dough double chocolate brownies were born.  Brownie base, peanut butter cookie dough filling and a chocolate ganache topping.Rich Perfection.

People at the market thought so too.  These babies sold out.  Whoot Whoot!

Allow enough cooling time between baking the brownie and topping it with the raw cookie dough … and then allow for the ganache to set before cutting the finished product.  Simple and delicious.  Plus … everyone will be hooked.  Afterall … it pretty much pairs everyone’s favourite comfort food ;0)

peanut butter cookie dough double chocolate brownies

ingredients:

brownie:

4 ounces chocolate, chopped

1 c. butter, at room temperature

2 c. brown sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

1 c. flour

peanut butter cookie dough:

1. c. butter, room temperature

1 c. sugar

1 c. brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 c. peanut butter

2 c. flour

2 tsp baking soda

chocolate ganache:

1. c. heavy cream

12 ounces chocolate, coarsely chopped

To make the brownie base preheat your oven to 325 F and line a rectangular pan with parchment paper, spray with non-stick spray and set aside.  You want the parchment paper to hang over the sides – this will help you pull your brownie out whole in order to cut it properly.

In a double boiler, melt your chocolate until it is smooth and glossy.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together (use your paddle attachment) the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy – about 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.  Increase the speed to really incorporate everything.  Add the melted chocolate.  Lower the speed of the mixer and slowly add the flour: don’t over-mix, you just want everything to be combined.Spread the batter evenly over the base of your pan.  Bake for about 35 minutes – this brownie recipe really rises in the oven … fear not!  It will deflate once it cools down.

Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.Then it’s time to make your cookie dough! (obviously you can do as I did the first time round, and use whichever dough recipe you prefer … just remember, you likely only need to use half a recipe).

In the bowl of your stand-mixer thoroughly cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla until smooth (about 5 minutes).  Stir in the peanut butter, and then add the dry ingredients.  Once combined … that’s it! 

Grab some of the batter and spread it evenly over your cooled brownie base (don’t worry if you don’t use all the cookie dough – it freezes really well).  Use an off-set spatula to get it even and smooth.

Set aside and make your ganache.

Place your chocolate in a medium, heat proof bowl.  In a small bowl over medium heat, bring your cream up to a simmer (well… honestly, I usually let it boil – but just a little).  Remove it from heat and pour it over the chocolate; allowing it to sit for a few minutes.  Then grab a spatula and slowly mix together – stirring until the chocolate has melted and the ganache looks creamy. 

Pour over the cookie dough brownie and allow to set in the fridge (I’d say at least an hour).

Remove the brownie from the pan, trim the edges off and cut into even pieces.

At this point I’m going to guess you ate some of that trim … I sure did (so did Jenna).  I heart this brownie.  Seriously intense … rich chocolate and salty peanut butter.  Heck ya.  A-MAZ-ING.

triple the ginger… triple the flavour

Carrots.  Ginger.  Oranges.  All things that go together so well.  So very very well.

I have to admit – orange is not my favourite flavour (it certainly isn’t the first citrus flavour I gravitate towards) – however, sometimes it just feels right.

This cake made it feel right.  And boy am I happy I decided to trust my instincts.

The original recipe comes from (big surprise) the hummingbird bakery: cake days.  And it was built with a specific person in mind:  my beautiful and lovely step-mother, Marielle. 

I am very fortunate.  Not only do I have wonderful and loving parents – both of whom are ridiculously awesome people in their own right; but I have also ended up with another incredible person in my life in the form of Marielle.

Last Saturday was her birthday – and so, we gathered to celebrate her.  It was a beautiful evening, filled with excellent company, good food and wine… and a knock your socks off birthday cake. 

Seriously… this cake was THE BOMB (my father claims it’s the best cake I’ve ever made… Marielle loved the flavour, the two Anne’s (my sister and my step-sister) both loved the punch of the ginger and the frosting)… it was an immediate success.

I’ve come to realize that I’m not a timid baker – I like things full of flavour and that pop a real punch.  I want things to taste exactly how I imagine them – if you’re going to add ginger to something – then don’t be afraid – use that ginger!  If you’re going to use orange – then use the zest and juice… don’t wimp out.  This cake is not about wimping out.

According to the hummingbird this cake is “a zingy variation on carrot cake”.  I think it’s my new favourite twist and a new classic for my family.

