Chocolate Stout Brownies

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to divert from my usual brownie recipe and make something a bit more festive- these chocolate stout brownies. Living in Colorado, we are so spoiled when it comes to craft beer, so I opted to use something local rather than Guinness. Any strong, dark, malty stout beer will do here. 

The batter is very thin, and bakes up into a fudge-like, creamy brownie. I think that next time I would omit the chocolate chips/pieces sprinkled on top, and instead finish these with a caramel glaze. They’re very rich and a salty contrast would be delicious. 

But that alteration aside, you can never go wrong with brownies!

Here are some other high altitude recipes that would be great for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day:

Chocolate Stout Cake

Irish Soda Bread

Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Sandwiches

Butter Shortbread Cookies (Use Irish butter for a decadent cookie)

Zucchini Cakes with Brown Butter Icing

Braided Pistachio Coffeecake

Chewy Walnut Treasure Cookies

Iced Sugar Cookies

Double Lemon Bars made with lime juice

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How to make this high altitude adjusted recipe:

Chocolate Stout Brownies
Adapted from Blondie’s Cakes & Things Blog

Chocolate Stout Brownies
Recipe type: High Altitude Baking
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter, cubed
  • 8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • ¾ cup milk chocolate, chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1½ cups stout beer
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips for the top (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. Line a 9 x 13" baking pan with foil and coat with nonstick baking spray.
  3. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt.
  4. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter, bittersweet chocolate pieces, and milk chocolate pieces until combined and smooth,
  5. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale, about 3 minutes in your electric mixer.
  6. Stir in the melted butter and chocolate mixture.
  7. Whisk in the beer and vanilla. The batter will be very thin.
  8. Pour into your prepared baking pan, and if desired, sprinkle with mini chocolate chips.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the center is set.
This recipe was adjusted for high altitude baking. To make at sea level, reduce the stout beer from 1 1/2 cups to 1 1/4 cups. 

 

Neiman Marcus Cookies

By Chef Megan Joy / March 3, 2014

Happy March! I’m so delighted that we’ve been seeing more sunshine and warmer temperatures. Dare I say it’s starting to feel like spring? 

I’ve been enjoying these cookies this week. I made the full batch of dough but only baked off a few at a time- I like them warm and gooey. Similar to an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, these also have chopped walnuts to give a little crunch (I substituted pecans) as well as grated milk chocolate. The oats are finely ground in your food processor so the cookies still have a hearty texture, yet they’re softer. There’s just about something for everyone in this cookie, and they traveled well packed in my pocket when we took the dogs on a hike.

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You may be familiar with the ‘story’ behind these cookies- a woman lunching at Neiman Marcus liked the cookie she ordered for dessert so much, she asked for the recipe. The waiter quoted “two fifty” while she believed he meant $2.50. When the bill arrived, with a $250 charge, she protested but the store refused to reduce the bill. Out of spite, she emailed the recipe to everyone she knew.

Apparently an untrue story, but of course intriguing nonetheless. Makes you want to try the cookie yourself doesn’t it?

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How to make this high altitude adjusted recipe:

Neiman Marcus Cookies
Adapted from Saveur Magazine

 

Neiman Marcus Cookies
Recipe type: High Altitude Baking
 
Ingredients
  • 8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2½ cups oatmeal, processed to a fine powder (blender or food processor)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1½ cups walnuts, chopped
  • 4 oz milk chocolate, grated or very finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy,
  4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  5. Stir in the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until a dough begins to form.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips, walnuts, and grated milk chocolate.
  7. Roll into 1½" balls and place 2" apart on the prepared baking sheets. Press down on each ball to flatten it slightly.
  8. Bake until light golden on the bottoms but still soft in the middle, 8-10 minutes for soft gooey cookies, and 10-12 minutes for crunchy cookies.
  9. Makes about 4 dozen.
Note: This recipe was adapted for high altitude baking. To make at sea level, increase the baking powder to 1 teaspoon and the baking soda to 1 teaspoon. Baking times may vary slightly. 

 

Double Lemon Bars

By Chef Megan Joy / February 13, 2014

My mom just left town today. She was visiting from the Midwest, where the temps there lately have been insanely frigid. We were hoping for some bluebird days during her visit, but Colorado decided it would be overcast, cloudy, and snowy instead. We still had a great time though, and she also got to meet her grandpuppy Abe. 

