Tag Archives: baking

Maida Heatter’s Palm Beach Mint Brownies

Sometimes chocolate is the best last resort.  You’ve apologized, prayed, fretted and worried, yelled, torn your cuticles and had one too many drinks.  Maybe chocolate is the answer.  Not as a long-term solution but this recipe will certainly smooth ruffled feathers and ease worried minds for the time being.  These brownies were created by baking maven, Maida Heatter, and are classic world renown treats.  If you served brownies at a wedding, these are the ones you want.  If your precious angel is going through a rough time at college, these are the brownies to pack in an empty shoe box.  I made a few changes in the way I bake them.  I sprayed the tin foil lined baking pan with non-stick cooking spray as opposed to applying the melted butter process.  Worked fine.  I used pecans in place of walnuts because I adore pecans and I find walnuts to be bitter…I don’t know…I’m just not a fan.  The final change I made was rather than purchase 2 bags of York Peppermint Patties I used 2  7.7-ounce bags of Ghiradelli Chocolate Peppermint Brownie Squares I found on clearance after the holidays.  I had started actually dipping into one of the bags for an occasional treat and that’s never good.  I had no business buying more chocolates.  Boy howdy, do I love these brownies!  It is imperative you chill these overnight for the best results.  Somehow it all works together and makes this dessert well worth the wait.

Maida Heatter's Palm Beach Mint Brownies

  • Servings: 32 large brownies
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 3 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups sifted unbleached flour
  • 2 cups shelled walnuts, broken into large pieces
  • 2 15-ounce bags chocolate covered peppermint patties
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425°.  Line a 9″ X 13″ x 2″ pan as follows: Invert the pan and center a 17″ length of aluminum foil, shiny side down, over the pan.  With your hands, press down on the sides and corners of the foil to shape it to the pan.  Remove the foil.  Turn the pan right side up.  Place the foil in the pan and very carefully press it into place in the pan.  Now, to butter the pan, place a piece of butter (additional to that in ingredients) in the pan, and put the pan in the oven.  When the butter is melted, use a pastry brush or a piece of crumbled plastic wrap to spread the butter all over the foil.  Set the prepared pan aside.
  2. Place the chocolate and the butter in the top of a large double boiler over moderate heat or in a 4- to 6-cup heavy saucepan over low heat.  Stir occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are melted.  Stir to mix.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs, vanilla and almond extracts, salt, espresso powder and sugar at high-speed for ten minutes.  On low-speed add the chocolate mixer (which may still be warm) and beat only until mixed.  Then add the flour and again beat on low-speed only until mixed.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the walnuts.
  4. Pour half the mixture (about 3 1/2 cups) into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Place a layer of the mints, touching each other and the edges of the pan, all over the chocolate layer.  Cut some mints to fill in large spaces on the edges.  (You will not use all the mints.  There will be some left over.)  Pour the remaining chocolate mixture into the pan and smooth all over.
  5. Bake for 35 minutes, reversing the pan front to back once during baking to ensure even baking.  At the end of 35 minutes the cake will have a firm crust on top  but if you insert a toothpick in the middle it will come out wet and covered with chocolate.  Nevertheless, it is done.  Do not bake any longer.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven; let stand until cool.  Cover the pan with a cookie sheet and invert the pan and the sheet. remove the pan and the foil lining.  Cover the length of the cake with a length of wax paper and another cookie sheet and invert again, leaving the cake right side up.  Now, the cake must be refrigerated for a few hours or overnight before it is cut into bars.
  7. When you are ready to cut the cake, use a long, heavy knife with a sharp blade, either serrated or straight-try both.  Cut the cake into quarters.  Cut each quarter in half, cutting through the long sides.  Finally, cut each piece into 4 bars, cutting through the long sides.  (I think these brownies are better in narrow bar shapes than in squares.) Pack brownies in an airtight box or wrap individually in clear cellophane, wax paper or foil.  They freeze perfectly and can be served very cold or at room temperature.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

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Classic Toffee Oatmeal Cookies

It’s Fall and I’m back!  Without explaining my absence let’s just say this past year has been…hmmm…I’ll be positive about it and say it’s been a year of growth.  Fall on your knees and cry out kind of growth.  Ugh.  I despise the process  but I’m pretty sure it’s made me a much stronger and better person.  That said let’s get on with Fall!  The weather FINALLY turned last night and Fort Lauderdale woke up to a cool, crisp 57°.  Here in SoFlo that’s fireplace weather.  This sweet treat is just the ticket with a cup of hot coffee or tea or a cold glass of milk.  These cookies are ridiculously easy to make and will fly out of your house.  I’ve also baked them with coconut chips and raisins.  Yes, they can be made with chocolate chips and I suppose they’re good but I’m not a big fan of chocolate chips in my cookies.  Call me crazy, I don’t care.  These cookies, however, are chewy and rich…the buttery toffee bits complement the oatmeal perfectly.  The cookies travel well, whether in a lunch box or through the mail to your favorite college student.  I hope you enjoy them!

