Almond Blackberry Cookies – Venturing into the Baking World

Baking, Dessert

I search for great flavor combinations in meals and also in sweets. I appreciate the creativity of balancing tastes, color, and texture in cooking and baking. Though I still feel more passionate about cooking and savory things, I say, “Why not?” to learning the art of baking. The way I see it: I already cook a lot, I might as well be able to make a few great sweets too :). So here’s my latest baking recipe trial that resulted in another favorite for Jeff and I.

Recently, I found this Peanut Butter Cookies with Blackberry Jam recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. The recipe is also included in her latest book, Weeknights with Giada (pg. 215).

I did a few little tweaks to this recipe to fit my preference:

  1. Instead of using ¾ cup of peanut butter, as suggested on the ingredient list, I used ¾ cup of ground raw almonds (that I ran through the food processor with 1/8 cup of olive oil). I blended the raw almonds and olive oil in a food processor until it became as grainy as possible. The almonds mixture did not have the same consistency as peanut butter of course, but I actually liked the chunky and grainy texture better.
  2. I also opted out of the step of rolling the dough in ¼ cup of sugar and went directly to form the doughs into little balls ready for the blackberry filling in the middle. (I also made the dough balls smaller than the ones in the recipe.)
  3. I used blackberry preserves, which I already had in my fridge, instead of jam.

Such delightful little cookies! I love the soft crunch, the subtle nutty almonds, and the sweet and tangy tastes of the blackberry preserves. I see them disappear quickly from our cookie box 🙂

Dark Chocolate Banana Bread – Venturing into the Baking World

Baking, Dessert

I used to avoid baking. It just seemed very complicated. The attitude changed when I found Baker Bettie. She bakes and writes fantastic recipes I actually want to try. Her creativity in flavor combination and in presentation makes baking look like fun. Now, I am inspired!

A novice in the baking world, I appreciate friendly recipes. In the past I’ve tried and written about one of Baker Bettie’s recipes: Soft and Fluffy Blueberry Lemon Cookie . Recently, I tried her recipe on Dark Chocolate Banana Bread with Cayenne…with cayenne! A girl after my own heart! The fine blend of dark chocolate, bananas, cinnamon, and cayenne worked wonderfully. Though quite subtle, the cayenne and cinnamon definitely gave a very nice spice hint to this classic bread. Simply delightful.

Pictures of my recipe trial result:

Super Chocolaty Mini Brownies

Baking, Dessert, Recipe from Other Blogs

Doesn’t Valentine’s Day seem to get bigger each year? I see red and pink flowers, heart-shaped decorations, and of course … chocolate everywhere! Restaurant-review sites rave about best places to celebrate while cooking shows and food blogs suggest special dinner and dessert menus for the holiday. I allow the not-so-subliminal messages to get me into the spirit. I mean, why not? In the midst of this winter’s grey, snow’s blinding white, along with the blustery cold wind, I welcome a nice distraction. To me the holiday gives me an excuse to do something special like having dinner date on a Tuesday night and… making a chocolaty dessert. After seeing chocolate everywhere, on TV ads and cooking shows, at the market, and on food blogs I feel the huge urge to create something with the ingredient.

I found a Chocolate Bouchons (The New Double-Chocolate Brownie) recipe by chef Stephanie Izard (of the Girl and the Goat in Chicago) in my InStyle magazine’s January edition. Every food I have tasted at chef Izard’s restaurant has been incredibly delightful. So I got excited to try one of her recipes.

As usual, I deviate 🙂 Here’s a version adapted from chef Izard’s recipe:

We will need:

  • A 24-mini muffin tray
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup of cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1 cup of Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips
  • 3 squares of Ghirardelli dark chocolate bar (I happen to have the 72% cocoa. Next time I’ll go with 60%.)
  • 1 tablespoon of pistachios (I happen to have them around)
Steps:
  • Melt the butter
  • Whisk eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl
  • Add flour, cocoa powder, salt, and melted butter. Do it slowly and one by one while keeping the whisking going. Mix well until all ingredients become one thick chocolate mixture.
  • With a food processor, chop the pistachios and the dark chocolate squares
  • With a spatula, gently mix the chocolate chips, chopped dark chocolate, and chopped pistachios into the mixture
  • Scoop the mixture to fill the muffin tray all the way to the top (or use a ziplock bag with one corner cut off )
  • Bake for 20-23 minutes in a preheated 350 degrees F  and let the brownies cool outside for 30-40 minutes. Mmm… imagine the wonderful chocolate aroma in the air. Oh…la…la…
The mini brownies come out very chocolaty. Intense! Each bite represents a combination of dark and milk chocolate and a little pistachios. The chocolate chips melt after being baked inside of the brownies. They give such wonderful texture to the tiny chocolate goodness. For sweet lovers, dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve with a scoop of vanilla or coffee ice cream. Jeff and I like ours without the added sweet just fine.
In the future, I’d like to mix either a raspberry, blackberry, or strawberry preserves into the mix (in lieu of using pistachios). Maybe I’d also melt the dark and milk chocolate. Mmm…many possibilities!

Unfortunately, I did not find chef Izard’s original recipe online so I could not link it here. But I found a similar one (click here) for those who’d like to get to know chocolate bouchons better.

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers!