Tuesday, August 19, 2008

C is for Cookie : TWD

"Sometimes me think what is love, and then me think love is what last cookie is for. Me give up the last cookie for you."
-Cookie Monster

Theres been a lot of cookies and love floating around Casa Shebake this last week. After humiliating the hubby with a 'cowboy' themed party - including plastic sheriff badges - for his 30th birthday, he repayed the favor in kind by getting a great group of our friends together for a BBQ bash this weekend.

So, after all that work in planning, I decided to show him some love with a batch of cookies for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. Of course, after all that cake and food, the granola recipe was a welcome healthy break that even Cookie Monster would approve of.

I jotted 'wheat germ' onto my shopping list this week, not really thinking to look it up. So standing in the aisle at the market, I picked the closest in my approximation that I could find - Wheat Bran. Also, not a big fan of raisins, I opted to use dried blueberries, and a full cup of mixed nuts rather than the slivered almonds and peanuts.

The dough came together easily, and baked up nice and golden after 12 minutes. Love, in this case, was giving the hubby the first cookie to sample while we watched the Olympics tonight. He polished the first, and went to grab a second- voicing his approval through a mouthful of crumbs. We give this cookie recipe a 15.695 for the gold medal.

The recipe for Dorie's Granola Grabbers be found over at Bad Girl Baking, or in Baking: From My Home To Yours, written by Dorie Greenspan.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Oompa Loompa Blueberry Ice Cream - TWD

It happens every time--they all become blueberries.
-Willy Wonka

I am a well known fiend for kitchen gadgets. If its something that makes life more enjoyable in the kitchen, there's a good chance I own it. Case in point - I'm a proud owner of a Lemonader (that name, under all circumstances must be pronounced in a very german accent. And as a second side note - I love my lemonader. But then again, I'm a lemonade addict. Anything that produces this fresh squeezed manna for me in under 30 minutes is a gift from the gods.)

Anyhow, it should be no surprise then, that I of course also own an Ice Cream machine. So I was giddy with excitement to put the machine to work for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie challenge of some blueberry ice cream.

Dorie's recipe was actually pretty easy when it comes to mixing up the custard. No egg separation and tempering here. Simply boil, blend, cool, and freeze. What could be easier?

I had some leftover birthday cake from my office on Friday (Not only did I hit 3 decades, they forced chocolate cake on me. Oh the humanity.) So I figured the ice cream would make a nice almost savory addition to the cake at home.

To add a bit of flavor to Dorie's recipe, I used 1/3 brown sugar instead of white, lime juice and zest, and added 1/2 tsp of vanilla to the berries as they were boiling. I served it up with a nice fat slice of chocolate cake, topped with some dried blueberries from the pantry.

These small changes were minor, but added a subtly smooth depth to the flavor of the berries and sour cream. A perfect accompaniment to the chocolate cake without being toothache sweet, and a cheerful color that would brighten the day of anyone celebrating the 1st anniversary of their 29th birthday.

I give the ice cream two thumbs up, and will be interested to try it as an ice cream sandwich next. Maybe with some vanilla sugar cookies for the sandwich.

The recipe for Dorie's Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream be found over at Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, or in Baking: From My Home To Yours, written by Dorie Greenspan.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

So a banana goes to the zoo to see a zebra... : TWD

“I've got spots; I've got stripes, too.”
- Ani Difranco

We're in the throes of tomato overload these days as I find myself the recipient of an overflowing 4 lbs of tomatoes and small forest worth of Basil from my weekly 'tomato subscription' from the local organic farm. But after popping in a dinner of roasted squash and tomatoes with fresh pesto to bake, I was excited to tackle something sweet after all of that savory.

So, I was excited to see a Banana bread picked as this week's Tuesday with Dorie challenge.

I usually always have bananas in the house for banana bread. Problem is, I don't get the chance to bake it as often as I, or my husband's feet, would like. You see, the problem is, my banana bread bananas don't live on the counter. They live in the freezer, ready to jump out at an unsuspecting guest that goes to grab some ice. Its a running joke in our house to watch out for flying bananas when you go into the freezer.

I was excited to try a marbled chocolate banana bread, a nice alternative to my usual recipe for the sweet moist delicacy.

I followed Dories recipe spot on, primarily because of the comments about problems with varying banana sizes. I chose 2 smaller bananas, so I opted to use all of both of them. A couple minutes in the microwave to defrost, and they literally oozed out of their skins with hardly any coaxing or mashing needed.