Classic Toffee Oatmeal Cookies

  • Servings: 40 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup toffee bits, found on the baking aisle of your grocery store
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups uncooked old fashioned oats
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.  Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl cream together the butter, shortening and sugars.
  3. To the bowl add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix well until completely blended.
  4. In a medium size bowl add the  flour, toffee bits, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.  Mix well.
  5. To the flour mixture add the oats and mix until completely combined.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the butter-egg mixture and, by hand, mix well until all the oats are completely coated and all the ingredients are well combined.
  7. Using a 1 1/2 inch melon baller, scoop the cookie batter evenly onto the parchment paper lined baking sheets leaving 2 1/2″-3″ between cookies.
  8. Bake 8-10 minutes.  The cookies will still be undercooked in the middle.  They will firm up as they cool.
  9. Cool the baking sheets on racks.
  10. To store allow to cool completely then pack the cookies in an airtight container.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Whole Grain Bread…it’s life changing

Bread has always been the ultimate temptation for me.  Whether swathed with melting butter, creamy peanut butter, toasted with cheese or redolent with garlic and tossed in a salad, I cannot resist.  Growing up with a mother who barely cooked we were always hungry.  But bread, albeit it “brown bread” as it was called back then, was our reliable safety.  And we loved our bread.  For breakfast Mama prepared soft-boiled eggs with a slice of brown bread on the side and split in half, to dip  into the sunny, runny yolks.  With a pinch of salt and pepper this was our version of heaven.  My little brother, Tommy, bless his heart, was always hungry.  Skinny as a rail, he’d wake up in the middle of the night from hunger pains in his stomach.  That boy would crawl on his stomach across the house, grab seven or eight slices of bread from the refrigerator and crawl back to his bed undetected by Mama.  He said those late night trips to the kitchen were what kept him alive.  I knew when I was hungry I could always find the fixins’ for a lettuce and butter sandwich.  Actually it was margarine as we never had real butter.  The “brown bread” was Roman Meal brand and the lettuce was iceberg but the combination made for a cool, crunchy and satisfying snack that, as a child, held me in good stead.  As I grew up I learned of the further glories of bread. At a grade school friend’s  house I first tasted real butter on toast.  Whoa!  I’ll never forget THAT experience.  Third or fourth grade brought Susie next door as a new neighbor.  That, Gentle Reader, was the exacta of  culinary discoveries.   We had been playing outside, probably our version of Man From Uncle, we were hot and hungry.  Susie casually turned to me and asked if I wanted a toasted English muffin.  I had never had a muffin, never mind an English muffin, but I thought if she wanted one  I’d have one, too.  I mean, how bad could they be?  Well.  She toasted one for each of us, buttered them, then slathered some bright, glossy, ruby-colored stuff on each round.  “What’s THAT?” I asked.  Susie looked at me incredulously.  Neither one of us said anything for a few seconds.  She quietly answered with the slightest hint of disdain for me, “It’s strawberry jam.  Haven’t you ever had that before?”  I had read in one of my many books that strawberries were sweet and tasted good.  Feeling fearless and, let me remind you, hungry, I took a bite.  The warm muffin with the melted butter in all the little nooks and crannies was like nothing I had ever had, all salty and creamy.  How could something be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside all at the same time?  But the jam…oh, the jam!  I was swept away by the feel in my mouth, sweet and clean, at the same time tart.  I imagined that was what perfume should taste like if you drank it.  I just about swooned over this ordinary snack and I’m pretty much certain Susie lost a little respect for me judging from the “you loser” look she gave me.  I’ve got to say, though, it was worth it.  Today bread is still my Achilles heal.  Garlic rolls, pizza, croutons, I love it all.  But as I’ve gotten older and my waistline has expanded I’ve had to cut back drastically on my bread intake and, now that there is always food in my house, I’m super picky when it comes to the quality and nutritional value.  Since figuring out this recipe we no longer buy bread, quite a savings for us as we were paying upwards of $10.00 at Whole Foods and Fresh Market for a high fiber organic loaf.  I now bake bread at least once a week, sometimes twice, and have a thin, toasted slice every morning as part of my breakfast.  Whether I have an egg white omelette prepared by my husband and delivered to our bed or avocado toast with tomato slices and red pepper flakes, breakfast keeps me energized until 2:00 in the afternoon.  Not only is this bread a nutritional powerhouse but it’s life-changing for your insides, if you catch my drift.  It calls for only one rising so you’re not chained to the kitchen for what seems to be a lifetime.  I urge you to try it.  Really.  A weekend day when the weather begs you to stay indoors is the golden opportunity.  And won’t you just be the happy camper when, say, some morning, you’re running more than a few minutes late and you grab a slice of this gorgeous, whole grain bread, baked by your capable hands, topped with a generous slather of peanut or almond butter to munch on while you drive into work?  Aren’t you the cleverkins!

