Monday, November 21, 2011

Week Seventeen -- Gingerbread

Bang!'s Gingerbread
Courtesy of Bang! Restaurant

This cake refrigerates and freezes well, and is best served reheated for a few seconds in the microwave oven.

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup dark molasses
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter or oil a 9" x 13" cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper for easier removal.

Bring water and baking soda to a boil. Take off heat and set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine minced ginger, lemon zest, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, ground cloves, and salt. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add molasses and continue creaming until light in color.

Add flour mixture and water and soda mixture, alternately, in three parts. Mix well between additions.

Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions. Scrape bowl and mix well for 2 minutes.

Pour batter into greased, lined cake pan. Batter should come up to the halfway point in the pan. Spread evenly. Bake at 350° for 45-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool for 30 minutes in the pan. Slice into squares and serve warm with lightly sweetened, fresh whipped cream. Who are we kidding? Just gobble it up. (My sister likes her's with some chocolate bits melted on top. I favor a schmear of Nutella.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Week Sixteen --Getting Your Chocolate Fix

Okay, I will admit that I am sort of a chocolate freak. In fact, when people say -- "Nah, I not really a fan of chocolate", it makes me a little nervous. I believe that they are A) mentally unsettled, B) in denial, or C) have been force fed Chips Ahoy and Oreos and therefore cannot be held responsible for their opinions.

But, tonight I have to admit something. While generally I'm all about good, real desserts, there are sometimes those moments when I just want something gooey and sweet and well, now. This is where these come in. And please don't sneer at them until you've tried them.

Chocolate Smoothies

1/2 c butter (the original recipe calls for 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup shortening -- but the butter is better)
1/2 c dark brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
pinch of salt
1/2 t vanilla
1 cup of chocolate chips
1 cup of chopped nuts (toasted) (optional)
1 cup of broken pretzels (optional)

Mix this all together until crumbly then press it into the bottom of a glass dish. A pie pan is fine (glass only) or a 9x9 cake pan (also glass).

Microwave at 50% power for approximately 4 minutes. This will vary, so keep an eye on it. You want it all to be soft, but be careful of scorching. It can get nasty quickly.

Remove from microwave and sprinkle 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips on top. (I suppose you could use any chips -- white chocolate, milk chocolate, even peanut butter chips.)
Let this melt then spread it all over the top like you are icing a cake.

Top with 1/2 crushed nuts (I like toasted pecans, but any nuts will do.) You can leave these off -- my sister does, but I do think they make it better.

Eat. That's it. Easy, gooey, yummy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Week Fifteen -- Layered Liquids and Layered Bars

It’s odd how things line up this way. We found this VERY cool experiment online and had to do it. It’s from Steve Spangler Science, which is seriously the coolest site ever for kitchen projects. We decided to do the Density Tower, which is less sinister than it sounds. I’ll go through all the steps, but you can also just watch the video on Steve Spangler's site.
What You Need:

·         A tall, thin glass cylinder. This can be a flower vase, a graduated cylinder, or simply a tall glass.
·         A turkey baster
·         Honey
·         Karo syrup
·         Maple syrup
·         Dawn dish soap (important as this is a known density)
·          Water – colored with food coloring
·         Vegetable oil
·         Rubbing alcohol – colored with food coloring.
·         Lamp oil
·         (An optional addition is milk, which we didn’t use. We thought it might get gross.)

What You Do:

You must add the substances in order. First, the honey, then the Karo syrup, then the maple syrup. Pour slowly and try to keep the substances from touching the sides of the cylinder. Then, using the turkey baster begin adding the other ingredients in this order: dish soap, water, vegetable oil, rubbing alcohol, then lamp oil. For these ingredients, it’s best to also go slowly and let the substances slide down the inside of the cylinder. Then you’re done!

Magic Cookie Bars (or Seven Layer Bars)

Bring on the Magic Cookie Bars. Okay, to be truthful, the only magical thing about them is that they are so easy. Well, I guess they are also pretty darn good.

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 cups (12 oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts
(You will notice that there are only six layers here. The optional layer can be 1 cup of peanut butter chips or a drizzle of caramel topping. We went with just six ingredients.

Our modifications: We (I mean Harrison) aren’t big coconut fans, so we omitted the coconut in favor of toffee bits. (1 cup). Then we increased the nuts to 1 ½ cups. We used pecans, toasted (duh).
  • HEAT oven to 350°F. Spray 13 x 9-inch baking pan with no-stick cooking spray.
  • COMBINE graham cracker crumbs and butter in small bowl. Press into bottom of prepared pan. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture. Layer evenly with chocolate chips, coconut and nuts. Press down firmly with fork.
  • BAKE 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Loosen from sides of pan while still warm; cool on wire rack. Cut into bars or diamonds. 
  • For perfectly cut cookie bars, line entire pan with foil, extending foil over edge of pan. Coat lightly with no-stick cooking spray. After bars have baked and cooled, lift up with edges of foil to remove from pan. Cut into individual bars.  (Sigh…. That’s the Eagle Brand method. We just pretty much scooped out what we wanted into a dish and ate it..)

Keep in mind that these are sweet! I mean, make your teeth ache sweet. And, I’m no baby, but whoa.