Zucchini Bread

Summertime = buying tons of zucchini for cheap, which inevitably leads to zucchini bread, at least for me. This has been true ever since I discovered this awesome zucchini bread recipe at Smitten Kitchen. Baking zucchini bread has become more of a year round thing, because out of all of the baked goods that I make way too often, zucchini bread seems to be the biggest hit. I don’t know if it is because it is so tasty, or maybe because some people see zucchini and immediately think it must be good for you. While the former is true, the latter, not so much – it should really just be called zucchini cake. I’m not going to try to fool myself (or you) into thinking that this zucchini bread is healthy just because there’s a bit of shredded green veggie inside of it (amid the sugar, oil, chocolate, and so on). Similarly, I’m not going to try to fool myself that just because it isn’t health food that I’m not going to eat it (have you seem my other posts?!).

So, I decided that since I will definitely be eating this zucchini bread (and lots of it) when zucchini is so readily available and inexpensive, I might as well at least try to add some sort of health benefits. Seems like a nice compromise, right? So, along with all those horrible things like white flour, sugar, oil, etc, I added some whole wheat flour and ground flax seed. While this might not be the equivalent of eating steamed zucchini, at least there’s some fiber and omega 3’s hidden inside! This was also a nice exercise in using what I had (yay saving $!) – I realized I didn’t have any chocolate chips so I made chocolate chunks from a chocolate bar in my candy stash (yes, I have a target bag filled with all sorts of goodies in my desk for when the stress gets to be too much :/).

So what if I stock up on Halloween candy when it goes way on sale on Nov 1…that candy stash comes in handy at times!

Zucchini Bread (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (or chocolate chunks!)
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease/flour either muffin tins (enough for about 24 muffins) or two 8×4 inch loaf pans. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until slightly fluffy with a whisk. Add oil and sugar, mix, then add zucchini and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt, chocolate chips, and flax seed. Stir this into egg mixture (careful not to overmix) and divide batter into prepared pans. Loaves will bake for 60 minutes, plus or minus 10 (I baked mine for about 55 minutes) and muffins take about 20-25 minutes.

Brownie Cookies aka “Brooksters”

A few years ago, I bought my dad the Baked Explorations cookbook for his birthday – solely based on the gorgeous food pictures and creative recipes (ashamed to admit, I had not heard of Baked before seeing the book). Wow – definitely not disappointing. We have made countless recipes from that book and they have all turned out pretty fantastic. Given the gorgeous pictures and tasty recipes, it was only a matter of time before I got myself up to Baked in Brooklyn, and just like that cookbook, very much not a disappointment.

I wasn’t excited at all when this picture was taken…

First of all – we got to take a ferry there and ferries are always a good time, especially on a beautiful summer day.

ferrying it on over to Red Hook

and then, the goods.

No, that wasn’t all for me. I did taste it all though, and it was all delicious.

New York City is definitely one of my favorite places in the world for so many reasons – having places like Baked being one of them. I find myself suffering from NYC withdrawal if I haven’t visited in awhile, and it’s been almost a year since I was last there. Withdrawal is definitely setting in.

If I somehow win the lottery or publish some amazing IQ test or something, this is where I would like to live…

This is why I love visiting NY, and my NYU bffs. Lobster rolls + bacon mac and cheese are considered perfectly appropriate breakfast foods.

Since grad school has basically caused me to forget the definition of the word vacation and I have no idea when I will set foot in NYC again, I decided I would attempt to bring NYC to me – in the form of baked goods. To be honest, I would rather somehow make my NYC soulmate and fellow food-lover magically appear – but I think that might be a little more difficult. So for now, baked goods will have to do. Although I never actually tasted the famous “Brookster” when I was at Baked (they had salted caramel bars – how could I resist?!), I have been wanting to make one ever since I became aware of its existence. A brownie with a cookie baked inside of it?! GENIUS! They sell the mix at Williams Sonoma, but it doesn’t quite fit into my grad student budget and I am not much of a mix girl.  Now, I am going to be a giant hypocrite and admit that when it comes to brownies alone, I have always loved brownies from a mix (to the point where if I am super desperate for a dessert asap, I will combine brownie mix and water and eat it. And love it. It is what it is.) I have never made brownies from scratch that taste better than Ghirardelli brownies – whether that is a problem with my baking or a testament to how yummy Ghirardelli brownies are is yet to be determined, but I am going to go with the latter.

