25 January 2011

Brownie Points

I meant to get started a while ago on this year's big project (last year it was Mormon Muffins) but--big surprise--life got in the way. Still, I finally had a chance to get started on the first recipe and wow--were these brownies worth the wait!

The challenge I've given myself is to complete at least 12 (preferably all 15) of Martha Stewart Living's "15 Years of Delicious Desserts," as seen in this issue (Feb 2006):

Why did I choose these particular recipes? Because they all looked so good and there were several I've never tried making before or wouldn't normally make (donuts, layer cakes, semifreddo...) And really--who wouldn't love a challenge with delicious rewards? I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride (and that you're inspired to do some baking yourself)! Click photos to enlarge...

The goods:
Dutch process cocoa makes these brownies extra rich:

My chocolate had a little bloom (discolouration) happening but it"s fine to still use it and it worked out well:

Melting the chocolate and butter in my version of a double boiler (bowl over a pot of simmering water):

Melty goodness:

A pile of white powder only a baker could get excited about:

In the foreground is a bottle of my homemade vanilla extract. It's ridiculously easy to make too: Cut open a few vanilla beans (you can get them inexpensively online); put in a glass bottle; fill bottle with alcohol (I like brandy but you can also use vodka, whiskey or even rum), let steep for about 6 weeks; use as needed. As you use the extract replenish the alcohol (you don't need to let it sit for another 6 weeks before using again). It smells amazing and it's ultimately cheaper than buying real vanilla extract. Also, the longer it sits the better it gets.

Sugar, eggs, and vanilla...

Beat for about four minutes...

Until creamy and pale:

Mix in the chocolate:

Add the dry ingredients:

Batter up!

Before baking:
Baked. Doesn't look a lot different, does it? But I like how the parchment paper gives it the appearance of a gift!

OMG deliciousness...

Double-Chocolate Brownies

[My notes/changes in brackets]

Makes 8

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate [you can spend more on higher quality chocolate but Baker's brand actually works very well]
  • 1/4 cup best-quality unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides. Coat with cooking spray; set aside.

Melt together butter, chocolate, and cocoa in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat. Stir until smooth; let cool slightly.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Put eggs, sugar, and vanilla into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat until pale, about 4 minutes. Beat in chocolate mixture. Add flour mixture; beat until just combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

Transfer batter to prepared pan, and smooth top with an offset spatula [I don't have one so I used a rubber spatula. Messier but still okay]. Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownie between edge and center comes out with a few crumbs, 30 to 35 minutes. (Do not overbake.)

Let cool 15 minutes; lift out of pan, and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely. Cut into 8 rectangles. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days [if they last that long].

Original recipe here.

My Verdict

So good. These are amazing, properly fudgy brownies (I don't get the point of cakey brownies) with a crisp, crumbly crust. I wouldn't change a thing about them except, if I'm feeling particularly decadent, to add some vanilla ice cream on the side (or just go for broke and throw on ice cream, whipped cream, and some salted caramel sauce). If the rest of the "15 best" recipes are half as good as these brownies I'd say this year's project will be a brilliant success. Highly recommended that you make these. Now.

Photos by Domicile

11 January 2011

Spring in My Step

Ah, January--garden catalogue month. I both enjoy and dread going through the catalogues. Enjoy for obvious reasons, dread because I always go overboard. I'd buy enough seeds and plants for ten gardens if I could (now there's an idea...) Putting my wishlist together as spring s-l-o-w-l-y approaches, I thought I'd share some of the goodies that are tempting me at the moment. I know I'll eventually have to seriously edit this list, but for now I'll just pretend I've got all ten of those gardens...


