Saturday, October 15, 2016

A love letter to Katie Blue, and a recipe for the most amazing brownies

Beloved Katie Blue,

I'm amazed at what stands for a brownie these days.  Of course, part of the problem is that the brownies made today almost always come from a box.  You know my feelings about boxes, they are fine but they are never made with the quality of ingredients I like to use and often not in the same amounts I would prefer.  They are aiming for middle ground.  Some people like fudgy brownies, some people like cake-like, etc.  I have been testing brownies for years and I know you prefer the mix you found and that's okay, but the truth is these brownies rock the crowds they've been fed to and some day you might grow up (and I hope I'm still here to hand it to you) but just in case you want it and God has called me home, you'll be able to find it here.

I love you, sweetie,

The story of amazing brownies started a long time ago.  I'd find one and think it was perfect and then grow tired of it and try another.  This recipe, though, has been with me for a while and I think it might be the one.  Of course, God has given me more time than any of us expected, so who knows if I will change my mind, but for now this is the one.

This recipe is adapted from Ina Gartens recipe "Outrageous Brownies" and you can check it out, but I like my version better, I find the brownies hold together better and withstand being plated one on top of another a little better which is necessary for my ministry work.  You can't plate 2 dozen brownies on several plastic plates and not have to stack them!
The "important" ingredients

Momma's Awesome Brownies

1 pound butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
2 tablespoons instant espresso
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups chopped walnuts, fresh toasted and cooled


Melted chocolate and butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour a 12 x 18 x 1-inch baking sheet.  (Half sheet pan)

Use a large pot and fill 1/3 way with water, place a large bowl over as a lid and bring the water to a strong simmer.  Place 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in the bowl, stir it occasionally.  While waiting for the chocolate to melt, unwrap four sticks of butter and cut them into slices.  This is not necessary but they will melt quicker than throwing in whole sticks.  Add them to the chocolate and stir until it is all melted.  Remove the bowl and place it on a cooling rack while you are busy doing the next steps.   

In another large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, espresso powder, vanilla, and sugar.  

Combine walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl, sprinkle with a good spoonful of the measured flour and mix to coat these treats. 

In another medium bowl, sift together  cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. 

Why didn't I take a picture of a cut brownie?
Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, add flour mixture and when almost totally combined add want mixture, stir only as long as necessary to combine it all.  Pour into the sheet pan and bake for about 35 minutes, checking with a toothpick at 30 minutes. You do not want to overtake these awesome brownies.  Allow them to cool completely before cutting.  Miss Ina cuts these huge lovelies into 20 brownies.  I get 40 brownies from this recipe.  

A hint about toasting walnuts:
Walnuts are easy to toast and taste MUCH better in almost every recipe I use them in.  Simply measure them out onto a sheet pan and toast on 300F until you can smell them, 10-15 minutes depending on whether they were fresh or frozen when you started.

Friday, August 26, 2016

P...p...p..pie crust

I am known in some circles because of my pie.  I am in fact, kinda well known for my pecan pie in particular.

I won my first cooking award because of pie.  I don't even remember what kind of pie it was, but it won.  It was decades ago.  I get complimented whether it's strawberry, apple, quiche or meat pie.  (Don't get me started about meat pie.  I learned it from my memere and have spent the last 30 years improving on it.)

My mom was not a great cook, unfortunately, in the 70's women were told canned vegetables and powdered mixes was the best way to do things.  She seldom made real homemade things but when she did they were often excellent.  One thing that was really amazing was her pie crust.  I am forever grateful that I got her recipe.  I'm not sure how I held on to it, but I did.  I didn't really use it until I lived in an apartment in Brighton with Pat and Lequita.  That was when I discovered how special it was.  I began, occasionally, to be asked to make communion bread, which at that time meant using pie crust dough.  That was the beginning of my tampering.

Over the past twenty years I have nudged the recipe this way and that, but never very far off of mom's recipe, biggest change?  Using a food processor.  Until five years ago.  Shall we blame it on the brain tumor?  (I'm laughing as I type this.)  I took a french baking lesson that caught me by surprise with a couple of pie crust recipes, I liked them both.  Hubby, on the other hand, not so much.  Okay, I will keep searching.  Why I felt the need to search when I had mom's recipe I can't really explain and yet I did.  I tried a few other things.  Then, by the grace of God, I found a recipe by one of my favorite blog writers.  Smitten Kitchen is a great place to go and I highly recommend you go check out her pie crust recipe and technique.  I'm not sure I will ever look again.  I believe I have found the holy grail and enjoyed the wine that has been waiting for me.  In the past year I have been making and using this recipe for all kinds of things and haven't got a single thing to complain about.  One thing I love to do I learned from mom, make plenty of dough and divide and freeze it.  A pie is much easier to make if you already have the dough!

