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Ultimate Fudge Brownies (pt 1)

I want to introduce you to my ultimate fudge brownie recipe…

Soon. (Don’t hate me! I can explain.)

Tonight I’ve done it with a twist.

I’m always experimenting with ways to simplify life without robbing myself of the rich rewards of a worthwhile labor. It’s not that brownies are labor intensive by any standard, but when you’ve got many little ones who pull your attention in multiple directions, it is best to plan ahead in order to keep your domestic crown perfectly in place no matter when or how you are needed.

Tomorrow is the night I will actually need to bake the brownies, because my daughter wants to bring them to school on Thursday morning; but I wanted to get the mess out of the way so we had little to worry about tomorrow. Because of that, I’m experimenting tonight: dry brownie mix two ways…

Dry mix #1 has an exciting (to me) ingredient in it: powdered butter. Now, don’t turn your nose up at it just yet. Let’s look at the benefits. For starters, if you buy a box brownie mix at the grocery store, it will ask for crap oil which, in my opinion, has no place in a GOOD brownie. (Just don’t lower yourself to that standard, I beg you.) Second, this has enabled me to create a nearly fool proof solution to the lofty goal of buttery, chocolatey brownie instant gratification. Just add eggs, water, and mix. Similar to the box crap on grocery store shelves, no? (No! Better!)

Yes, this is entirely the reason for making the dry mix two ways tonight. Tomorrow night I want to do a side-by-side comparison and decide for myself if this is as good as the product claims. If it is, which is what I hope, then can you imagine how many batches of delicious brownie mix I will be making?! Ahem… purely for simplifying my life as needed, of course. No midnight episodes of chocoholic instant gratification here! (Hah. Believe what you want. I confess, you’re most likely half right.)

So… that leads me to Dry Mix #2. It will contain the regular amount of melted butter as usual. I have no doubt that these will be as decadent and sinful as usual. It’s a wonder I haven’t gone down the dry mix road before now, isn’t it? I cannot wait to report back to you how it goes. Who knows what other avenues it will enable us to explore in the near future?

Stay tuned for an update in the coming days.

Baking · Cookies · Special Occasions

The 12 Days of Christmas Baking, Day 1: Shortbread Snowballs

First, I owe a shout out to all of my faithful friends and family who constantly stick with me and have shown support to me all these years.  This new chapter is dedicated to you.  I love you.

I’m just barely getting this blog back up and running after a 3-4 year hiatus.  It was rough getting through cancer treatment/recovery and resuming a normal life, but I think I am there (“normal,” hah!) and stronger than I have been in years.  I would like to believe that my thyroid and I once had a happy, non-toxic relationship when I was much younger.  I do miss it and life without the constant medical appointments or meds, but who cares when it is such a blessing just to be alive?  I’m counting my blessings, and they are plentiful.  That being said, I have plenty to be grateful for, and what better way than showcasing some of my favorite things to do in my favorite season of the year?

I give you The 12 Days of Christmas Bake Along

Many years ago, a friend of mine brought something similar to these to my sister’s cookie exchange.  I loved them so much that I sought out a similar recipe, tweaked it just a smidge, and a family favorite was born.  My husband gives these as gifts at work, and I now bring them to my own cookie exchanges whenever I have the opportunity.  I hope you get a chance to enjoy them as much as I do.  They’re so easy to make, I’ll give you the recipe.  😉

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for Day 2 of my 12 Days of Christmas Bake Along.  Post pics of your own Sublime Shortbread Snowballs on the Modern Domestic Goddess community page.

Day 1: Sublime Shortbread Snowballs (Skill level: Easy)

Ingredients

1 cup salted butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar (plus more for rolling later)

2 cups all purpose flour

1.5 teaspoons almond extract

1 cup miniature chocolate chips

1 cup blanched, slivered almonds

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Cream together butter, 1 cup powdered sugar, and almond extract with an electric mixer. Gradually add flour, and mix until the dough comes together like chunky sand. Using a wooden spoon, fold in mini chocolate chips and slivered almonds.  Scoop cookie dough into 1 tablespoon sized portions. Squeeze/roll together in hand to make round balls. Space two inches apart on tray. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until bottoms are just slightly browned. Prepare a large bowl or platter with a generous layer of powdered sugar.

Remove cookies from heat and place directly in powdered sugar. Roll until evenly coated. Allow to cool and roll once more in powdered sugar.

Yields approximately 2 dozen cookies.

For a printable version, click here.

Baking · Breads · Cakes · Soups · Special Occasions · Supper

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
For all you last-minuters like myself, I just have one piece of advice:

DOWN WITH CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE!

Okay, not really. It’s yummy, and I appreciate corned beef at least once a year, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret: (whispers: It’s not reeeeally Irish.) It’s totally Americanized Irish food faire. Granted, my ancestors left blessed Ireland a couple hundred years ago, but we still love our heritage. (I’m more English and Scottish, but my husband has loads more Irish than I do, so we’re covered.)