Now chocolate chip cookies on the other hand – COMPLETELY different story. In my opinion, fresh baked chocolate cookies made from scratch are the epitome of dessert – simple, easy to make, and unbelievably delicious if done right. I usually do my own variation on Alton Brown’s “The Chewy” – and by my own variation I mean that i use skim milk instead of whole milk and all purpose flour instead of bread flour. Not at all because I think it will taste better that way, really, it is just because those are the ingredients I typically have on hand, and when I want to bake, I want to bake like five minutes ago. I love Alton’s recipe because it uses melted butter, and that makes for easier mixing (given my usual lack of an electric mixer). The one downside – the need to plan ahead and be patient because these cookies are truly better after being refrigerated for at least 24 hours. Waiting a whole day to taste the fruits of my labor is definitely the hardest part of the recipe!

So, making brownies from a box mix and homemade chocolate chip cookie dough – here is my interpretation of the “Brookster.” I even got CRAZY and did a reverse brookster – brownie in a cookie! No idea which I liked more – they were both awesome. Too awesome, I need to get rid of them asap or I will eat them all. This is definitely making my list of top 10 desserts ever. Thank you Baked!

Brownie Cookies – “Brooksters” & Reversed “Brooksters” inspired by Baked

  • 1 box Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix, prepared as directed
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks of nonsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli bittersweet)

Cookie Dough: In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour/baking soda/salt). Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium low heat. To give the cookies a more nutty flavor, brown the butter (careful not to burn it though!). While the butter is melting, stir together the sugars. Add the melted butter and stir until well combined. Add the milk and vanilla followed by the eggs, one at a time. Mix until incorporated and add the flour mixture, one third at a time. When you get to the last third, add the chocolate chips and mix along with the flour (helps to prevent over mixing). Here comes the hard part – cover and refrigerate for at least 24 (or up to 36) hours.

Brownies: First, remove take out the cookie dough so that it can warm up a bit before putting together the brooksters. Prepare the brownie mix as directed. I don’t know who I think I’m fooling (not even myself), but I decided to substitute applesauce for half of the oil in the brownie recipe. The point of that? No idea given all the other stuff going into this – I think I was just curious and I had applesauce for a change. And the brownies tasted the same to me, but that could be because they were surrounded by buttery chocolate chip cookies. Ok, back on track with the recipe.

Constructing the Brookster: Preheat oven to 375. Spray muffin tins (mini or regular sized – I did both) with cooking spray (very important step I realized, those brownies do NOT like to come out of the tins). Fill half way with brownie mix – trust me, JUST HALF WAY. I, of course, did about two thirds, and there was a lot of overflowing going on. Next, form balls of cookie dough (I used a teaspoon for the mini muffin tins and a tablespoon for the regular size – I should have gone a bit bigger I think) and flatten slightly so they look like fat little discs. They should be slightly smaller than the muffin tin. Drop the cookie dough discs into the brownie batter and put in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes (they will bake more evenly if the brownie batter/cookie dough are the same temperature). Bake (13-15 minutes for mini Brooksters; 20-22 minutes for big Brooksters).