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Whole Grain Power Bread

  • Servings: 3-4 loaves
  • Print

This bread is  dark and heavy as many European breads are.  It can be made by hand, which turns out to be a great upper body workout, or with a stand-up mixer, which makes the kneading process supremely easy.  I’ve done both and I have to say I lean towards the stand-up mixer. The dough requires only one rising (yay!) and the recipe is forgiving enough that you can substitute the sunflower and flax seeds for any seeds you like.  I use Bob’s Red Mill 8 Grain Hot Cereal and  5 Grain Hot Cereal as well as Quaker Multigrain hot cereals interchangeably depending on what’s in my cabinet.  This recipe doubles beautifully however, as it calls for a large amount of flour, check first prior to doubling to make sure your mixing bowl is big enough to hold and mix the dough.  I have a standard KitchenAid mixer, which I hate and everyday I pray it dies, and it barely holds one recipe.  If you’d like really tall loaves shape three loaves instead of four.  It’s great with breakfast, toasted plain or with butter, jam and almond or peanut butter.  Because of its denseness it doesn’t hold up well as sandwich bread but since I’ve sworn off sandwiches that’s okay by me.  Well-wrapped it freezes beautifully.  I bake this bread for my family, my father and my girl, Andrea, so we only have two loaves at the most in my house.  Therefore, I can’t tell you how long it keeps in the freezer but tightly wrapped it should be fine for at least two weeks.

  • 4 cups water, divided
  • 1 cup multigrain hot cereal
  • 1/2 cup canola, vegetable or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3/4 cup flax seeds
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 9 cups whole wheat flour, preferably organic
  1. Spray 3 or 4 1.5 quarts loaf pans with non stick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, pour one cup boiling water over hot cereal and set aside for 30 minutes.
  3. When hot cereal has cooled, heat remaining 3 cups of water to 120°-130° and pour into standup mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment.
  4. To the mixer bowl add 2 cups flour, cooled cereal, oil, honey, molasses, yeast, salt, flax seeds and sunflower seeds.
  5. Mix until incorporated.
  6. Slowly add remaining flour adding just one cup at a time to avoid the flour from flying all over.
  7. When flour has mixed in, change the attachment from paddle to dough hook and knead dough for 5 minutes.
  8. Depending on the number of loaves you wish to bake, divide dough into 3 or 4 equal parts and place in prepared pans making certain the dough covers the bottom and all corners of the pans.
  9. Cover pans with a clean dish towel or loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise in pans for 1 1/2 hours or until double in size.
  10. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or bottom, sides and tops are golden brown.
  11. Cool pans on racks for 10 minutes.
  12. Remove bread from pans and  return to racks until  completely cool.
  13. Do not slice or store bread until completely cooled.

