Dark Chocolate-Pumpkin Bread Pudding

As the leaves start to fall and the air becomes a bit chilly, my craving for pumpkin-flavored food starts to appear.  My belly craves warmth, comforting food–dessert.  And, to me, nothing screams comfort like bread pudding.

I’ve found that bread pudding either evokes intense excitement or scrunched-up noses when mentioned.  Sometimes described as “soggy bread,” I wouldn’t find the dessert that enticing either.  But, after having worked in an Irish Pub for over three years, I’ve discovered the truth.  Soggy bread, as some call it, is delicious. Just look at that picture and tell me you wouldn’t want a sample.

I came across this recipe in Gourmet years back and it has stuck in my mind ever since.  Naturally, though, I found an excuse to add chocolate (like this pumpkin bread).  The result was extremely decadent, especially served warm with ice cream.  It makes a great breakfast as well!

Dark Chocolate-Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Adapted from Gourmet & Martha Stewart
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
5 cups cubed day-old bread (I used challah)
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small chunks
1/4 cup pumpkin butter (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the milk, pumpkin, sugars, eggs, egg yolks, salt, and spices.
Toss bread cubes in melted butter in another bowl. Sprinkle in chocolate and mix again.  Transfer to a 8×8-inch square baking pan.  Pour the milk mixture over the bread and chocolate.  Dot with pumpkin butter.  Bake until the custard is set, 25-30 minutes.
Enjoy.
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Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ok folks, get your self-restraint ready.

Got it?

No?

It may be hidden in the fridge behind the carrots, or perhaps under the whole grain bread.

Alright, ready? Excellent, because you’re definitely going to need it when these treats are in the cookie jar.

I’ve always been a huge fan of peanut butter and chocolate’s relationship.  It’s a perfect marriage between salty and sweet, creamy and crunchy.  I could never choose one over the other.

It’s no surprise then, that one of my favorite cookies is the famous peanut butter- chocolate chip.  I found a recipe for peanut butter cookies a few years ago that quickly found its spot in my baking rotation.  Over the years I’ve adapted the recipe to be my own.  With a swirl of grade B maple syrup, a dash of cayenne pepper, and a crunchy coating of turbinado sugar, they are dangerously addictive.  Seriously, I dare you to try stopping after just one…

Dangerously Addictive Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies:
These cookies are a definite crowd-pleaser; I have had several requests to make them.  I recommend using the best chocolate chips you can get your hands on (I use Callebaut), or perhaps you can chop up a fancy chocolate bar.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup high-quality chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
1/2 cup turbinado sugar, for coating (optional, but adds a really nice crunch)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper, if using.  Mix well. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, peanut butter, sugars, and maple syrup together until fluffy and lighter in color, about 4 minutes. Add the egg, mix well.  Mix in the vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combine.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
Roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls and coat with turbinado sugar, if using. Place on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart.  Smash the dough balls down with a fork to flatten a bit (the cookies shouldn’t spread too much during baking).  Bake 10-12 minutes.
Enjoy.

Brownies with a Kick

For some reason, I always associate brownies with Valentine’s day. I usually opt for Alice Medrich’s ethereal New Bittersweet Brownies from her most recent masterpiece, Pure Dessert.  However, seeing as the world has gone absolutely gaga over the Baked brownie, I figured I’d give that recipe a shot.  Given the nature of Valentine’s day, I also wanted to spice it up a bit with some cayenne pepper and cinnamon–just enough spice to make the back of your throat sing.

From the start, I could tell the Baked brownie recipe would be a cinch to put together.  Unlike Medrich’s recipe, the batter can be whipped up without a mixer.  Also, because the eggs aren’t beaten as much, the top crust of the Baked brownies is a lot thinner (the one downfall of Medrich’s brownies, in my opinion).

The result?  Well, these brownies sure are delicious–perfectly fudge-like, without a hint of gumminess.  The heat from the cayenne and the cinnamon is a wonderful addition, especially with a scoop of coffee ice cream right on top.  Although I’m still not convinced that the recipe tops Medrich’s brownie heaven, it places a close second, and earns a spot in my brownie recipe rotation.

Spicy Hot Brownies:
(adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking)
These brownies are exceptionally tasty when topped with coffee ice cream.  I’m particularly fond of Haagen Dazs.
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon high-quality cocoa powder (I use Callebaut)
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground espresso powder
5.5 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 8 x 8 inch pan. Set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cocoa powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and espresso.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the chocolate and butter.  Set over a pot of simmering water and stir until the chocolate and butter are completely melted.  Turn off the heat.  Add the sugars, and whisk to combine.  Remove the bowl from the pot.
Add the eggs to the mixture, one at a time.  Do not overmix the batter, beat only until the eggs are combined.  Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture and fold until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few crumbs.  Try not to overbake, or the brownies will lose their fudge-like consistency.
Let cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes.  Cut into 9 squares for large servings, or 12 for smaller servings.
Enjoy.
 
If you would like to try Alice Medrich’s New Bittersweet Brownie recipe, click on over to Slow Like Honey.
 

Chocolate Espresso Cookies

How horrible of me!  Most people just committed (for a while, at least) to eat healthier and to lose weight during this upcoming year, and here I am posting about ginger cookies, pear bread, and other sweet goodies.  Well, I better apologize now because here I go again…

It’s just that, these cookies are SO good.  Decadent, gooey, and oh-so chocolatey, with a big PING of espresso in every bite.  Although I have previously only made these cookies over the holidays, I have started to question why they can’t be enjoyed all year-round.  After all, they are always one of the most popular cookies I make, especially right out of the oven.

 

I promise, the next post will be much more supportive of your resolutions.  Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2010!

Chocolate Espresso Cookies
(Adapted from Gale Gand)
Makes about 70 small cookies, or 30 large cookies

1 3/4 cups high-quality chocolate chips
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground espresso or other finely ground dark-roasted coffee beans
 
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips or 1/2 cup finely chopped, bittersweet chocolate
chocolate covered espresso beans, for topping (optional)
In a medium-sized bowl, combine 1 3/4 cups chocolate chips and butter.  Microwave the mixture in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted.  Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, brown sugar and espresso until fluffy.  Stir in the chocolate mixture.  Add the flour, baking powder, salt and remaining chocolate chips.  Stir to combine.  Refrigerate cookie dough for about 1 hour, or more.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Set aside.
Form the dough into teaspoon-sized balls*, and place 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet.  If using, top each ball with a chocolate covered espresso bean.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, or the cookies begin to crack on top.
Enjoy.
 
* Note: if you would like larger cookies, form the dough into tablespoon-sized balls.  The recipe should yield about 30 cookies.