So mostly Rachel and I are about cooking from scratch and all that. But let’s get real: Sometimes you’re pressed for time and guess what? You need a little help. Well, here is a dessert that is going to earn you KUDOS from anyone who eats it and how you made it is your little secret.
This comes compliments of the Intern of Wonder at my day job — Rebecca. We would hire her every summer because she’s an amazing intern and because she finishes every job we give her in about five minutes when we think it’s going to take most of the summer. BUT she also always makes some fantastic sweet goodie at the end of her time with us so, yeah, she basically has an internship for life as far as I’m concerned.
Last year, she made lemon squares that were AWESOME. This summer she made peppermint brownies that were to die for. (People in another department who were lucky enough to have them called them crack brownies.) So I asked her for the recipe assuming — incorrectly — that is was made from scratch. Instead, it involves a packaged brownie bit. I’m not saying this is a problem. I’m just warning you in case you’re a purist or something.
Having eaten these, I am not.
Rebecca made hers with Peppermint Patties. They were fabulous. I went the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup route. I’m not bragging here but they were equally fabulous. Next up could be Heath Bars…or what do you think? Let your imagination go wild.
Peppermint — or Fill in the Fabulous Filling Blank — Brownies
2 Family-sized boxes fudge brownie mix
1 large bag York Peppermint Patties or enough Reese’s Peanut Butter cups to fill the space or whatever is your particular sweet delight
Other ingredients listed on the brownie box (eggs, oil etc.)
Prepare one box of family-sized brownie mix as you would for normal brownies. Grease a 9×13 in. pan and pour the mix in to make a thin bottom layer.
Place unwrapped patties (or your filling of amazingness) about 1/2 in. away from the edge of the pan and each other, making a layer of peppermint(or whatever). Don’t crush or cut the patties, and don’t push them to the bottom of the pan; just set them down lightly.
Prepare the second box as you normally would and pour it evenly over the top of the patties.
Bake according to the directions on the box for the “thickest” brownies. The ones I made took about 50 minutes.
Let cool, cut, and serve… then try not to go back for seconds!
Janet here: I’m flying mostly solo this week as Rachel juggles something like three papers and a test or something crazy like that. She’ll weigh in if she’s got time. That means I could pick whatever I wanted to focus on so I decided to kick it all off with dessert. There’s nothing like a good dose of sugar to kick off the cooking week, don’t you think?
I made these very tasty cupcakes for a dinner party after a friend’s art opening. They’re from Christie Matheson’s Salty Sweets, a book dedicated to the delicious culinary magic that occurs when salty and sweet things meet. I went high end on the chocolate, eschewing my usual Toll House chocolate chips for Ghiradelli bittersweet. It was soooo worth it. The frosting was killer, as were the few chips that found their way to my mouth while baking. Hope you like these!
Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting
makes about 12 regular size cupcakes
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk (I used skim and it was fine)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a bowl (or be like me, someone who has never sifted something in her life and it all still tastes just fine)
In a mixing bowl mix the butter, peanut butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar on medium speed until light-colored and creamy, about one minute. Beat in the egg for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix in the vanilla and beat on medium spped for one minute. Scrape down the bowl sides again.
Add in the flour mixture in three increments, alternating with the milk, ending with the flour. Mix until just combined each time.
Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 full with bater. Bake for about 20 minutes until the tops are golden brown and a cake taster comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. When cool, frost each cupcake with chocolate frosting. Sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel or chopped salted peanuts or…., especially for kids, chopped up Reese’s Peanut Butter cups or Reese’s Pieces.
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon fine seat salt
Put the chocolate in a medium-size heatproof bowl.
Combine the cream, butter, corn syrup and salt in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until very hot but not boiling, about 4 minutes. Quickly pour the hot cream mixture over the chopped chocolate. Let it stand 5-7 minutes to melt the chocolate. Then whisk until smooth. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes and then beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. The frosting will keep for up to 3 days, refrigerated, in an an airtight container. Bring to room temperature before using.
