Sweet and Salty Chocolate Bourbon Brownies

IMG_4283This brownie recipe is the strongest I’ve seen in a while, and will likely go in the hall of fame for being a delicious combination of flavors and textures that are irresistible to me. When I was making the recipe, I was at first a little suspicious. Why is there more chocolate than there is butter? There’s just as much sugar as butter! And one whole TABLESPOON of vanilla? That’s crazy!

IMG_4285

But I persevered and made the recipe as it is and I did not regret it. Firstly, the smell of this is intoxicating. It has the woodsy fragrance of bourbon and vanilla, without an alcoholic bite. It also smells a little comforting like a cup of coffee, even though there’s no coffee in it and I don’t even drink coffee. (But I can appreciate the scent memory it holds for most people.) Be sure not to overbake the brownie, but you don’t have to worry about the brownie not holding together because when the chopped chocolate solidifies, it’ll hold everything together. It’s less a cakey brownie than a chewy, dense one with crunch from the chopped chocolate and, so keep that in mind depending on what you’re looking to make. The sprinkling of fleur de sel on the brownies isn’t necessary, but it does heighten the sweet, earthy, caramelly and woody flavor profile.

bourbonbrownie
Melty chocolate when warmed up, crunchy chocolate bits when cooled

 

Since the ingredients in this recipe are so simple, I highly recommend using good quality vanilla extract and chocolate. I used Trader Joe’s bourbon vanilla, and their Pound Plus Semi-Sweet Chocolate. You do NOT want to use chocolate chips in this once, since it’ll throw off the texture. Take the effort to chop the chocolate, and you’ll be rewarded with craggy, crunchy chocolate bits with a chocolate-flavored batter.

Sweet and Salty Chocolate Bourbon Brownies
From The Vanilla Bean Blog
Makes one 9×9 pan

1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla (use genuine vanilla extract, since this is quite a lot of it)
2 tablespoons bourbon
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or coarse salt [to taste]
Preheat oven to 325. Grease a 9 inch square pan, and line pan with a parchment sling.

Heat the brown sugar and butter together in a saucepan until the sugar is melted into a gooey mass with the butter, stirring occasionally. Let cool. Whisk flour and baking powder together, and set aside. Add egg, vanilla, salt, and bourbon to the cooled butter mixture, and beat together. Stir in the flour, and then the chocolate, until just combined. Spread batter in the pan, and bake 18-22 minutes, until light golden brown, and a tooth pick comes out clean, being very careful not to over bake. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Let cool in the pan, then carefully lift sling from the pan and cut into squares.

Browned Butter Bourbon Pecan Cookies

IMG_4206
I’m starting to get a little suspicious of Serious Eats dessert recipes, because I’ve tried a couple and they haven’t always turned out. Even Kenji’s “best” chocolate chip cookie turned out meh. Granted, this recipe never promised anything more than marrying the flavors of browned butter, bourbon and pecan, but I found the texture a little lacking.

When cooked to the suggested timing, the cookies were hard, crumbly and just not entirely appetizing given the less-sweet formulation. I underbaked them just slightly the second go-round so the texture would be softer and hopefully chewier. It acquired a spongy, muffin-like texture, which isn’t bad as well, just not what I look for in a cookie.

All that aside, if you like your cookies hard and crunchy and not too sweet, this would be a good recipe for you. The bourbon taste is strong in this one, and the nuttiness imparted by the browned butter does indeed complement the bourbon and pecans in here.

IMG_4208

 

Browned Butter Bourbon Pecan Cookies
From Serious Eats

Ingredients
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 ice cube
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
5 tablespoons bourbon
1 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped

1
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, gently swirling pan constantly, until particles begin to turn golden brown and butter smells nutty, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and continue swirling the pan until the butter is a rich brown, about 15 seconds longer. Transfer to a medium bowl, whisk in ice cube, transfer to refrigerator, and allow to cool completely, about 20 minutes, whisking occasionally.

2
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

3
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, dark brown sugar, and egg. Add cooled melted butter and vanilla and whisk until combined. Add flour mixture and stir to incorporate with a wooden spoon. Add bourbon and stir until liquid is absorbed. Stir in pecans. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.

4
Adjust oven rack to upper and lower middle positions and preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

5
Drop dough by the rounded tablespoon onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake, flipping sheets halfway through baking, until golden on the bottom but still soft to the touch, 15-18 minutes. Cookies will continue to harden and set as they cool.

Brownie Pudding


This is an incredible recipe that satisfies the two different dessert cravings I often have: the chewy, and the creamy. While I could’ve baked a slice of chocolate cake with a fudge ganache and a buttercream frosting, why wouldn’t I just mix up this super-easy brownie pudding? The texture of this is exactly what it looks like: it has a thin, crackly crust that sizzles ever so slightly on your palate, and once you get past that initial thin layer it’s just full of chocolatey ooey gooey goodness. I also added a splash of bourbon because bourbon has never once failed me in my chocolate baking endeavors.