For the marbling effect, I opted for the spooning method, figuring if nothing else, it might add a pretty effect. I started to run low on the chocolate batter before I could get everything in the pan, so the stripes are more focused to the bottom of the loaf, but it definitely gives it a pretty effect. The bittersweet chocolate contrasts nicely with the sweet banana flavor for a new tasty take on an old favorite.

I'd definitely give this recipe 2 thumbs up, and willing to try it again the next time the bananas in the freezer decide to stage a rebellious escape attempt.

The recipe for Dorie's Black and White Banana Loaf be found over at A Year In The Kitchen, or in Baking: From My Home To Yours, written by Dorie Greenspan.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Peachy Keen Rhubarb Galette : TWD

After the laments of other members of the lack of local rhubarb, I realized that I'd taken the plethora at my local store for granted. So while I was still reasonably priced, I decided to pick up a bunch for this week's Tuesday with Dorie challenge of a summer galette.

To balance out the tart rhubarb, I opted for sweet peaches. I had lofty goals of parboiling, skinning and slicing up some fresh peaches, but time wasn't on my side this week. So in the name of speed, I opted for some where the nice folks at dole did all the work for me. Shh, don't tell anyone.

I loved this pie crust recipe when we used it last time, and was excited to see it in the rotation again. It came together easily, and I let it cool in the fridge while we cooked and ate dinner (pizza on the bbq... yum...). It rolled out quick, and I tried not to eat too much of it before spreading it with a thin layer of apricot preserves and grahm cracker crumbs.

The peaches and rhubarb softened nicely as the crust came out a nice light golden at the 25 minute mark. I was able to add most of the custard, and popped it in for another 14 minutes.

It came out perfect, albeit a little delicate. There was no way I was going to be able to transfer the thing intact to a cooling rack. So I served it up warm with a generous scoup of vanilla bean ice cream.

The galette was a big hit, the crisp buttery crust giving way to a softly sweet with just a hint of tart rhubarb. Two thumbs up!

The recipe for Dorie's Summer Fruit Galette Can be found over at Michelle in Colorado Springs' blog, or in Baking: From My Home To Yours, written by Dorie Greenspan.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Clownin Around in Wilton Course 1, week 3....

Despite last week's score of affordable cherries in mass quantities, I fully admit to keeping a small stash of canned cherry pie filling, for a few reasons. One - its nigh impossible to find tart cherries anywhere near here, and two- The canned filling is a key ingredient in a few of my favorite recipes, and none of them happen to be pies!

The first comes from a recipe I discovered when trying to find the 'perfect' birthday cake recipe. I figured, what would be better than an amaretto style cake, a mix of cherries, almonds, and chocolate? A little bit of digging, and Cast Sugar came to my rescue.

When we were told we could bring a batch of cupcakes for our third week, I jumped at the opportunity to make some nice single serving desserts that I could bring to work and pawn off on coworkers.

I doubled Cast Sugar's recipe and modified it to the following:

Amaretto Cherry Chocolate Cake (adapted from Cast Sugar)

1 c. butter
3 c. bakers sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 tsp. orange extract
1 c. good unsweetened cocoa powder
3 1/2 c. cake flour (3 1/2 TBS corn starch added to a measuring cup, then add All Purpose flour to make 3 1/2 cups cake flour)
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt
2 (21-oz.) can cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease or line 36 cupcake wells with papers.

Cream the butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until well blended. Add almond and orange extracts and beat well. Add the cocoa powder and mix until well combined.

By hand, stir the cake flour (or all purpose/corn starch mix), baking soda and salt together. Add flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the cherry pie filling. Pour the batter into the tins.

Bake at 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. Cool.

Chocolate Almond Buttercream (adapted from Wilton)

1 cup solid vegetable shortening
3/4 cup cocoa or three 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares, melted
1 teaspoon almond Extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approx. 1 lb.)
3-4 tablespoons water

Cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add cocoa and vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler : TWD

I'm starting to fear that my friend Joe has infiltrated Tuesdays with Dorie, offering bribes to hosts in hopes that they will pick cobbler week after week.

I like cobbler.

But my like pales in comparison to Joe's downright passion for the baked delight. So much so that he has threatened (more than once) to not let me visit without a cobbler in hand.

Thankfully, they are pretty easy to make, in the spectrum of baked goods. So with a looming BBQ in the distance, I was glad to see a cobbler assigned for this week. I was even more excited when my supermarket had Northwest Cherries on sale for $1.99 a pound. Lets just say I all but added cherries one by one to the bag until I was just at the 5 lbs max. And then I went back later in the week knowing they'd be sold out, but seeking a raincheck... then I was downright giddy when the cashier accidentally gave me TWO rainchecks instead of one. Lets just say I hightailed it for the door before she realized why I was so happy.