Smitten Kitchen's Pie Crust:

2.5 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small pieces.

Note:  I cut butter sticks into fourths the long way and then cut little nubs the other way.  The question really is how long do I want to mix the dough.  I prefer to do my work on the cutting board instead.

Measure one cup of water, add some ice and put it in the fridge for right now.
In a large bowl combine flour, sugar and salt.  I toss them with my hand and then add the butter, tossing it to get each piece coated with the flour mixture.  Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour until you have a bowl that looks full of little white peas.  (Back when I used a food processor I always got too far along, I promise this makes this pie crust one to love when done by hand.)  Get the water out of the fridge and pour 1/4 cup of ice water into the bowl and using a wooden spoon stir, looking for it to all come together.  Add water by the Tablespoon until you've just about got it combined to one big ball of dough.  Put down the spoon, use your hands to do the final pressing together.  I typically use about half a cup of water in total, but it's dependent on silly things like temperature and humidity.  Divide the ball in half, wrap each separately and allow them to chill for at least an hour.

You now have enough dough for a two crust pie or two one crust pies, such as Quiche Lorraine.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Amazing Blueberry Muffins

A few weeks ago I made some incredible peach muffins using a recipe I found on All Recipes.  The author's name was only listed as FBGMOMOF4 and I want to give her as much credit as I can for the wonderful flavors I was able to deliver.

Today I decided to play with her recipe and see if it will work for Blueberry muffins.  I'm making these for home enjoyment so I'm making them big and I am greasing my pan well because I hate muffin pan liners unless I'm baking for delivery.  The original recipe claimed to make 16 muffins and now that I've cut it in half, I believe her because I have 8 muffins baking even as I type.  In fact here is a picture of them, through the lovely window in my oven door.

Moving from peach to blueberry, meant taking out the cinnamon and peaches.  I used a generous cup of frozen blueberries and also a tablespoon of lemon zest.  I don't know why I always feel I need to use lemon zest if I'm using blueberries, but unless I'm doing something with almond flavoring I do.  The delicious results of this recipe are a muffin that fills your hand and has a crusty bottom, a tender crumb and because I love it, a crystal sugar top.

Amazing Blueberry Muffins


  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 cups, plus 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 2 small eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cups white sugar
  • 1 rounded cup blueberries
  • 1 Tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • sugar crystals


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease 8 muffin cups.

  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, lemon zest, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the oil, eggs and sugar. Stir the oil mixture into the flour mixture just until moist. Fold in the blueberries. Use a half cup measure to scoop batter into the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle each muffin with sugar crystals.

  3. Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Can a Cannoli be a Pound Cake?

I was blessed last year when I got my regular update from Smitten Kitchen where a cook I admire posted a recipe for Cannoli Pound Cake and specifically said it was best made a day or two in advance!  Well, you know I love that idea!  It happens that I have a passion for real cannolis.  It's hard to explain to people who have never had a chance to have a really great cannoli in a freshly fried shell, filled with ricotta lightly sweetened and flavored with citrus and this whole treat is finished with freshly chopped pistachio nuts.  I have not found anything like this in the south.  My dear friend Jen sent me the best gift after my brain tumor diagnosis, overnight shipped from Mike's Pastry a "making cannoli" kit.  The shells had been fried just  hours before it was shipped and for a few days I got to have a cannoli (and share them) that was almost as wonderful as those that were made to order in the bakery.

This pound cake is wonderful, I highly recommend it.  Thanks Deb!

Cannoli Pound Cake
Butter or cooking spray to coat pan
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
Finely grated zest from 1 orange
Finely grated zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) sweet marsala wine or 2 tablespoons white wine (optional)
1 cup (250 grams) whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 or 2 pinches allspice
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (170 grams) mini-chocolate chips or 6 ounces semisweet chocolate bar, chopped into tiny bits
1/2 cup (60 grams) pistachios, chopped small
Heat oven to 350°F (175°C). Coat a standard (8 1/2-x-4 1/4″) loaf pan with butter or a nonstick spray. 
Place sugar in a large bowl, and add zest. Use your fingertips to rub the zest into the sugar, scenting it througout. Whisk in olive oil, wine (if using), ricotta and eggs. Sprinkle baking powder, salt, cinnamon and allspice over wet ingredients, then whisk to combine. Gently stir in flour, then chocolate and pistachios until just combined.
Scrape into prepared loaf. Bake oven for 55 to 65 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out-batter free. Let cool on wire rack in pan for 15 minutes, then invert out onto rack to finish cooling. Cake is great the first day, and even more amazingly moist on the second and third, so feel free to plan ahead. Store at room temperature, covered with foil or plastic.

