Friday, April 17, 2009

Lowfat Brownies

I saw this recipe in the paper and was intrigued. Lowfat brownies...sounds like a good idea…and the Christmas cookies are all gone, so I need something...This recipe particularly interested me because it includes chocolate chips in the batter, which I’m always in favor of.

These are lowfat brownies (despite the chocolate chips) because there is no butter or margarine in the recipe; applesauce is used instead. Experienced bakers may already be familiar with this trick. I have a recipe for very good, relatively healthy muffins that employs this strategy. In fact, several years ago, groceries sold a fruit puree marketed specifically as a fat substitute for baking. I haven’t seen it in a long time, and I forget what it was called, but it came in glass jars and was a blend of applesauce and one or two other fruits. The directions on the jar suggested that it might be preferable to substitute it for only half the fat in a recipe so as not to affect the flavor. I remember making a batch of chocolate chip cookies, I think it was, using the stuff, and I realized their advice was good; if you used only the fruit and no butter/margarine, your cookies had a distinct fruity flavor. Maybe okay for oatmeal-raisin cookies, not okay for chocolate chip.

And that is a bit of an issue with this recipe. I ate the first brownie when they were still a bit warm, and noted that, although they were good and moist, there was a slight fruity taste. It’s not bad, really; just unexpected. However, I discovered the next day that the leftover applesauce I’d used to make them was cinnamon-flavored, which may have had something to do with it. If I make these again, I’ll be sure to use plain applesauce. Also, after the brownies had cooled, I didn’t particularly notice a fruity flavor, though they did taste a little – different, somehow. The texture is very cakelike. The brownies are also heavy and a tiny bit sticky, which might not please everyone. And – maybe worst of all – I didn’t think they were quite chocolate-y enough, though the chocolate chips do help. Still, if you’re looking for a somewhat healthier brownie, these are worth trying.

Verdict: Hmmm...I might make these again.

Lowfat Brownies

(source: The Gardener News)

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¾ cup sugar or combination sugar and sugar substitute for baking

½ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

2 eggs

½ cup chocolate chips or mini chocolate chips

½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil so that foil extends over the edges. This will make it easier to remove the brownies from the pan. Spray the pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir or whisk to combine.

3. Combine the vanilla, applesauce and eggs in another bowl. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients along with the chocolate chips and nuts (if desired) and stir to combine.

4. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 28-30 minutes, or until the top is shiny and just starting to crack and a toothpick comes out clean.

5. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool 5-10 minutes. Carefully remove the brownies from the pan, using the excess foil as handles. Cool and cut into squares. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired, before serving.

Recycle: applesauce jar, vanilla bottle

Compost: eggshells

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Bishop's Cake

My introduction to pound cake came at the Bronx Zoo during one of family’s rare vacations. I don’t remember why we hadn’t breakfasted at the hotel or in one of the many inexpensive diners in Manhattan but I do remember being confronted with a single serving package containing a slice of yellow cake as my morning repast.

I had neither seen nor tasted pound cake prior to that morning. Based on the light texture and flavor of this novel confection, I couldn’t understand why it was called “pound” cake. At the time I chalked it up to being something British and named after their currency.

Years later when I started baking and tried to duplicate the airy texture and delicate flavor that I remembered, I discovered why it was called “pound” cake. Every recipe that I tried produced a dense, heavy cake that tasted mainly of vanilla.

A few weeks ago, while browsing through my Silver Palate cookbook, I came across this recipe. I’m not sure why they call it “Bishop’s Cake”. It’s nothing like a traditional Bishop’s Cake. The note that goes with this recipe refers to it as pound cake. What caught my eye were the 5 eggs and the lemon juice.

Five eggs means five egg whites which when whipped enough should provide a lighter texture and the lemon juice in addition to vanilla might recreate the flavor that I associate with pound cake.

I beat this batter longer than called for in the recipe. And I struggled with the aluminum foil. I struggled even more getting the cake out of the bundt pan. But in the end, it was all worth it. While not exactly what I was hoping for, this is the closest I’ve ever come to recreating the pound cake of my youth.

Verdict: Yum!! This one’s a keeper!!

Bishop’s Cake
(source: The Silver Palate Cookbook: Delicious Recipes, Menus, Tips, Lore from Manhattan's Celebrated Gourmet Food Shop)

½ pound (2 sticks) sweet butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.

Cream butter and sugar gradually; beat until fluffy.

Sift flour and add to butter mixture. Stir just enough to blend.

Add lemon juice and vanilla; stir well. Add eggs, one at a time, missing well after each addition.

Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. (after 30 minutes, cover cake closely with aluminum foil.)

When cake is done, cool in its pan on a cake rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely.

8 to 10 portions.

Recycle: vanilla bottle

Compost: egg shells