Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Butterscotch blondies

This one bowl butterscotch blondie dessert is sure to be a crowd pleaser at your summer potlucks. Bet your guests can't eat just one!
Our neighbors invited us over one weekend for an impromptu cookout. They had some out-of-town guests staying over and wanted to have us join them for some wings and beer. I couldn't arrive empty-handed so I made a chocolate cake. Then I decided to make these butterscotch blondies in case there were people who didn't like chocolate (I'm sure they exist somewhere).

This was a super easy recipe that I whipped out in minutes. I made everything in my stand mixer and did not need to use a separate bowl to mix together the dry ingredients. After my blondies finished baking, I added some extra butterscotch chips on top for a nicer presentation.
Our neighbors and their friends loved these blondies. In fact, most of the adults had 2 or 3 servings. Thankfully there were a few left over for the kids to enjoy, but there were only a handful left over after the evening was over.

The blondies were nice and crispy on the top like a crackly brownie, and the insides were soft and chewy. The butterscotch chips were sweet and a perfect complement to the brown sugar. You can always customize these blondies to your taste - adding chocolate chips, chocolate chunks, M&Ms, chocolate candy bites or whatever your heart desires. Just make sure you save at least one piece for yourself before your family and friends gobble these up.

Butterscotch blondies
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 8"x8" baking pan and set aside (I used a silicone pan and did not line or grease it).

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Turn the mixer down to low and add the egg and vanilla until well combined. Then add the baking powder and flour until just combined. Turn the mixer off and fold in the butterscotch chips by hand.

Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan and bake in your preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Allow the bars to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Leftover bars should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for at least a week.

Yield: About 16 servings

Source: Ever so slightly adapted from Jen's Favorite Cookies

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Braided Nutella pastry

This easy, super impressive pastry is sure to wow your guests! With a buttery texture and layers of smooth Nutella, this dessert is sure to please them all!

It was a hot and humid 90+ degree day when I wanted to bake some bread. Of course. Why I couldn't get a desire to make some ice cream instead, I don't know. But bread it was, and it had to include chocolate.

I saw this beautiful Nutella pastry that resembled a snowflake, so I was sold. That was the way I could feel slightly cooler on the otherwise miserably hot day. Surprisingly, this pastry was very easy to make, despite the impressive presentation.

The dough is divided into 4 equal parts. You'll roll each piece out into a circle and then layer them on top of each other like a stack of pancakes. Then you'll slice the dough, twist them together and bake. Easy as that.

My husband saw this come out of the oven and was very impressed. He wanted to dive right into it, but I told him that it would burn his tongue. Although the finished pastry was a bit dry, the Nutella definitely made up for it. If you make this, I'd recommend using a different recipe for the dough since this one wasn't quite as soft and fluffy as I would have wanted.

Braided Nutella pastry
  • ¾ cup milk of choice
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 and ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ⅓ cup of sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 egg yolks (save the egg whites for brushing the pastry)
  • about 1 cup of Nutella
Directions
In a small measuring cup, heat up the milk and butter in the microwave for about 1 minute. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar and salt on low speed. Add the yolks and the milk mixture and turn the mixer to medium speed to knead (alternatively, you can knead by hand if you don't have a stand mixer). Knead for about 5-7 minutes or until you achieve a soft dough. Transfer to a large oiled bowl and cover for at least 40 minutes or until doubled.

Punch down the dough and separate into 4 equal parts. Work with one piece at a time and cover the remaining dough pieces.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out the dough into a 10-inch circle. Place onto a baking sheet topped with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Spread a layer of Nutella onto the dough, making sure to leave at least a 1-inch border around the circumference.

Roll out the second piece of dough in the same manner. Place it on top of the other piece of dough (like you're stacking pancakes) and brush with Nutella. Repeat with the 3rd dough ball. Roll out the 4th dough ball and place on top of the 3rd layer.

Using a plate as a guide (or eyeball it like I did), trim away any excess dough so you have a perfect circle. Using a sharp paring knife, cut the dough into 16 equal slices, leaving a 3-inch wide circle in the middle (I used the top of the Nutella container as my guide).

Taking two adjacent sections at a time, twist them in opposite directions and then pinch the ends together. Work your way around the circle. You'll end up with 8 "arms." Brush the tops with the reserved egg whites.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden. Allow the pastry to cool before serving. Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Yield: About 10-12 servings

Source: The Baker Chick

Friday, June 24, 2016

Skating Fridays

Bobbe Shire Spin Clinic - Part 3: Final Thoughts

Here are a few additional notes that I took from the clinic.

