Super Moist Corn Bread

I always think of corn bread as being something out of the South (and by that I mean the southern United States), baked on a hoe over a fire after a long day of harvesting sun-drenched fields. Or from Latin America, where indigenous people have been using corn in recipes for ages and ages.

When I was looking for a modern twist on corn bread, however, every single online recipe I found was credited to someone in CANADA.  How strange is that?  Sure, we grow a lot of corn here, but the association just isn’t the same.  In any case, I adapted this particular Canadian recipe from WillowsMom99 at AllRecipes.

Preheat your oven to 400°F and generously butter a large cast-iron skillet.  We’re going to do this the old-fashioned way.  Sort of.  If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, you should be ashamed of yourself and feel guilty enough to go out and purchase one immediately.  Until you do so, however, you can also use a 9″ x 13″ pan.

In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups cornmeal (not to be confused with grits, corn flour, or masa harina) with 2 1/2 cups milk and let it stand for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 2/3 cup granulated sugar.  I might lower the sugar amount to 1/2 or 1/3 cup, but if you like your corn bread sweet, then go for it.  Mix in the cornmeal mixture and stir well.

Add in 2 eggs and 1/2 cup butter, melted, and stir until smooth.

Here’s where you have a chance to get creative.  I stirred in as well about 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese and 2 cups frozen corn.

Pour the batter into the prepared skillet.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the centre of the cornbread comes out clean. 

Allow to cool slightly in the skillet on a rack, then tip out and slice into wedges for serving.

Great with chili or just on its own.  Just remember to wrap it up tightly to store it, as it goes stale very quickly.

Fudgy Rocky Road Squares

Ooey, gooey, crispy and crunchy, these easy-peasy squares came out of Martha Stewart’s Every Day Food magazine, to which I am an ardent subscriber.

They don’t require a whole lot of baking, and if you’re feeling super lazy you could get away with not baking at all, so that’s always a bonus.  All you need are five ingredients: graham crackers (whole), almonds, marshmallow fluff, chocolate chips, and condensed milk.  Simple.Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Line the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with graham crackers.  Break them if you have to in order to get them to fit.  Bake them until the crackers are lightly toasted and fragrant, probably about 8 minutes.

While that’s going on, coarsely chop up 1 1/2 cups almonds.  Sprinkle the almonds evenly over the toasted graham while it’s still warm.

Dollop on about 1 cup marshmallow fluff in large spoonfuls.  Allow it to soften and spread by itself.

In a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over simmering water, combine 1 12oz bag chocolate chips and 1 14oz can condensed milk. I’m pretty sure you need to use chocolate chips here instead of baking chocolate simply because of the unique physical properties of chocolate chips. 

Cook, stirring once in a while, until the chocolate is all melted and everything is smooth.

Work quickly, before the chocolate has a chance to thicken, and pour it over the marshmallow fluff.

Use a thin-bladed knife to swirl the marshmallow and the chocolate together. 

Refrigerate until set, about an hour, then cut into squares and serve. 

Keep them wrapped up tight in the refrigerator when you’re not chowing down.

Cranberry Orange Cookies

These cookies garnered the approval of Il Principe and his mother.  And the Pie.  And they were really easy.  Which might be why I adapted them from EasyCookies.com.  But I’m just guessing here. In changing the recipe, I left out the salt, as usual, and accidentally added twice the amount of butter I should have, which ended up giving the cookies a lovely crunch I think they needed.  I also added zest to boost the orange aspect of what would otherwise be a pretty plain cookie.

There is nothing more cheery than citrus in the winter, and my mother will tell you that any time you wave an orange at her at any point between November and April.  But she’s right.  Citrus is a remarkably happy-making thing.  Orange being the Pie’s favourite colour, I made these citrus-y cookies with all our citrus-y implements.

So first you want to preheat your oven to 375°F and line some baking sheets with parchment paper.

Next, gather yourself the juice and rind from 2 oranges and set that aside.  You should have about 1/2 cup orange juice and about 2 tablespoons rind to show for your efforts.   While you’re at making things to set aside, whisk together, in a measuring cup or small bowl, 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.  And, well, set that aside too.

