A Brownie That’s Full Of The Beans

brownies To say that I am a brownie fanatic is really an understatement. I don’t think I have EVER seen a brownie recipe that I have not been tempted to make. I am always, and I mean ALWAYS seeking brownie nirvana. The One… the mother load of all brownies. In other words, the perfect brownie– deep, dark and fudgy. My mouth waters as I write these words.

I have baked and tried hundreds of brownie recipes in my lifetime and I am not done yet. Many of my attempts have been quite yummy and within my definition of successful. Some  of those recipes have even been healthy.

A traditional brownie recipe usually calls for the chocolate to be melted and then added to some melted butter or oil. Once the two are happily mixed together other ingredients are added like eggs, sugar, just a wee bit of flour and sometimes even some cocoa powder, and nuts.

Like I stated before, some of the recipes I have made are WONDERFUL, and some are just BAD. BAD, BAD. Like the time I used a sugar substitute instead of granulated sugar in one of my most prized recipes. YIKES, what a disaster! The brownie was baked in a square, so I removed the entire “block” from the pan. It tasted like poison for lack of a better adjective. Another interesting observation, the brownie “block” was as hard as a rock. What a house I could have built if only I had enough of these brownie ” blocks”. I can still taste the acrid after taste on my tongue.

Moving on, I then tried another experiment. Replacing the butter in another of my favorite recipes and adding mashed avocado instead.  It should have worked, right? All I did was replace one fat with another healthier one. These brownies were greenish in hue and tasted like… I wish I could un-taste these brownies. Needless to say, the recipe will never make it into my next cookbook.

In my latest foray into the world of healthier brownies, I tried adding in some pureed black beans with some of the oil and the chocolate. OK, hold the phone — keep reading. It does get better. I am still in shock, but the beany brownies were NOT terrible?brownies2

I couldn’t taste any beans and that is saying a lot. No one who is normal wants to taste beans in a brownie. The trick was pureeing the beans until the texture was  very smooth and silky. This recipe was more than successful, though the texture was a bit cakier than normal. After cutting them up into squares and presenting them in an artistic way on a plate, I gave them to unsuspecting and loved family members. They were not horrified, and instead were intrigued by the taste finishing every morsel. I guess it was my laughing that got them suspicious. They asked me if there was anything weird about these brownies? Not at all, I lied. I don’t think they’ll be willingly eating any more of them, but they each finished one. And sort of enjoyed it.

Now, in my opinion, the true test of a great recipe amounts to… would I WANT, COULD I ever make this recipe again in this lifetime ,voluntarily??? The answer for the brownies with the sugar substitute is a resounding “Nein”. The beany brownies, I think most definitely “You bet”!

So delve into new territory, my baking buddies, and try new recipes and interesting ingredients. You never know when you will be pleasantly surprised… or NOT.

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail



Follow Up To Baking Cookies with Mom

As promised my daughter and I baked “fabulicious” ( yes, I know this is not a word but I was trying to set the mood for you, as the cookies were both fabulous and delicious)  chocolate chip cookies! See for yourself!chocolate-chip-cookies-1

Remember how I wrote that if you wish you can add some whole wheat flour to add some nuttiness and great texture? Well, I said yes to this option and the daughter said no. Stop the oven and hold the phone. What to do… A discussion ensued. I eventually brought her round to my way of thinking by compromising and using just a little whole wheat flour to show her that she would not even know that it was in there.  All she demanded was that the cookies be chewy. That promise was kept by using some bread flour like I stated earlier.

We went a little crazy with the chips using BOTH milk and semisweet. When we get to baking we are really dangerous. Loving chocolate so much is in our blood, so no compromise was necessary here.

We dropped the dough onto the parchment lined sheet pan using an ice cream scoop. That way each one was about the same size. The cookies were about three inches in diameter. Warm from the oven they were both chewy and chocolaty.

We had such a great time! I love spending time with my youngest, especially since I don’t get to see her that often. I would call this time well spent.

Tomorrow she is headed back to her busy, busy life. Of course she will carry some of those yummy cookies in her bag to enjoy when she gets home. If they make the trip without getting eaten on the way, is debatable.

No matter how old your child is, spend some time in the kitchen with them. Bake cookies like my daughter and I did or do your own” thing”. It really is the simple things in life that create wonderful quality moments, and it can all start in the kitchen.

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail

Baking Cookies with Mom

My grown-up daughter is visiting this weekend and, since I do not get to see her very often, it is always so GREAT to see her. During her visits I plan outings or other activities like shopping, movies or going out to dinner. Sounds like wild and crazy stuff, right? Wild and crazy I am not!