  • The hardest thing about skating is putting your body in the right position at the right time. You essentially have 2 brains - one in your head and one in your body. Don't listen to the "body brain" because it goes against the real brain.
  • For Step 2 of the spin (see previous week's post), think of Newton's law: You want the curve to get smaller for centrifugal force ("George") to work. Feel the edge slice through the ice at an angle and press against the direction you're going.
  • The camel spin is the only spin where you can't swing your leg to get George
  • In IJS competitions, it's better to execute an amazing spin than flub up a hard jump (for example, a CCoSp4 is worth 3.5 points whereas a Double Axel is only worth 3.3)
  • Anytime you change feet in a spin, you have to start over at Step 3 (the hook) again. Find George and pull in.
I am honored to have had the opportunity to learn from one of the greatest spin coaches in the country and hope that I can apply these techniques to my practices.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Salted caramel popcorn

A super easy, 3-ingredient caramel popcorn recipe that requires minimal effort! Make this sweet and salty classic at home at just a fraction of the cost!

One of my favorite childhood memories was receiving one of those huge tins of popcorn. I think my dad used to get one from a client every year. The tin contained cheese popcorn, plain and my favorite - caramel. I'm not sure what took me so long to finally make my own, but here I am.

Many, many months ago, I got the itch to make my own caramel corn. But time went by and the thought got pushed to the back of my mind. I don't know why.

I had some leftover caramel sauce from the 'Ohana bread pudding and didn't want to waste it. I didn't want to make the typical caramel desserts like blondies, brownies, or cake. This was one of those lazy days where I didn't want something with too much effort. Then I remembered the popcorn in the pantry.

This is probably one of the easiest treats ever. You only spend about 1 minute stirring up the popcorn and let the oven do all the work. The hardest part is waiting for the popcorn to cool down and trying not to eat the whole batch in one sitting (which I may or may not have done).

Salted caramel popcorn 
  • 1 bag microwave popcorn, freshly popped
  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup caramel sauce, homemade or store-bought
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Directions
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking pan with a silicone mat or parchment paper and set aside.

Pop the bag of popcorn in your microwave. Transfer to a large bowl. Pour on the caramel sauce and stir until the popcorn is well coated.

Spread the popcorn onto your prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the top with the salt and bake in your preheated oven for 30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes.

Allow the popcorn to cool before serving. It should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will last at least a week.

Yield:  About 1-2 servings (1 standard bag of popcorn)

Source: Inspired by Cookies and Cups

Monday, June 20, 2016

{Giveaway} $100 Amazon gift card and baking tools pack

I've teamed up with 15 other bloggers to help celebrate The Emotional Baker's 100th Recipe! We're giving away two prizes.
  • Grand Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card.
  • 2nd Place: TEB's Favorite Baking Tools Prize Pack.

The prize pack includes:
Giveaway Made Possible By:
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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Strawberry pistachio crumble pie

This strawberry pistachio pie is the perfect way to show off all those fresh summer strawberries. The epic pistachio crumble on top might be something you'd want to eat on its own with a spoon!

Happy Father's Day!

This is always a special time of year for many reasons. One - it's Father's Day. Two - it's my husband's birthday. Fun fact: he was actually born on Father's Day! While the two celebratory occasions don't coincide this year, I still had to bake something to appreciate my husband.

As with our tradition, I let him pick whatever dessert he wants for both days. This year he chose this pie that he saw in our Bon Appetit magazine. The only ingredients I had to buy for this were pistachios and tapioca flour/starch (they are the same thing).


My husband absolutely loved this pie and couldn't stop talking about it. He said that it wasn't too sweet and even slightly tart from the strawberries that we had bought for the recipe. He's been eating this with a scoop of ice cream on top too.

I'm not normally a nut type of person but also enjoyed the pie. It was nice to have a crunchy crumble on top of a sweet and tart fruit pie. We're visiting my in-laws later this summer, and my husband is already lobbying for me to bake this for them as well. I'm sure he'll find a way to make it happen.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads, father figures and awesome men out there!

Strawberry pistachio crumble pie
Crust
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Crumble
  • 1/4 cup unsalted toasted pistachios, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose four
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
Filling
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds strawberries, hulled, and cut into halves or quarters
  • 5 Tablespoons tapioca flour/starch
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Pie base and topping
  • 2 Tablespoons cream cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped pistachios
Directions
Make the pie crust: In a food processor, pulse the salt, sugar and flour together to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand. Transfer to a bowl and freeze for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine vinegar and 3 Tablespoons ice water and sprinkle over flour mixture. Knead with your hands until the dough comes together. Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 2 hours (dough can be frozen for up to a month).