In a large bowl, cream together 1 cup butter, softened, with 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup packed brown sugar

Add in 2 eggs.

Pour in your reserved juice and rind.  Mix ’em.

Slowly add your dry ingredients, mixing the whole while.

Stir in 2 cups dried cranberries.

It won’t look like you’ve produced a lot of dough, but trust me, this will make you a whole whack of cookies.  And I MEAN a WHOLE WHACK.  Like 6 or 7 dozen maybe?Drop the sticky dough in heaping teaspoons (not tablespoons, mind you, these cookies are meant to be small) onto the parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating your sheets halfway through, until lightly golden and firm on top.  Let the cookies sit on the sheets outside the oven for a little bit, then remove the crunchy wonders to a rack to cool completely.

If you end up having any left, you should store them in an airtight container so they don’t go stale.  I also froze some dough for later.  Because it’s so sticky, I couldn’t pre-form the cookies before freezing, so I will have to defrost the whole batch of dough before baking.  Alas.

Chewy Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookies

This recipe is an interesting one, and the Pie pointed it out to me.  He loves peanut butter, but isn’t a huge fan of the peanut butter cookie, finding it too crumbly and dry.  So he found me this recipe in Baked’s first cookbook, and I thought I would try it out for one of my research participants.  The participant in question, poor fellow, just broke his collarbone in two places.  I got a one-armed hug for my cookie efforts.  It helped that I also brought along some of the ever-popular peanut butter cups.

And, because my lovely Baked book is back in St. John’s, I used the instructions of Laura over at Kitchen Illiterate — thanks Laura!

I doubled my recipe and am going to attempt to freeze half this dough and see how it turns out.  As always, I left out the salt, because my butter is salted.

So get your mis en place all set up:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, whisked or sifted together with 2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup butter, softened and cut into pieces

1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup peanut butter (I used all-natural crunchy)

6 ounces chocolate, chopped (I used dark chocolate)

If you’re not sure how fine to chop your chocolate, remember that, unlike chocolate chips, bar and slab chocolate does not retain its shape when it’s melted, so think carefully about the size of chocolate goo you want wandering around in your cookie and you’ll be fine.

First, beat the butter and the sugars together until they’re totally fluffy.  If you find your mixture is too dry and crumbly, your butter needs to be softer.  You can chuck your mixing bowl into the oven at 250°F for a few minutes and that will do the trick nicely.

Add each egg one at a time and beat until fully incorporated.

Then you can plop in your peanut butter and the vanilla.  I found it mixed easier if I softened the peanut butter as well, but it depends on the type of peanut butter you use.  Beat that until it’s just mixed.

Add about half the flour mixture and beat for 15 seconds (just following the recipe here, folks).  Add the second half and beat until just incorporated, though you want to make sure you don’t have any pockets of flour anywhere.

Now you can add in your chocolate.

Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  I am a bad person, and only had time to do it for 2 hours, but I don’t think it makes a whole lot of difference.  The dough might be a little harder to handle, but you get used to it.

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and use a tablespoon measure or small scoop to drop rounded balls of dough onto the sheet. 

The secret is in the roundness of your implement.

Make sure they’re at least 2″ apart, because these babies will spread like the Dickens. (Incidentally, does anyone know where that particular turn of phrase comes from?)

Flatten the balls with your fingers, but just a little bit.  They’ll do the rest on their own.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating your sheets halfway through baking, until the cookies have just started to brown on top.  You may find that your oven is hotter or more efficient than this and your cookies end up a bit darker or slightly burnt on the bottom. I always burn my first batch anyway.  My dad loves it because it means more cookies for him.

I ended up cutting the baking time down to 8 minutes, rotating halfway through.  It might even be better to cook them at 350°F instead, but I guess it depends on how thick your pan is.  I used two kinds of baking sheets, one rimmed and one not, and the ones on the rimmed sheet did not turn out as dark.

Remove them from the oven and allow them to sit on the baking sheets for a few minutes to firm up before you transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.  Then you can stuff your face.  Go ahead.  You know you want to.

