Monday, February 2, 2015

Peanut Butter Bomb Brownies

I've been following a strict Paleo "diet" the past few weeks and have really missed traditional baking.  While I truly do love the taste of a lovingly crafted homemade baked good, a huge part of my love for baking is really just the process of transforming sugar and flour into something beautiful and drool-worthy.  My husband and I both work primarily from home, so I don't have the opportunity to bake for coworkers or other folks too often.  Thus, I was in serious baking withdrawal.

Then Super Bowl comes along.  Now, I couldn't care less about football and it's been nearly ten years since I even watched a Super Bowl game (and then I only paid attention during the commercials and studied during the game).  Nonetheless, I married a man who loves the Super Bowl and gets rather invested in his Fantasy leagues, so every year we throw a big party on Super Bowl Sunday.

This year we went the casual route and bought some grub from hubby's favorite local BBQ joint, but I knew I wanted to bake something decadent and yummy!  A year or so ago I had seen these delicious Peanut Butter Bomb Brownies from Capital City Bakery featured on an episode of Unique Sweets.  I adored the way the bakery had decorated the brownies and couldn't get the flavor combination out of my head.  I was so excited to use Super Bowl as an excuse to finally create my own brownie inspired by the Capital City Bakery treat.

I knew I wanted to use the famous "Baked Brownie" as the base for my treat.  I've tried a handful of brownie recipes over the years, but I always come back to this one.  It's incredibly rich and chocolatey, slightly dense and fudgy, and just irresistible.  Cut yourself a piece from the middle of the pan and you'll think you died and went to heaven.  I'm drooling just thinking about it.

I chose a light and fluffy peanut butter buttercream packed with flavor: it's bold, but not overwhelming.  The frosting isn't sickeningly sweet either, which keeps the richness of the dessert balanced.  If you like the sweet, slightly salty combination of chocolate and peanut butter, you have got to try these!  While I didn't think the Baked Brownie could get any better, the buttercream takes these over the top.

As inspired by the original, I piped the buttercream on and decorated mine with mini chocolate chips, chocolate sprinkles, and a drizzle of ganache.  To save time, you could also use an offset spatula to frost the brownies before slicing.  I highly recommend the addition of the chips, sprinkles and ganache.  Not only are they a pretty addition, they add a really lovely textural experience.

Please, do yourself a favor and make these brownies!  They're going to be on my go-to list for desserts from now on.  I have some friends who are incredibly fond of peanut butter desserts and I can't wait to make these for them the next time I have a chance.

Peanut Butter Bomb Brownies
inspired by Capital City Bakery
makes 24 brownies


For the brownies:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 oz. dark chocolate (60 to 72% cocoa), coarsely chopped (I used these baking bars)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

For the peanut butter buttercream:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
1/4 cup heavy cream, more or less as needed

For the chocolate ganache drizzle:
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
3-4 tablespoons heavy cream

mini semi-sweet chocolate chips and chocolate sprinkles, for decoration


To make the brownies:

Preheat your oven to 350°.  Butter and line a 9x13" baking pan with parchment paper, letting the extra paper stick out over the sides of the pan (this will make removal of the brownies later a breeze).

Sift together the flour, salt, and cocoa powder into a medium bowl; set aside.

Gently heat the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder together in a large heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted.  Turn off the heat and add the sugars, whisking for a minute or two, until completely combined.  Remove the bowl from the saucepan.

(The mixture should be room temperature or ever so slightly warm.)  Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture, whisking to combine, followed by the remaining two eggs.  Switch to a spatula and stir in the vanilla.  Lastly, sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate and fold it in just until the last bit of flour mixture is combined.  Do not over mix or your brownies will become cakey.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the batter with the spatula.  Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking to ensure even cooking.  The brownies are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.  In my opinion, it's better to err on the side of underdone when it comes to brownies, so keep an eye out as to not over bake them.

Set the hot brownies on a cooling rack and let them cool completely before removing them from the pan.  Once cool, cut them into 24 squares and decorate.  If not cutting and decorating immediately, cover the pan of brownies with plastic wrap and store at room temperature for 1-2 days before frosting and serving.

To decorate my Capital City Bakery inspired brownies, I piped on a generous amount of the prepared peanut butter buttercream in a diagonal zig-zag motion with an Ateco 803 round tip then immediately sprinkled the tops of the brownies with mini semi-sweet chocolate chips and chocolate sprinkles.  A drizzle of chocolate ganache is the final touch.

To make the peanut butter buttercream:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and peanut butter on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 3-5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Next beat in the vanilla extract, sifted powdered sugar, salt.  Beat for a few minutes, slowly adding the heavy cream, until your desired consistency is reached.  At this point taste your buttercream.  You may want to add more powdered sugar, salt, and/or heavy cream depending on how sweet and thick you'd like your frosting.  The ratio above was perfect for me: light and fluffy, not overly sweet and slightly salty--a perfect compliment to the rich chocolate brownies.

To make the ganache:

I recommend making the ganache at the very end, once the brownies are frosted and decorated with the chocolate chips and sprinkles.

In a small microwave safe bowl, gently heat the mini chocolate chips and heavy cream over 1/2 power, stopping every 20 seconds to stir the mixture.  Only heat as long as needed to fully melt the chocolate.  You  may want to add additional cream, depending on how thin you'd like your ganache drizzle.  I added 3-4 tablespoons which yielded a ganache that eventually set slightly firm.  Next time I'll probably add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of cream for a silkier finish.