Monster Cookies

Soft Monster Cookies
Prep: 10 mins Level: Easy Cook: 10 mins Serves: 31
These monster cookies are studded with m&ms, mini chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. They stay soft for days—if they last that long!
1 stick Butter
1⁄2 cups Brown Sugar
1⁄4 cups White Sugar
3⁄4 cups Creamy Peanut Butter 

1 whole Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1⁄2 teaspoons Baking Soda 

1-1⁄4 cup All-purpose Flour
1⁄2 cups Quick Cooking Oats 

3⁄4 cups Mini M&Ms
1⁄4 cups Mini Chocolate Chips 

1⁄4 cups Peanut Butter Chips


Preheat the oven to 350F.
Start by combining the butter, brown and white sugars in a large bowl using a hand/stand mixer or your own brute strength. Add the peanut butter, stir again. Add the egg and stir. Add vanilla and stir.
Measure in the baking soda and flour and stir just until combined. Stir in the oats, m&ms, chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.
Scoop using a cookie scoop or 2 teaspoons measuring about 2 tablespoons onto a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat mat or sprayed with cooking spray (just in case). Press down gently as they do not spread on their own.
Bake for 9-10 minutes but no longer. You want these to stay soft. Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet for 2-3 minutes then move to a cooling rack.
Enjoy with a big glass of milk!
Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. 

Mom's Favorite is Blackberry Cobbler

When I first moved to Georgia one of the best things I did was join the East Cobb Quilters' Guild.  At my first meeting ever, I sat down and waited for the meeting to begin.  A lady came in and asked if the seat next to me was taken and I said it was not.  We started chatting and found out we were both at the guild for the first time.  Lynda had just retired and lived around the corner from the meeting.  I told her I was new to Georgia and really knew very few people.  That was the beginning of our friendship.  Over the years we found out a lot of things that made us like one another more and more and we have helped each other through the hardest events of our lives which have occurred not in the same window of time, so that we could devote ourselves to serving one another.  She has become my mom of choice.  In fact, I call her Mom, she called me "DOC" for daughter-of-choice.  God has fixed an absence in my life that existed for 25 years.  I miss the mom I was born to, but I am glad to have someone who has filled a million holes in my heart with her love.

Mom's favorite dessert is blackberry cobbler.  I make it for her every time she asks for one and I love it every time because I owe her a great debt of love and service.  I'm always grateful for opportunities to do something for her.  This one is easy and delicious, and I wanted to share it with you all.  Enjoy!

Blackberry Cobbler for Lynda


2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup buttermilk (Do you remember my post about buttermilk?)
1/3 cup melted butter
5 cups of blackberries


1 1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of boiling water


Set oven to 350 F
Grease 9x13 pan with butter

In medium size bowl combine sugar, cornstarch and salt for the topping and set it aside.  DO NOT ADD THE WATER!

Cover the pan bottom with blackberries.  Now I will confess I get a little nuts about this, I want every bit of the pan covered with blackberries and find this is best done by standing them up rather than letting the long side lay down.  Don't feel it necessary to follow my craziness, but it does make me a happy baker.

Combine the base ingredients in a large bowl.  This makes a dough almost like a biscuit.  Spread it out over the blackberries as evenly as possible.  Sprinkle heavily with the topping mix, use it all even when you think it's going to be too much.  

Pour the boiling water as evenly as possible into the pan.  DO NOT MIX!

Bake for 1 hour, remove from the oven and let it cool for at least 30 minutes.  Vanilla ice cream is a lovely addition but not required.  

Amazing Peach Muffins

I found this recipe on All Recipes and made a double recipe which yielded close 100 mini-muffins.  This was well loved and I've been asked for the recipe more than any other in recent history.  I will say mini-muffins do not require 25 minutes to be finished.  Start checking at about 10 minutes.

"In my hurry to use up some peaches, I came up with this muffin recipe. It turned out so good, just like peach cobbler in a muffin, that I thought I'd share it with everyone! This is also really good bread! Just increase the baking time to 1 hour at 350 degrees F and use 2 loaf pans."


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups peeled, pitted, and chopped peaches


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease 16 muffin cups.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the oil, eggs, and sugar. Stir the oil mixture into the flour mixture just until moist. Fold in the peaches. Spoon into the prepared muffin cups.
  3. Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.