D is for Danger (Nutella Brownies)

Every so often a recipe comes along that requires immediate attention, as in, drop everything that you are doing and make me instantly.

When these Nutella Fudge Brownies popped into my Google Reader from Savory Sweet Life’s RSS feed, I knew I wouldn’t hold out for long. Requiring just four ingredients –four!– and all of them pantry staples around here (well, the hazelnuts I keep in my freezer), it was pretty much impossible to say “no” to these brownies.

And why would you want to, anyway? They are dense and delicious, addictive in the best of ways, and simple enough to bake with kids –or at eleven pm in a sleepy stupor.

The recipe is small, making just twelve mini brownie bites, but I think that was planned. These brownies are dangerous with a capital D and half a dozen can easily disappear like that.

So here’s the story: the lovely Alice of the sensational Savory Sweet Life blog, has the recipe for these Nutella Fudge Brownies. You’re going to have to head over there to get it, and I’m doing you a favour in sending you there because her photos are stunning. If you are ho-humming looking at mine, Alice’s shots will have you lunging for the ingredients before the post is read through to the end.

Head here for the Nutella Fudge Brownie recipe.

While you’re at it, why not enter Alice’s giveaway to win a copy of Abby Dodge’s Desserts 4 Today cookbook? Abby Dodge is the creator of the Nutella brownie recipe and her new cookbook includes over a hundred more simple dessert recipes like it.

Alice’s giveaway runs until Sunday, August 29th.

Head here to enter the Desserts 4 Today giveaway.

Playing with Pumpkin: Chocolate-Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

It’s November already! Sorry, I’m just coming to terms with the fact that it is no longer fall, but winter around here, and every afternoon struggle to get the snowsuits and warm gear on for our walk is a reminder that the lazy days of summer are truly gone. Although we have no snow yet, the frigid wind biting our cheeks and noses whispers that it is not far off. Brrr.

If it seems like all I have been posting lately is sweets and more sweets, you’re right, and I have more of the same coming up, so I hope you don’t mind. I don’t know why it works out like that; we DO eat stuff other than apple pie and apple cake, but I usually figure you wouldn’t be too interested in our day-to-day casual comfort fare. I mean, autumn beef stew and chicken-leek pot pie is pretty ho-hum, you know what I mean?

So here is another round of recipes requiring that you dig deep in to that sugar barrel and reach for some spices: It’s Pumpkin Week on UtHC! Stop! Do not throw out those Halloween pumpkins!

We went to a patch recently where I picked up several pumpkins for decorations on the front steps because they were just so pretty. Well, I hate waste, so eventually they were roasted, pureed up and turned in to all sorts of delectable things.
And so I give you Playing with Pumpkin, a four part series featuring the humble squash…and, what’s this, some toys? Huh?

What’s the fun of having a blog if one can’t play around a little, right?
A few years ago, in one of those freak garage sale finds, I discovered a super cute, retro kitchen set and picked it up for Noah, who was still an infant. The mini appliances have had a lot of use since then, as now, when I am baking, Noah sets them up alongside my Kitchen Aid and I let him use real ingredients to make…well, a huge mess, really.

They have such fun, bright colors and I couldn’t resist pairing them with treats from my recent baking marathon.
Part 1 of Playing with Pumpkin features a mini food processor with a removable lid and blades that really turn when you press the button! What fun!

We first baked these Pumpkin Swirl Brownies, a recipe that caught my attention on Martha Stewart, and then again over at Smitten Kitchen. Deb’s photo’s were enough to make me bookmark the recipe in my “Foods to make ASAP” file (that’s right, not just “sometime in the future, but NOW” folder) and after a quick check of ingredients, Noah and I got down to the business of melting chocolate and cracking eggs, while Mateo played happily on the floor with the measuring spoons.

Oh, the only bummer about this recipe is that it makes a of of dishes–or plenty of bowls and spatulas to lick, depending on how you look at it! They taste fabulous, not overly sweet, not to ‘squashy’. If you like how chocolate and zucchini go together, then you must try these brownies. I did have a hard time calling them ‘brownies’, though, they are more like a cake or perhaps a bar.
I’m sorry, but a brownie has to have a certain gooeyness about it for me.