Constructing the Reverse Brookster: this is basically just the opposite – so you will end up with a bigger cookie to brownie ratio. Press cookie dough into the muffin tins, again, fill about half way. Make a small indentation in the center and fill with the brownie mix (about 1 teaspoon for mini muffin tins, 1 tablespoon for larger tins). Refrigerate for 5-10 minutes and then bake at 375 (10-12 minutes for mini; 18-20 minutes for larger).

wonder where that missing one went…

Double Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream & Caramel Corn

Baking is in my genes. My dad is a ridiculous baker, and when my mom recently had to give up gluten, he became a ridiculously good gluten free baker.  He is so good that he makes gluten free goodies that nobody can tell are gluten free. Unfortunately, living in Georgia, I rarely get to taste his new products – I get pictures instead.

My dad and his amazing chocolate cream pie. 🙂 One day I hope to be that good!

After receiving a barrage of picture messages over the last few weeks of gluten free red velvet cupcakes and salted caramel cupcakes and chocolate cream pies and blueberry muffins, I was craving some baked goods. Specifically, I wanted homemade cupcakes.

We have GiGi’s and another place called Silver Lining here in Athens, and no offense to those bakeries, but they have nothing on my dad’s cupcakes or the delicious cupcakes sold at Georgetown Cupcake in Maryland & DC. Realizing that a store bought cupcake just would not satisfy my craving, I did the next best thing – I made my own using the Georgetown Cupcake chocolate recipe (with some slight modifications), added some peanut butter buttercream, mini Reese’s, and the special finishing touch that really made me feel at home – Fisher’s popcorn flown in fresh from the great Ocean City, Maryland. WOW. There are no words for this delicious combo of chocolate, peanut butter, and caramel. And even better, now I have my own yummy pictures to send up to Maryland to make my parents jealous. Hah!

The cupcake itself is made from a recipe adapted from Georgetown Cupcake (the original recipe can be found here http://projects.washingtonpost.com/recipes/2008/11/05/chocolate-squared-cupcakes/), the frosting is a mix of many recipes I found online, and the frosting technique was a failed attempt to emulate Annie Eat’s interpretation of a recipe from the Savory Sweet Life cookbook (a much better version can be seen here, I blame the difference in frosting texture http://annies-eats.com/2012/06/22/chocolate-cupcakes-with-peanut-butter-cookie-frosting-sweet-savory-life-cookbook-giveaway/).

Double Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon sat
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup skim milk (Georgetown Cupcake calls for whole – I only had skim, saved a few calories plus they tasted just fine to me!)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 cup Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line mini cupcake pans with liners. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in one bowl. In a separate bowl, beat butter with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add sugar; continue to beat on medium speed until incorporated. Add eggs – 1 at a time – mixing slowly after each addition. Combine milk with vanilla extract. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, mix until just incorporated, and then 1/3 of the milk mixture. Repeat until all of the flour and milk has been added. Add cocoa powder and chocolate chips; again, beat on low speed until just incorporated. Fill cupcake tins abut 1/2-2/3 of the way full (I used a heaping teaspoon of batter for each cupcake) and bake for about 11 minutes, or until a toothpick/fork inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Makes approximately 18-20 mini cupcakes, depending on how much batter you eat (oops!).

FROSTING!

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Mix butter and peanut butter together until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and salt and mix (lower speed) until incorporated, then add milk and vanilla. Mix until incorporated and add more milk/cream or powdered sugar if too thick or thin, until it reaches your desired consistency.

The Final Product

I tried to make the frosting look like it was a peanut butter cookie – SUPER cute idea but I think I’d either need a thicker frosting or the patience to let the frosting cool for a little in the fridge before icing the cupcakes. Next best thing – frost the cupcakes like normal, and top with a mini Reese and a few caramel corn kernels. You’re welcome 🙂

I’m trying to be all about balance here. This is what I ate for dinner – I’m surprised I even had room for my tomato/cucumber/basil/mozzarella salad with all of the cupcakes/cupcake batter I ate. Oh well!

My Version of Blueberry (and Raspberry) Boy Bait

I first saw the recipe for Blueberry Boy Bait on Smitten Kitchen about a year ago, and have made it no less than 5 times since.  While I cannot speak to the success of this as far as boys are concerned (I did give some leftovers to my advisor, but referred to it as blueberry cake – I was and am not the least bit interesting in baiting that man!), I can say that this cake is A M A Z I N G!