Angelonia, Serena
Asclepias, Silky Formula
Aster, Powderpuff Bouquet

Bachelor Buttons, Double Ball Mix
Bells of Ireland (Molucella laevis)
Brachycome, Swan River
Calendula, Apricot Twist
Calendula, Indian Prince
California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
California Poppy, Copper Pot
California Poppy, Double Apricot Chiffon
California Poppy, Jelly Beans
California Poppy, Mission Bells
California Poppy, Rosa Romantica
Calla, Black Star

Calla, Regal Purple
Carnation, Picotee Fantasy
Celosia, Romantica
Cosmos, Carpet Formula

Cosmos, Rubenza
Cosmos, Snow Puff
Dahlia, Bristol Stripe
Dahlia, Hy Pimento
Dahlia, Karma Choc
Dahlia, Thomas Edison
Dahlia, Tricolore

Daisy Candytuft, Fairy
Datura, Ballerina Purple
Dianthus, Double French Frills
Dianthus, Fandango Purple Picotee
Eustoma, Twinkle
Felicia, The Blues
Five Spot (Nemophila maculata)
Flax, Bright Eyes
Flowering Cabbage, Pink Crane
Flowering Cabbage, Rose Crane
Flowering Kale,
Four o' Clocks, Broken Colours
Godetia, Azalea Flowered

Gourd, Goblin Eggs

Honeywort/Cerinthe, Kiwi Blue

Linum, Charmer Mixture
Lobelia, Riviera Blue Splash

Marigold, Bonanza Flame

Marigold, Safari
Marigold, Vanilla
Mignonette, Sweet Scented

Morning Glory, Blue Picotee
Morning Glory, Carnivale di Venezia
Morning Glory, Dacapo Light Blue
Nasturtium, Dwarf Jewel

Nasturtium, Ladybird Cream Purple Spot
Nasturtium, Out of Africa
Nasturtium, Tall Climbing

Nemesia, Carnival
Nemophila, Penny Black
Nicotiana, Perfume
Nicotiana, Saratoga
Nicotiana, Sensation
Nigella, African Bride
Ornamental Kale, Crane Series Rose
Ornamental Kale, Sunrise Flowering
Pansy, Nature Hybrid
Pansy, Nature 'Mulberry Shades'
Pansy, Frizzle Swizzle Yellow-Blue Swirl

Poppy, Ballerina
Poppy, Double Shirley
Poppy, Falling in Love
Poppy, Flanders Field

Poppy, Mother of Pearl
Poppy, Peony Mixed
Portulaca, Margarita Peppermint

Rudbeckia, Cherry Brandy
Scutellaria Veranda

Snapdragon, Light Pink Butterfly
Sunflower, Claret
Sunflower, Dorado
Sunflower, Earthwalker
Sunflower, Fantasia
Sunflower, Moulin Rouge
Sunflower, Summertime

Sunflower, Velvet Queen
Sweet Pea, Bijou
Sweet Pea, Cupani
Sweet Pea, Incense
Sweet Pea, Lemon and Lime
Sweet Pea, Melody
Sweet Pea, Ocean Foam

Sweet Pea, Pastel Sunset

Sweet Pea, Pot Perfume

Sweet Pea, Red Rover
Sweet Pea, Species Mixed
Sweet Pea, Streamers
Toloache, Evening Fragrance
Viola, Erlyn Lemon/Blue Wing
Zinnia, Candy Cane
Zinnia, Envy
Zinnia, Giants of California

Zinnia, Queen Red-Lime
Zinnia, sun series Sunshine
Zinnia, Thumbelina

Zinnia, Uproar Rose

FLOWERS, Perennial & Biennial

Achillea/Yarrow, Cassis
Asclepias/Butterfly Milkweed

Asiatic Lily, Olina Tango
Aster, Purple Dome
Astilbe, Color Splash
Astilbe, Grande
Astilbe, Mighty Pip

Bellflower, La Belle
Bergenia, Red Beauty
Blue Wild Indigo
Campanula/Canterbury Bells
Cerastium, Snow-in-Summer
Columbine, Lime Sorbet

Columbine, Miss MI Huish
Columbine, Origami Blue and White
Columbine, Winky Double Blue and White
Coneflower, Purple
Creeping Thyme (groundcover)