 

Fresh Gingerbread for a cold winter’s day

 

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We finally have gotten a little cool weather here in south Florida.  Firewood has started to appear in grocery stores and I’ve been able to COMFORTABLY wear a jcrew puffy vest I recently bought.  It’s winter!  Seeing that we have so few cold, even cool days, this family spends every chilly evening alongside a roaring fire.  We read our books listening to the crackling wood; while Jimmy responds to his never-ending emails I might do a bit of needlepoint, work on a recipe or troll Pinterest just to see what I can see.  Our dog, Pericles, always joins us.  A creature of habit, he trots into the living room and scopes out his spot.  Lying down on a worn Persian rug, with paws crossed (he’s SUCH a noble dog!), a long, deep sigh is let out as he closes his eyes for a peaceful nap with his favorite people.  Our 1940 house is old, by Florida’s standards, with hardwood floors, beamed ceilings and floor to ceiling bookcases.  It’s been described as a “charming Key West cottage”.  But cottages can feel damp inside when it rains.  And chilly when the temperature drops.  All those chinks, gaps and little holes you can’t even see behind walls….or somewhere, somehow let in cold and dampness.  So in spite of electric heat, a toasty fire hissing and popping is most welcome during those brisk, drizzly evenings.  James and Jimmy enjoy the fires too, I think.  I mean, tell me the man who doesn’t like to set something on fire?  I rewarded my men with a fresh-out-of-the-oven, sweet slab of gingerbread.   Earlier in the week I set out to find the tastiest version and after quite a few fails I finally found perfection.  Fails so mediocre I threw them in the trash.  I was surprised to find the majority of blog recipes and even the British, Two Fat Ladies, renditions produced dry, flat-tasting cakes.  Guess who knocked it out of the park?  Our very own Mattie.  Yup.  Martha Stewart’s recipe threw the old school, powdered ginger out the window and called for fresh ginger…and not a small amount either.  1/2 cup PACKED yielded a moist, warmly spiced cake fresh from the oven that had me leaning against the kitchen counter, eyes closed savoring the soft bite of ginger alongside the chocolaty taste of molasses.  It was heaven!  I had planned on a spicy cream cheese icing but, honestly, I didn’t want anything to mask the flavor or texture of this unpretentious, simple cake. It isn’t even in need of a dusting of confectioners’ sugar but I gave it a light coat only to dress it up a bit.   And, unlike so many other gingerbreads, this cake didn’t need to age…not one moment.  It was everything you hope it will be straight out of the oven.  The only thing I changed in the recipe was I used dark molasses instead of light.  I love molasses and the quarter cup called for in the receipt would not have changed the gingerbread all that much.  As with other quick breads and cakes try to resist the urge to over mix and you will be awarded a rich cake with a tender crumb guaranteed to warm all!

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GINGERBREAD

Martha Stewart’s recipe threw the old school, powdered ginger out the window and called for fresh ginger…and not a small amount either.  1/2 cup PACKED yielded a moist, warmly spiced cake fresh from the oven that had me leaning against the kitchen counter, eyes closed savoring the soft bite of ginger alongside the chocolaty taste of molasses.  It was heaven!  I had planned on a spicy cream cheese icing but, honestly, I didn’t want anything to mask the flavor or texture of this unpretentious, simple cake. It isn’t even in need of a dusting of confectioners’ sugar but I gave it a light coat only to dress it up a bit.   And, unlike so many other gingerbreads, this cake didn’t need to age…not one moment.  It was everything you hope it will be straight out of the oven.  The only thing I changed in the recipe was I used dark molasses instead of light.  I love molasses and the quarter cup called for in the receipt would not have changed the gingerbread all that much.  As with other quick breads and cakes try to resist the urge to over mix and you will be awarded a rich cake with a tender crumb guaranteed to warm all!

  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup light molasses, (I used dark)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed minced fresh ginger, (I minced mine in the mini-food processor)
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350° with rack in the lower third of oven.  Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Line the bottom of the pan with waxed paper, then spray the paper.  Dust the entire pan with flour and shake out the excess.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, turbinado sugar, cinnamon and salt; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together molasses, eggs, oil and the buttermilk.
  4. Dissolve baking soda in the cup of boiling water.
  5. Fold the baking soda and molasses mixtures into dry ingredients until combined.  (DO NOT OVERMIX.)
  6. Fold in the minced ginger.
  7. Scrape batter into the prepared pan; bake until cake is set around the edges and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
  8. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a cooling rack.
  9. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