While she was here we made up a batch of these double lemon bars. We also baked a pan of chocolate brownies (at the same time!), but the lemon bars surprisingly were the overall favorite because we gobbled them up in no time. The pan of brownies still remains. 

I think it had something to do with the fact that the lemon bars were so brightly flavored, refreshing, and the perfect combination of buttery shortbread with creamy, tangy lemon filling. The ratio of shortbread to filling was just right, and the filling didn’t have that unappealing ‘eggy’ taste that custard/curd-style bars can sometimes have. 

Simply put, if you’re in search of a tasty lemon bar, this is it. If you’re looking for something to brighten up your mood because you are afraid winter is going to last forever, these are it. 

Happy baking!

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How to make this high altitude adjusted recipe:

Double Lemon Bars
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine

5.0 from 2 reviews
Double Lemon Bars
Recipe type: High Altitude Baking
 
Ingredients
  • SHORTBREAD:
  • 1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • LEMON FILLING:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. Cream the butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy, then add the flour and salt and stir until moist clumps form.
  3. Press the mixture into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13" baking pan.
  4. Bake the crust until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar and eggs until smooth.
  6. Beat in the lemon juice, lemon zest, baking powder, and flour until combined.
  7. When the crust is golden brown, remove it from the oven and carefully pour the filling over the hot crust.
  8. Put the bars back in the oven for about 20 minutes and bake until the filling is set and is beginning to brown on the top.
  9. When the bars are cool, dust with powdered sugar and cut into squares.
  10. Makes 24.
Note: This recipe was adjusted for high altitude baking. To make these at sea level, increase the baking powder to 1 teaspoon. Keep in mind that baking times may vary slightly. 

Beignets

By Chef Megan Joy / January 30, 2014

Sometime between 5 am and 9 am it decided to snow, oh, about 13 inches. I got up early this morning to test some doughnut recipes and I had to spend quite a while pushing all that snow off the car. 

I suppose it only made the doughnuts taste sweeter, as we sipped hot coffee and reveled in their pillowy softness while skiers clamored about outside in Vail village. 

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So why all this doughnut business? I  wanted to do a test batch of some doughnut varieties I have planned for an upcoming wedding. The bride wants to serve small doughnuts at the end of the night to her guests, along with spiked coffee and milk shooters. They will also have some little bags for guests to grab a few on their way out. Isn’t that such a nice gesture? 

Besides, there is nothing quite like a freshly fried, warm doughnut. I first tasted these beignets when I was in pastry school, and it was slightly nostalgic frying up a batch this morning- these guys are pretty memorable. A truly honest doughnut with no mixes or preservatives, they’re plump, addictive, and kissed in cinnamon sugar (although I also enjoy them rolled in powdered sugar, too). 

One of my chef mentors from pastry school, Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, published The Art of French Pastry this past December. It’s a beautiful book. When I was glancing through it the other day, I remembered these beignets, and I knew they would have a perfect place on my client’s doughnut table. 

You’ll want to start these the day before you plan to eat them, but they’re well worth the extra planning. Chef Jacquy recommends filling them with raspberry jam or pastry cream, which tastes divine, but these are also excellent simply rolled in sugar. 

Oh yes- and a complimentary moose family photo.

Happy baking!

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How to make this high altitude adjusted recipe:

