Pennsylvania-Dutch brownies

More of a spice cake than a brownie, made with molasses and a subtle chocolate flavour. 

This recipe is also from Good Housekeeping Brownies: favourite recipes for Blondies, Bars & Brownies, which is available on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

Time required: 3 hrs (1 hour prep + 2 hour cooling)

Yields: 30 pieces

Cost per brownie: $1.10

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $33.00

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • baking pan: 9 x 13″
  • tinfoil

Ingredients:

  • 4 TBSP butter, room temp
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
  • ¼ C molasses
  • 2 eggs, room temp
  • 1½ C flour
  • 1 C + 2 TSP granulated white sugar (used in separate stages)
  • 1 TSP + ⅛ TSP ground cinnamon (used in separate stages)
  • 1 TSP ground ginger
  • ½ TSP ground cloves
  • ½TSP baking soda
  • ½ TSP salt

Instructions:

Step 1 – Preheat oven to 190°C / 357°F.  Line the baking pan with foil, and grease foil.

Step 2 – In a sauce pan on Low, melt chocolate and butter.  (Um, I wasn’t really thinking this through and used a small bowl in the microwave instead.  Since you will later add the dry ingredients to the chocolate, you may want to use a larger bowl.)

Step 3 – Stir in molasses, then eggs, one at time.

Step 4 – Combine in a bowl: flour, 1 C sugar, 1 TSP cinnamon, ginger, cloves, baking soda, and salt.

Step 5 – Stir the dry mixture into the wet.  I moved the wet mixture into a large bowl, then added the dry mix, one third at a time. (At this point I wondered if the batter consistency was off because of the unorthodox way I prepared it.)

Step 6 – “pour” batter into prepared pan. Humph. More like scoop and smoosh. Slightly concerned now, batter very thick, sitting in pan unevenly, does not reach all sides of the pan.

Step 7 – Bake 15-17 minutes.  Brownies are done when a toothpick inserted 1 inch from the edges comes out cleanly.

Step 8 – While this is baking, in a small bowl combine 2 TSP white sugar and ⅛ cinnamon.  As soon as pan is removed from oven, sprinkle sugar mix on top, then cool on rack (in pan) 2 hours.

Hmmm.  Is it supposed to look like this?  Is the bottom right corner supposed to be overloaded with sugar?  Will the rest be bitter?  We’ll see!

Step 9 – Peel off tinfoil, slice lengthwise in 3 strips, slice crosswise in 5 strips, then cut each piece diagonally.

I made a green tea latte and sampled a brownie.

Verdict: Hmmm.  These weren’t bad, but not what I expected either. Then again, since I’ve never eaten Pennsylvania-Dutch anything, maybe my expectations were skewed. I found that the molasses overpowered the taste of the chocolate though.

I was surprised to see the price of the spices is what pushed the total cost so high, but I suppose that makes sense considering spices have been such a hot commodity (hah, get it?) for thousands of years. Guess some things never change.

Playlist: Final Fantasy soundtracks

Gingerbread top loaf

There are times in life when one hits the jack pot, and I am reminded of this  whenever I open to door to Mom’s house and the warm, sharp scent of a ginger loaf wafts out. This smell alerts a primal area of my brain that soon I will be enjoying tea, a warm piece of ginger loaf, juicy gossip, and fending off questions about Boyfriend.

Alas for me, I do not get to visit Mom’s house often. Time gives perspective and city living certainly has some amazing advantages, but now that I’ve been Away for 4.5 years, I’ve realized that there are some things I will never find up here, such as homemade goods. <sad face>

Luckily I just spent 2 weeks visiting home; and aside from the simple pleasures of getting to know my new niece and listening to Grandpa’s stories, I enjoyed numerous tasty treats!! I’ve been back in the city for a few days, and this weekend I decided the first thing I would bake would be Mom’s gingerbread loaf.

Oh, how innocently it began!

Good to know before you start: if you are feeling congested this is a great dish to make, it clears out your sinuses like you wouldn’t believe

Time required: 2.5 hours (30 min prep, 40 min baking, then cool)

Yields: 16 pieces or more

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $26.00

Kitchen implements I used:

  • pastry blender
  • baking pan 9″ x 9″

Ingredients:

  • ½ C shortening
  • ½ C granulated white sugar
  • 1 egg, room temp
  • 1 C molasses
  • 1 C boiling water
  • 2¼ C flour
  • 1½ TSP baking soda
  • 1 TSP salt
  • 1 TSP ginger, ground
  • 1 TSP cinnamon, ground
  • ½ TSP cloves, ground

Step 1 – pre-heat oven 177°C / 350°F. Boil water in the kettle.

Step 2 – grease and flour a 9″ x 9″ pan. Hmm. Something seems odd.

Step 3 – in a small bowl combine: flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.

