Sunday, 26 February 2012

Black Bean & Date Brownies with Caramel

We were having a health challenge at work and one of the tasks that we could do to get “bonus points” was to have a healthy potluck.  I decided to make a dessert that was healthy without compromising taste.  Enter – black bean brownies.  I came across many recipes that used black beans instead of flour, which increased the health element, but ignored the unhealthiest part of a brownie: the refined sugar.  Luckily, I found and adapted a black bean brownie recipe that used dates instead of sugar.  So, the only added sugar in this recipe is the caramel topping, which you can certainly leave out.

Some secret ingredients:
a.       Coffee – a little coffee enhance the flavor of chocolate.  Since I wasn’t using Medjool dates which are meatier and softer, I decided to soak regular dates in coffee to soften them.  I also added instant coffee to the batter.
b.      Dutch process cocoa powder –for an intensely dark rich brownie (see picture below).
Left: Dutch processed; Right: Regular cocoa
Check out the verdict at the end of the post!

Black Bean & Date Brownies with Caramel
Adapted from here.

1 cup dates
Hot coffee
2 cups cooked black beans
3 Tablespoon oil or melted butter (coconut oil would add a nice flavor element!)
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant coffee
2 Tablespoon vanilla syrup or 1 Tablespoon extract
¼ cup + 3 Tablespoons Dutch processed cocoa powder
3 eggs

Caramel Ganache Topping
15 caramels
2 Tablespoon cream

1.       Cover dates with hot coffee and soak for ½ hour until soft. Drain and discard coffee.
2.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking dish with parchment so that the paper hangs over the ends for easier lift (I used an 8x8 inch dish).
3.       In a food processor or blender, blend dates, black beans and oil until smooth.
4.       Add baking soda, salt, instant coffee, vanilla, and 1/4 cup cocoa powder and blend until smooth.
5.       Taste the mixture, and add more cocoa 1 Tablespoon at a time to your flavor preference.  The mixture should not taste like beans or dates.
6.       Transfer mixture into a bowl, add eggs, and blend with a hand mixer.
7.       Pour mixture into the baking pan.
8.       To make the caramel ganache topping, put the caramels and cream in a double boiler and stir over medium heat until melted and combined.
9.       Pour over brownie batter and swirl with a knife.
10.   Bake for 30 minutes.  Cool before cutting.

Dates soaking in coffee.

Caramel with cream.

Before baking.

Verdict: These were a big hit at work!  I was surprised by how tasty and moist they were – an awesome alternative to those traditional brownies that make my throat hurt from the excessive sugar.  The caramel topping gave them an additional flavor element that took them to a whole other level for me.  I made them a few days later with azuki (red) beans and coconut oil, which also turned out really well.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Sticky Bun Cookies

Finished! I’m done reading the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook, cover to cover, and it was exhilarating!  I love how this book has many mini-recipes that can be added to other recipes or combined to make desserts/snacks that are out of this world! It encourages the reader, and inspires me, to be creative and experiment with flavor combinations.  Best book ever!

So here’s my first of many inventions inspired, adapted, and borrowed from the Milk Bar Cookbook.  It’s an attempt to make a cookie that reminds you of a sticky bun – cinnamon-y and toffee-y. 

Check out the verdict at the end of the post!

Sticky Bun Cookies
Components adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook.
Makes 13 cookies.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Recipe
*Makes an awesome snack on its own!

80g white bread (1/8 of a loaf or 1 kaiser bun, which is what I used)
¼ cup brown butter (microwave butter for 2 minutes until golden brown, check at the 1.5 minutes)
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon

1.       Heat oven to 325 degrees F.
2.       Tear bread into ½ inch pieces and put in a bowl.
3.       Pour in brown butter, toss, and let sit for 1 minute.
4.       Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat.
5.       Bake for 20 minutes.  Should be crispy.  Cool completely before using in the recipe.
Kaiser bun I used for the cinnamon toast crunch.

Cinnamon toast crunch after baking.

Graham Clusters Recipe
*Makes an awesome snack on its own!

¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon graham cracker crumbs
1 Tablespoon milk powder
½ Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
1 Tablespoon milk

1.       Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
2.       In a bowl, toss graham crumbs, milk powder, and sugar.
3.       Whisk butter and milk, and pour into graham mixture.  Toss to coat.
4.       Lay crumbs onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat.
5.       Bake for 25 minutes.  The cluster will harden as they cool.  Cool completely before using in recipe.
Graham clusters after baking.
Cookie Recipe
½ cup salted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
½  egg
½ teaspoon vanilla syrup or ¼ teaspoon extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup bread flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cup cinnamon toast crunch
½ cup graham clusters (or however much the recipe above makes)
¼ cup roasted pecans, coarsely chopped
¼ cup toffee bits

1.       In a large bowl, cream butter and both sugars with a beater on medium high for 2-3 minutes.
2.       Add egg and vanilla, and beat for 7-8 minutes.  Add cinnamon and beat until combined.
3.       Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix on low just until dough comes together (1 minute).
4.       Add cinnamon toast crunch, graham clusters, pecans, and toffee bits.  Fold in with a spatula.
5.       Scoop dough using an ice cream scoop and place on a baking sheet.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.  Do not bake un-chilled dough.