Beignets
Adapted from The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer

Beignets
Recipe type: High Altitude
 
Ingredients
  • POOLISH:
  • ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon cool water
  • 1½ teaspoons dry yeast
  • ½ cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • DOUGH:
  • ⅓ + 1 teaspoon cool water
  • 2 tablespoons minus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1¾ oz unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1-2 quarts canola or grapeseed oil for frying
Instructions
  1. DAY 1:
  2. Make a poolish by placing the water in the bowl of your stand mixer and adding the yeast. Stir together.
  3. Sprinkle the flour over the top and let it sit, undisturbed, for 10-15 minutes, or until cracks form. The cracks signify that the yeast is fermenting.
  4. Once the yeast has been activated you can mix and knead the dough. Before beginning the process place an extra cup of water next to your mixer, just in case your dough is too dry.
  5. Add the water, sugar, flour, egg yolks, and salt to the poolish.
  6. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on medium speed for 30 seconds to observe the dough. If it looks very dry and lumpy, add a very small amount of extra water to it. The dough should come together after a full minute of mixing on medium speed.
  7. Mix the dough for 5 minutes on medium-low speed and stop to scrape the dough that is stuck on the bottom and to the sides of the bowl. Sprinkle with a tiny amount of all-purpose flour. Mix again and repeat this 2 more times.
  8. After about 15 minutes of mixing the dough, you should hear a slapping sound and the dough should be very elastic and completely wrapped around the dough hook.
  9. Add the room temperature butter to the dough and mix at low speed to incorporate it, about 2 minutes. Stop the machine and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then mix again for 2 minutes. Eventually all the butter will be absorbed and the dough will be elastic and shiny.
  10. Place the dough in a medium bowl, dust the surface with a small amount of flour, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until it doubles in volume, about 1 to 1½ hours depending on the temperature of the room. Too warm of a room and the butter will melt out (above 80 F).
  11. Once the dough has doubled in volume, press out the first gases and place the dough, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  12. Press out any gases, again, and cover and let rest in the refrigerator overnight.
  13. DAY 2:
  14. Line a sheet pan with a towel and dust the surface lightly with flour.
  15. Scrape out the dough from its bowl and place it on a lightly floured work surface.
  16. Using a bench scraper or a knife, cut 35 g pieces of dough (the size of a golf ball). Cup the dough and roll each piece into a ball. You should have about 15.
  17. Press the dough balls flat so they have a flying saucer shape, and place them 1" apart on the prepared sheet pan.
  18. Dust them with a small amount of flour and cover with a second towel. Let the beignets rise about 1 hour, until they have doubled in volume.
  19. Pour 1-2 quarts of the oil into a large but not too deep pot. The sides should be at least 3" tall.
  20. When the beignets are risen, poke them with your finger- your fingerprint will leave a mark and they will bounce back slowly- this means they are ready. If they bounce back quickly, let them rise a little longer.
  21. Place the pot over medium heat and warm the oil to 340 F. Keep a thermometer in the oil the entire time so you can monitor and regulate the temperature by turning the heat up or down.
  22. Fry the beignets, 2-2½ minutes on each side until a nice golden brown. Let them sit for 3 minutes, then roll them in cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar. Rolling them while still hot ensures the sugar will stick.
  23. It's never a bad idea to do a test batch using one beignet, to see how long it will take to cook.
  24. Putting too many beignets in the oil at once drops the temperature and they may get greasy.
  25. Store the beignets at room temperature and and try to enjoy them the day you make them.
  26. Makes about 15 beignets.
Note: This recipe was adjusted for high altitude baking. To make at sea level, increase the yeast to 1 3/4 teaspoons. Take note that baking and rising times may also vary slightly. 

 

 

Cappuccino Muffins

By Chef Megan Joy / January 18, 2014

I know I’ve shared my memories of baking recipes out of Taste of Home magazine with my mom when I was younger. The new magazine arrivals were always such a thrill- we’d sit together and go through each page, marking the recipes we planned to make. 

These cappuccino muffins came to mind this afternoon when Zack, Abe, and I returned from a sunny hike. I loved them then and I still love them now. They are such a perfect muffin- fluffy and moist, with a delicious coffee-cinnamon flavor and studded with chocolate chunks or chips. 

They’re also really fast to throw together, which of course works wonderfully with my new life as a puppy mother. I will say it is getting a little easier, so maybe one of these days I’ll make something a bit more involved.

We had to take a detour on our hike today- the moose family was occupying the upper part of the trail. Since our first initial siting, we’ve seen them nearly every day now. Well, here’s to new neighbors!

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Enjoy the sunshine and happy baking!