Let the dough thaw for at least 5 minutes at room temperature before rolling onto a lightly floured surface or parchment paper. Transfer the dough to a 9" pie dish. Fold edges under and crimp.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top and weigh it down with pie weights (or beans or rice). Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges turn a pale golden color. Remove the pie weights and aluminum foil and bake for an additional 7-12 minutes or until light golden. Cool and set aside.

Make the crumble: In a medium sized bowl, mix the chopped pistachios, flour, oats, brown sugar, lemon zest, poppy seeds, cardamom and salt together. Add the butter pieces and mix everything together with your hands until no dry ingredients remain. The crumble should hold its shape if you squeeze it. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Make the filling: In a large bowl, toss together the strawberries, tapioca starch, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt. Set aside.

Assemble the pie: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the cream cheese onto the bottom of the cooled pie crust. Add the strawberry mixture (minus the juices) and pile it into a dome shape. Then evenly spread the crumble on top. Be sure to place a rimmed baking sheet underneath the pie in case juices drip out. Bake in your preheated oven for about 1 and 1/2 hours or until the filling is bubbling around the edges.

Allow the pie to cool completely before serving, about 4 hours. Then top with the remaining chopped pistachios.

Leftover pie should be stored, covered, at room temperature or in the refrigerator. It will keep for a few days.

Yield: One 9" pie; about 6-8 servings

Source: Barely adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2016 issue, pages 148-149

Friday, June 17, 2016

Skating Fridays

Bobbe Shire Spin Clinic - Part 2: The 5 Parts of a Spin


This is a continuation of the notes I took from the Bobbe Shire spin clinic. Last week I talked about some tips that Bobbe had during a shared private lesson. This week I am going to share Bobbe's thoughts on the 5 parts of a spin.

Bobbe said that all spins should be practiced in the same way. This makes the spins more consistent, and it also gives you the ability to isolate errors while eliminating chance. According to Bobbe, all spins have 5 parts. See the graphic below for counter clockwise skaters.

  1. Presentation Edge. This is done on a half circle (use a line) with the 3-turn done at the halfway mark on the other side of the line. Then you do a backwards crossover, which should take up the other half of the circle. Hold this edge until the end makes a curly-cue.

  2. Push onto the spinning foot. Hold this forward outside edge until you reach the other side of the line.

  3. Hook. This is actually a 3-turn and is the first turn in your spin. Think about your axis (toe, knee, belly button). Pretend like you have a skewer from our ankle to your knee through your belly button. Keep this line intact. You should be able to put a mitten on your hip bone and not drop it (she calls this the "mitten crunch"). Your arms and legs need to go as far away from the axis as possible. The centrifugal force generated from a spin is something that Bobbe names "George." Once you hit the hook in the spin, stay down in the knee and let George settle down before you squeeze him.

  4. Spin. If you do steps 1-3 correctly, the spin will center. Make sure you are in proper alignment and focus on speed.

  5. Exit. Finish the spin like it was the best thing anybody ever saw. Push away from the spin to exit - like it has bad breath. You shouldn't be able to tell a spin exit from a jump landing since they are in the same position.


Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

'Ohana bread pudding with spiced rum caramel sauce

Recreate the epic bread pudding from Disney World's Polynesian Resort. This dessert is a fan favorite from the 'Ohana restaurant!

We recently returned from a surprise trip to Disney World with Addie. This was a vacation we had planned way back in November, but we never told her about it. One of my closest friends was celebrating her 10 year wedding anniversary and booked her vow renewal down in Orlando. She invited us to be part of the celebration, so we happily agreed to go.

Keeping this secret was hard. The day of the trip, we woke Addie up about 45 minutes earlier than normal. She asked me to take her to the bus stop but got confused when we got into the car. Then she asked why there was a suitcase in the back seat. She curiously asked, "Am I going to miss the bus today?"

I didn't tell her about out destination until we sat down in the terminal to wait for our boarding time. She was still half groggy at the time and wasn't as excited as I had expected. But, once we got down to Orlando, Addie's eyes lit up.

We had a fantastic time at Disney World and enjoyed a fantastic meal at 'Ohana (in the Polynesian Resort). One of their famous dishes is their bread pudding. It was served with a caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. I kept thinking about this dessert when I got home and wanted to recreate it so here it is.

