Bran Muffins

My bran muffin obsession all started with the complimentary corn bread that L’Ecole offered. It wasn’t exceptional corn bread, but tasting it reminded me of how much I enjoy the gritty texture in corn bread and bran muffins. Bran muffins. I must have a bran muffin! I went to Trader Joe’s to get a box of their blueberry and raspberry bran muffins, and they were so tough and rubbery that it only spurred my quest for bran muffins even further. I decided that I’ll have to take on the task of making them myself if I ever want to be satisfied, and so I did.

And were these muffins the most delicious ones I’ve ever had! They have a nice crusty exterior with a soft and moist interior. You’d never think that the moistness comes only from skim milk and unsweetened applesauce. These muffins were awesome right out of the oven, but still provided a satisfying heartiness once it cooled.

They weren’t a particularly sweet muffin, but they were sweet enough. It’s pretty hard to find a baked item that you want to eat more than one of yet still escape without guilt, but these bran muffins really nailed it.

Bran Muffins
Adapted from Allrecipes
Makes 6 muffins

3/4 cup unprocessed wheat bran
1/2 cup skimmed milk
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 egg (I used two tablespoons of a beaten egg)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 F and grease 6 muffin cups. (Reviews said that paper liners were not recommended because of the texture of the muffin.)

2. Mix wheat bran and milk, let it stand for ten minutes.

3. In a large bowl, beat applesauce, egg, sugar and vanilla. Fold in bran mixture till combined.

4. In a medium bowl, mix flours, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to large bowl.

5. Divide batter into 6 muffin cups and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until tops spring back when tapped lightly with finger.

6. Remove from muffin cups when muffins are cool enough to handle with bare hands.

Giant Whoopie Pie

There’s nothing like a super-sized version of an ordinary dessert that really wows the kid in all of us. It kind of takes you back to those days when you were much, much smaller, and everything just simply looked larger from our lower vantage points and fit bigger in our tiny hands. This whoopie pie strives to recreate that.

This whoopie pie came up to about 7 inches wide. I halved a Recipe.com recipe and it still turned out that big! I had wanted to make a whipped cream filling to substitute for the calorific buttercream the recipe recommended, but my heavy cream had curdled in my fridge and I used canned whipped cream instead. I apologize to all whipped cream purists. Sigh. One thing I’d like to point out is that the cake was definitely made to hold a sweeter buttercream, so the cake itself wasn’t very sweet. I recommend upping the sugar by about 3 or 4 tablespoons.

Giant Whoopie Pie
Adapted from Recipe.com
Makes a 7-inch whoopie pie

6 tbsp butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar (maybe add 3 tbsps if you want it sweeter)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/16 teaspoon salt
1 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk

Whipped Cream Filling
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two very extra-large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Draw two 4-inch circles on the parchment paper on each cookie sheet, leaving 4 inches between the circles. Turn paper over so the ink is on the bottom of the paper; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Beat until well combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. In a medium bowl, stir together flour and cocoa powder. Add flour mixture and milk alternately to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until mixture is combined.

3. Spoon dough evenly on top of circles on prepared cookie sheets. Spread the dough evenly on layers in each circle. Bake in the preheated oven about 15 minutes or until cookies are set. Cool completely on sheets on wire racks.

4. Add sugar to heavy cream. Whip the soft peaks form. Add vanilla essence.

4. Using a large spatula, invert one of the cookies onto a serving platter. Spread with half of the whipped cream filling. Top with another cookie, flat side down.

Cheesecake Brownies

Cheesecake brownies are a perfect way to use up your cream cheese when you only have a block or less. So I made some! I used a recipe from David Lebovitz and tweaked it to include less sugar in the brownie base. The brownie turned out to be not noticeably sweet, but the richness of the chocolatey base and the creaminess of the cheesecake layer made it feel like an adult brownie.

Cheesecake Brownies
Makes 1 9X9 inch pan
Adapted from David Lebovitz

6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 ounces (115g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (70g) flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (80g) chocolate chips

8 ounces (200g) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
5 tablespoons (75g) sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Line a 9-inch (23cm) or 8-inch (20cm) square pan with foil, making sure it goes up all four sides. Use two sheets if necessary. Mist with non-stick spray or grease lightly.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180C).

3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and beat in the 1/2 cup sugar, then the eggs.

4. Mix in the flour, cocoa powder and salt, then the vanilla and chocolate chips. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.

5. In a separate bowl, beat together the cream cheese, the yolk, 5 tablespoons (75g) of sugar, and vanilla until smooth.

6. Distribute the cream cheese mixture in eight dollops across the top of the brownie mixture, then take a dull knife or spatula and swirl the cream cheese mixture with the chocolate batter.

Chocolate Pudding

The humble chocolate pudding. It doesn’t photograph very prettily, and most of us eat it pre-made out of a box or a single-serve tub. I chanced upon this recipe when I was looking for something that could satisfy my sweet tooth, yet was relatively healthy. After all, the chocolate pudding is primarily skim milk and cocoa powder. Milk is an excellent source of protein and vitamins, and cocoa powder gives you all the heart-healthy benefits of dark chocolate without the added sugar or fat.

Plus, homemade pudding means you know what’s going in it, none of that foreign scientific-sounding stuff. I hereby present to you how to make pudding from scratch. It’s so incredibly easy and fuss-free. I also think that this would make a great base recipe for any kind of pudding. Replace the cocoa powder with 2 tbsp of cinnamon and you get cinnamon pudding! Eliminate the cocoa powder and amp up the vanilla and you get vanilla pudding! So on and so forth.

Chocolate Pudding
Adapted from Low Fat Lifestyle
Serving size is dependent on portion size

2 cups skim milk
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly (do not let burn). Cook and stir for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour the pudding into a bowl or dessert dishes. Cover the surface with plastic wrap. Chill thoroughly.

*I recommend stirring the pudding continuously if you can afford to, but if you don’t care about lumps, then skip that. I also read somewhere that cornstarch turns clumpy if you don’t dissolve it first, so try dissolving the cornstarch in a little bit of water before adding it to the mixture. I tried that the second time I made the pudding and my pudding is still lumpy – but I like that extra textural dimension.

White Chocolate Raspberry Pie

How this pie came about was really simple. I was looking at my usual roster of baking blogs, and I had left a blog up where there was a link to a “White Chocolate Raspberry Tart.” And that’s how it all began.

I didn’t have a pie dish, and coincidentally, pie crusts were on sale at the supermarket so I got one. Surprisingly, acquiring fresh berries isn’t difficult at all in the middle of winter. The recipe that I was inspired by was this one, but I thought the filling was too finicky and too calorific. I don’t have a sieve, I don’t have good white chocolate, I don’t even have a decent crust. I’ll just make something up!

And so I did. I bought a box of instant vanilla pudding from Trader Joe’s, and folded in some whipped cream for lightness. Not surprisingly, the pie collapsed on me – which is why there are no pictures of the sliced pie. The pie crust didn’t hold together, and the filling was too gooey. It was quite delicious, though, for a quick fix of the dessert that it is.

White Chocolate Raspberry Pie
Makes one 9 inch pie

1 9 inch pie crust
1 box of vanilla pudding; serves 4 1/2 cup servings
1 cup of heavy cream, whipped
3/4 cup of white chocolate, melted and cooled
1 pint of raspberries

Make vanilla pudding as instructed on box. Add melted white chocolate to pudding. Add half of whipped cream to mixture and mix. Pour into pie crust. Layer remaining whipped cream onto pie filling. Top pie with raspberries. Chill for at least an hour, or not if you can’t wait.

I imagine that this combination would translate easily into a trifle, which is a lot less fussy. For a single serving dessert, just crumble some cookies into the base of a glass and add in vanilla pudding, white chocolate chips and raspberries in layers. I’m sure raspberry jam would go beautifully in the dessert too.