During this visit my daughter said she missed baking with me, and had a yen for my chewy chocolate chip cookies. AWWWW! She had me at “missed  baking with me.” A few tears welled up in my eyes. This 25 year old lives in one of the most dynamic and hip places in the country, has an amazing job, and all she wants to do is bake cookies with her mom??  Well, I must have done something right. Right?

Tomorrow we will make my best chewy chocolate chip cookies. The trick with my cookies is to use bread flour instead of all purpose which enhances the chewiness due to its higher protein content. I like to add some whole wheat flour as well, which adds great color and a nutty  quality. If whole wheat is your thing, just sub out one cup of bread flour, and replace it with one cup of whole wheat flour.

Another tip is to use lots of chocolate chips. Try adding half mini and half larger semisweet chips. That way EVERY cookie is guaranteed to have tons of chocolate in it. You can combine different types of chips as well. There are milk chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips and white chocolate chips. Or go really crazy and combine some chocolate chips with some peanut butter chips.

Speaking if peanut butter – if you substitute peanut butter for the softened butter in the recipe, your cookies will become peanut butter. Who doesn’t love peanut butter and chocolate?! If you don’t like peanut butter, try almond or cashew butter for something completely different.

I promise to report back tomorrow to let you know how the cookies turned out along with a picture!

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail


The Blob: A Sourdough Update

I know that I just posted about how I was planning to make a sourdough pizza last Saturday and I did. I just wanted to give you an update.

Saturday, about noon time, I made the actual dough from the starter that I had been feeding since Wednesday. And all went well! I left the dough to rise for about 3 hours in a large bowl. I had some errands to run, and I thought I would be home within that 3 hour window of time before the dough would be ready to push out,   top and bake. I really under-estimated  how much time my errands would take and did not get home until about 5 hours later. Oops!!

I really was afraid to see the state of the dough in the bowl. One of two things could have happened. First, the dough could have run out of food for the yeast and sank down into the bowl, dying a miserable death. Or second, the dough would have grown way out of control oozing up and over the top of the bowl.

Luckily, the lesser of the two above evils happened and the dough did not collapse and “die”. It did, however, grow quite HUGE. I mean HUGE!!! It reminded me of the scary science fiction movie called “The Blob” that I saw when I was a kid and couldn’t sleep for at least a week without having my father check all of my shoes and the closet in my room. I almost needed therapy after that one.

No, the dough thrived. I quickly pressed it out into my oiled sheet pan and topped it and baked it before it took over the world. I must say, and my family agreed with me, that this monster of a pizza was the best one I ever made.

So if you ever inadvertently leave your dough out for too long don’t despair. All hope is not lost, because you might just get the best Monster-Sized Pizza the world has ever seen.

We will be eating that “Thing” for days and enjoying every minute of it!

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail

Sourdough Pizza

sourdough pizzaI have  written in a previous blog entry about my starter Bubbles who turned 20 years old this year. My, how they grow up so fast!

Sourdough starters are the gift that keeps on giving. You feed them and they grow and then once they are ready to bake with, you save some of the starter to be put away for another baking adventure. Sourdough starters are NOT just to make bread with. You can make spectacular pizzas as well.

I felt a yen for pizza and thought it would be great to have a home made one on Saturday night with my family. You know the kind I mean– deep dish topped with all sorts of toppings and lots of cheese!! Since I want to make pizza on Saturday, I started feeding my sweet Bubbles on the Wednesday before. I am feeding her three times a day for three days to get her nice and strong and bubbly! Tomorrow I will save some of Bubbles to be put in the fridge for another time and build a dough for the pizza with another portion of the starter.

Sourdough breads can ferment for a long time because the yeast is totally wild and natural. Once I make the dough, which is quite easy to put together, I leave it to rise for about 3-4 hours.

Once risen, I press the dough out into an oiled sheet pan with at least 1 inch high sides and put on the toppings. Be creative with the toppings. Anything goes: pesto,  any type of olives, all types of cheeses and meats. Be sure that your meats are already cooked through before they go on top of the pizza. One trick before baking is to drizzle the entire pizza with some olive oil. it really helps the browning of the cheeses and the crust.

The oven should be pre-heated for about an hour at the highest temperature that your oven can go. My oven goes as high as 550 degrees. Then bake the pizza until the crust is nice and brown and the cheese is ooey and gooey!!! Trust me when I say that you will know when it is ready.

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail