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Tuesdays with Dorky (and the temple of chocolate)

Posted in baking, food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2008 by uglydudefood

Gold, I tell you! Everything I touch turns to gold! I’ve been winning grand awards left and right!

I recently won a contest at Tuesdays with Dorie, giving me a free baking cookbook (and a seat among the hallowed TWD blogroll). TWD is a baking event. Every week, a recipe is picked from the pages of Baking:  From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan. Then, every blogger and their mother bakes their own version of that recipe.

I’ve not done a particularly good job of baking in the past. Most of my baking is f’aking, and then there’s some that just kind of falls apart (Chocolate Cherry Dr. Pepper Cupcakes, Amazing Black Bean Brownies).

Until I receive the book in the mail and get to babble endlessly about my failures as a baker and as a human being, here’s a mega-update about my adventures in chocolatey things.

I’m a…hungry girl?  That can’t be right!

In my neverending quest to eat delicious treats that somehow don’t bust my gutline, I stumbled across a newsletter called Hungry Girl. Is it run by a hungry girl? Is it a site for hungry girls? Either way, I’m emasculated by e-mail messages five days a week.

Now that we can put aside all of that macho posturing, I’ll inform you that Hungry Girl is the real shizz. I’ve been perusing years and years worth of bizarre recipes and bookmarking almost every page. The recipes are fast and easy; frequently they are made with junk you have laying around.

My first completed recipe was Yum Yum Brownie Muffins (click that link for the recipe). It’s pretty simple–a box of dry cake mix and a can of 100% pumpkin. I used Pillsbury Reduced-Sugar Devil’s Food Cake Mix, which is sweetened with a mix of sugar and Splenda. In the end, the muffins were each 153 calories. That, my friends, is a drop in the bucket. The muffin bucket.

The muffins were dense, and fudgy. Nothing in the flavor indicated that they were “diet muffins.” They were subdued enough to eat as a breakfast treat, but substantial and chocolatey enough to frost in cupcake form.

Reactions weren’t glowing, but generally positive. My mom and sister scarfed them down, and coworkers enjoyed them too.  For a quick-fix recipe, that’s really all you can ask for!

More photos of Hungry Girl’s “Yum Yum Brownie Muffins.”

Mano Amano

You may remember that I blogged about $21 of free Amano chocolate that I received.  I asked for suggestions as to what I should do with the bars, and I received some interesting ones.  While I considered Conor’s suggestion of intravenously feeding myself, I ended up following Joli’s advice and letting the shizzle dissolve in my mouth.  It’s about as close as I’ll ever get to snooty “chocolate tasting” given my level of patience.

Amano creates chocolate in three forms–Madagascar, Ocumare, and Cuyagua.  All three bars have 70% cacao content.  Texturally, these chocolates were heads above “similar” items from both the mass-market brands and the more widespread organic options.  When it comes to flavor–eh.  Some were better, some were worse.  The Madagascar was revelatory.  Amano says it “includes hints of citrus and berry,” and I’ll be damned if my untrained palate actually found them!  This is by far the best dark chocolate I’ve ever eaten.  The Ocumare was pretty good.  Although the tasting notes mention “hints of plums and other red fruit,” this one tasted (to me) pretty close to a generic dark chocolate bar.  Cuyagua (including “notes of spice”) was my least favorite of the three.  The spice seemed to be nonexistant.  The chocolate seemed somehow blander than the other products.

Are any of these products worth $7 for a bar?  I don’t think so.  I can appreciate the amount of work and care that went into each of these bars, but when you can get a (larger) bar for $2.50 in the organic section of your supermarket it seems like an awful waste to pay triple that for similar quality.

More Free Chocolate Crapola

I received a free sample of Betty Crocker Warm Delight Minis:  Molten Chocolate Cake.  It’s the Easy Mac of cakes!  Just add water, stir, microwave, and you have fresh, steamy cake.

The pack comes with a small packet of cake mix, a condom wrapper filled with fudge sauce, and a small plastic bowl.  Prep was fairly easy, requiring only two minutes of work.  The end result wasn’t bad.  It was cake-mixy and clearly not baked from scratch, but the fact that it was fresh from the “oven” improves the little cake’s value tenfold.

At 150 calories, it’s a nice (albeit expensive) calorie-cheap dessert.  It has trans fats, with partially hydrogenated oils in both the cake mix and the fudge.  Despite its caloric value (which is more a measure of its diminuative size and not its “healthiness”), this is not for the dieter.

More photos of Betty Crocker Warm Delight Minis:  Molten Chocolate Cake

In the near future, you’ll be seeing a lot more failed baking (and, presumably, a little bit of success)

And…well, maybe everything I touch doesn’t turn to gold. I have a feeling there will be a lot of baked goods that turn to black before this strange, mystical journey is over.

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Amazing Black Bean Brownies: good for your heart, make you etc.

Posted in baking, food, recipes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2008 by uglydudefood

My last post was a recipe post, I guess. More, it was just a suggestion post. This here is my first post where I actually experimented with ingredients and made foods that did not taste like crunchy water!

I have an ever-increasing backlog of recipes that I kinda-sorta want to try, but will probably never get to. Homemade Marshmallow Peeps. Vegan, fat-free carrot cake. Pumpkin muffins recommended by my friend Silliker. Various veggie burger recipes. They all incite some sort of interest in me, but not enough to send me right to the oven to work the ol’ Spoodles magic.