One last thing, I used my own pumpkin for this recipe. I purchased the smaller sugar pumpkins, halved them and roasted them off in the oven. Then I pureed the flesh with a multiquick, one of my Top 10 Favorite Kitchen Items, and hung it in a cheesecloth for an hour or two to get rid of the excess liquid. Works like a charm and leaves me with a firm pumpkin puree that’s a lot milder than the canned stuff.

Pumpkin-Swirl Brownies

Makes 16.
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups solid-pack pumpkin

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan or dish. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter lining.

2. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.

3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until fluffy and well combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture.

4. Divide batter between two medium bowls (about 2 cups per bowl). Stir chocolate mixture into one bowl. In other bowl, stir in pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Transfer half of chocolate batter to prepared pan smoothing top with a rubber spatula. Top with half of pumpkin batter. Repeat to make one more chocolate layer and one more pumpkin layer. Work quickly so batters don’t set.

5. With a small spatula or a table knife, gently swirl the two batters to create a marbled effect.
6. Bake until set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 16 squares.

Katherine Hepburn Brownies and a chocolate dream come true

A large box of chocolate arrived for me recently. It was just in time, too, as I had cleaned the cupboards bare of anything chocolate and was starting to sneak Noah’s Smartie stash that we keep for potty training. No chocolate in the house means hard times around here. I always keep some on hand for baking and snacking.
Where did all this chocolate come from? Did I order it? Win a draw somewhere?
Nope, it was from the company Dove and completely free, hence the ‘dream come true’ part! Sweet!

I was so excited to be recently contacted by the Montreal advertising company, Matchstick, and asked if I would be interested in receiving a Dove Chocolate ‘Pleasure Pack’, no strings attached. All I had to do was enjoy it! Duh, yeah!

Matchstick is a member of WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) which is the newest force in the wold of marketing and starting to catch on all over. It’s a brilliant idea, really, I mean if we find a product that we love, we can’t stop talking about it, right?
I didn’t have a very hard time convincing them I was a chocoholic and an ideal candidate for their program!

“How soon can I get the chocolate?” I asked “Because I am expecting 16 girls here for a party this weekend and the theme is chocolate”.

Well, it didn’t make it here in time, but that’s OK as I would have had a hard time sharing it!

So, yea, I’ve been on a permanent sugar high and chocolate-induced pleasure coma since it all arrived. I’m a fan of milk chocolate for snacking and prefer dark chocolate for baking and I was lacking nothing with this pleasure pack. Also included was the smartly named ‘Dusk’ chocolate, which is what they call milk chocolate with a hint of dark. It’s great and perfect if you can’t decide between dark or milk.
So all the little ‘purse packs’ went pretty fast (lucky receivers, you know who you are!) but I stashed the bars away for some baking and that’s how these brownies came to be. I figured they would be a pretty good test of the chocolate and was impressed at how they turned out.

I used a fabulous recipe from Tartelette for Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies, one of those outstanding recipes of Helen’s that has been bookmarked for ages but I have never gotten around to make. If you haven’t checked out her blog yet, get cracking! Not only is she a sweetie, but she just signed a book deal and will be putting out a cookbook soon! Lucky us!

I seldom make brownies; I guess I’m more of a cookie girl, but that is all about to change as these were amazing! They were plenty moist, but not so gooey to require several napkins. I didn’t count how many of these I ate right out of the pan, but it was a lot and so let me warn you, they are highly addictive.
I under baked mine slightly so as to have more of a fudgy brownie, oh and I threw in some walnuts for fun.

Katherine Hepburn Brownies, adapted from Dorie Greenspan:

4 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 tsp ground coffee
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 lb unsalted butter
1 c Sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 ts Vanilla extract
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 ts salt

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

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

In a heavy saucepan, melt the chocolate with the butter over low heat, stirring until completely melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, coffee, cocoa powder and cinnamon . Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk well. Stir in the flour, walnuts and salt and mix well. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes.

I found it helpful to cut the brownies only when they were very cold and with a sharp serrated knife