The recipe will either make a 4 layer 8-inch round or a 3 layer 9-inch round.  Either way… you’re goona get lots of cake.  Which is a good thing… that means you’ll get a second piece – and if you’re too stuffed to enjoy it right away… this cake makes an excellent breakfast!

triple ginger carrot cake with orange cream cheese frosting

ingredients:

triple ginger carrot cake

1 lb carrots, peeled and grated

2 tbsp (a good knob) of fresh ginger, grated

2 tbsp (or more), crystalized ginger, finely chopped

80 mL buttermilk

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla (or orange extract)

350 mL vegetable oil

420 g brown sugar

500 g flour, sifted

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

80 g pecans, toasted and roughly chopped (you could also toast the pecans in maple syrup for an added touch)

Preheat your oven to 325 F.  Spray your round baking pans with non stick spray and set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (using your paddle attachment), mix together the carrots, fresh ginger, crystalized ginger, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, vegetable oil and sugar.  Beat all the ingredients at medium speed until everything is combined (it will be VERY loose at this point).

While your wet ingredients are being mixed, combine your flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ground spices together. 

You’ll want to slowly beat the dry ingredients into the batter – decrease the mixer speed to “stir” and, in three batches, add your flour mix.  Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl with each addition  – it’s best to turn the stand mixer off when doing that :0)

Once the batter is nice and thick and well mixed, toss in your roughly chopped pecans.  Incorporate them well into the batter.  Divide the batter evenly between your cake pans (either for 3 layers or 4).  Bake for about 25 – 32 minutes – this always depends on your oven.  You want your toothpick to come out clean and the top of each cake to spring back when you gently press the top.

Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 – 20 minutes.  Then remove from the pans and cool completely on the wire rack.  This cake can be made the day ahead and wrapped tightly in plastic wrap (it’s a super moist cake).

When you are ready to frost the cake – make the buttercream. 

orange cream cheese frosting

ingredients:

1/2 c. butter, room temperature

5 c. powdered sugar, sifted (or a little more if you want a thicker frosting)

zest of 1 orange

juice of 1/2 an orange (or the entire orange, depending on need)

1 package cream cheese, room temperature

In the bowl of your stand mixer, using your paddle attachment, beat together your powdered sugar, butter and orange zest.  You want it to just combine, but it’ll still look more sugary than anything else.  Add your entire cream cheese.  Yep.  All at once.

Increase the speed to medium and keep beating everything together.  This is when you start to slowly add orange juice – a little at a time… it’ll loosen up your frosting and also add more flavour (less of that powdered sugar flavour).  Keep beating until it’s nice and fluffy – it should be super smooth since you sifted the powdered first – about 7 minutes.

Then it’s time to frost your cake.

Since it’s a layer cake – obviously you need to use some frosting between the layers – I don’t recommend using too much frosting… you want the frosting to bind the layers not cause them to slip off one another.  Once the cake is assembled, pile a bunch of your frosting on your top layer and push it flat and down the sides – gently smoothing the icing all around the outside and top of the cake (it’s easiest to spin the cake… this is why I heart the lazy susan from IKEA – it makes cake decorating way easier). 

Now… grab your bag of flaked coconut and put small amounts in your hand and gently press it all over the sides of the cake.  It’s messy.  But so worth it.  The coconut is DELISH (oh heck… next time I’m gonna toast the coconut before frosting my cake!) … and it makes the cake look extra pretty. 

Don’t ya think?

falling in love…

I fell in love.

Yep.

Over Easter weekend, I fell - hook, line and sinker.

I fell in love with wonderful, beautiful, lovely… London.  :0)

My first visit to London was in December 2000 – New Years Eve in the big city.  It was cold… bitterly cold, rainy, and damp (oh so very damp)…  there was no falling in love on that visit.

Nor did I fall in love over the course of the last 10 years… every visit reinforced that I would never be a Londoner.  Nor did I want to be.  That is… until this last visit.

It was sunny.  And warm… actually, it was hot (25 degrees + every single day!!!!).  And it glowed in the pre-royal wedding festivities (I didn’t stick around for the wedding, but it sure was fun to see the city prep for it).  Plus I got to spend the weekend with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Elina (and her younger sisters, who are like my younger sisters).  It was the PERFECT mini break from reality.

Especially because we went to one of my favourite places on earth.

