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You pretty little darlings are coming home with me tonight.  I will use you to create deliciousness the world has never known before.  And it involves Nutella.

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Cognac Chocolate Raspberry Lava Cakes

I was too busy eating these lava cakes on Valentine’s Day and forgot to blog them.  Chocolate lava cakes, while so luscious and rich, are deceptively simple.  The “lava” is really just uncooked batter, pooling in the center.  I could kick myself for not blogging these earlier because lava cakes are also a perfect date recipe — if you’re cooking a dinner at home, the batter can be made earlier in the day and spooned into a muffin pan.  At just eight minutes cooking time, you can pop these in the oven while clearing the dishes from dinner, and voila! amazing rich delicious hot chocolate cakes.  While lots of lava cake recipes generally suggest serving it with a raspberry sauce, I took a twist on that and decided to just stick a couple of whole raspberries in the center of each cake.  Feel free to omit if you just want the oozy chocolate.  I also added cognac to my batter to give it a warm kick — raspberries, chocolate and cognac are my idea of a perfect combination.  You can serve it with some fresh whipped cream, or even ice cream.  (Mr. Kitchen will put ice cream on just about anything.)
Cognac Chocolate Raspberry Lava Cakes

Cognac Chocolate Raspberry Lava Cakes

Cognac Raspberry Chocolate Lava Cakes

Adapted from a Paula Deen Recipe
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 stick) butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 large eggs
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Cognac
1/2 cup raspberries, rinsed (optional)
Butter a medium sized muffin pan and preheat the oven to 425°.
In a double boiler, melt the butter and add chocolate.  (For a makeshift double boiler, put a heatproof bowl in a simmering pot of water — it’s better to have the bowl touching the water than the bowl touching the sides of the pot.) As the chocolate begins to melt, remove the bowl from the water.  Continue mixing the chocolate and butter until perfectly smooth and fully incorporated.  Add the cognac and vanilla and mix together.  In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and egg yolks, and then add the sugar.  Mix into the chocolate.  Stir in the flour until smooth.
If you’re using the raspberries, spoon a tablespoon of the batter into each muffin space in the pan (assuming 12).  Put two whole raspberries into each muffin space, taking care to keep the raspberries in the center.  Spoon remaining mixture into each space.  Bake for 8-10 minutes on the center rack of the oven.  Cakes are done when the sides are set and the top is no longer runny.  Top with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, fresh whipped cream, ice cream or nothing at all!
Chocolate

OMG Chocolate

Isolating yolks for the cognac raspberry chocolate lava cakes

Isolating yolks for the Cognac Chocolate Raspberry Lava Cakes

Mixing in the flour for the Cognac Chocolate Raspberry Lava Cakes

Mixing in the flour for the Cognac Chocolate Raspberry Lava Cakes

Pouring the batter for the Cognac Chocolate Raspberry Lava Cakes

Pouring the batter for the Cognac Chocolate Raspberry Lava Cakes

Cognac Chocolate Raspberry Lava Cakes

Cognac Chocolate Raspberry Lava Cakes

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Super Brownies for the Super Bowl

It’s been a busy couple of months around the Kitchen, with the holidays and wedding planning taking up much of our time.  This past week was my birthday, and Mr. Kitchen got me an awesome present — a gift certificate for a workshop with DessertTruck here in NYC, where I will be learning to make macaroons!

Since it’s Super Bowl Sunday, I wanted to pass along a new recipe for these fantastic brownies — with three types of chocolate (baker’s unsweetened, dark, and semi-sweet) and a generous heaping of peanut butter, they’re not too sweet but incredibly rich.

They don’t take long to make, so if you’re planning to head to a party for this evening’s 6:30 kick off, you’ve still got time!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

Triple Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

Triple Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

Adapted from a Martha Stewart Recipe

The Batter 

1 stick butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for buttering baking pan

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate (Baker’s provides 1 oz squares, if you’re using a bar, chop the chocolate into chunks)

1 ounce dark chocolate

4 ounces semisweet chocolate morsels,  plus an extra 2 ounces for chocolate chunks in the brownies

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Peanut Butter Mixture

1/2 stick of butter (melted)

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

3/4 cup smooth peanut butter

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.

