Monday, March 21, 2011

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Irish Soda Bread

I was so excited to jump back into Sweet Melissa Sundays this week with such a delicious and holiday-appropriate recipe!  I love St. Patty's Day.  I know it is one of the more casual holidays in America, but I think that's what makes it so fun.  Other than wearing green and eating Irish food (or green food!), you can pretty much make up your own traditions.  Anyway, I especially love the food associated with St. Patty's Day, and Melissa Murphy's recipe for Irish Soda Bread is going to be making an appearance at our St. Patrick's Day table for many years to come!

The Irish Soda Bread from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book is basically a giant, tender scone or biscuit filled with plump, juicy raisins and savory carraway seeds.  We ate ours warm and slathered in salty butter, and it was amazing!  It was the perfect accompaniment to the delicious corned beef and cabbage we were enjoying, and will definitely become part of our St. Patty's Day traditions!

Many, many thanks to Julie of A Little Bit of Everything for choosing this fantastic and timely recipe!  If you'd like to see how the other Sweet Melissa Bakers fared with their Irish Soda Bread, click HERE, and if you'd like the recipe, you can find it HERE on Julie's blog!
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dulce de Leche Brownies

I am a huge collector of recipes.  In college, I started keeping a binder with labeled dividers for the recipes I tore out of magazines, found on the internet, or got from family and friends.  That oh-so-organized system has since devolved to gallon-sized ziplocks full of scraps of paper with recipes jotted down or torn from newspapers and magazines (on a good day) and random stacks of recipes shoved on top of the cookbooks on my kitchen bookshelf (all of the other days).  One of the problems with this system--for there are many--is that often, once the recipe is out of sight, it is out of mind.  It sits in its baggie or pile until...pretty much forever.  Occasionally, a lucky recipe will make its way out of the stacks and bags and actually be used.  This recipe for Dulce de Leche Brownies is one of those lucky few.  It was printed on the inside of a box of butter that I must have used for something at my parents' house over the holidays.  From there, it made its way into the back pocket of a pair of jeans, then onto my nightstand one laundry day in January, then finally, last week, into the kitchen on the day I hosted our annual bookclub planning meeting.

I'm really glad this recipe stuck with me through our long journey together.  The brownie layers are perfectly moist and chocolatey without being the consistency of straight-up fudge (if I want fudge, I'll make fudge, not brownies) and the Dulce de Leche layer lends each delicious bite a rich, caramel flavor.  Where is this recipe now, you ask?  Well, it's back in a pile on top of the cookbooks.  But it's also written below, for you and all future generations to enjoy.  And so I don't have to dig through the recipe pile next time I want to make them.  :)

Dulce de Leche Brownies
from the inside of a box of Challenge Butter
for the Dulce de Leche layer:
14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 Tablespoon corn syrup
2 Tablespoons butter

Combine the sweetened condensed milk and corn syrup in a large microwave-safe bowl (at least 2 1/2 quarts, no cheating!).  Microwave on 50% power for 2 minutes, then remove from microwave and stir.  Repeat, microwaving and stirring, until mixture has thickened and turned a lovely golden color.  This took me 12 minutes of total microwaving.  Whisk in butter and set aside.

for the brownies:
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9x13" baking dish.  Cream butter and both sugars until fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat.  In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt.  Add dry ingredients to butter mixture; mix until well blended.  Spread half of the brownie mixture evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan.  Drop spoonfuls of Dulce de Leche onto the bottom brownie layer and spread evenly (as best you can).  Top with remaining brownie mixture and sprinkle with chopped pecans.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes until brownies no longer look wet in the middle.  Cool completely and cut into squares (because they are rich, I cut the pan into about 36 servings).

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Easy Blueberry Muffins

For whatever reason, my children decided they really, really wanted blueberry muffins this week. While I actually like the store-bought blueberry muffin mix, complete with artificial blueberry flavoring and teeny, tiny canned blueberries, I also like making things from scratch. And luckily, I had one last bag of blueberries in my freezer from our summer picking excursion and a delicious base recipe to work with.

The base recipe for the muffins comes from an old Pillsbury cookbook that either I or one of my siblings got for Christmas several decades ago. It has been a family favorite for many, many years now! My favorite part of these muffins is the golden, crispy top, followed closely by the just-sweet-enough, wholesome flavor. They are the perfect accompaniment to soups, salads, and the ever-popular breakfast for dinner. And they can easily be jazzed up any number of ways. This time, I stirred frozen blueberries into the dry ingredients, but any fruit would be delicious, as would a cinnamon streusel topping or citrus zest stirred into the batter. Go crazy!

Easy Blueberry Muffins
adapted from a really, really old Pillsbury recipe

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 milk
1/3 cup oil
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease or line 12 muffin cups.  In a medium-sized bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Add blueberries and gently toss.  In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine milk, oil, and egg.  Whisk well.  Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently until just combined.  Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.  Bake 18-22 minutes.

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