Yum Peaceful Cooking: February 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Flaxseed and Cracked Pepper Crackers

When I agreed to participate in the Joy the Baker Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off sponsored by Hyperion and hosted at girlichef, we were given a a selection of recipes to try out, 2 choices per week with the option to make one or both choices. I figured I'd only do one recipe each week. I didn't want to stress myself out by trying to overachieve.  For the first week, we had the choices of Chocolate Fudge Brownies with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting and Flaxseed and Cracked Pepper Cracker (say that 5 times fast). I was planning on only making one of them...and of course I went with the brownies (that's a no brainer). After seeing everyone's cracker post...I couldn't resist. I HAD to give them a try. And let me tell you....I am so happy I did. They are easy to make and taste great! You have the earthiness of the whole wheat flour, the nuttiness of the flaxseed and the slightest heat from the cracked pepper. And you can make them any shape you choose!

 (time to get out your cookie cutters and have a little fun)

One side note....if you choose to purchase the Joy the Baker Cookbook (and I highly recommend that you do) you might notice that cracked pepper is not on the list of ingredients. A mild oversight somewhere along the line. It has been determined, and confirmed by Joy, that 1/2 tsp is what should be there. (it's now there, in my copy of the book, written in my handwriting).

One more side note: Flaxseed meal. It's a bit pricey. I happened to already have some on hand from some bread I made a while back (apparently it keeps very well in a very cold fridge). But I did see it at one of my local health food stores, sold in a bin. Which is great...a buck something a pound and I'd only have to purchase as much as I needed. Hopefully you have something near you that does the same. I was able to purchase the golden flaxseed in the same manner.

Flaxseed and Cracked Pepper Crackers
Printable Version

1/4 cup golden flaxseed
1/3 ground flaxseed meal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cracked pepper
2 TB unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350' F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium sized whisk together the flaxseed, flaxseed meal, whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat), all purpose flour, baking soda, salt and cracked pepper.

Add the butter and work it into the flour mixture, quickly, using the tips of your fingers.

Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk. With a fork, work everything together until all of the flour mixture has been incorporated with the buttermilk, making sure every bit of the flour is moistened. You will have a shaggy dough but no worries....it'll come together very nicely in a minute.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough about 10 times to bring everything together. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for about 10 minutes.

Once chilled, cut the dough in half (place one half, wrapped in plastic) back into the fridge. With the remaining half, roll out until it's about 1/8 of an inch thick. Which basically means...as much as you possibly can. You don't want the dough to be thick otherwise your crackers will have more of a biscuit texture than a nice crisp cracker.

Cut the crackers into 1 1/2" rounds, or use a pizza cutter to make squares...or use your favorite small cookie cutter. If the crackers are much bigger than 1 1/2", you will need to increase the cooking time accordingly.

Place on a cookie sheet and prick each one a few times with a fork

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until just golden brown around the edges. Allow to cool before storing them in an airtight container.

Store at room temperature for up to 4 days.

And there you have a whole crud load of delicious, healthy crackers that you've made yourself!

Serve with your favorite cracker topping....cheese, savory spread such as Garlic Jelly

But to be honest with you....I preferred them as is....plain and simple, straight out of the handy dandy zip lock baggy on my desk....waiting to be snacked on throughout the day. Or as a nice little side while enjoying my Merlot night cap.

However you decide to eat these tasty little morsels....make sure you share with a friend and here the awe in their voice as they say..."You made these?!"

(I'm sad to say that I just popped the last cracker in my mouth. Gee darn...I might have to make some more)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Chocolate Fudge Brownies with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Until recently, I never paid much attention to brownies. I rarely made them. I rarely ate them. Not that I didn't like them. They just didn't pop into my mind when I wanted dessert. I don't even remember eating brownies when I was a child. Cookies were my thing. Sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies. I liked cookies. Anyways....my point is....I didn't realize that there were so many different "kinds" of brownies. Cakey, soft, fudgie. And not all brownies are created equally. Boxed, one bowl, several bowls. Cocoa powder, melted chocolate....etc etc.