We spent Easter Sunday (also my 32nd birthday) at  The hummingbird bakery.  Giddy doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt as we set out that morning… 

I heart the hummingbird bakery.  At least… I have loved it through its recipes (The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook).  I’ve blogged about some of my hummingbird baking experiences… their carrot cake , black bottom cupcakes , and the peaches & cream cupcakes .  Simple and delicious recipes.

But actually getting to eat hummingbird treats on site?!

holy mother of pearl.  I was in baked good heaven.

The carrot cake: devine.  brilliant.  gorgeous.  bloody amazing.  best thing I have EVER eaten.  EVER.  And it wasn’t just because it was moist and flavourful.  The icing… so much cream cheese frosting – fluffy and lovely and… satisfying.

And then the lemon cheesecake.  oh. my. gawd.  seriously!  I have never enjoyed cheesecake as much as I did that afternoon… smooth and creamy.  Not dense or heavy… just super fluffy.  And the base?  AMAZING.  It wasn’t overly thick or overbaked.  It was light and crumbly.  My mouth was in love.

I couldn’t leave without buying a copy of their newest recipe book hummingbird bakery cake days.  Anything that says “recipes to make every day special” is worth purchasing… and so purchase it I did!

And thank goodness I did.

You’ve already seen those amazing lemon meringue cupcakes that I made last week.  And then I made this.

It’s a peanut butter and chocolate pie.

Intense?  Just a little.

Addictive?  Completely.

Worth trying? Absolutely… without a doubt.  This will make your day extra special.  Especially when you do as I say… and replace the original cookie base with an oreo cookie base.  Yep.  Follow my recipe and you will be in peanut butter and chocolate pie heaven.

peanut butter chocolate (oreo cookie) pie

ingredients:

base:

1 entire box, oreo cookies, pulsed

1/2 c. butter, melted

chocolate ganache filling & whipped topping:

3 tbsp cornstarch

160g sugar

550 mL milk

3 egg yolks

180g peanut butter

80g dark chocolate, chopped

250 mL heavy cream

handful of salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Start with the base.  Use your food processor to pulse the oreo cookies until they are a nice fine crumble. 

Toss the crushed cookies into a bowl, and, using a wooden spoon, slowly add the melted butter – you don’t want to add so much butter that it becomes too moist – you just want the crumbs to stick together when you pinch them together.

Once you get it to that texture (you might not need the entire half cup of melted butter… or you might need more) – tip the cookie crumble into your greased 9 -inch springform pan (I sprayed mine with non-stick spray).  Press the crumbs into the base, and up the sides of the pan – you need this to hold your ganache filling and whipped cream peanut butter topping.  Allow it to cool in the fridge for about 40 minutes.

Take that time to make the chocolate ganahce filling…

Combine the cornstarch with the sugar in a small saucepan.  Then whisk together the milk with the egg yolks in a large measuring cup: pouring this mixture into the pan and place the pan over low heat, cooking until thickened, WHISKING CONTINUOUSLY.  You don’t want clumps :0)  Once the mixture has thickened, remove it from the heat and stir in the peanut butter.

Place your chocolate in a large bowl and pour about one third of the peanut butter mixture on top.  Mix well – ensuring that the chocolate melts and the filling becomes smooth and even.

Pour your chocolate ganache filling over your chilled oreo cookie base.  Cover with plastic wrap (touching the ganache directly) and place the pie in your fridge for 30 – 40 minutes (it should set).  Cover the remaining two thirds of your peanut butter mixture with plastic wrap and set aside to cool.

When you’re about ready to take your unfinished pie out of the fridge, start on your topping.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, using your whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream.  You want it to get thick and to have soft peaks.  My mistake at this point was that I didn’t allow it to get thick enough… and so when I cut into the pie, this topping just collapsed on itself – making it messy, while still delicious :0)

Once you have whipped your cream, grab your peanut butter mixture and fold it in:

Once it is well mixed, remove your pie from the fridge and top the chocolate peanut butter ganache with this whipped cream peanut butter topping.  Return your pie to the fridge for another 40 – 50 minutes.  I know… you still have to wait before you can tuck right in!

Once you’re done waiting, grab your roughly chopped salted peanuts and sprinkle them over the top.  That’s it.  Now you can cut into it.  See… doesn’t it just look amazing?  It is.  And it’s yet another reason why I heart the hummingbird bakery.