I brought this to my friend's cookout and shared it with all the family and friends she had invited to the vow renewal. They all said that this was better than the original, and that made me happier than a clam. I'm on a mission to make more dishes from our memorable vacation. Hope you come back soon to see what those are!

'Ohana bread pudding with spiced rum caramel sauce
Bread pudding
  • 8 cups French or Italian loaf bread
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups milk of choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
Spiced rum caramel sauce
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup spiced rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
Make the bread pudding: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the bread into 1-inch pieces and spread it out on a baking sheet. Bake in your preheated oven for about 15 minutes until lightly toasted. Generously grease a 9"x13" baking pan and place the toasted bread cubes into the pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, nutmeg and sugar. Pour this over the bread and make sure to get all of the pieces soaked with the egg mixture. If you have time to spare, cover and refrigerate this overnight so the bread has time to soak up all the egg mixture. If not, go on to the next step.

Turn the oven down to 325 degrees F. Bake, covered with aluminum foil, for about 60 minutes and then uncovered for another 10 minutes. Allow the pudding to cool slightly before serving.

Make the caramel sauce: In a medium sized, heavy bottomed and high sided pan, mix together the sugars, corn syrup and butter. Melt this over medium high heat and allow it to boil. Add half of the heavy cream (it will bubble vigorously) and continue to boil until the mixture starts to become golden brown. Add the spiced rum. I used a candy thermometer and let it get to 240 degrees F (soft ball stage). Then I added the remaining heavy cream and vanilla extract. If your caramel seizes and hardens, add more heavy cream or milk to thin it out.

Serve the bread pudding warm and top with caramel sauce and a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream.

Yield: About 16 servings

Source: Slightly adapted from Disney Food Blog

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Eggless salted caramel brownies

These super dark and fudge-like brownies contain no eggs, butter or oil! I added a layer of salted caramel sauce for some added decadence. You can omit the caramel sauce to make these vegan!

I had a total first-world problem one day (major sarcasm for those who can't tell my tone of voice). I only had one egg left in the refrigerator but had an itch to bake some brownies. Not just any brownies. Salted caramel brownies. I had a batch of salted caramel sauce sitting on the counter that were just screaming to be used.

I found a vegan brownie recipe that seemed promising, so I made a few tweaks here and there to suit my tastes. If you need a vegan brownie recipe, you can omit the salted caramel sauce and bake for about 25-30 minutes.Your brownies will be a bit on the gooey side, so if you like them firmer, bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.

These brownies were gobbled up in no time. Even after placing them in the refrigerator overnight, they were still nice and gooey the next day. Make sure you hide a few of these since they are so amazing. You'll be surprised that these don't contain any eggs too!

Eggless salted caramel brownies
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup salted caramel sauce, store bought or homemade
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 8"x8" baking pan and set aside (I used a silicone pan and did not grease or line it).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Add in the water, applesauce and vanilla extract and mix until just combined.

Transfer half of the batter into your prepared baking pan. Then add the salted caramel sauce. Top with the remaining brownie batter. Swirl with a knife if desired.

Bake in your preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until the brownies no longer jiggle when you shake the pan. Allow the brownies to cool before serving.

Brownies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for at least a week.

Yield: One 8"x8" pan, about 16 servings

Source: Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Friday, June 10, 2016

Skating Fridays

Bobbe Shire Spin Clinic - Part 1 (Private Lesson)

I had the privilege of attending a spin clinic recently with renowned spin coach Bobbe Shire.  She has worked with many elite skaters and came to my region to share her wisdom.

There were approximately 40-50 skaters at the clinic, including K and myself. Surprisingly, both of us were placed in the top spin group when they split up the participants. Each group had off-ice yoga instruction, on-ice time with Bobbe, and free practice time.

K and I shared a private lesson with Bobbe before the spin clinic began. She covered some of the basic spins with us before asking us what specific spins we wanted her help with.

Here are some of the notes that I took from our private lesson.