Apparently I'm the kind of person who likes soft chewy brownies with crispy edges. Then I discovered that I like them with frosting! Who knew? At my age....I'm just now eating a brownie with frosting for the first time? I'd feel very deprived...but I wouldn't want to seem ungrateful to all those wonderful cookies I enjoyed, growing up.

If I were to confess that these brownies are better than any cookie I've ever had...would you promise not to tell? (My peanut butter cookie recipe might feel slighted)

Chocolate Fudge Brownies
Printable Version

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350' F. Grease and flour a n 8" x 8" baking dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Melt the unsweetened chocolate and butter together, in a medium bowl. You can either do it in the microwave if that's your thing...or you can melt it in the bowl, over a pot with boiling water (double boiler style).

Once melted, whisk in the sugars (brown and granulated) and then whisk in the eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla.

Add the flour and fold into the chocolate mixture until well incorporated then fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour your batter into your prepared baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes or until you have a fairly clean toothpick when inserted into the middle. I say "fairly" clean....because...if you skewer a melty chocolate chip, there's no way the toothpick is coming out clean.

Allow to cool completely before adding the following frosting...

The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Printable Version

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 - 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 TB milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Scant 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Ovaltine powder

The instructions say to use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. I have a mixer with a stand. It's 20 yrs old. Basically its a hand mixer that slides onto the stand for convenience. I don't have paddles or any other special attachments. If you're in the same boat as me, don't worry. It works out just fine. 

Cream together the butter, cocoa powder and salt.

Note: Ummm....I had a cocoa powder dust cloud going here. Next time I think I'll cream the butter first and then add the cocoa powder and salt a little at a time. Just for the sake of having less of a mess to clean up.

Continue to mix for another 3 minutes....which at this point you should have a nice creamy chocolaty mix.

Scrape down the sides and add the powdered sugar, while the mixer is on low speed.

Note: After my cocoa powder dust cloud...I added the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, along with the milk and vanilla.

As the sugar incorporates, increase the mixer speed gradually to medium high, scraping down the sides as needed, until everything's nice and smooth.

Mix together the heavy cream and Ovaltine.

Note: Believe it or not...this was the first time I had ever bought Ovaltine. I may have had some as a child but I honestly can't remember. I know my mom never bought it. Apparently there are a few flavors to choose from. I used the rich chocolate Ovaltine. You can use whichever you prefer.

Turn the mixer to medium and add the cream slowly. Beat until you have a delicious frosting that's your desired consistency. Joy the Baker says to add more powdered sugar to adjust the consistency to your liking. You want something that is smooth, creamy and spreadable.

For the brownies, you're only going to use only half of the frosting.

 Save the rest for something else yummy....like finger dipping (or cupcakes).

Cut this one large brownie into more managable sized pieces (cuz no matter how much you want to keep it all to yourself and eat the whole thing as is, cuz if it's not cut up, you can say you only ate ONE brownie....you'll want to see the faces of those who enjoy this and hear them say...mmmmmm.)

I did take the brownies to work so I could share the joy. After a long week, and as Friday came to an end....a rich, chocolately brownie was just what we needed. (Only cuz we're not allowed to have margaritas at work).

But I got to bring a couple home for the weekend. For breakfast. Cuz what could be better than a brownie with your morning coffee on a pretty little plate on a beautiful Saturday morning? (before you go to the gym)

For the next couple of weeks you're going to hear a lot about Joy the Baker around here. She's come out with a cookbook and I'm thrilled to have been asked to participate in the Joy the Baker Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off sponsored by Hyperion and hosted at girlichef*

These brownies and frosting are one of the many sinfully delicioius recipes in her cookbook.

I've just realized that she lives here in L.A. I feel like we should be neighbors or something but with traffic and all....it could take hours to get to her end of town (which ever ends that happens to be). Wouldn't it be cool to bump into her at the grocery store? 

Then I could invite her over to help me bake all the goodies in my shopping cart.