Twice-Baked Puhdadoes

This is a fantastic Friday-night (or Monday-night) comfort food meal for the middle of winter (sorry in advance for the dark photos), mostly because it’s super-quick, super-good, and full of starchy goodness.  It’s also super easy, though we made ours a team effort.

Cait grated the cheese.

I cut the tomatoes.

Even Ruby helped.  Mostly by sitting in the middle of the floor.

So get yourself some potatoes.  You want these to have a decent skin on them, like jacket potatoes, or russets.  Give them a good scrub.

You can pre-cook them a bit first in the microwave if you wish.  Just make sure to poke some holes in them first.

Pop the in the oven (no pan is necessary) at about 400°F and cook them for a long time, until the skins are slightly wrinkled and crisp, about 45 minutes to an hour.  You can tell if the potatoes are ready by sticking a fork into the potato and waggling it back and forth.  If you don’t encounter much resistance, they’re defeated done.  Take the potatoes out of the oven but leave the oven on.

Slice the potatoes open on one side in a large X pattern.

Use a spoon to scoop the cooked potato into a large bowl.

Grab yourself an electric mixer (because it’s late and you’re lazy).  If you must, climb up on the counter to reach your tallest cabinet.

Start mixing the potatoes with enough milk and butter to satisfy you, then add more grated cheese than you really think is appropriate.  We also chucked in diced tomatoes, for colour and vitamins.

Then of course we added bacon.

Spoon this magic mixture back into your potatoes.  They will be rather overstuffed at this point but that is very much okay.

Place them on a pan and bake them again until the mixture is crusty and golden on top, about 15 minutes.

Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chives.  They are good cold and also reheated the next day, so I hear.

We had our potatoes with rectangular chocolate cake and a good evening was had by all.

Rectangular Chocolate Cake

This is a great cake to whip up for a potluck or casual dinner.  Baking it in a 9″ x 13″ glass casserole dish makes it easy to carry and means you can even freeze the cake if you need it later.

The fudgy icing adds the element of delectability to what is otherwise a regular cake recipe.  Cake recipe from Canadian Living, fudge icing from Chocablog.

Spray the sides of a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish and line the bottom with parchment paper (you can use metal baking pans as well, but I prefer the even cooking of the glass) and set that aside.  Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, beat together 1 1/2 cups softened butter with 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar.  I ran out of white so I added in some brown.

Add in, one at a time, 3 eggs, followed by 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

In a separate container, mix together 3 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and the same again of baking soda.

Stir your flour mixture alternately with 2 1/4 cups buttermilk (or milk soured with lemon juice or vinegar), making three additions of the dry stuff and two of the buttermilk.

At this point I was slightly concerned because the mixture was the consistency and colour of wet cement.  I figured I might as well forge ahead in any case.

Scrape that cement into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake until tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack for about ten minutes, then turn out onto the rack and peel off the paper and allow to cool completely.

While the cake is cooling you can start on your icing.

In a medium saucepan, melt 10 oz butter at low heat.

Holy crap that’s a lot of buttery goodness.

Stir in 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and raise the heat a bit before adding 10 oz icing sugar.

Gradually add in 6 tablespoons milk and allow the mixture to come to a boil.

Remove from heat when you have a glossy, smooth paste, and allow to cool completely.

Slather that goodness all over your cake.  Just give ‘er.

Then you get to eat it.  I made this for Cait and iPM and Cait informed me that she had it for breakfast.  So it’s a multipurpose cake.

Espresso Brownies

Would you like another life-changing experience?

You should make these brownies.  I mean it.

I made about three hundred.  Every single one of them was eaten.  They’re even good stale.  The recipe for these babies comes with thanks from the folks at my mother’s physiotherapy place.  Not that they need any more caffeine.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease a 15″x10″x1″ baking pan (or whatever you can find that will fit the brownie goodness.

In a large saucepan, plop yourself in 1/4 cup water and 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder.

Add to that 1 cup butter (oh yes) and 1 1/2 cups chopped chocolate pieces (your choice).

Melt that pot of loveliness until it’s smooth and then remove from heat. 