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How to make this high altitude adjusted recipe:

Cappuccino Muffins
Adapted from Taste of Home magazine

5.0 from 2 reviews
Cappuccino Muffins
Recipe type: High Altitude Baking
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole or 2% milk
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee/espresso powder
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup mini chocolate chips or chocolate chunks
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. Line a standard muffin tin with 12 paper liners, or coat with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.
  4. In another bowl, stir together the milk and instant coffee until the coffee granules have dissolved.
  5. Whisk in the melted butter, egg, and vanilla.
  6. Stir in the chocolate.
  7. Divide the muffin batter among the muffin tin wells.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the muffins are puffed and set. The centers should spring back when lightly touched.
  9. Makes 1 dozen.
 Note: This recipe was adapted for high altitude baking. To make at sea level, increase the baking powder to 2 1/2 teaspoons, and take note that the baking time may vary slightly. 

Snowy Day Blondies

By Chef Megan Joy / January 14, 2014

Today was one of those sleepy, perfect kind of days off. It was much needed, too- I had two wedding cakes in Aspen last week, Zack’s been working a ton, and we have our new little monster, Abe, to constantly tend to. I never knew puppy training (and care taking) was as much work as it is! But, I’m not complaining. We love him to pieces.

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We’ve gotten quite a lot of snow since January began and it seems like every time I look at the window it’s snowing again. I mixed up these blondies this morning and I’m so glad I did. They literally are a one-bowl kind of treat, which means they’re super fast- excellent for my schedule these days when I’m on puppy time.

The blondies are a hybrid recipe taken both from How To Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman and Williams-Sonoma. I absolutely adore the espresso powder in them, with the sweet white chocolate chunks and crunchy macadamia nuts. It cuts the sweetness down while adding another layer of flavor. Irresistible.

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Before we headed out for a walk this afternoon I noticed some visitors in our backyard. It’s moments such as these that the beauty and awe of mountain living really hits you. 

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How to make this high altitude recipe:

Espresso White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Blondies
Adapted from both How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman and Williams-Sonoma

 

Snowy Day Blondies
Recipe type: High Altitude Baking
 
Ingredients
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
  • 4 oz good-quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. Line an 8" square baking pan with foil and give it a good coating of nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
  4. Remove from heat once melted and stir in the brown sugar and egg.
  5. Add the salt, vanilla, and espresso powder and mix well.
  6. Stir in the flour.
  7. Fold in the macadamia nuts and white chocolate until smooth.
  8. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden brown and the top is crinkly.
  10. Makes 16 blondies.
Note: This recipe was adapted for high altitude baking. To make at sea level, take note that baking times may vary slightly. 

Homemade Dog Treats

By Chef Megan Joy / January 5, 2014

Greetings! I hope everyone’s been having a fresh and joyous start to 2014. December was a crazy month and I’m sorry I couldn’t do more posting, although there was plenty of baking  and pastry activity taking place. 

There was a lot of Megan Joy Cakes work and another trip to Aspen:

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Right before Christmas I did a high altitude baking class with The Vail Mountain Club.

It was held at one of the member’s beautiful homes and we made apple breton pie, pumpkin cheesecake snickerdoodles, and a hot chocolate torte. It was a lot of fun. 

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 Shortly after, I left to go to Indiana for a week so I could celebrate Christmas with my family. At my grandma Jone’s Christmas Eve dinner, we enjoyed my favorite honey-glazed rolls. They are always a crowd pleaser! 

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And finally, right after I returned to Colorado, we drove down to Arizona to pick up our newest addition, Abe. He is a Hungarian Vizsla and we are just having the most incredible time with him. It doesn’t hurt that he is absolutely adorable. 

Abe’s not a huge fan of the cold yet, so we got him a little coat to wear when we go outside. He looks rather handsome in it. 

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Puppies are pretty much tiny children, and as we’ve been working with him on his manners I’ve become aware of how important a motivating treat can be. Zack’s mom got me “The Organic Dog Biscuit Cookbook” for Christmas and I decided to dive into it yesterday- which resulted in these cute little pumpkin treats. 

Steamed pumpkin (and canned pumpkin, too) is great for dogs because it’s high in potassium and beta carotene, but low in calories. It’s also beneficial to feed to dogs when they need a little help regulating their digestive system. 

I had all of these ingredients on hand, and they also happened to all be organic. I’m not saying Abe is on an entirely organic diet (he would be eating better than us if that were the case), but just like with human food, it’s nice to know what’s going into your body or your dog’s body. 

The recipe made about 32 small bone shapes, but you could get 3x amount if you roll them in small balls or cut out tiny shapes. Perfect for sharing!