Put butter in a double-boiler (set a heatproof over a pan of simmering water).  Stir until melted and add chocolate (unsweetened, dark and 4 ounces of the semi sweet morsels), mixing until the chocolate is fully melted and incorporated into the butter. Let cool slightly.

Whisk granulated sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs, and whisk until mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder and add flour mixture to chocolate mixture.  Stir until well incorporated (about 3-4 minutes).   Stir in the remaining chocolate morsels.

To make the peanut butter swirl mixture, stir together butter, confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla in a bowl until smooth.  I’ve found that melting the butter in a double boiler, adding the sugar and then the peanut butter and whisking together works well.  Just be sure to let the butter cool slightly before adding everything else. 

When pouring the batter and peanut butter filling, you’ll have to work quickly.  Pour one-half the batter into the buttered pan and spread it evenly with a rubber spatula. Drop heaps of peanut butter filling (about 2 tablespoons each) on the batter, spacing about 1 inch apart. This should amount to about half the peanut butter filling.  Pour the remaining batter on top, and gently spread to fill pan. Drop heaps of remaining peanut butter filling on top. Gently swirl peanut butter filling into batter with a butter knife, running the knife lengthwise and crosswise, with the tip of the knife hitting the bottom of the pan.

Bake about 45-50 minutes in center rack of oven, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into brownies comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, about 45 minutes. Let cool in pan, slice and remove and let cool completely on a rack.  

A trick for cutting brownies:  Use a plastic knife! I don’t know why, but it stops the brownies from crumbling/cracking/falling apart while cutting.

Melting the chocolate for triple chocolate peanut butter brownies

Melting the chocolate for triple chocolate peanut butter brownies

Mixing the batter for triple chocolate peanut butter brownies

Mixing the batter for triple chocolate peanut butter brownies

Mixing the peanut butter for triple chocolate peanut butter brownies

Mixing the peanut butter for triple chocolate peanut butter brownies

Mixing in the peanut butter for triple chocolate peanut butter brownies

Mixing in the peanut butter for triple chocolate peanut butter brownies

Pre-bake triple chocolate peanut butter brownies

Pre-bake triple chocolate peanut butter brownies

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Christmas Bread Pudding

Things have been super busy in Casa del Kitchen as we get ready for the holidays.  If you’re like us and you spend your holidays traveling and not hosting, the lead-up gets spent in frenetic travel preparation.  There’s been lots of shopping, wrapping, late work nights to get everything done before year’s end, and this week, we’re traveling to see family for the holidays.  Sadly, it’s also one of the times of year where I find myself not cooking much.  We’ve been subsisting on quick meals and take-out over the last two weeks, and I’m definitely ready for some fabulous home cooked treats.  Lucky for us, we’ll be seeing both our families over the next few weeks, and we’ll likely be stuffed to the gills for the next month!  I did, however, recently find time to make this delicious apple walnut raisin bread pudding, which I think would make a tasty addition to any holiday spread.  It’s also a great recipe to make ahead — just reheat in the oven during dinner, and serve warm with some fresh whipped cream (or, if you’re an ice cream lover like Mr. Kitchen, a scoop of vanilla).

On a separate note, Mr. Kitchen and I exchanged our gifts today and he got me a super kick-ass netbook so I hope to be posting more regularly!

apple walnut raisin bread pudding
Apple Walnut Raisin Bread Pudding

Apple Walnut Raisin Bread Pudding

1 loaf Challah Bread (cubed and crusts removed)

3 apples, diced

2 tbsp butter

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup raisins

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/4 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp nutmeg

6 eggs

1 tbsp cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350º

Line a baking sheet with tinfoil and put the bread cubes in the pan and roast in the oven until lightly browned (about 10-15 minutes).  Remove from oven and let cool, and then put the bread into a buttered 13 x 9 baking dish.  Leave the oven on.