By 7 o’clock this evening, I had driven to and from the clinic to make phone calls and prep for my case tomorrow, walked around in the rain, finished my IRB for my thesis study, and even managed to throw in a thirty minute workout (which has since been completely negated by what I am about to share). The amount of productivity going on today deserves some relaxation. Which if you ask me, means watching Drop Dead Diva (not ashamed) and baking cake. Also, blueberries and raspberries were on sale at Publix, so this cake was basically destined to be made. I’ve made some modifications to the Smitten Kitchen version (which is adapted from Cook’s Country, who adapted the original recipe – geez this cake has been through a lot!). One of the modifications was out of necessity (unsweetened vanilla almond milk instead of whole milk because that’s what I had) and others were out of curiosity. First, I made half of the cake with raspberries because I had them and thought if the blueberry version was so good, a raspberry version has to be at least as good if not better (love love love raspberries). Second, I added a touch of vanilla because I love vanilla. Third, I used ½ whole wheat flour and ½ all-purpose flour. I don’t know why I do this – well, no, I do it to fool myself into thinking I am eating something that is good for me. Pretty irrational – what is the point when I am still using so much butter and sugar? No matter how irrational, I do this “part whole wheat” thing a lot, and usually (well at least in zucchini bread) things turn out fine. Moral of the story – I will continue to add whole wheat flour to recipes and pretend I am eating health food.* Anyway, here is the truly important part of this post – the recipe!

Yeah – that’s me doing some intense stirring while I watch Drop Dead Diva 🙂

Blueberry & Raspberry Boy Bait

  • 1 cup + 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk (or in my case, unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup raspberries

Topping

  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup raspberries
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

CAKE: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter & flour a 13 by 9-inch baking pan (Note: I have also made Blueberry Boy Bait Mini Muffins because of my love affair with my mini muffin tins + attempts at portion control – if you would like to go this route, reduce cooking time to about 15 minutes).

In a medium bowl, whisk together whole-wheat flour, 1 cup of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes or until fluffy. I’m going to be honest here – I used a wooden spoon and stirred as fast as I could (I was lacking in the mixer department the first time I made this and things turned out fine, plus I got a nice little arm workout – so mixing by hand stuck). Add eggs 1 at a time, stirring until just incorporated. Once all eggs are added, stir in 1/3 of the flour mixture until just incorporated followed by half of the milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla (be careful not to overmix!). Repeat with the second third of the flour mixture and the rest of the milk, followed by the last of the flour mixture. Now is the part where I decided to complicate things. Split the batter between 2 bowls. Toss 1/4 of the blueberries with 1/2 teaspoon of flour and gently fold into one bowl of batter using a rubber spatula. Do the same thing with the other bowl of batter, but this time with the raspberries and 1/2 teaspoon of flour.** Spread the blueberry batter into one side of the pan and the raspberry batter into the other.

TOPPING: Stir sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup blueberries over the blueberry side of the batter and the remaining 1/4 cup raspberries over the raspberry side. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the entire cake and bake for 45-50 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.). Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes (this is the toughest part in my opinion – by this time the whole house will smell like blue/raspberry deliciousness). Once cool, either turn out and display the cake nicely on a platter or just dig in!

*So, the recipe still tastes good with the whole wheat flour BUT I will admit, it is better with 100% all-purpose flour. It also looks better (mine turned out pretty ugly). I retract my original statement – from now on, at least with this recipe, I am just gonna go all in and accept that this is a dessert and it was not meant to be healthy.

Tastes better than it looks, I swear!

**Alternatively, if you wanted to make things easier on yourself – either use all blueberries, all raspberries, or just mix them together in one cake rather than going through the unnecessary hassle of trying to make two different halves. I am sure that all of the above would be delicious…I just have a problem with unnecessarily over-complicating things by trying to get creative.