I've never baked much with rhubarb, but the tart veggie sounded like the perfect accompaniment to the plethora of sweet cherries. So I kept true to Dorie's recipe, aside from doubling it to fill a 9x11 pan for the party, and for lack of having it onhand, used all white flour instead of white and whole wheat.

The batter came out stickier than I'm guessing Dorie meant for it to... there was no way I was going to be able to form 'biscuits' from it, even after adding a little more flour. So I opted for the method I tend to use with another of my cobbler crust and just kind of glop it on in an even layer. Hey. Its rustic. Cobbler is a very rustic dish.

The cobbler baked up in 45 minutes, coming out a nice golden hue. I only had a chance to snap a picture of the whole thing baked before heading out to the party where it was summarily devoured. Joe and everyone else was in 7th heaven. Multiple sets of thumbs up all around, I'll definitely keep the rhubarb combo in mind when I go to redeem my rainchecks.

The recipe for Dorie's Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler Can be found over at Like Sprinkles on a Cupcake, or in Baking: From My Home To Yours, written by Dorie Greenspan.

PS- if you are a member of TWD and are approached with a bribe of a game of naked twister by the gentleman at the top of the post, just say no. ;o)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chocolate Coffee Pudding : TWD

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
Don Quixote de la Mancha

You would think something like chocolate pudding would be stress-free. I figured 'hey. that's not too hard. Let me whip it up before cooking dinner.'

Well, the actual pudding was relatively easy to make. I just should have heeded the other reviewers that commented their food processors were too small, and double check my own. I figured mine would be big enough since its a pretty good size. I was blending along, oblivious to the construction of the processor, and that once it gets up over the edge of the blade attachment, it can leak.


I quickly transferred everything from the processor to the blender, where everything DID fit, and finished it up. It doesn't appear to be any worse for wear, though in the second cooking it was a bit foamy, it settled down when I added the chocolate and butter.

I decided to keep pretty true to the recipe, except for a little bit of punch I opted for some Starbucks coffee liqueur instead of vanilla. The taste isn't too noticeable in the finished product, but overall it is a deep rich chocolaty delite.

We give the pudding 2 thumbs up, though next time I think I'll opt to do all of the work in the blender.

The recipe for Dorie's Chocolate Pudding Can be found over at Its Melissas Kitchen, or in Baking: From My Home To Yours, written by Dorie Greenspan.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wilton Course 1, week 2....

With the goal of making my cakes a little less 'rustic' looking, I signed up to take the 4 week Wilton cake decor class at my local Michael's. The first week was all about how to make the icing, all the crap we'd need to be lugging to and from class, etc.

This week, we had to come with a cake ready to decorate, not to mention 1/2 my kitchen in tools to accomplish this. I'm not a big fan of the 'shortening and powdered sugar' method of butter cream, but its what they recommend for the class, so I tried my best to ignore the scads of shortening being dumped into my mixer and focus on the bigger picture of attaining prettier cakes. And heck, the shortening + sugar + water + flavor + meringue method is downright quick to mix up than the whole boiling syrup and raw eggs.

Anyhow, After the requisite star, letter, rose base, and wavy line practice, we set about decorating the cake. This is where my perfectionist tendencies kicked in, and by the end of the 2 hour class, I had only completed 1/2 my rainbow. So I had to do my homework to finish it up.

On the whole, I think it turned out ok. I was at a loss for writing until I talked to my husband, who while I was at class, took our Lab mix to the vet because of an inner eyelid problem. While she can't have any cake, She was apparently a very good girl at the vets office, so the cake is 'dedicated' to her.

Inside the standard Wilton butter cream is a three layer "Perfect Party Cake" from Baking: From My Home To Yours, written by Dorie Greenspan in lemon with rasberry filling.

Wilton Buttercream Icing

(Stiff Consistency)
1 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon Flavor Extract (I used wilton Butter Flavoring)
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approx. 1 lb.)
2 1/2 - 3 tablespoons water
In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

YIELD: Makes about 3 cups.

Medium Consistency - for rainbow & clouds - Add 1 Tsp water per cup of stiff frosting and mix.

Thin Consistency - for Frosting the cake and lettering - Add 2 Tsp water per cup of stiff frosting and mix.