Happy baking!

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How to make this high altitude recipe:

Pumpkin Dog Treats
Adapted from The Organic Dog Biscuit Cookbook by Bubba Rose Biscuit Company

Homemade Dog Treats
Recipe type: High Altitude Baking
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup oat flour (you can make your own by grinding rolled oats into a powder in your food processor)
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (or fresh pureed pumpkin)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup water (more if needed)
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. Combine all the ingredients together and mix until a dough forms.If your dough is still dry, add a little more water so it holds its shape.
  3. Roll into small balls (about 1" in diameter) or pat the dough to a desired thickness on a piece of parchment paper, and cut out desired shapes.
  4. Use a small offset spatula or knife to transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. They can be close together since they don't spread while baking.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes for soft biscuits, and about 30 for a crunchy biscuit.
  7. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.
  8. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  9. Makes a lot of treats, this recipe yielded about 32 small bone shapes.
This recipe was adapted for high altitude baking. To make at sea level, the baking time may vary slightly. 

Pecan Buttercrunch

By Chef Megan Joy / December 16, 2013

Christmas is 9 days away! Are you ready?

As promised, I made a candy recipe that performs appropriately at high altitude. My mom’s good friend Cheryl always sends the most delicious chocolate covered toffee around the holidays, and this recipe reminds me of it. It’s buttery, crunchy, chocolaty, and coated in nuts. Highly addictive. 

I was expecting the recipe to be much harder than it really was. You cook butter, sugar, water, and salt; add vanilla, and then pour it onto your baking sheet. Let it cool, then cover each side in chocolate and finely chopped pecans. Break it up into pieces and you’ve got a hefty quantity of homemade candy on your hands, perfect for feeding guests or giving away as gifts. 

Last night I also baked up some of my favorite cookies – Nutmeg Meltaways. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make any Christmas cookies this year after all those (what felt like millions) of cookies I tested and baked for the Holiday Cookie Book 2013. But I could always eat a nutmeg meltaway! 

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To some of our close friends this year we gave away little boxes of homemade croissants and jams we made this summer with local fruit. They were fun to put together and I know they were well received! 

Judging by my calendar, this may be my last post before Christmas. Below are some more tips on candy making at high altitude. I hope everyone has a fantastic and merry holiday. Wishing you the happiest baking!

High Altitude Candy-Making Tips:

1. Any time you cook sugar, add a pinch or two of cream of tartar. It will help prevent your sugar from seizing/crystallizing as it cooks. 

2. Test your candy thermometer before you begin. Remember, at altitude you’ll have a lower boiling temperature than sea level. You can stick your thermometer is a pot of boiling water and see what it reads. At sea level, water boils at 212 F. Each 500 foot increase in altitude can lower your boiling point temperature by 1 degree. The boiling temperature at 7,500 feet is approximately 198 F, at 10,000 ft it’s approximately 194 F. If your candy thermometer is reading a significantly different number, you’ll want to take note that your thermometer is off by x amount. That will affect what temperature you cook your candy to if using that thermometer to read (EX: If your thermometer reading is over 10 degrees, then you’ll cook your candy to 10 degrees less than stated in the recipe, since your thermometer reads 10 degrees higher than it should). If you consistently get different readings every time, maybe it’s time to get a new thermometer since that one is no longer reliable. 

3. Another quick tip for estimating your thermometer reading comes from Elizabeth LaBau: a good rule of thumb for cooking candy at high altitude is to subtract 2 degrees F from the stated temperature for every 1,000 feet you are above sea level. (EX: If you live at 6,500 feet, your conversion is 13 less: 2 x 6 [thousand feet] + 1 for the extra 500 feet. 

4. Be sure to wrap your soft candies like caramels, marshmallows, taffy, etc. well. Our dry air can quickly turn freshly made, soft candies into crusty and hard pieces. 

How to make this high altitude adjusted recipe:

Pecan Buttercrunch
Adapted from Chocolate & Confections by Peter P. Greweling

Variation: You can make a macadamia-coffee toffee by adding 1 tablespoon of coffee extract at the end of cooking. Coat the toffee in milk chocolate and use toasted salted macadamia nuts in place of the pecans. 

