Friday, December 21, 2012

Peppermint Brownie Pie

Wow, how December flies. It seems like I was just planning all kinds of treats and goodies for Christmas snacking, and now the Solstice is upon us and all I’ve posted is a recipe for Gingerbread Muffins. (Although I did bake a batch of these M & M cookies that were just as good as they usually are.)

Well, here’s a fairly decadent Christmas dessert that won’t have you slaving away for hours. It’s basically a straightforward brownie batter baked in a pie crust and served in wedges because, hey, it’s a pie. I’ll admit I used a store-bought pie crust to make this, the kind that come rolled up, two to a box. I have made it with Easy Cream Cheese Pastry as well, and that was quite good. Just about any single-crust pastry recipe will probably do. It’s kind of all about the brownie filling anyway. There’s a bit of peppermint extract in that brownie batter to give it some holiday essence, but you could certainly replace it with vanilla extract (or even almond or rum extract) if you don’t want the mint.

For me, the chocolate and peppermint combination means Christmas, so I like it there for my holiday dessert. The mint isn’t the only highlight of this pie, however. It’s dense and gooey, especially when served while still a bit warm. It also keeps well, which is good because it’s rich enough to make it difficult to eat the entire pie in one day, unless you have a crowd to feed.

I particularly like this Peppermint Brownie Pie a la mode with candy cane ice cream, but, alas, one of my many holiday failings this year is the lack of something so festive on hand. I’m sure come January, I’ll appreciate the busy-ness that kept me from over-baking and overindulging this year!

Peppermint Brownie Pie
Adapted from Midwest Living December 2009

Pastry for 9-inch pie
½ cup unsalted butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring frequently. When most of the butter and chocolate have melted, remove from the heat.  Stir a few more times to melt the remaining chocolate.  Let stand 20 minutes to cool.

2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9-inch pie plate with the pastry dough and crimp as desired. Set aside.

3. In a medium-size bowl, beat the eggs. Beat in the butter and chocolate mixture. Beat in the sugar, vanilla, and peppermint extract.  Beat in the flour.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. Pour the mixture into the pastry shell. Bake at 350 F for 55 minutes or until the filling is puffed and appears dry, glossy and slightly cracked.  Cool on a wire rack. Serve slightly warm or completely cooled with ice cream or whipped cream.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Another recipe like this one: Layered Brownie Ice CreamDessert (Try it with peppermint ice cream!)

One year ago: Eggnog Muffins with Streusel Topping, Pork and Tangerine Stir Fry

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gingerbread Muffins

Before you think I’ve gone off the deep end of Mount Crumpet into full Grinch-itude, here is an actual holiday-flavored recipe. A good one, too.

These gingerbread muffins are nicely spicy with plenty of ginger paired with molasses for a classic flavor. They have a soft texture that’s still in the quick bread range, so you could have them for breakfast and argue that you’re not eating cake. Speaking of quick bread, I think you could probably convert this recipe into gingerbread by pouring the batter into a bread pan. Or, you could probably make it a coffee cake by putting it in a cake pan and sprinkling a brown sugary streusel on top. Both of those variations would require a change in baking time. You could also add some dried fruit or crystallized ginger or chopped nuts.

Perhaps if I was entertaining I would try something fancier with these flavors. (Heck, even gingerbread cookies seem fancy to me right now.) For the moment, however, I’m content with simplicity in my holiday flavors. And muffins are definitely simple, and, I’d say, versatile, since you could eat these for breakfast or dessert or afternoon coffee or tea or to fuel you through decorating and shopping and visiting and, well, more baking.


Gingerbread Muffins
Adapted from The Ultimate Muffin Book by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon fine salt
2 large eggs
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup milk
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses

1. Melt the butter. Set aside to cool.

2. Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper liners.

3. In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Whisk or sift to combine. Set aside.

4. Beat the eggs until smooth and frothy. Beat in the cooled butter until smooth. Add the brown sugar and beat until well combined. Whisk in the milk and molasses, continuing to beat until smooth.

5. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

6. Distribute the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Bake at 400 F for 22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out with no wet batter clinging to it.

7. Remove from the oven and cool 10 minutes in the pan. Gently remove from the pan and cool another 5 minutes or so on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Freeze leftovers and warm in the microwave to serve.

Makes 12 muffins.


One year ago: Cranberry Bars

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lentil Soup with Winter Vegetables

But it’s December, you say. Shouldn’t The Messy Apron be splashed with tempting photos of holiday treats featuring festively colored sprinkles and enough sugar and fat to induce regret in January? Shouldn’t you be baking up a blizzard? Sating your winter sugar zombie? Abusing your license to cookie?

I wish I were. And maybe soon I will be, but to tell you the truth, December has sneaked up on me once again. It’s shameful, really. It’s not like I don’t know it’s coming. It’s not like I don’t have several thousand seasonal recipes to try. It’s not like I don’t loooooove cookies. But until I can clean up the kitchen (again), get enough sleep, get over a head cold, make a space for the Christmas tree, bring up the decorations from their tomb in the basement, and figure out what to give everybody for Christmas I can’t seem to think straight about homemade holiday indulgences.

A while back, however, before December even finished its stealthy approach, I did make a comforting and flavorful lentil soup. I was surprised by how much beautiful flavor resulted from the addition of the sort of homely celeriac and rutabaga.  Chicken broth also gave this thick soup an additional richness, but you could use vegetable broth instead.

This soup is quite healthy but also filling and not at all boring. It might just be a good foil for those forthcoming indulgences. Assuming I ever get around to making any. Hey, at least I haven’t given up and loaded a shopping cart with boxed cookies…yet.


Lentil Soup with Winter Vegetables and Kale
Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, March 2011

You could make this soup vegan by replacing the chicken broth with vegetable broth or water.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into ¼” to ½” pieces
1 medium celeriac, peeled and chopped into ¼” to ½” pieces
1 medium rutabaga, peeled and chopped into ¼” to ½” pieces
1 ½ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
1 pound green lentils, rinsed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon black pepper
8 cups chicken broth, plus more as needed
1 small bunch kale, stems removed, chopped

1. Pour the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook just until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celeriac, rutabaga, and salt. Cook, stirring often until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

2. Add the lentils, oregano, basil, thyme, bay leaf, pepper and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and boil gently until the vegetables and lentils are tender, about 20-30 minutes. Stir in the kale and cook about 10 minutes more. Add more broth or water if the soup is too thick. Taste for salt and other seasonings and adjust as needed.

Makes about 8 servings.