Friday, December 11, 2009

Cherry Almond Brownies, Toasted Coconut Marshmallows, Chocolate Baklava

Brownies and Marshmallows and Baklava—oh my!!!

Christmas Baking is in full swing here (in those hours in which I am not spending decking the halls) and I have found some wonderful, delightful treats for this holiday season. My friend Jenni arrived last Friday for an 8+-hour baking session and the results were spectacular. Here are three of the goodies which we made, and I hope to get the rest posted soon.

First, the Brownies. But not any ordinary brownies, no sir, but brownies which not only contain amaretto-soaked dried cherries and almonds but, after being cut into small squares, are dipped in chocolate. Oh, be still my heart!

The recipe is from King Arthur Flour and these super-chocolatey little treats defies description (and also defies your eating just one…).

My notes for this recipe:

Line the pan with foil. Absolutely. Then the brownies are super-easy to remove from the pan when cool, and cut into nice little squares which are perfect for dipping and gift-giving.

The chocolate for dipping the brownie squares into is not mentioned in the ingredient list, and we used only half of the amount that was called for.

Also note that you have to decorate with sprinkles within seconds of dipping the brownies because the coating sets very quickly. I was able to dip about 5 at a time, decorate, the go on to the next set.

Cherry Almond Brownies

The candied cherries in these fudgy brownies evoke the Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers "cocktails" of childhood holidays.

  • 1/2 cup dried sweet cherries, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur, brandy, or apple juice
  • 3/4 cup chopped unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar (Baker's Special superfine preferred)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup diced almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped candied red cherries
  • 1/2 cup Peter's Burgundy Semisweet Chocolate Chunks


1) Place dried chopped cherries in a microwave-safe container, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon liquid, cover, and microwave for 45 seconds. Set aside to soften and cool.

2) Melt together the chocolate and butter over low heat, or in the microwave. Stir in the sugar and salt. Whisk well. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.

3) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8" x 8" square pan or 9" round pan.

4) Whisk the eggs, one at a time, into the chocolate mixture. Stir in the flour and baking powder, then the soaked cherries, almonds, candied cherries, and chocolate chunks.

5) Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake the brownies for 25 to 30 minutes, until set. Remove from the oven, and cool before cutting.

6) To dip brownies in coating chocolate: Cut into 1 1/4" squares, patting crumbs into sides of brownies. Wrap and place in the freezer.

7) Melt 1 1/2 pounds coating chocolate by microwaving it in 15-second bursts, and stirring between bursts until most of it is melted. To make a dark, shiny glaze, mix ½ cup + 1 tablespoon hot milk with the melted coating chocolate. Stir vigorously, until the grainy mess smoothes itself into a dark, shiny glaze. The glaze will be firm but not hard, like the chocolate glaze on your favorite snack cakes.

8) Using a chocolate dipping fork, plop a brownie into the glaze, and pull it out. Allow excess chocolate to drip, sliding the tines of the fork against the edges of the dipping bowl to remove excess coating. Place on parchment to set.

Yield: 3 dozen dipped brownies.

Next up, marshmallows. This is a recipe from Gourmet and the second year I have made them (they’re that good—I only make the absolute best two years in a row!). I love making marshmallows—they look impressive (“you’ve made me marshmallows???”), are absolutely delicious, and super-easy.

I followed the recipe exactly and they turned out beautifully.

Toasted-Coconut Marshmallow Squares

Gourmet | December 2007

Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez and Lillian Chou

We often relegate marshmallows to a hot-chocolate topper, but these coconut treats definitely deserve to be offered up solo. Each pillowy square is surrounded by a flurry of toasted coconut. And since they keep for a month, they can be made well in advance of the holiday rush.

Yield: Makes about 4 dozen candies
Active Time: 1 hr
Total Time: 3 1/4 hr (includes setting time)

2 cups unsweetened dried coconut
3 (1/4-ounces) envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup water, divided
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

Equipment: a 9-inch square metal baking pan; a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment; a candy thermometer

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Toast coconut in a shallow baking pan in oven, stirring occasionally, until golden, 7 to 10 minutes.