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Pecan Buttercrunch
Recipe type: High Altitude Baking
 
Ingredients
  • BUTTERCRUNCH:
  • 2 cups (1 lb) unsalted butter, melted
  • 4½ cups sugar
  • 3 oz water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 16 oz dark or milk chocolate, melted
  • 3½ cups finely chopped toasted pecans
Instructions
  1. Combine the melted butter, sugar, water, and salt in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  3. Cook over moderate heat to 298 F. For my altitude (8, 500 ft), I reduced my cooking temperature to 281 F.
  4. Add the vanilla off the heat, stir in well.
  5. Pour the mixture onto a silicone baking mat, or a lightly greased sheet of parchment paper, in a baking sheet. Spread quickly to the edges before the toffee sets.
  6. Allow to cool completely. Blot the toffee with a paper towel to remove any excess oil from the surface. The oil will inhibit the chocolate from sticking to the toffee- not good!
  7. Coat one side of the toffee with half of the chocolate and immediately sprinkle with toasted chopped nuts. Press down on the nuts so they stick into the chocolate.
  8. Place the baking sheet in your freezer for 8-10 minutes to set the chocolate.
  9. Once set, flip the toffee over and repeat with the remaining chocolate and pecans.
  10. When the chocolate has set on both sides, break into desired-size pieces. For longer storage, keep airtight in the refrigerator.
  11. Makes 60 oz, or 1 baking sheet broken up into pieces.
 Note: This recipe was adjusted for high altitude baking. To make at sea level, cook your toffee to 298 F. 

Gingerbread Cupcakes

By Chef Megan Joy / December 14, 2013

This time of year there is so much sugar- Christmas cookies, candies, cocktails…that these cupcakes are a refreshing break from all things sweet. They don’t rise too much and are more of a ‘flat topped cupcake’, but their damp, almost black interiors are richly spiced and festive. 

Smeared with a ginger-coffee icing, these cupcakes are great for short-notice, informal holiday get-togethers. We like them plain, for breakfast- big surprise there!

As the temperatures are finally warming up here from those single digit days we had last week, it’s been nice to actually venture outside. Warm Colorado sunshine streaming in through the windows highlights all the snow laying on the ground outside. It’s been a beautiful time of year. 

I just finished a cake this week and enjoyed photographing it with some natural light. 

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What types of goodies have you all been baking? I know I promised some kind of candy(ies) and I’m hoping to get to a few next week. I can’t believe Christmas is so near!

Hope everyone is enjoying this sunshine. Happy baking!

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How to make this high altitude adjusted recipe:

Gingerbread Cupcakes
Adapted from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox

Gingerbread Cupcakes
Recipe type: High Altitude Baking
 
Ingredients
  • GINGERBREAD CUPCAKES:
  • ¾ cup stout beer
  • ½ cup brewed coffee
  • ¾ cup molasses
  • scant ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons raw sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2¼ teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoons salt
  • GINGER-COFFEE ICING:
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup brewed coffee, cooled
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners, and line 6 more cups in a second muffin tin.
  3. In a large saucepan, bring the beer, coffee, and molasses to a boil; whisk together to combine.
  4. Remove from the heat and whisk in the baking soda. It may bubble up quite a bit. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to cool.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, oil, raw sugar, and grated fresh ginger.
  6. Whisk in the egg.
  7. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, ground ginger, cinnamon and salt.
  8. In three additions of each, whisk the flour mixture and beer mixture into the brown sugar mixture to combine.
  9. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them ¾ full.
  10. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the cupcakes spring back when lightly touched.
  11. Invert them onto a rack, turn them top side up, and let them cool completely.
  12. TO MAKE THE ICING: put the powdered sugar in a bowl and whisk in the coffee, molasses, and vanilla. Adjust the consistency to your liking by adding more powdered sugar for thicker icing, or more coffee for thinner icing.
  13. Dip the top of each cupcake into the icing and return to the wire rack to let the icing set, at least 30 minutes.
  14. Makes 18 cupcakes.
Note: This recipe was adapted for high altitude baking. To make at sea level, increase the baking soda to 3/4 teaspoon and the baking powder to 2 1/4 teaspoons. The baking time may vary slightly. 

Chocolate Brioche

By Chef Megan Joy / December 13, 2013

My, what a busy time of year! I’m sure everyone else feels the same way. 