Daisy, Gloriosa Marmalade
Daylily, Lavender Blue Eyes
Delphinium, Starlight
Foxglove, Camelot
Foxglove, Candy Mountain
Foxglove, Excelsior
Gaillardia, Arizona Red Shades
Globe Flower, Alabaster
Heuchera, Melting Fire
Hollyhocks, Fiesta Time
Iceland Poppy, Flamenco
Jacob's Ladder
Laceflower, Graceland
Leopard Lily
Lily of the Valley, Pink

Monarda, Panorama

Malva, Zebrina
Oriental Poppy, Checkers
Oriental Poppy, Coral Reef
Peony, Victoire de la Marne
Phlox, Aureole
Phlox, Tiara
Poppy, Garden Gnome
Pyrethrum, Painted Daisy
Rose, Konigin Von Danemark
Rose, La Reine Victoria
Rose, Mme. Hardy
Rose, Rose de Rescht
Rose, Salet
Rudbeckia, Cherry Brandy
Rudbeckia, PowWow Wildberry
Russian Sage, Little Spire
Sage, Violet
Species Lily, Black Beauty
Sweet William, Giant Single
Sweet William, Messenger
Tiger Lily, Iowa Rose
Visnaga, Casablanca


Basil, African Spice
Basil, Blue Spice
Basil, Dolly
Basil, Green Globe
Basil, Lesbos
Basil, Medinette
Basil, Oriental Breeze
Basil, Purple Bush
Basil, Purple Ruffles
Basil, Rosie
Basil, Sweet Dani Lemon
Basil, Sweet Salad
Bergamot, Rose Scented
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Chives, Kobold Garlic
Chives, Nelly
Chives, Profusion
Cilantro, Leisure
Cilantro, Pot
Cilantro, Santo
Clover, Dragon's Blood
Comfrey, Bocking 14
Fennel, Bronze 'Smokey'
Fish Mint, Chameleon
Flax, Blue
Geranium, Almond
Geranium, Apple
Geranium, Brilliant
Geranium, Charity
Geranium, Clorinda
Geranium, Coconut
Geranium, Frensham Lemon
Geranium, Joy Lucille
Geranium, Lemon Sculpture
Geranium, Nutmeg
Geranium, Peacock
Geranium, Prince of Orange
Geranium, Strawberry
Ginger, Wild
La Lot
Lavender, Blue Cushion
Lavender, Blue Rider
Lavender, Gros Bleu
Lavender, Provence
Lavender, Provence Blue
Lavender, Sachet
Lavender, Super
Licorice, Miniature Silver
Mallow, Mauritian
Mint, Banana
Mint, Berries & Cream
Mint, Candy Lime
Mint, Citrus Kitchen
Mint, Cotton Candy
Mint, Fruitasia
Mint, Fruit Sensations
Mint, Moroccan
Mint, Orange
Mint, Peppermint
Mint, Sweet Pear
Mint, Wintergreen
Oregano, Decorative
Oregano, Herrenhausen
Oregano, Kent Beauty
Parsley, Afrodite
Pennyroyal, Spice Ball
Pink, Sweet
Rosemary, Barbeque
Rosemary, Foxtail
Rosemary, Gorizia
Rosemary, Huntington Carpet
Rosemary, Santa Barbara
Sage, Fruit
Sage, Grape Scented
Sage, Honey Melon
Sage, Hummingbird
Sage, Painted
Sage, Purple
Sage, Raspberry Royale
Savory, Lemon
Savory, Summer
Savory, Summer 'Midget'
Stevia, Crazy Sweet
Thyme, Caraway
Thyme, Lavender
Thyme, Lemon
Thyme, Magic Carpet Lemon
Thyme, Minus
Thyme, Nutmeg
Thyme, Orange Spice
Thyme, Rose Petal
Vervain, Blue
Wintergreen, Very Berry


Angel Hair
Bunny's Tails


Amur Maple 'Superior Red'

Cherry, Romeo (sour)
Elderberry, Giant Pie


Purple Teepee, Rocquencourt, Royal Burgundy, Senegalese Purple-Speckled Cowpea, Fort Portal Jade Bean