Now this next part you are supposed to do in the saucepan but because I tripled the recipe I had to expand to a bowl.

Crack four eggs into a large bowl (I know there are more than four there, but just roll with it) and beat them up.

Add 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Beat it up.

Pour in your lovely chocolate goo and beat until just combined.

Stir in 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.

Stir in 2 cups all-purpose flour.

Spread your batter evenly in the pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

I love that crackly-shiny top on a brownie.

While the brownies are baking and cooling you can whip together 3 cups icing sugar, 1/4 cup softened butter, 2 tablespoons boiling water, 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and, if you wish, 2 tablespoons of a coffee liqueur.

Spread the frosting evenly over the cooled brownies and dust with more espresso powder.

Cut into pieces.

LOVE.

Coconut Cream Cheese Cookies

There is a new god in the pantheon and its name is COOKIE.

Holy SMOKES these are wicked good.  And I don’t even really LIKE cookies.

I was going to make cream cheese brownies to give to the Pie when he came to visit for Thanksgiving, but I figured I should probably go with something new that he hadn’t had before, and besides, I had a lot of cream cheese on hand.  What goes well with cream cheese?

Coconut, of course.  This recipe was adapted with thanks from Dawn Finicane at Vanilla Sugar (who made some adaptations of her own) and it’s fantastic.  FANTASTIC. 

(Just note that this is a two-day cookie to make.  And yeah, I doubled the recipe, as usual.)

DAY ONE:

Preheat your oven to 325°F.

Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and divide 5 cups unsweetened shredded coconut between them.  Seems like a lot, I know, but trust me on this one.

Bake for 10-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, for even toasting.  When the coconut is a golden brown, take it out and let it cool.

Melt 1 1/2 cups butter and let it cool to room temperature.

Whisk together4 1/2 cups flour with 1 teaspoon baking soda and set aside.

In a large bowl, plop in two 400g packages cream cheese.

Add to this your now-cooled butter.

Use an electric mixer to cream the crap out of it.

Add 2 cups packed brown sugar, 1 cup granulated sugar, and 4 teaspoons vanilla extract and mix until thoroughly combined.

Add your flour gradually and mix at a low speed until just combined. 

Stir in your cooled coconut.

Cover the dough and chill it overnight.

DAY TWO:

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.  For this amount of cookie dough you’ll need to use your pans several times, so I prepped four pans, to bake two at a time.

Drop the dough onto the parchment — the cookies will not expand much but might settle slightly during baking.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are set and the bottoms are light brown.  You have to be careful not to overbake these babies. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets until you can lift them without breaking them. Place on wire racks to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container until you eat them all up!

Next time I think I might add a bit of lime juice and grated lime peel to the recipe.  I think that would boost its godliness to new heights.  It will be like the creamy coconut lime cupcakes, but in cookie form.

*** Ali’s Note, 31 January 2010: I added the juice and rind of two limes to this at the cream cheese stage.  The result? OH.  MY.  DO IT.

Handy Items Week: Stand Mixer

Cait and her fiancé  iPM will be on a whirlwind tour of St. John’s this week, so the Pie and I will be playing host and tour guide while they’re here.

To keep you entertained until they get out of our hair and I can give you your own personal tour of my city, I’m giving you eight days of gadgets that I cannot live without.

Without my handy-dandy Kitchenaid stand mixer (another lovely present from my lovely in-laws), I wouldn’t love baking as much as I do.  I never would have conducted the Great Wedding Cupcake Experiment of 2009.  I wouldn’t have done a lot of things.

This is another one of those occasions where it’s really worth it to spend the extra money to get the right equipment.  These babies aren’t cheap, but they last for decades.

Ours also comes with all sorts of fun attachments, like a meat grinder (which I use to make apricot balls, DIY to follow), and a pasta maker (we’re waiting on a drying rack for the pasta first — maybe I’ll just use the laundry rack!).  We’re planning to acquire the ice cream maker attachment shortly.

You can get all sorts of different levels of mixer, some of which are better suited to certain things than others.  But it’s definitely worth having even the most basic model around.