Janet here: We are not a family of cake eaters. Did that start because I’m not a cake eater and never made them, the same way we never had soda in our house growing up so I never developed a taste for soda? Who knows, but whatever the reason, we have homemade ice cream cakes for birthdays… and they barely last a day.
I’m not sure where I got the idea to make an ice cream cake (or perhaps more accurately, an ice cream pie) but once I did, the path was set. The way it works, each birthday person can pick the kind of ice cream and whatever mix-in they want smushed in. Depending on the birthday child, it’s been anything from M&Ms to Reeses Peanut Butter Cups to Heathbars (and sometimes all of them). This recipe is absurdly easy (and fun to lick the bowl afterwards). Hope you enjoy!
Homemade Ice Cream Cake
20 oreo cookies, smashed
20 (give or take) small Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, smashed (or whatever you choose)
2 pints of ice cream (coffee is a favorite at our house but again the choice is up to you)
Put the ice cream out to soften.
While it softens, mash the oreo cookies in a bowl. I use a pestle but a covered hammer could work too.
Place the cookie “crust” in an 8 or 9 inch pie pan, making it level. Make sure there is enough for the sides. (You can always add more mashed cookies if you need more.
Mash the smush-in of choice in the same bowl. When you’ve got enough, add the softened ice cream and mix up some more. Spread into the pie pan and put it in the freezer for at least an hour. (It will be hard to wait but worth it.) Serve it up!
Rachel here: So, as evidenced by my mom’s cake, ice cream was the theme for this post and, as evidenced by the fact that the picture right above these words is a picture of sorbet, I strayed. Oops! I’m pretty sure my mom’s used to my, shall we say, interpretations of guidelines at this point. But anyway…
The reason I made sorbet was that, well, I wanted to. I keep getting really excited at the grocery store when I see California berries at a reasonable price in the middle of winter and, though I could have made ice cream with them, sorbet seemed to honor their magnificence just a bit better since the fruit stands on its own more (don’t get me wrong, though, I adore ice cream). For the last few weeks I’ve noticed gold raspberries and I’ve been meaning to try them and so I picked some up (along with some red raspberries and some strawberries…I wasn’t kidding when I said I keep getting really excited at the grocery store) and embarked on my very first sorbet making adventure. You can follow me along this delicious path using the recipe below and substituting whatever is local and fresh in your produce department.
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. water
juice from one small lime
3 c. gold raspberries
3/4 c. red raspberries
1/4 c. sliced strawberries
Make a simple syrup with the sugar, water and lime juice. Don’t know what simple syrup is? It’s a syrup that is quite simply made by heating the sugar and water (and, in this case, the lime juice) over the stove until the sugar dissolves. Mmmm…
Place in fridge or freezer until quite cold (but not frozen).
In a food processor, break down your berries until smooth. I’ve heard that some people like to then strain the seeds out of this berry concoction, but I like evidence of the fresh fruit I’ve used so I left them in. If you don’t have a food processor, I am going to post a little alternate recipe below that should turn out just fine. Back to this version, though…
Place the berries in the fridge and chill until quite cold.
Combine berries and syrup in a pourable container. Set up your ice cream maker/attachment (don’t have one? No big deal with sorbet. Just put your well mixed berries and syrup in the freezer, checking on it every 15 minutes or so and fluffing it up so you don’t get ice crystals until it’s a good texture for you) and let it work its magic. Put your sorbet in an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.
So, you don’t have a food processor. It’s ok, I didn’t always. I got one this summer when John and I got officially hitched. It’s awesome and sort of like having a kitchen b*tch, but I’m sure I don’t need to rub your face in its wonders. So, what you should do instead is take half of your simple syrup and combine it with 1/2 c. lemon juice. This should taste like sweet lemonade. Now just mash or chop up your berries and mix them into this. Everything else you need to know from here it posted in the main recipe above. Enjoy!