Sit spin
  • In order to get down into a position low enough to count as a sit spin, think about hinging / bending at the hips and pushing your rear end behind you (like a duck).
  • When coming up after a sit spin, keep your arms straight and extended in front of you and push down towards your belly button. Your spin will increase speed and center.
  • For a back tuck position, think about folding yourself in half, with the ankle of the free leg on top of the spinning knee. Use your arms to grab your free leg and pull up to generate tension. For your head, turn to the side and pretend to sleep.
Layback
  • Always stretch this at the wall before attempting a spin on the ice - start with your eyes, head, shoulders, then back. Feel like you are stretching every vertebrae in your body and use your eyes to look for your foot. Pretend like you are a slinky.
  • Free leg needs to be flat and bend behind you. Start off standing on two legs like a public skater (on 2 inside edges). Bring the free leg back and try to kick yourself. That is the correct position for the free leg. 
  • Hips need to push forward - think about Steve Urkel. Skating leg needs to be straight.
  • Variation: Side layback. Think about standing up, twisting, leaning back and using the "sleepy head" position. Keep your skating arm on your shoulder to start.
Camel
  • Bobbe showed us a necklace of hers. It was a single bead on a silver chain. When she pulled the chain, it started to spin. As soon as she loosened the tension on the chain, the bead stopped moving. This was a visual she wanted us to keep in mind as we did the camel.
  • The hip on the camel spin is the bead. Our arms and free leg are the chain. We need to pull the arms and free leg as far away from the hip as possible and create that tension to spin. Feel like you are stretching yourself out.
I have more to share next week from the clinic portion of the day. These were just notes from our private lesson.

Hope you enjoyed these tips and found them helpful.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

One bowl brownie drops

Got some brownie cravings but don't want to make a full batch? Make these one-bowl brownie cookies instead!

I just came back from a whirlwind trip. My family and I spent a few days in Disney for a surprise trip for Addie (she had no idea where we were going and thought she was going to school that morning). Then, the day after we returned, I flew to California for work. I came back exhausted, having only slept 3 hours the day my flight landed since it was delayed and I had to get up for work in a few short hours.

Despite my lack of sleep, I craved chocolate.

While brownies are usually my go-to dessert, I wanted to try something different. I didn't want to dirty too many dishes so made these one-bowl brownie drops. This recipe came from Food & Wine's Best of the Best edition, so I knew they had to be pretty awesome.

And they were. The cookies had nice crisp edges and were soft and chewy in the middle. They tasted just like a batch of brownies, except in cookie form. I did see that one of batch of cookies got slightly underbaked. I rotated my pans halfway, but the pan on the bottom level of the oven didn't get fully baked. Not to worry though - I'm a fan of ooey gooey desserts so I happily kept those for myself.

One bowl brownie drops
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer set over a simmering pot of water, melt the chocolate and butter together. If you don't want to wait that long and don't mind dirtying another bowl, simply melt the chocolate and butter in a microwave; then transfer to your bowl.

Remove the bowl from the heat and add the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix on medium speed (with the paddle attachment) or until thoroughly combined. Add the baking powder. Turn the mixer off and fold in the flour with a spatula until a few dry streaks remain. Then fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Using a cookie scoop (or two spoons), scoop out some batter onto the cookie sheet, placing each dollop at least 2 inches apart.

Bake in your preheated oven for exactly 12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.

Allow the cookies to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to fully cool.

Cookies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep for about 3 days.

Yield: About 24 cookies

Source: Barely adapted from Food & Wine: Best of the Best, volume 15; originally from Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe by Alisa Huntsman

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Double chocolate whole wheat Greek yogurt banana bread

Jazz up plain banana bread with 2 doses of chocolate! With no butter or oil and a minimal amount of processed sugar, this double chocolate whole wheat Greek yogurt banana bread is sure to become your next favorite thing to bake.
This bread was a mistake. Why? Because now all Addie wants for breakfast is this bread. We ate this loaf so quickly that she asked me to make another one. When I told her we were out of bananas, she was devastated. Then she got mad when I said that we should make something other than chocolate bread for breakfast. Thank goodness we didn't go into full-on tantrum mode at that moment because I'm not sure how I would have handled it?

Addie had every reason to want more of this bread. It was soft, delicate and full of chocolate and banana goodness. And because it didn't contain much processed sugar, it felt healthier than a lot of quick breads that I've made before. I even used whole wheat flour for my bread. Don't get me wrong - this isn't health food, but it is definitely healthier than a lot of banana breads out there.

A tip from me: You might want to make at least 2 loaves of this bread since it will be eaten very quickly.

Double chocolate whole wheat Greek yogurt banana bread 
  • 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large, mashed ripe bananas
  • 3/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a standard loaf pan (9"x5") and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a medium sized bowl, beat the eggs. Then add the bananas, Greek yogurt, maple syrup, brown sugar and vanilla. The mixture may be slightly lumpy from the bananas - this is fine. Do not overbeat it.