I transferred the ganache to a piping bag fitted with a small round tip to make drizzling easier.  You could use a zip lock bag with the very tip cut off, or a spoon for a more rustic effect.


Brownie adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

Buttercream loosely adapted from Cooking Classy

Ganache loosely adapted from Cooking Classy

*This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Green Apple Breakfast Sausage

I had never attempted making my own breakfast sausage until I did a Paleo sugar detox last year.  After trying the Green Apple Breakfast Sausage from Diane Sanfilippo's 21-Day Sugar Detox, I was hooked!  I've tried a few other breakfast sausage recipes since, but this still remains my favorite.  My husband and I are both obsessed with this recipe and I almost always make a double batch because the leftovers are delicious and it doesn't last long around here.

I've made the recipe with ground pork, turkey and chicken (the photos I'm sharing today are from a batch made with chicken).  The ground pork version is my personal favorite.  It's so savory, yet slightly tart and sweet from the apples, and it's incredible.  I opt for using turkey or chicken breast if I'm wanting something a little lighter and both are delicious as well.  In theory, you could make this with any ground meat, but those are the only ones I've tried thus far.

While this recipe is Paleo and 21DSD friendly, which is definitely a perk for some, I recommend it to anyone looking for a good breakfast sausage recipe.  While it's obviously wonderful for breakfast, I really enjoy it anytime of day (hence why I always make a big batch to have leftovers).  I particularly enjoy it served with a side of mashed cauliflower and steamed broccoli for lunch or dinner.

If you've never tried making your own breakfast sausage, you're really missing out!  This recipe couldn't be any easier to throw together and you'll be in full control of all the ingredients you add: no nasty fillers or preservatives.

Green Apple Breakfast Sausage
adapted from The 21-Day Sugar Detox by Diane Sanfilippo
serves 4

1 lb. ground pork, chicken, or turkey
1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced into 1/4" cubes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds (I use whole, ground works too)
1 1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon white pepper (or 1/2 teaspoon black pepper)
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon ghee, or olive oil

In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, diced apple, and spices.  Mix with clean hands until the spices and apples are evenly distributed.  Divide the mixture into 8-12 even sized patties (I use a large cookie scoop to make portioning the mixture easier) and set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Once hot, melt the ghee and place the patties in the pan in batches (do not overcrowd them).  Cook for 5-7 minutes per side until browned and a thermometer registers 165° when placed in the middle of each patty.

*This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Paleo Chunky Sweet Potato Chili

Long time no read, eh?  I'm hoping 2015 is the year I finally find my blogging groove.  I've gone through stages of blogging whenever the mood strikes to trying to post a consistent 3-5 times as week.  I think I've come to terms that a modest posting schedule is more manageable for me right now.  So, starting today, I'm rolling out one new post every Monday morning!

Today I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes I've found since I first started exploring the Paleo diet last winter.  This Paleo Chunky Sweet Potato Chili is a recipe I adapted from Tastes of Lizzy T's and it is a big favorite around here.  Even my husband, who formerly attested that he hated any and all chili, enjoys it!  I took the original recipe and tweaked it a bit, mainly substituting beef stew meat for the ground beef to give it a hearty, chunkier consistency.  There is something so incredibly satisfying about a bowl of warm, (modestly) spicy, slightly sweet, chunky chili--especially this time of year.

This recipe is "Paleo" in that it doesn't contain any grains, legumes, dairy, etc.  You won't find any beans in this recipe, instead they've been replaced with vibrant sweet potato which pairs so beautifully with the warm spices.  This is very much a cross between a traditional chili and a beef stew and it's incredible.  It's so good, in fact, that I think it would be the perfect dish for a casual fall/winter dinner party.  It's incredibly rich and bold in flavor; the flavors are familiar yet unique enough to be memorable.  Even if you're not usually fond of chili, I implore you to give this recipe a try!

The recipe, as written, makes a ton (again, great for a dinner party).  It tastes incredible the next day (and the next) and reheats well, so I definitely recommend making the entire batch; however, you could certainly halve the recipe if you wish.  With all the cold weather we still have ahead, you'll be thankful you found this recipe!

Paleo Chunky Sweet Potato Chili
adapted from Taste of Lizzy T's
serves 8-10

1 tablespoon ghee (you could substitute coconut or olive oil)
2 lbs. beef stew meat
1 red onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
29.5 oz. can tomato sauce
14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
3 cups beef stock
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
2-3 tablespoons chili powder, more or less to taste
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the ghee or oil and brown the meat in two-three batches; set aside.  Turn the heat down to medium and add the onion and garlic to the pan; cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.  Next add the tomato paste, and cook for 1 minute more, stirring constantly.  Return the meat to the pot and add the remaining ingredients, except the potatoes, mix well and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Cover and cook in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.  Add the potatoes and cook for an additional 45-60 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender.

Slow Cooker Option:  Heat a large pan over medium-high heat.  Add the ghee or oil and brown the meat in two-three batches; set aside.  Turn the heat down to medium and add the onion and garlic, cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.  Next add the tomato paste, and cook for 1 minute more, stirring constantly.  Transfer the meat, onion mixture, and all the remaining ingredients to a 6-7 quart slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours, until the meat and potatoes are tender.

*This post contains an affiliate link.
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