In a medium sauce pan, cook the apples, butter and sugar until the apples are a bit soft (about 5 minutes).   Pour the apple mixture over the bread cubes in the baking dish.  Add raisins and walnuts to pan and gently toss to mix apples, bread, walnuts and raisins together.

In a mixing bowl, beat the brown sugar, heavy cream, milk and spices together.  Add eggs one at a team and beat together.  Add cornstarch and beat for 2-3 minutes until fully incorporated.

Pour the custard over the bread mixture and let set for 20-30 minutes, until the bread soaks up the liquid a bit.  Place in the middle rack of the oven and cook for about one hour, or until golden brown and the bread offers a bit of resistance in the middle from a gentle touch.

Diced apples for the apple walnut raisin bread pudding

Diced apples for the apple walnut raisin bread pudding

Apples mixed with the bread cubes

Apples mixed with the bread cubes

Letting the custard soak into the apple raisin walnut bread pudding

Letting the custard soak into the apple raisin walnut bread pudding

Baked Apple Raisin Walnut Bread Pudding

Baked Apple Raisin Walnut Bread Pudding

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Pumpkin Delicious

With Thanksgiving coming up, I have been all about the pumpkins.   Completely versatile, pumpkins can go savory or sweet and can be used in ravioli, risotto, pies, cakes, lattes — the list goes on and on.   Last year, for a “Pre-Thanksgiving” dinner with friends, I made a bourbon pumpkin cheesecake that was actually really easy and a fantastic addition to the fabulous spread of desserts we had.   I may make it again this year, perhaps with a salted caramel twist.  (I’ll admit, I’m easy prey for some of the food trends, but salted caramel is really just awesome.)  For our recent winery trip, I thought we might want sweet treats to go with the Empanadas so I made Spiced Pumpkin Doughnuts with a Maple Icing Glaze.  The confectioner sugar-based icing is the perfect complement to a well spiced pumpkin dough.  I’d never made doughnuts before and was pleasantly surprised by how easy they were to make.  The one tricky part was making sure that the shortening remained the right temperature.  Too hot and you burn the doughnuts — too cool and they become soggy and oily.  If you don’t have one, it’s best to invest in a candy/oil thermometer before trying to make the doughnuts.

Mr. Kitchen was my sous-chef on this one — we had a great time trying to make sure neither of us got third degree burns from splattering oil.   As Mr. Kitchen found out — it’s best to gently place the dough in the oil — dropping it in = nasty blisters.  There were the obligatory Dunkin Donuts “Time to make the donuts” references and lots of expletives as I grew impatient and tried rolling out the dough before it had totally chilled.  Don’t try that — it’s an exercise in futility.  Of course we just had to try the doughnuts out — you know, to make sure they were edible.  (I think we probably “tasted” half a dozen each.)  If this keeps up I’ll never fit in my wedding dress.

 

Pumpkin spice doughnuts with maple icing

Pumpkin spice doughnuts with maple icing

Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts With Maple Icing

Doughnuts  (Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)

*This recipe makes over 20 small doughnuts (if you’re re-rolling out the doughnut holes)

2 tablespoons butter (softened)

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup pure pumpkin (canned is fine)

1/3 cup buttermilk

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

Shortening for deep frying  (I think I probably used nearly half a container — you will want your shortening/oil to be at least an inch deep)

You will need a candy/oil thermometer for this for best results.

Maple Icing

2 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

4 tablespoons milk

1/4 teaspoon maple extract

The Doughnuts: In  a large bowl, beat butter with mixer on medium for about 1 minute.  Add the sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.  Beat until combined.  Beat in pumpkin, buttermilk, egg and egg yolk, and vanilla until combined.  Using a wooden spoon or a spatula, stir in flour until well combined.  Cover and chill for about 2-3 hours.  After the dough has chilled, roll it out to about 1/8″ thickness (if you want thicker, bigger doughnuts, roll out the dough to 1/4″ thickness).  Cut with a floured doughnut cutter.  Definitely dip the cutter in flour in between cuts.  Re-roll out the dough as necessary (or reserve the centers for doughnut holes).

