Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fudgy Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting

There are times when I crave something sweet, simple and, preferably, chocolate. At these moments, nothing fits the bill as perfectly as brownies. I like mine fudgy, as opposed to cakey, and I don’t mind a little adornment, like a glaze or frosting. This week I 

decided to get back to basics with a brownie topped with peanut butter frosting. The brownies are made with lots of bittersweet chocolate (I used Guittard, one of my favorites), and a touch of brown sugar for a caramel flavor. The frosting, which is mixed by 

hand, is mostly peanut butter with a little softened butter, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. The brownies must be cool when you frost them, and need to be refrigerated for at least an hour before cutting, ensuring that you’ll get perfect brownie squares. I suggest you bring the brownies to room temperature before serving, for the best texture and flavor, though they’re still pretty darned good right out of the fridge.  I like Jif brand peanut butter best, but any non-natural type will work.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Vintage Cakes

I have a lot of cookbooks, some of which are sent to me for review, and most of which I buy because I just can’t help myself. I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to cookbooks – I try to fight my obsession, but it’s never easy. I rationalize my purchases by reasoning that I’m 

“building a collection.” And since I live in a New York apartment, I’ve run out of book shelves to hold these books, so they can be found under sofas, beds, and in just about every closet or storage cabinet I have. Frequently cookbooks tempt me with alluring 

photos and fonts, but the proof of the pudding always lies within the recipes. I’ll try one, maybe two recipes, and if they don’t shine, I’m done with the book and it’s destined to live out its days gathering dust bunnies under a sofa or donated to my local Housing Works 

charity. Recently, however, a publisher sent me a book that I can wholeheartedly endorse. Vintage Cakes (Ten Speed Press, 2012; $24) by Julie Richardson is billed as a “confectionary stroll down memory lane,” and it delivers just that. Julie Richardson, owner and 

head baker of Baker & Spice, a small-batch bakery and café in Portland, Oregon, baked and re-baked classic cake recipes from various old magazines and books, tinkering with the ingredients to update these classic confections for today’s palate. Some of the cakes that got my attention were: Butterscotch Cream Roll-Up, Jam Cake with Caramel Chocolate Ganache, Old Vermont Burnt Sugar Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting, and Banana Cake with Coffee Walnut Buttercream. The one that attracted my attention the most, though, was the Lemon and Almond Streamliner Cake, which Julie found in a 1967 issue of a publication called Baking Industry. There was no explanation for the name of the cake, which is a single layer buttermilk cake made moist with the addition of almond paste. It’s topped off with a very lemony custard that is silky smooth, owing to its having a healthy amount of butter in it. Thanks, Julie, I love Vintage Cakes, and I think you’re a superstar.