The Great Brownie Chase…

Back in 1999 I tried a bunch of brownie recipes on my teenagers and their friends. Over 6 months the winning brownie came out of a box. And it did not matter much which brand.

Well, I want to change that outcome so I am trying out brownie recipes on my coworkers. The biggest drawback is that brownies generally get rave reviews just for showing up and just for being chocolate.

For a two week trial so far, here is what I have done. I chose a Quick & Easy Fudge Brownies recipe from the back of a King Arthur flour bag. I clipped this and stuck it on my kitchen counter. I am not sure if I made this one before or a different KAF recipe. I have written about brownies twice before, here and here. But my endeavor here is to find a go-to recipe that gets high ratings from a variety of people. And because I am a social scientist I have a three point Likert scale for tasters to rate each brownie.

I virtually made the same recipe for both weeks. There are technical differences but I think this makes a big difference. Here is the basic recipe:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

KAF’s instructions are to put the ingredients in a large bowl in the order listed and beat until the mixture is smooth. Bake in a 913-inch pan for 25-30 minutes at 375 F.

Being the baker that I am I did not exactly follow the above, but almost. I accidentally used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa in the first batch. Also in the first batch, I used 4 egg whites (because I had these in need of use) and one whole egg. I used Whole Wheat Pastry Flour both weeks. The second week I used regular cocoa powder and three whole eggs. I melted the butter in the bowl, sifted the dry ingredients together, then added all the ingredients and mixed until smooth.

I had my coworkers rate these on three aspects: appearance, texture, and taste. I am sure there is some skewing of the results based on the time between samples. But, too bad!

The first was the Special Dark cocoa brownies. The sample size was n=12. The second week sample size was n=8. And the winner is…

I think these results show that Special Dark Cocoa should not be used in brownies. It is most likely best suited for dark and rich chocolate cakes. The medical student at work with a discerning palette picked up on the difference in moistness between the two which is the result of the egg whites vs. whole eggs. There was another coworker who verbally gave me her results so the second week is really a sample of 9. Three people who compared the two weeks all said the second week was better.

So don’t mess with the cocoa or the eggs! Whole wheat pastry flour works just as well as the all-purpose flour called for in the recipe. So we could say this is a healthy brownie, LOL! This is a simple enough recipe and makes a 9 x 13 pan so it could easily be a go-to recipe. Maybe I’ll try out recipes using baking chocolate next.

 

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Pi day

March 14th is pi day. “The number π is a mathematical constant, the ratio of a circle‘s circumference to its diameter, commonly approximated as 3.14159.” The definition here is from Wikipedia. Two years ago it was a more authentic pi day!

In honor of scientists and mathematicians everywhere I have baked a pie.

What pie did you make? I made my “go-to” Betty Crocker pumpkin pie.

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This is similar to the recipes one finds on the backs of cans of pumpkin:

  • Prepare pastry for 9-inch pie
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1 teas cinnamon, 1/2 teas ground ginger, and 1/4 teas ground cloves)
  • 1 2/3 cup evaporated milk

Mix all ingredients and pour into pie shell. Bake 425 F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F for 45 minutes. Test for doneness by poking the near middle with a knife. It should come out clean.

Let cool and eat. Top with whipped cream if desired.

Ginger Cake

We are expecting a blizzard. I’ve already been given a snow day from work. Hubby will work from home so he’ll be no fun at all!

My kitchen is a mess; I wish I had a housekeeper every other week to do the baths, the kitchen, and the floors. Would be nice; not going to happen! Meanwhile it is good that we are not allergic to dust or pet hair. We will do a super cleaning when the grand-kids are coming down.

Dog doesn’t like his standard dog food anymore. He used to like it just fine. We buy his dog food at the pet store. It is for the mature dog. We made the mistake once of buying a specialty human grade dog food. Now he’s trying to hold out for the good stuff!

So after taking our cable box back to the cable store and coming home with a new one (but less monthly cost!) we spent three hours setting this thing up. And we now only have 45 channels but we don’t miss many of the previous 300+ channels we had. So we found a few things to watch and are being careful not to binge watch too much because when all the episodes are gone, they’re gone. Then what will we watch?

But that is not what this essay is about.

There was plenty of time during the rest of the weekend to putter around the kitchen but I did not. It is cold out there, my kitchen, and I do have heat in my house. I heated water for tea, took a beautiful teacup down from the shelf above the sink, and poured in the water. Hubby heard the fine porcelain crack from across the room and then the water came pouring out. Oh no! So learning my lesson, today I have warmed the teacup before making the tea. And a nice cup of hot tea with lemon goes very nicely with ginger cake.

By the time dinner time on Sunday rolled around and Hubby was fixing twice baked potatoes and in charge of cooking the salmon, I needed something to do. I flipped through one of my UK published baking books and found this ginger cake that I had been wanting to bake. It is entitled Preserved Ginger Cake but I did not have a jar of preserved ginger. I have crystallized ginger and since that is for the garnish I figured it would be just fine.

This is baked in an 8 inch round pan, not a 7-inch square pan that the recipe called for. Be sure not to use a 9 inch pan or it will be as flat as a pancake. Prepare the pan with parchment paper and cooking spray. Preheat oven to 325 F.

  • 4 ounces butter
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour; make this by using 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder per 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk; I used half-and-half.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in the mixer bowl. Soften the butter for 30 seconds in the microwave. Mix butter with the dry ingredients. Put the eggs, corn syrup, and milk in a separate bowl and whisk together. Mix everything together until smooth. Spread in the prepared pan. Bake 45 minutes. Let cool a little and then turn out onto plate.

For the topping I used 1/4 cup powdered sugar and a tablespoon of lemon juice to make a small amount of glaze. I let the cake cool some but not completely. I poured on the glaze and then snipped a piece of crystallized ginger around the top. Warm ginger cake was a nice treat.

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Not as pretty as the picture in the book.

Chicken with Lemons and Olives

I like the idea of Mediterranean cooking. I have a variety of cookbooks that are published in the UK. I go through and mark my cookbooks for the recipes I want to try. I know I have done a lemon chicken with garlic before but this is a bit different. The only garlic in this one is the garlic infused chicken broth I used.

I had not been inspired by any recipes in particular lately. We have been eating plain food: cheeseburgers on toast, frozen filet of fish, chicken pot pie, chili, grilled Italian sausages, scrambled eggs. Baking has been put off due to stomach issues and wanting to lose a bit of weight. What am I supposed to do in my kitchen?

So I wanted to put together a nice dinner. And although I had planned to make a shepherd pie I found I did not have ground meat, but did have chicken. So I looked through my Mediterranean cookbook and found this one. The combination of spices sounded so tasty. I really wanted to use the crockpot and not have to do all the cooking when I came home from work. So I got out the crockpot and just threw it all in there. Well, I made the recipe my own. Here is what I did.

  • 2 large boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup garlic-infused chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • a bit of salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped fine
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1/2 lemon, cut in wedges
  • 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives

I wanted to throw everything in the crockpot and do nothing else. But I decided to briefly saute the onion with the ginger in a bit of olive oil. I then placed this in the bottom of the crockpot. I mixed the dry ingredients together and rubbed this on the chicken before placing them on top of the onion in the pot. I drizzled the honey on top and then added the broth. I set the pot on low and left it from 7:00 AM until 4:00 PM. At four I turned it down to the keep warm setting and added the lemon and olives. We ate dinner at 6:00 PM.

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I served this with a salad and couscous. I skillet toasted some walnuts and added them to the couscous along with a sprinkling of dried parsley and crumbled feta cheese. Dinner was a hit and there are leftovers for tomorrow night’s supper. Yea!