Keep a slotted spoon handy.  Clip the thermometer to the side of a deep pan and add shortening and heat until the temperature reaches 365-370º.  Very very carefully place the dough into the hot shortening.  With the slotted spoon, turn over the doughnuts after about 45 seconds to 1 minute and cook for another 45 seconds or so.  With the slotted spoon, remove the doughnuts and let drain on paper towels.  Repeat with remaining doughnuts.

The Icing: As the doughnuts cool, prepare the icing by beating together the confectioner’s sugar, milk and maple extract.  Drizzle over the doughnuts.  Best served warm or at room temperature.

Incorporating the flour into the pumpkin mixture

Incorporating the flour into the pumpkin mixture

Rolling out and cutting the spiced pumpkin doughnuts

Rolling out and cutting the spiced pumpkin doughnuts

Frying the pumpkin spice doughnuts

Frying the pumpkin spice doughnuts

Pumpkin spice doughnuts with maple icing

Pumpkin spice doughnuts with maple icing

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Easy Empanadas

A couple of weeks ago, we Kitchens went out on the North Fork of Long Island to take advantage of the lovely not-quite-Fall weather, wineries and pumpkin picking.   Restaurants aren’t exactly plentiful for a good portion of the wine trail on the North Fork, so I thought it might be a good idea to pack snacks.  (Otherwise we’d be two car-fulls of drunks on a Sunday afternoon.)  I decided on empanadas because they pack a pretty filling punch and are fairly easy to make in decent size numbers.  The wineries were super gorgeous! There were pumpkins and delicious looking squash and acres and acres of beautiful vineyards.

 

Now, I know I’m going to catch flack for my recipe.  I don’t use chorizo because I find a lot of it too greasy.  I also buy the dough — I’m sorry, but I’ve tried making it and no amount of kneading or tampering with recipes can get the dough to be like La Fey’s.  So do yourself a favor and just go and buy La Fey discs for these.  Trust me, it’s 10 times easier and they work beautifully in the oven. Goya also makes a decent empanada dough.

Chicken and Sausage Empanadas

Chicken and Sausage Empanadas

Chicken & Sausage Empanadas

The Dough/Discs

2-3 packages of the large La Fey discs.  The filling recipe below makes enough for about 24  (20 if you’re packing it in)  Extras can be frozen.

The Filling

4 chicken breasts (medium/large size), cut into small chunks

5 – 6 Italian sausages (hot), diced/chopped into small pieces

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup Chardonnay or other fairly dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 large Spanish onion (diced)

2 heaping tablespoons garlic cloves (diced)

3 Bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cumin

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 cup Spanish green olives with pimentos (pitted)

1/8 cup capers

1 green pepper (diced)

Egg Wash

1 egg lightly beaten with a teaspoon of water

 

I find that most of the La Fey discs are pretty well frozen when I buy them, so let these defrost while you’re cooking the mixture.  For the filling, in a large (12-14″ pan), heat the 2 tablespoons of oil and add diced onions and garlic and saute until onions are softened (5 minutes).  Add diced chicken and sausage and cook on medium high heat, stirring, for about 2 minutes.  Add wine, chicken stock, pepper, cumin, bay leaves, green pepper, olives, capers, salt (basically all remaining ingredients).  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, covered, until meat is cooked and sauce has thickened (about 30 mintues).  After it’s cooked, let the mixture cool uncovered for about 20-30 minutes.

Take this time to pull apart the dough discs.  If you’re using La Fey, they’re generally not separated in the package by wax paper, so be very careful when pulling them apart or the discs will tear.  Preheat the oven to 350°.   Prepare baking trays for cooking — if you’re making 24 empanadas, you’ll likely need three pans.  Lightly lightly grease the pans.   For filling the empanadas — if you’ve got a calzone mold, this will be super easy.  Place the disc in the mold, spoon in about 3 tablespoons filling and close the mold, which will seal the seams.  If you don’t have a mold, it’s really just as simple.  Spoon the mixture on to one side, and fold the other half over so it forms a half-circle.  Use a fork to seal the edges (just like you would a pie dough for a two-crust pie).  Place on baking sheet and repeat for remaining empanadas.  Brush with the egg wash and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the empanadas are golden. You can serve these warm or at room temp, and they freeze beautifully!