Junior League Banana Bread

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We’re on a flight to Chapel Hill to go see Jamesy and I cannot wait! The JetBlue television monitor at my seat has been left on the NYT channel and featured a piece on monkeys. I’m crazy about monkeys. Always have been. My love affair started when I was maybe three and a half…maybe four at the most. I liked going out and “poking around” with Dad on weekends. He always went to exotic places with activities that this little girl loved. We’d go over to Daddy’s friend, Jim Bloom’s house and Dad would just leave me outside. They’d be talking fish or orchids or koi ponds and I would be left in the middle of a bamboo forest on the back of a mammoth, lumbering Galapagos turtle. Talk about slow ride.  Sometimes Cynthia would go and we would have races, both on the backs of these giant animals screaming “Go! Go! Go!” with our Florence Eiseman dresses on, tennis shoes and plain white socks. To say we had a blast is an understatement.  When we returned home Mama never asked where we had gone or what we had done. Sometimes one of us would tell her sometimes not. Often Dad would take me to Pet Circus as he was good friends with the owner.  Pet Circus was, as Dad puts it, “up on the highway” or Federal Highway to everyone else.  Always he dropped me in a corner somewhere, leave me and go off with the owner to discuss the breeding habits of the Gouldian finch Dad was raising in enormous outdoor aviaries or to discuss some disease a tank of fish had contracted. But he always left me safe and in the same place. With my best friend, Judy.  Judy the Chimp. In chimp years Judy was probably a preteen. She liked me and I liked her. Judy was in a huge cage-like run with lots of bars to swing on and plenty of room to run. At the beginning of our play date our greeting was always the same. I was shy and held back and she was also tentative and hung back. We would smile and slowly warm up to each other. We were both the same creatures we were two weeks prior. Eventually we hugged. I liked stroking her head because her hair was so soft. And I liked looking at her eyes. They were gentle and huge and round. She must have felt the same about me because she would play with my hair and pat my chubby, brown cheeks. When she felt comfortable enough with me she began to play. Judy ran a little to pick up speed then she’d grab a low bar and start swinging. I felt right at home.  I ran fast but not as fast as Judy and I did my share of swinging on the bars but never was I to be as accomplished as Judy.  We generally had a blast!  We laughed and I spoke to Judy as though she was a little girlfriend.  I guess she’d give some sort of reply.  I don’t quite remember.  But I do know we had a great friendship.  When Daddy was finished after a few hours he’d come back, someone would unlock the “run” and we’d go home.  I don’t remember my father EVER saying “Stop by the Ladies room on the way out and wash your hands.  They must be filthy!”.   Oh, hell no.  He’d ask what we did, how high Judy could swing, how high I swung, did I try to teach her hop-scotch, did we play clapping games, that was what he was interested in.  Many a Saturday morning was spent with Judy the Chimp.  The last time I went was a typical weekend morning.  Dad dropped me off, LOCKED ME IN THE RUN and went off with the owner to talk fish or birds or whatever.  After a while Dad said he heard screaming and shrieking and crying.  In my direction.  And Daddy came running.  He later told me that when he got to me I was howling; big, fat tears streamed down my fat little cheeks.  Judy was screaming and angry.  It was our first and last fight.  What were we fighting about you ask?  We were fighting over a urine sodden ugly blue towel.  We were essentially having a tug-of-war with it, each pulling in opposite directions.  Why I wanted it I’ll never know but Dad whisked me out of there lickety-split.  And I never saw Judy again.  It made me so sad.  I cried and cried, missing Judy as a little girl would cry over her best friend moving away.  Over and over Daddy explained to me that when chimps get big they usually get mean.  Very mean.  Chimpanzees are incredibly strong, they can bite viciously and can easily mutilate a human.  I understood he was trying to protect me but I was trying to make him understand that Judy and I had a really special relationship and she would never hurt me.  Be that as it may, I was not to see her again and that was that.  However, I never stopped loving her or  monkeys…they’re still all over my house.  Prints, fabric, art.  So I dedicate this banana bread to my first girlfriend, Judy.  Judy the Chimp.

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This is the first recipe I ever used for banana bread and it’s still one of my favorites.  It’s from the 1964 Junior League cookbook entitled “Nashville Seasons”.  I’ve made it a million times.  It’s simple, direct and pretty much a no-fail quick bread.  Really ripe bananas yield the best loaf.  It’s lovely toasted or eaten cold and freezes well.

Junior League Banana Bread

  • Servings: 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 very ripe large bananas
  • 2 room temperature eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbls. water
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Mash bananas well and add to butter mixture.  Beat well.
  4. Add eggs, flour and soda mixed with the tablespoon of water.
  5. Mix well then add pecans and vanilla.
  6. Bake in well-greased pan, 1 hour for a large loaf.  45 minutes for two smaller loaves.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com