I digress…

Back to the point then. If you want to celebrate tomorrow with something delicious and slightly more authentic, I’ve got some recipes for you to try. Our dinner menu tomorrow will include Beef Stew, Soda Bread, and Apple Cake. These are all adaptations from recipes I have collected from friends and internet over the years. I’ll make them into .pdf and printable versions later when I am up to photographing the yumminess. For now, enjoy!!

Irish Beef Stew
2lbs beef stew chunks
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 bag of pearl onions
3 cloves minced garlic
a healthy dollop of tomato paste (About 2-4 oz…what, you don’t know what a dollop is?)
1 large chopped potato
2 medium peeled and chopped parsnips
2 medium peeled and chopped carrots
1 small to medium turnip, peeled and chopped
1 small to medium rutabaga, peeled and chopped
4 cups low sodium beef broth
12 oz Guinness (I do a non-alcoholic substitution with usually apple or juice and a shot of malt vinegar because we don’t consume alcohol in our home- or you could add more broth and some sautéed mushrooms)
A few shots of Worcestershire sauce to taste
Fresh parsley for garnish

Use an enamel stew pot or dutch oven and coat the bottom with oil. Brown the stew meat on all sides in small batches on medium-high heat. Each time a small batch of the meat has been browned, just remove it and leave on a plate on the side. In the same pan, sweat onions and garlic, salt and pepper, and tomato paste. Be sure to scrape up all those yummy browned bits from the bottom of the pan and also let some of that tomato paste brown a little from the heat of the pan. Add beef chunks and any remaining juices back to the pan now and deglaze the pan with the stock, your beer or beer alternative, and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 1-2 hours.
In a separate pan, sauté with olive oil all the chopped veggies to give them a nice brown exterior. Don’t fully cook and especially do not burn them! This is just to give them extra flavor. After your stew meat has simmered for 1-2 hours, add in the veggies. Simmer for 30 or so more minutes. (Adjust the salt and pepper as needed before finishing.) Garnish with fresh parsley and enjoy!

It’s excellent with Irish cheddar scones. However, I like to skip the cheese scones and go for the sweet Irish soda bread. Truthfully, it’s because I only have so many calories I can spare in one day, so tomorrow I’m going for the soda bread. Leave a comment on this blog post if you want me to share my scone recipe later.

Irish Apple Cake
4 granny smith apples, cored, peeled and diced, about 2 cups (extra is fine)
1 c granulated sugar
4 T butter, softened (room temperature)
1 egg, beaten (room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves (optional)
1 c all-purpose flour
¼ c chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F
Chop apples and macerate in sugar, salt, and spices while preparing other ingredients.
In a large bowl, mix butter, egg, and vanilla. Add apple mixture and gently mix. Add baking powder, baking soda, flour, and nuts. Mix well.
The dear woman who shared this recipe with me used to make it in a large bread pan, so that’s what I do. Although, you could just as easily pour it into a charming little cake pan or dish and serve it that way after baking. (Prepare the pan with your favorite method: butter, baking spray, etc.)
Bake for 45min until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake is lightly browned. Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes before removing it from the pan.
Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or dusted with powdered sugar. (I’m in heaven with just the cake and a glass of milk.)

Here’s a fun tip- I also make this recipe in a muffin tin for quick breakfasts. Skip the muffin liners and just spray the tin directly with baking spray.

Sweet Irish Soda Bread
5 c flour
3/4 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ c (1 stick) butter
2 1/2 c raisins, soaked in water for 15-20 minutes and drained
3 T caraway seeds (I don’t always have these and it tastes fine without)
2 1/2 cups buttermilk (I don’t often have buttermilk on hand, so I do that milk and lemon juice trick. If I don’t feel like doing that, I just use normal milk. Whatever you have on hand will work fine.)
1 large egg
Milk for brushing tops of bread
Raw sugar for sprinkling tops of bread before baking

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter 2 (9 by 5-inch) bread pans.
Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Cut in the butter and mix very thoroughly with your hands until it gets grainy. Stir in the plump raisins and caraway seeds.
Add the buttermilk (or milk) and egg (beaten) to the flour mixture. Stir until well moistened. The “dough” should resemble thick cake batter like a standard quick bread. Equally fill 2 loaf pans. Lightly brush just a little bit of extra milk on the tops of the bread, then sprinkle the top of each with raw sugar to make it shimmery! Bake for 60-70 minutes. A toothpick in the center will come out clean when it is done. Cool in the pans for 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Another fun tip- Slice it and leave it out overnight to dry a bit and then make French toast with it in the morning. It’s YUM-AZING! (Haha… Sorry, couldn’t help myself– don’t worry, I don’t actually say that in real life.) It’s the best!

And if these holiday meal ideas still don’t appeal to you, despite how Irish they may or may not be, then here’s one more interesting tidbit. Saint Patrick wasn’t Irish either, so just make what sounds good and celebrate however you wish. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day and Éirinn go Brach!

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