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In between wintery wedding cakes, business trips (pictured above is snowy Aspen), Christmas shopping, preparing for our puppy, and other work, it’s been hard fitting in any holiday baking. But the show must go on…

Thankfully we have a multi-tasking recipe to work with: brioche. I’m a big fan of brioche. Not only does it taste fantastic- it’s rich, buttery, tender… like the love child that would result from bread + cake. But it has many, many uses. 

1. It makes THE BEST french toast ever. 

2. Shape dough into balls and bake up into dinner or breakfast rolls. 

3. Roll the dough out and use it to make cinnamon rolls or coffeecake.

4. Fry the dough for the lightest, most delightful doughnuts.

5. Cut up into cubes and make comforting, cozy bread pudding. 

Now here is a recipe for: lemon brioche, posted awhile back. Omit the lemon for plain brioche. 

But if you’re feeling a bit more decadent, consider making chocolate brioche. I like to zest in a little orange rind, but you can leave it as is, which is still delicious. Chocolate brioche french toast, topped with cherry sauce and whipped cream makes a memorable holiday breakfast…just an idea. 

Happy baking!

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How to make this high altitude adjusted recipe:

Chocolate Brioche
Adapted from The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard

Chocolate Brioche
Recipe type: High Altitude Baking
 
Ingredients
  • CHOCOLATE BUTTER:
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • SPONGE:
  • 2 teaspoons dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water (110 F)
  • ¾ cup lukewarm coffee
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • DOUGH:
  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¾ teaspoons salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • EGG WASH:
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Raw sugar, for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. MAKE THE CHOCOLATE BUTTER: create a double boiler by placing chocolate in small heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir the chocolate until melted, then set aside to cool to room temperature.
  2. Beat the butter until soft and lump free, about 1 minute.
  3. Add cocoa powder and melted chocolate, beat until well incorporated. Set the chocolate butter aside at room temperature.
  4. MAKE THE SPONGE: Combine the yeast and water in a large bowl and whisk until yeast is dissolved.
  5. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes, then stir in the coffee, flour, and sugar to form a thin batter.
  6. Cover with plastic and let rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until bubbles form.
  7. MAKE THE DOUGH: Add the flour and salt to the sponge, then add the egg yolks. Mix until the egg yolks are absorbed.
  8. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth and satiny. If the dough seems dry, add a tablespoon or two of water.
  9. Begin incorporating the chocolate butter, 1 tablespoon at at time. This can be done by hand or by a stand mixer makes things easier.
  10. Mix until the dough is shiny and smooth, about 5 minutes.
  11. Add the chocolate pieces and knead until incorporated.
  12. Scrape out the dough and put it into an oiled bowl, turning once to coat the top.
  13. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1½- 2 hours. My kitchen was very chilly the day I made this recipe, so the rising time could possibly take less.
  14. When the dough has risen, punch it down by folding it 2-3 times. Cover with plastic and let rise until doubled in volume in the refrigerator, for 4 hours or overnight. If you're short on time, you can also let it double again at room temperature, about 45-60 minutes.
  15. Grease two 9 x 5" loaf pans.
  16. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide the dough in half.
  17. Cut each half into 6 pieces and roll into balls. Place 6 balls per pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough double in volume. If the dough is room temperature, this could take 15-20 minutes; if the dough has been chilled this could take 1½ - 2 hours.
  18. Towards the end of the proofing, preheat your oven to 350 F.
  19. MAKE THE EGG WASH: by whisking the egg yolk and heavy cream together.
  20. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the surface of the proofed loaves.
  21. Sprinkle with raw sugar, if desired.
  22. Bake the loaves for 35-40 minutes, or until the loaves have an internal temperature of 180 F and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
  23. Remove the finished loaves from the pans and let cool completely on a rack.
  24. Serve, or wrap tightly in plastic wrap until ready to serve. The loaves can also be frozen for up to two weeks. Refresh in a 350 F oven for 10 minutes.
  25. Makes 2 loaves.
 Note: This recipe was adapted for high altitude baking. To make at sea level, increase the yeast to 2 1/2 teaspoons and 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour in the dough to 3 cups. The rising and baking times may vary slightly. 

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