: Cylindra, Chioggia, Albino (all heirloom varieties)

Patio, Northern Bilberry

Nantes Coreless, Rainbow Blend, Atomic Red, Cosmic Purple, Sweetness, Rainbow Hybrid, Nelson

Chicago Pickling, Wisconsin 'SMR-58', Mathilde, Lemon, Alibi, Cool Breeze, Diva, Iznik Hybrid, Salad Bush Hybrid

Inchelium Red, Lorz Italian, Belarus, Fireball, McEwen Red, Purple Glazer, Society Garlic

Greens: Italian Dandelion, Corn Salad/Lamb's Lettuce, Bright Lights Chard, Long Standing Bloomsdale Spinach, New Zealand Spinach, Red Russian Kale, Garland (Chrysanthemum coronarium), Peppergrass, Mizuna, Red Flash Orach Atriplex, Green Purslane, Profusion Sorrel, Red Giant Mustard,
Tendergreen Mustard, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Sylvetta/Wild Arugula

Leek: Bandit

Lettuce: Grand Rapids, Royal Red, Salad Bowl, Buttercrunch, Baby Leaf Blend, Baby Star (Mini Romaine), Esmerelda, Yugoslavian Red Butterhead, Pearl, Rushmore, Sangria, Dixter, Ice Queen, Black Seeded Simpson

Misc: Goji Berry
, Fig 'Hardy Chicago', Rampion, Japanese Eggplant

Okra: Red Burgundy

Onions: Spanish, Walla Walla, Southport White Globe, Red Baron Bunching, Yellow Sweet Spanish, Gourmet Shallots, Yellow Dutch, Borrettana

Homesteader, Little Marvel, Green Arrow (love the name)

Peppers: Sweet Pimento, Jalapeno, Medusa, Pepper Pot Little Blue, Fooled You, Holy Mole, Gypsy, MiniApple, Black Pearl, Thai Chile,
Bull's Horn of Carmagnola

Purple Caribe, Kennebec

Seed Potato Planter (Going to have to get at least two of these!)

Cherry Belle, French Breakfast, Red Meat, Purple Plum, China White, Round Black Spanish, Fire Candle, Ostergruss Rosa, Blauer Herbst, Easter Egg, Sora

Raspberry: Purple Royalty

Rhubarb: Strawberry Red

Root Parsley: Hamburg

Honey Bear (winter), Sungreen (summer), Partenon Hybrid (summer), Black Beauty (summer), Waltham Butternut (winter)

Strawberry: Temptation, Kent

Cabernet, Sweetie, Ground Cherry, Cherokee Purple, Black Cherry, Balcony Charm, Black Krim, Honeybee, Sugar Plum, Sunsugar, Tumbler, Viva Italia, Alegra, Siderno, Golden Shine, Super Sweet 100


Ornamental Eggplant/Pumpkin on a Stick:

Mouse Melon:

Tea (Camellia sinensis):


You know, I think I could actually manage to include all these plants in my garden if I make use of the front and the back yards. Now I just need to convince the SO to dig up the lawn...

Photos from top to bottom: Rainbow Blend Carrots, DaCapo Light Blue Morning Glory, Bells of Ireland, Black Star Calla, Five Spot, Sunrise Ornamental Flowering Kale, Double Shirley Poppy, Riviera Blue Splash Lobelia, Species Sweet Pea, Sunshine Zinnia, Margarita Peppermint Portulaca, Azalea Flowered Godetia, Starlight Delphinium, Olina Tango Asiatic Lily, Candy Mountain Foxglove, Double Winky Blue and White Columbine, Lime Sorbet Columbine, Konigin Von Danemark Rose, Victoire de la Marne Peony, Purple Bush Basil, Mauritian Mallow, Chameleon Fish Mint, Prince of Orange Geranium, Super Lavender, Herrenhausen Oregano, Magic Carpet Lemon Thyme, Bunny's Tails Ornamental Grass, Albino Beet, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Goji Berry, Red Baron Bunching Onion, Red Meat Radish, and Golden Shine Tomato.