Pour the banana mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Using as few strokes as possible, fold everything together with a spatula or wooden spoon until a few dry streaks remain. Fold in the chocolate chips until just combined - do not over mix.

Transfer the batter to your prepared pan and bake in your preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool slightly before cutting and serving.

Bread should be keep in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will last about a week. It can also be frozen and thawed.
Yield: One 9"x5" loaf; about 8-12 servings

Source: Slightly adapted from Running With Spoons

Friday, June 3, 2016

Skating Fridays

An Attempt at a Level 4 Sit Spin


I know that my sit spin is the "money" element in my programs, so I need to find ways that I can gain more points. I've been playing around with a Level 4 sit spin lately to see if I can make it more consistent and then will figure out if I can execute it in my program.

For those of you unfamiliar with the leveling of spins in figure skating, it basically means that you get bonus points for executing more difficult spins. A level 4 is the maximum level awarded for features. From there, judges award Grades of Execution (GOE) for a spin - essentially, they are telling you how well you did the element.

In the IJS methodology, it's almost always better to execute a lower leveled spin with a positive GOE than a higher leveled spin with negative GOE. Think about it - would you rather see an easier spin performed really, really well? Or would you rather see a harder spin that looked like a hot mess? I've received positive GOEs on a Level 3 sit spin for my previous program, so I'm trying to figure out if it's feasible to turn this into a Level 4 sit spin for this coming season.

Here is my attempt at a Level 4 sit spin.
The leveling is as follows, along with some colorful commentary by yours truly:
  • Level 1: Difficult entry. I need to get that free leg up higher so it definitely gets called as a difficult entry.
  • Level 2: Cannonball position. Would like to try to get my chest lower to my knee so I can maintain speed.
  • Level 3: Cannonball position for 8 revolutions. I barely made the 8 revolutions and would like to hold this position for at least 9 revolutions (Note: 8 revolutions in a spin variation gets rewarded a higher level).
  • Level 4: Sit tuck position. This needs to be held for 2 full revolutions, and I believe I got 3.
I was so dizzy coming out of this spin that you can see that I fumbled out rather than standing up straight and exiting properly.

I'll keep working on it. Then Coach B and I will need to figure out which spin to include in my new program. I'm leaning towards the Level 3 at this point since I know I can get positive GOEs, but we'll see.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Skillet cornbread

A super simple, thick and hearty cornbread that is made in the skillet - it tastes best fresh out of the oven and with a dollop of jam, butter or honey!

Cornbread is one of those fairly "new to me" food items since I did not grow up in the south. I went to college in the south and was pretty clueless about the food culture I was about to experience. BBQ was plentiful, as were baked beans, collard greens, and cornbread. I'd never had a proper cornbread before so I was unsure what to expect.

I've tried many varieties of cornbread since my college days, and have found some to be too dry, too crumbly, too thick or too whatever. I was looking for a solid, standard cornbread recipe that could easily feed a crowd as my future go-to recipe. This is it.

This cornbread is super simple and made in a cast iron skillet. The heat from the skillet produces a nice sear on the bottom of the bread while the tops and sides get nice and golden while baking. The cornbread, while thick, still maintains a nice chew and doesn't get dry after several days. It definitely tastes best fresh out of the oven and with a dollop of butter, honey, or your favorite jam.

While this might not be the best cornbread recipe ever, it is a good solid one that you can happily serve family and friends. It definitely feeds a crowd, and if you have leftovers, you can easily store them in the refrigerator or in the freezer for snacking on later.

Skillet cornbread
  • 1 Tablespoon canola or olive oil
  • 3 cups cornmeal
  • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar, rounded
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Directions
Pour 1 Tablespoon of canola or olive oil into a cast iron skillet. Place it into your oven and preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.

In a separate medium sized bowl, mix the eggs and milk. Then add the melted butter (it may clump, and that's ok).

Transfer the egg and mil mixture to the large bowl with the dry ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Mix until everything is just incorporated - do not over mix. The batter will be thick.

Using oven mitts, remove the cast iron skillet from the oven once it reaches 425 degrees F. Pour the cornbread batter into your hot skillet and smooth the top with your spatula. Bake in your preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the top becomes golden.

Allow the cornbread to cool slightly before serving. It can be sliced and stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for about a week. It can also be frozen and thawed.

Yield: About 10-12 servings

Source: Food.com

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