I was blogrolling on Monday; The moment I saw the phrase “Black Bean Brownies” on 101 Cookbooks, I knew. The words made absolutely no sense to me. I mean, sure. I knew what they all meant individually. Black–an absence of color. Bean–a protein-filled treat that develops in pods. Brownies–chocolatey delights. When you put the three together? The phrase “Black Bean Brownies” sounded like “Cotton Ball Checkbook” or “French Fried Pants.” The words simply did not go together in any decipherable way. I was going to have to create this recipe. Immediately.

Closer inspection of the recipe showed that black beans were not the only experimental item. These brownies were sweetened with agave nectar, a sort of natural, healthier (although, obviously, by no means healthy) corn syrup.

The recipe initially comes from Baking With Agave Nectar: Over 100 Recipes Using Nature’s Ultimate Sweetener, which at $11 is actually close in price to what you’ll pay for damned agave nectar in this one recipe. For the sake of trying new things, I did spring for the organic agave nectar, but 101 Cookbooks says that you can easily replace the nectar 1:1 with honey.

I won’t reprint the recipe here (as I probably don’t have permission), but here are my notes. This was only my third time baking, so I was prepared for it not to go…smoothly.

THE PROCESS

  • The recipe stated that canned black beans worked just fine for this project. I bought canned, no salt added beans, and they seemed to work fine. With the usual, high-sodium canned stuff, you would probably want to spend a good amount of time rinsing the beans.
  • I made the decision not to include the walnuts. My family is fairly picky when it comes to such things, and I thought these brownies were weird enough due to the beans and the sweetener. Didn’t want to rock the boat too much. As mentioned in “Final Thoughts,” this may have affected my final batch.

THE TREAT

  • Inexperienced as I was. I was unsure what the instruction “Bake…until the brownies are set” meant. Did I want them to come out of my oven looking like I wanted my final product to look? Or did I want to take them out a little soft (still solid), and the heat from the baking process would finish it all the way? I checked on my brownies at thirty-five minutes and they seemed a little…shiny. Internet research seemed vague at best, although if I had followed Slashfood’s direction I probably would have fared better. At forty minutes , I removed the pan and hoped for the best.
  • After cooling (and after refrigerating, as specified by this recipe), my brownies were still gooey. Not uncooked-gooey, and not inedible-gooey, but certainly too gooey to cut out of the pan with any confidence. I knew that if I put these things back in the oven after they’d cooled, they would only burn. I was left with some extra-gooey fudgeypuddingbean brownies.
  • That said, these things tasted really good. There was no bean taste to them at all. They tasted like super-decadent, fudge brownies. The coffee flavor was pretty strong, but not bad at all. Even the consistency wasn’t terrible. Certainly softer than I would have liked–and softer than any brownie I’d ever eaten before–but I could pick them up with my hands without them falling apart, so that was good enough.

THE REACTIONS

  • Mom: “Is there coffee in this?” She didn’t seem entirely unimpressed, but didn’t enjoy the flavor all too much. I offered her another the following day, and she accepted. Conclusion: not poison.
  • Dad: “I’m not that adventurous.”
  • Brother: I didn’t even bother asking. He ate a cheeseburger instead.
  • Coworker 1: “I’m impressed!” “This is more like fudge than a brownie.” Later, “I have a brownie craving!” As one of my better friends, she might have been tempered by pressure not to hurt my feelings.
  • Coworker 2: “Those brownies were…interesting.” After some hesitance, she came out and said, “I think I’m so used to [regular sugar] that these just don’t hit my craving.” She also expressed that she liked my previous two baking attempts far better (Toll House Cupcakes and Chocolate Cherry Dr. Pepper Cupcakes). Note to self: less adventurous baked goods for the office. This was actually my favorite bit of feedback, simply because it was actual, constructive criticism. I’ll come back to her because I know she’ll actually tell me how she feels about the food. I’m hoping it will be complimentary, but I know it won’t be needlessly so.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • I’m wondering if other types of beans would work in this mixture. Black beans seem to be a common Internet trend in this brand of baked goods, but the flavor of a canned black bean tastes fairly similar, for instance, to a canned pinto bean or a canned white bean. This is one thing I would change if I ever made this recipe again, just to learn whether these are acceptable substitutes. Maybe white bean “blondies?”
  • I loved the taste of these brownies, and specifically how the instant coffee offset the chocolate flavor. However, the coffee did tend to come front-and-center. I think the amount of coffee could stand to be cut in half (unless it was used to mask some sort of beany aftertaste that I didn’t sense at all). This would, I think, make my family far more receptive to these brownies.
  • I left the walnuts out of the recipe, and now I’m wondering if they would have helped to bind the mixture and make for a more cohesive and less goopy brownie. I don’t believe nuts actively bind food, but you never know. Since my family didn’t eat more than one of these apiece anyway, I would probably leave the nuts in next time for a more full and textured brownie.
  • I was too much of a wuss to pull a fast one on people. When consumers asked me about the brownies, I came right out and told them they were full of beans and alternative sweetener. It would have been interesting to put these brownies to a blind taste test. Would these just seem like “super-fudgy” brownies, or would people notice something awry?
  • I really like the idea of using beans in a recipe instead of flour. It adds a world of protein and fiber that you aren’t going to get in a regular brownie. This makes them more substantial, more filling, and–dare I say it–more satisfying than a normal baked good in a lot of respects.

NUTRITION (for 1/45th of batch)

via Caloriecount.about.com

Serving Size 30.0g
Amount Per Serving
Calories
98
Calories from Fat
53
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
5.9g
9%
Saturated Fat
3.5g
18%
Cholesterol
30mg
10%
Sodium
11mg
0%
Total Carbohydrates
10.8g
4%
Dietary Fiber
1.1g
4%
Protein
1.6g
Vitamin A 4% Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 3% Iron 7%
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

There is always room.

Posted in food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2008 by uglydudefood