Perfect Party Cake, adapted from Dorie Greenspan:

2 1/4 cups cake flour (1 cup cake flour = 1 cup all purpose - 2 Tbs, add 2 Tbs cornstarch)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated Meyer lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 4 4-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.Whisk together the buttermilk and egg whites in a medium bowl.Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the buttermilk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the buttermilk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Divide the batter between the four pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean.
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

(red, white and) Blueberry Pie : TWD

I married into a family of blueberry pie lovers. So while a blueberry pie is nothing new to my repertoire, I'm always on the lookout for new takes on the family favorite.

I originally tried Dorie's Blueberry Pie recipe about 3 weeks ago for an annual BBQ my friends host. It gave me the perfect chance to 'test drive' it before it came up in the challenge rotation, and I was then able to perfect it for a 4th of July BBQ we hosted this weekend.

The first time I made the pie, I went for the full amount of citrus and a latticed top. While it was tasty and well received, I decided it was a little too tart for my liking. Not to mention the juice bubbling up over the lattice edges detracting from it's visual appeal.

This weekend, with these notes in mind, I opted for about 1/3 the amount of zest and a regular full top crust. Practice makes perfect, because this weekend's version to die for.

My only downfall was in the calculation of berries. Since they tend to shrink down when baked, I tend to pile in the berries. So for this pie I mixed in 1 full bag (16 oz) of frozen blueberries, 1 partial bag, and most of a pint of fresh blueberries I had in the fridge. This ended up being a little too much, so I put the extras in my standby oven cups and topped them with a bit of leftover crust.

The pie was a huge hit all around, and I didn't get a chance to take any pictures of the slices before they were devoured. This version will definitely make it into my blueberry pie rotation!

The recipe for Dorie's Double Crusted Blueberry Pie Can be found over at South in Your Mouth, or in Baking: From My Home To Yours, written by Dorie Greenspan.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cheddar Cranberry Scones : TWD

I admit that I was quite giddy when they opened up the new 'super' stop and shop only a couple miles from my house. Aisle upon aisle of tasty treats, fresh produce, meats, etc. It made the other two grocers in the area look wimpy and outdated in comparison.

Sadly, I must now report that the 'super' store has failed me. I circled the aisles three times, and still could not find a package of dried apples. My frozen veggies were going soft, so rather than track down a stock boy who's worked there all of 1 month (time the stores been open) to try and find some, I opted for the next best dried fruit I could think of. Cranberries.

Other than the lack of apples, this week's recipe was pretty straightforward and came together quickly. I liked the idea of mixing the 'sweet' of the fruit with the savory of the cheese. But I couldn't help also wondering how tasty a cheddar jalapeno scone might be. Maybe next time.

I opted for the quick 'spoon' method of portioning, and took them out at the 22 minute mark. They sat until this morning where I warmed one up a bit in the toaster oven, topping it with butter and some strawberry jam. Two thumbs up for taste and ease!

This week's recipe can be found over at The Floured Apron.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Two fer Tuesdays (with Dorie)

So, I ended up on a bit of an unintentional posting hiatus the last couple weeks. Summer is always a busy time here, both in mine and the husband's job's... plus, I had a huge list of things I wanted to finish before heading out of town this last weekend- We headed out to Ann Arbor to watch my baby brother get married. I spent the weekend playing best (wo)man, and keep things sane despite the torrential rainstorm that lasted just long enough to drive the ceremony indoors. Despite the rain and wind, I would say it was a success.

As for my Tuesdays with Dorie Cream Puffs, lets just say they didn't fare so well in the rain last week.

But first, a success- Mixed Berry Cobbler

We didn't get back into town until Sunday afternoon, and I knew I would be hard pressed to get started right away on the cobbler. We needed a day to recoup, unpack, and do a bit of restocking of the cupboards, and I finally had a chance to delve in today. Thankfully The recipe was pretty quick to whip up.

We're a big fan of cobblers. They are my usual 'go to' recipe for BBQ and parties, since they are usually so easy to throw together, minimal crust rolling or mussing around. I've gotten well enough known for my cobblers that I think there's at least one friend that jokingly refuses to let me over to visit without a cobbler.

Usually, I opt for a peach/berry combo... But for a change of pace, I kept with Dorie's original 'mixed berry' idea, using 1 bag of frozen mixed fruit and topped it off with an extra cup of frozen blueberries.

I don't have a deep dish pie pan, so I started digging around the cabinet, finally settling on an 8 inch cake pan, and 2 small oven friendly cups for 'mini' cobblers.

They baked up in 1 hour, and came out of the oven bubbling over the edge. As they cooled, they settled back into the pan/cups. The crust was perfectly crumbly and tasty melding with the juicy berries for a nice afternoon treat. Two sets of thumbs up.