Oil 9-inch baking pan, then sprinkle bottom with 1/2 cup toasted coconut.

Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup water in bowl of mixer and let soften while making syrup.

Heat sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup water in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat, without stirring, washing any sugar crystals down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Put thermometer into syrup and continue boiling, without stirring, until it registers 240°F (soft-ball stage). Remove from heat and let stand until bubbles dissipate.

With mixer at low speed, pour hot syrup into gelatin in a thin stream down side of bowl. Increase speed to high and beat until very thick, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and coconut extracts and beat 1 minute more.

Spoon marshmallow over toasted coconut in baking pan and press evenly with dampened fingertips to smooth top (it will be very sticky), then evenly sprinkle top with 1/2 cup toasted coconut.

Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, about 2 hours.

Run a sharp knife around edge of marshmallow and invert onto a cutting board. Cut into 3/4-inch-wide strips, then cut each strip into 3/4-inch squares.

Put remaining toasted coconut in a small bowl and dredge marshmallows in it to coat completely.

Cook's notes:

· Marshmallow squares keep, layered between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container, in a dry place at cool room temperature 1 month. · To avoid stickiness, try to make marshmallows on a dry day.

And, saved for last, the coup de grace—chocolate baklava from Cooking Light.

Words cannot explain. Delectable, perhaps? Decadent, definitely, even though it is a supposedly “light” recipe. Although we were quite judicious with the amount of butter brushed on the phyllo layers. We still needed almost twice as much more. Too late, we discovered that brushing on one layer, then spraying cooking spray on the next, and repeating, probably would have been the way to go.

No matter, it is delicious and a very holiday-worthy treat. Chocolate, Nutella, nuts, crispy phyllo, honey, cinnamon—why wouldn’t this be good???

And because there weren’t enough calories and fat in what we created, I melted additional bittersweet chocolate, puddled a little on the plate, topped with two “servings” (HA!) of baklava, and drizzled more over the top. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Chocolate Baklava

From Cooking Light

December 2009

Yield: 24 servings (serving size: 1 piece)

3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 cup hazelnut-chocolate spread (such as Nutella)
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup roasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup blanched toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
24 (14 x 9–inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 cup butter, melted

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat; stir until honey dissolves. Increase heat to medium; cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 230° (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat; keep warm. Discard cinnamon stick.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place hazelnut-chocolate spread in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH for 30 seconds or until melted. Combine hazelnuts and next 5 ingredients (through salt). Lightly coat a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Working with 1 phyllo sheet at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), place 1 phyllo sheet lengthwise in bottom of prepared pan, allowing ends of sheet to extend over edges of dish; lightly brush with butter. Repeat procedure with 5 phyllo sheets and butter. Drizzle about 1/3 cup melted hazelnut -chocolate spread over phyllo. Sprinkle evenly with one-third of nut mixture (about 1/2 cup). Repeat procedure twice with phyllo, butter, hazelnut-chocolate spread, and nut mixture. Top last layer of nut mixture with remaining 6 sheets phyllo, each lightly brushed with butter. Press gently into pan.

Make 3 lengthwise cuts and 5 crosswise cuts to form 24 portions using a sharp knife. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until phyllo is golden. Remove from oven. Drizzle honey mixture over baklava. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cover; store at room temperature.

Calories: 238, Fat: 13.4g (sat 4.3g,mono 5.6g,poly 2g), Protein: 4g, Carbohydrate: 27.8g


jenni said...

As an eyewitness to this majesty (ha!), I can attest to the YUM factor of these recipes! :-)

Anonymous said...

Oh,'re killing me here! I immediately started drooling on seeing that baklava! WOW! I have GOT to tackle phyllo on of these days! Maybe over the holiday with this recipe...Nutella?!?!? MERCY! I'm also wondering if peanut butter would be a good sub for a slightly different flavor....HMMMM?


Vicci said...

Jenni, I have to make more of the brownies and marshmallows! :)

Daphne, peanut butter? Now there's one verrrrry interesting idea! Melt bittersweet chocolate and stir in peanut butter... oh my!