To bake:
6.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
7.       Place cookie dough rounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat, 4 inches apart.
8.       Bake for 12 minutes.  Cool on baking sheet before removing to a rack.

Dough scooped out and ready for the fridge.

Verdict:  This is a very rich buttery cookie!  Great cinnamon and toffee flavor, and crunch from the cinnamon toast crunch and pecans.  I really liked the multiple textures of crunch and soft dough!  Plus, your kitchen smells like heaven for the rest of the day!  I gave these to my sister and friends who also liked them.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Cookies and Cream Cookies

My buddy’s girlfriend sent me an early birthday present!  She sent me the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook!  I screamed because as I’ve stated here. I’ve been wanting this book since it came out.  Well, I’m completely in love with this cookbook.  I’m in the process of reading it cover to cover.  I sleep with it in my bed, and I don’t want to part with it when I go to work in the morning.  While at work, I often think about how I can’t wait to get home to my book.  Did I say I’m in love with it?  Every recipe blows my mind with its creativity and techniques.  Needless to say, I’ll be baking and posting from this book often, once I’ve finished reading it.  In the meantime, I wanted to test out two of the techniques from the book in a different recipe: 1) creaming the butter and sugar for 10 minutes, and 2) adding “the crunch”.  Hence, these Cookies and Cream Cookies.  And yes, clearly I’m going through a cookies and cream phase.

Check out the verdict at the end of the post!

Cookies and Cream Cookies
Adapted from here.
Inspired by Momofuku Milk Bar.
Makes 20-25 cookies depending on the size of your ice cream scoop.

Chocolate Crunch Recipe
1 ¾ cup chocolate wafers (about 20 wafers - those dark chocolate cookies that are basically the cookie part of Oreos.)
1 Tablespoon sugar
¼ cup milk powder
6 Tablespoon of butter, melted

1.       Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
2.       In a large bowl, crush chocolate wafers into small chunks using your hands.
3.       Add sugar and milk powder and toss to combine.
4.       Add melted butter and toss to coat the chunks.
5.       Lay on baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.
6.       Bake for 15 minutes, or until there’s some browning on the underside.
7.       Cool completely before adding to dough.
Crushed chocolate wafers.

Chocolate crunch after baking.

Cookie recipe
½ cup salted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoons vanilla syrup (or 1 teaspoon extract)
1 ½ cups flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 Hershey’s Cookies n' Cream chocolate bar, chopped
Chocolate Crunch (from above recipe)

1.       Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a bowl and set aside.
2.       In a large bowl (or in a standalone mixer), cream butter for 2 minutes.
3.       Add brown sugar and beat on medium for 8 minutes.
4.       Add cream cheese and beat until thoroughly incorporated.
5.       Add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated.
6.       Add flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.
7.       Stir in chocolate bar chunks and Chocolate Crunch.
8.       Chill in the refrigerator for 10 minutes (and not any longer) to make the dough easier to work with.  If you are baking it the next day, bring the dough back up to near room temperature.  Do not bake cold dough – it will not bake properly.
9.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
10.   Scoop dough with ice cream scoop so that it’s flush (not heaping).  Place on a parchment paper or silicone mat lined cookie sheet.
11.   Bake for 7-8 minutes or until the edges are brown and the top is showing slight browning.
12.   Place Cookies n' Cream Kisses on each cookie. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet before moving to cooling rack.
*It’s OK if they look a bit underdone when you first take it out of the oven as long as there’s some resistance when you press the Kisses onto them.  The cookies will finish cooking on the sheet.
*If you can’t find (or don’t want to use) chocolate wafers and make the Chocolate Crunch, you can substitute with chopped Oreos.  However, I would leave out the Hershey’s Cookies n' Cream chocolate bar as it might be too much.
Chopped Hershey's Cookies n' Cream chocolate bar.

Dough ready to be scooped.

Before baking.

After baking.

The "Kisses" melt from the heat of the cookies.

Verdict: I brought these cookies for my colleagues and my girlfriend Joanne and got rave reviews from both.  They are soft, but with crunch from the Chocolate Crunch.  What I like about these cookies is that the “cream” really comes out, probably from the milk powder and the Hershey’s Cookies n' Cream chocolate bar.  Joanne said that they may be the best cookies I’ve every baked! Hmm, challenge accepted, Joanne!!  By the way, best birthday gift ever!  Thanks Yoko!