Now on to the less successful - Chocolate Cream Puff Ring

I made this last Monday in the hopes of posting it Tuesday. But the pouring rainstorm outside should have been my first clue that it might be a good idea to make cream puffs. But I persevered.

Sadly, I'm not sure if it was the humidity, or a failure on my part.... but this just didn't work out. The ring didn't puff enough to cut in 1/2, and the eclaires were too small to fill, and resembled something less than appealing. I pressed on and opted for the chocolate cream since I didn't have a plethora of mint to boil down.

The cream turned out well, though if I were to make it again I'd probably opt for a sweeter chocolate. In a fir of frustration I flipped the ring over and piped the cream on top of that, and snapped a few pictures. I managed to fill a couple of the small puffs I'd piped, but the majority of them ended up being tossed.

The ring was good, albeit not as 'crisp' as I'm sure Dorie intended. Moral of the story: Humidity and cream puffs do NOT mix.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Strawberry Harts (tarts) : TWD

Having moved to the east coast 10 years ago from Southern California, I often complain about the cold and ice in January/February. I think the weather powers that be got tired of hearing all my bitching, so they sent us some heat this week. In the league of 90-100 deg days, with random thunderstorms that make it look like the apocalypse is coming. So with all the heat and humidity, I wasn't looking forward to spending too much time near a hot oven.

Thankfully, Marie of A Year in Oak Cottage picked a nice light strawberry tart for us for this week. The only thing that needed cooking was the tart shell. And that for only 8 minutes. Right up my hot weather pattern alley.

Prepping my ingredients, I realized my only tart shell is 10 1/2 inches. Plus, with only two of us, I didn't like the idea of leaving 3/4 of an empty pie shell sitting around. Reading through the directions, Dorie mentions that the crust is very cookie like. So what better a way to prep them than mini tartlette cookie crusts?

I followed the crust recipe to the letter, and was pleasantly surprised to see it come together in the food processor. I quickly rolled it out and set to work cutting it into 9 medium sized 'heart' shapes. I could have probably re-rolled and gotten a few more, but with 95+ degree weather, I knew the batter needed to be shaped quickly lest it turn to goo.

Baking took closer to 10 minutes before I took them out, but they were just barely browned on the bottom. They probably could have gone another 1-2 minutes.

For assembly, I chose a mix of strawberries and blueberries, with a splash of Grand Marnier a dash of sugar, and a bit of fresh pepper. Topped with a dollop of whipped cream, it lost a bit of its heart shape, but made for an adorably portioned serving. The husband and I quickly ate ours up while watching Battlestar Galactica off the DVR. The crust was indeed very cookie like, very light and crumbly in that butter cookie way.

We give this recipe two thumbs up, and I'm bookmarking this recipe for future pies and tarts.

Recipe for the tart shell and other wonderful baked goods can be found in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tech-La-La - French Chocolate Brownies : TWD

It's been a hectic last week in Casa Shebake. I almost considered opting out of this week's challenge, until I saw it was brownies. I spent the weekend at my brother's house in Michigan to partake in my future SIL's bachelorette party. On top of that, I finally broke down and ordered an upgrade to my computer collection. The computer I usually use for every day stuff, photo editing, etc, is about 8 years old. I've tossed in enough upgrades and maintenance to make it last, but I was outgrowing it, especially with my DSLR upgrade last winter. So I upgraded to a nice shiny new quad core system with 2 fresh new Hard drives for the OS and storage.

Of course, even when I save time by ordering a computer pre-built, the first thing I do out of the box is rip it open and customize it. In this case, It needed one of the SATA cables replaced (too short), and to put in my blu ray drive/burner. I also needed to copy over a lot of my older files, so that whole process has been pretty consuming of the last few days.

Back to the brownies, I'm not a big raisin fan, so I started to think how to mix it up a little. I thought of a cheesecake topping, or a glaze, but the idea of flambeing something again was exciting, so I finally settled for some thawed blueberries I had in the freezer.

The batter was quick to put together, though with the suddenly warm weather, the butter ended up quite soft within an hour or so, as compared to the 1/2 day it takes in winter.

Baking took closer to 1 hr 20 minutes, and the top formed a quite crisp crust that crackled when I cut it. Inside, the brownies were quite moist and decadent, with a bright punch of flavor when you get a blueberry.

French Chocolate Brownies

- makes 16 brownies -
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup Blueberries, fresh or thawed from frozen
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

Put the blueberries in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until the moisture almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the blueberries aside until needed.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.

Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the blueberries along with any liquid remaining in the pan.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they're even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!

Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.