Onions for empanadas

Onions for empanadas

Chicken and sausage empanada filling

Chicken and sausage empanada filling

Filling the empanadas

Filling the empanadas

Molded empanadas

Molded empanadas

Empanadas

Chicken and Sausage Empanadas

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How to Clog Your Arteries Part 1

For the past couple of years, one of my friends has thrown a Bacon Party.  (She’s evil, but obviously well-loved.)  If you don’t know, a Bacon Party is a potluck party featuring only foods that contain bacon (or fake bacon for the vegetarians).  Each year I gain at least 3 lbs from this party.  Let me tell you – it’s totally worth it.  This year I made a couple of dishes to add to the melee — bacon cheddar knots and a pumpkin pie topped with walnuts, brown sugar and, of course, bacon.   Sadly, Mr. Kitchen had to miss the party because he was working.  Luckily I came home with two giant Tupperware containers filled with treats.  (I know, I’m totally evil, but if I’m not gonna fit in my wedding dress — he’s not fitting into his kilt.)

The cheddar bacon knots were surprisingly easy, though in preparation for that and the pie, Mr. Kitchen and I fried up an entire package of bacon.  I could feel the cholesterol and fat seeping into my pores — kinda gross, but damn tasty!  For any of you who are thinking that a bacon party is a brilliant idea, it is, but I would recommend starting on some sort of cholesterol medicine now, followed by lots of fiber.   On the plus side (like bacon needs another plus side), at least I couldn’t actually feel the presence of my gallbladder after this year’s party.

Bacon Cheddar Knots

Bacon Cheddar Knots

Bacon Cheddar Knots

Knots Dough (Adapted Heavily From Nick Manglieri)

4 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 packet active dry yeast

1 2/3 cups warm water

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus oil to coat a baking (jellyroll) pan

3 baking (jelly roll) pans

Bacon Cheddar Filling

3/4 package bacon, cooked

1 8 oz package cheddar cheese (or any cheese you prefer)

Egg wash (1 egg, mixed with about 1 tablespoon water)

Combine flour and salt in large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix yeast into water and let stand for a few minutes until the water fizzes a bit (stir if it doesn’t begin to fizz). Whisk oil into water/yeast mixture.  Make a well in the flour and pour water into center.  Using a rubber spatula, begin to fold the flour into the water center, gently incorporating and mixing outwards until all of the flour is combined.  The dough will be very soft.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit until the dough has risen to double its size (approx 2 hours).  After the dough has risen, scrape it into an oiled jelly roll pan.  Lightly oil your hands and press the dough into the pan so that it is evenly filled. Cover the pan with plastic wrap (oiled) and let the dough rise again, approximately 1 hour.  While the dough is rising, cut the 8 oz block of cheddar into approximately 2 dozen pieces.  After the dough has risen for the second time,  use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into approximately 24 squares (6 length wise, four depth wise).

Preheat the oven to 350º. Cover 2 baking pans in foil and lightly grease.

Take a square of the dough and place about half a strip of bacon and 1 piece of cheese in the center.  Fold two of the opposing corners over each other.  With the other two opposing corners, twist them together, forming a knot on top.  Place the piece in the pan.  Repeat with remaining 23 pieces of dough.  Brush all of the knots with the egg was and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden.

Bacon Cheddar Knot Dough

Bacon Cheddar Knot Dough

Bacon cheddar knot dough

Bacon cheddar knot dough

Bacon Cheddar Knots

Bacon Cheddar Knots

Bacon cheddar knot dough

Bacon cheddar knot dough

Finished bacon cheddar knots

Finished bacon cheddar knots

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