I used a wire whisk to blend the dry ingredients, and before I measured the molasses, I sprayed a light coat of Pam into the measuring cup. (Works like a charm when you’re dealing with sticky ingredients like this or peanut butter.)

Step 4- in a large bowl, cream shortening, sugar, and egg, until fluffy.

In retrospect I’m not sure if a pastry blender was the best idea for this, it was a bit lumpy.

Step 5 – add molasses to wet mixture and beat in well.

Step 6- stir in boiling water.

Step 7 – add dry mixture to wet.

Step 8 – pour mixture into baking pan, bake 45 min. Remove loaf from pan.

Step 9 – cool on rack for at least one hour. This is the moment everything fell apart. Much cursing was done.

I examined the part that remained in the pan. It wasn’t burnt, just stuck. I used a spatula to remove it, and tried setting it in place, which was a bad idea.

So I took the bottom part back off, hence “top loaf”. And you know, it smelled right, and it looked right (until it came out of the pan). That’s when I realized I used the wrong size pan.

Verdict: What a nightmare. The top side of the loaf was slightly overdone, it had a faint crispness that should not have been there, when ginger loaf is done correctly it’s got the same consistency of banana bread. I assume this was caused by the dough being spread too thin by the length of the pan.

Boyfriend and his friend tested it, and said it was good, but I know I can do better. I was so discouraged, this is the 4th cake/loaf-type thing I’ve made in recent months that fell apart, all that effort and care gone to waste.  Maybe I’ll try this again tomorrow in the proper pan.

Spiced apple & pears

Imagine a warm bowl of apple sauce, with chunks of apple and pear, spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla bean. While it’s cooking, the most tantalizing smell will have you finding excuses to linger in the kitchen. A sweet topping so warm that it melts the frozen yogurt underneath.

I found this recipe in a book that my mother gave me, Slow Cooker Magic in Minutes, which is available on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

It’s a hard cover book with a ring binding and colour photos, with lots of different slow cooker recipes, including some delicious desserts. Prior to reading this I was not aware you could make a dessert in a crock pot. I thought the idea was a little odd, actually, before I tried one. Turns out that slow cooked desserts are amazing!

Good to know before you start:

Sometimes vanilla bean can be substituted with vanilla extract. This is not one of those times. Get the bean! Your taste buds will thank you.

After this has finished cooking and you’ve had a bowl, the rest should be covered and refrigerated. Later you’ll notice that fat rises to the surface (just like stew). Skim that off, and heat the portion that you want to serve.

Don’t use over ripened fruit unless you enjoy the feeling of something disintegrating in your hands. On that same note, if your pears are not quite ripe that is okay, wooden pears are fine for this.

Use either 6 medium-sized fruits or 5 large ones.

getting started

Time required: 6 hours (70 min prep time, the rest is slow cooking time)

Yields: a lot, you will run out of ice cream before you run out of topping

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $30.00

Kitchen implements I used:

  • apple peeler & apple corer
  • slow cooker

Ingredients:

  • 5 tart apples
  • 5 pears
  • 8 TBSP butter, unsalted (one stick)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 lemon (use half)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½TSP cloves, ground
  • ½ C water
  • 1 C brown sugar, packed

Step 1 – Peel and core apples and pears. Cut each apple slice in thirds, cut each pear slice in half. Place in slow cooker. Don’t worry about the fruit browning.

Cut each apple slice into thirds, and check the middle piece for any core remnants:

Slice the pears horizontally (errr… diagonally):

Place the flat part of the pear on the cutting board and core it, and then each pear slice should be cut in half:

Step 2 – Melt butter in sauce pan on Low.

Step 3 – Add all other ingredients to butter:

  • split and scrape vanilla bean, add seeds and pod
  • cut cinnamon stick in half, add both halves
  • use half of lemon, peel it and remove seeds, add pulp and juice
  • then add brown sugar, cloves, and water

Step 4 – Bring pot to a boil, and boil for 1 min, stirring often.

Step 5 – Pour liquid over apple and pears. Stir until mixture coats all fruit. Bury the bean pod and cinnamon sticks under the fruit.

Step 6 – Cover and cook, stirring every 45 min.  Cook times vary. The book recommends either up to 4 hours on Low, or up to 2 hours on High.

I cook it at leat 5 hours on High and I’ll show you why.

After 45 minutes:

After 90 minutes:

After 135 minutes:

After 180 minutes:

I think it’s best when the fruit has broken down to this stage and everything is soft. It’s a very versatile dessert. I have enjoyed it several ways; served warm on its own, or on top of a bowl or vanilla frozen yogurt, and on pound cake.

warm spiced apple and pear fruit toppingThe book also recommends with whipped cream, crème anglaise, or sponge cake, but I haven’t tried these last three.

One dish of spiced apple pears a day keeps the winter chill away!