I sure am loving this having time for myself thing. I want to bake everyday! The only thing stopping me of course is, who is going to eat all those goodies? Today it’s been three days since the sour cream coffee cake, which is now gone and so I was ready for another baking day. I had picked out the recipes last night itself, or rather they picked themselves out. See, I had this bottle of peanut butter which was about to reach its “use by” date and so I had been scrambling to find a good recipe for it for the past few days. I love peanut butter, but the whole “fat-cholesterol” thing scares me away every time I go near the damn bottle. I ate a lot of it in my pregnancy but what excuse do I have now? So it has to go into a baked good. I have never really enjoyed p.b. cookies or cakes – some how they always end up dry. So how thrilled was I to find these babies up on Smitten Kitchen? But making only brownies seems like a crime because you can’t snack on brownies, can you? I mean you could, if you are under three or a size zero or something outrageous like that. So I needed to make something lower in fat as a tea-time snack. Skimming through Alton Brown’s baking book I found a recipe for a dried fig and hazelnut bread which was also perfect since I had some dried figs and hazelnuts in he fridge which were waiting for their turn in the oven.
The blondies are an interesting recipe; unlike traditional brownies in which the butter and chocolate are melted together, these are put together almost like a cake, but true to the tradition of a brownie there is no rising agent. I don’t have chocolate chips with me so I cut up some dark chocolate and threw that in. The batter was thick – so thick in fact that my upper arms were hurting from the effort of mixing in the chocolate at the end. Yes that’s how out of shape I am. But I somehow managed to get the batter into my pan and in the oven. Having a convection oven with the coils at the bottom means I have to wrap my US pans which have a dark exterior (for better heat conduction) in foil to make it shiny and prevent the bottom from burning. But I wasn’t able to do a good job of wrapping the pan before putting it in – the foil kept falling off! So I had to turn down the suggested temperature and watch really carefully for burning.
While I watched the brownies I got my figs softened in hot water and roasted the hazelnuts. Do you know that when hazelnuts roast they give out the most sweet smell? I did not, because I have never used hazelnuts before. Can you believe that? In the US, they were always so expensive so I didn’t buy them. Here I found them for a relative steal at Alfa so I picked up a small packet. Today I discovered that roasted hazelnuts smell like, well Nutella! I tasted one and found that unfortunately they had gone a little stale but what can you do? The bread is flavored with nutmeg and ground ginger and every time I whisked the dry ingredients together the smell of the spices filled the air. My kitchen was a happy place this afternoon, soaked with the smells of nutmeg, hazelnuts, peanut butter and chocolate.
The blondies took longer than suggested because I put the temperature way down to make sure they didn’t burn. After three tests, they were done in 55 minutes. Beautifully deep golden in color, just as Smitten Kitchen says. The baby was going mad all morning for “Happy to you” and had to be periodically comforted that he would have to wait until evening to get some!
The bread I put into a mini-angel cake pan since my loaf pan was stolen from my kitchen. No really, last year just after we had moved, I found that my 8×8 and loaf pan were stolen. Of all the things in the kitchen someone took my baking pans. And you don’t know how distraught I was. Until of course I discovered Arife and Crawford Market! The angel pan is all shiny so no burning issues this time. The bread went in for 50 minutes as Alton recommends. But my timer got jammed – oh, it does that sometimes and so I had to manually approximate the time. I think I overcooked it a little because when I took it out at what I thought was 50 minutes, it seemed a little dry.
The real test is in the cutting isn’t it? The blondies, with all my careful observation still managed to burn a little at the edges where the foil wasn’t wrapped properly around the pan and became crumbly around there. But in the center they are perfect. Just like in Smitten Kitchen’s picture. The bread as I had feared was a little dry. But it looks beautiful from the colors of the hazelnut (light brown) and figs (dark brown) interspersed in it. The baby had a tough time with it – but he did not give up chewing on the nuts for an hour!
So a lot of good things have been done today, a lot of lessons have been learned and when the body and mind are used you know it’s been a good day.