I mean seriously. Just look at that. This was delicious warm, and I didn’t eat this with vanilla ice cream but I’ll bet the differing textures of cold, warm, creamy and fudgey would have been a veritable party in your mouth. This recipe is very forgiving, and because it’s baked in a bain marie (or water bath), would not screw up easily. You’re also bound to have most, if not all of the ingredients in your pantry. I highly recommend this recipe for impressing boyfriends and small children. You can thank me later.

Brownie Pudding
Makes a 1 quart casserole
Adapted from Ina Garten

1 stick unsalted butter
2 large eggs (I used two medium and it was fine)
1 cups sugar
6 tbsps good dutch processed cocoa powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla essence
A splash of bourbon – I wanna say a tablespoon, but it is up to your discretion
Vanilla ice cream, for serving – which I found entirely unnecessary considering how delicious the pudding was

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Melt the 1/2 pound of butter in the microwave. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on med-high speed for ~ 5 to 10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together to remove the lumps. Set aside.

When the egg-sugar mixture is ready, reduce the speed to low. Add the vanilla seeds, framboise (if using), and the cocoa-flour mixture. Mix only until combined. With mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter. Mix again just until combined.

Pour the brownie mixture into a 9×5 or 8×8 pan. Place it in a larger baking pan. Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish. Bake for exactly 1 hour. A cake tester inserted 2 inches from the side will come out 3/4 clean. The center will appear very under-baked. This dessert is between a brownie and a pudding- so it should.

Allow to cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Bacon Bourbon Cornbread


I have been baking, but the dearth in posts lately is because I haven’t baked anything worthy of a blog post. I was inspired to make some bacon cornbread recently, but it turned out too dry and bland for my liking. I was determined to make some kick-ass bacon cornbread, and I’m so glad this current version held up. I found a recipe on Allrecipes that has stood the test of user reviews, and decided to use it as my base for the cornbread.


This cornbread is moist and fluffy with a slight gritty texture from the cornmeal, and nuanced enough with flavors of applesmoked bacon and oaky bourbon to be eaten on its own. You’re also greeted with the occasional bit of crispy bacon as you chew each muffin down.

I made a few substitutions that I believe really elevated the original recipe. Firstly, I used bacon fat instead of vegetable oil, which adds an extra layer of smokiness to the cornbread. I’ve been saving all the bacon fat from my various bacon baking experiments, and it definitely came in handy. I also used water instead of milk because I didn’t have milk, but I am of the understanding that milk’s function in most cake recipes is just to add moisture so I felt comfortable subbing it out. I also made this in a muffin pan instead of a cake pan, which meant more crisp, browned edges. Greasing the muffin pan in bacon fat also added a savory crunch to the outside of it. The best alteration was probably the addition of whiskey. I had half a cup of bacon-infused bourbon (recipe) sitting around, and decided to throw it into the mix. I had thought the original batter looked a bit dry, and I’m glad the bourbon didn’t make the cornbread soggy.

Bacon Whiskey Cornbread
Makes 12 muffins
Adapted from Allrecipes

1 cup yellow cornmeal (finely ground)
1 cup milk or water (I used water)
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg, lightly beat
1/2 cup of bacon-infused bourbon or just plain bourbon
1/3 cup bacon fat or vegetable oil (I highly recommend using bacon fat)
3 slices of bacon cooked till crispy, then cut into small pieces, slightly larger than 1/4 inch squares

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 12 muffin tins with bacon fat.
2. In a large bowl, combine cornmeal and milk (or water) and let sit for 15 minutes. Combine with flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, bourbon and bacon fat. Stir in bacon bits.
3. Bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then cool completely on cooling rack.

Sticky Blackberry Barbecued Pork Ribs


It’s summertime, and all manners of berries and stone fruit are flooding the supermarket shelves. Growing up I was never very fond of berries. Living in tropical Singapore, the only berries that made it to local grocery stores were usually sour and very expensive, and I never developed a taste for them. Come New York City, however, they were usually cheap and abundant (and so full of fiber and antioxidants!) that I never fail to keep some berries around in the summertime.

These blackberry ribs are kind of genius. The blackberry glaze imparts sticky sweetness along with some heat from the red pepper flakes and paprika, while the slow cooking ensures that the ribs are juicy and tender. The recipe is easy enough to do; it just takes a little bit of planning and preparation before you can actually sink your teeth into them. I didn’t have a food processor to chop up the berries, so I mashed it up with a fork as best as I can and ended up with a slightly chunky glaze.

Sticky Blackberry Barbequed Pork Ribs
From The Wall Street Journal
Serves 4

Ingredients

2 racks baby back pork ribs (about 2-2½ pounds each)

2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons black pepper

1 tablespoon hot smoked paprika

1¼ cups honey

¾ pound (about 2½ cups) blackberries

½ cup blackberry preserves

¼ cup maple syrup

3 tablespoons bourbon (or whiskey)

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons red-pepper flakes

What To Do

1. Flip one rib rack over and insert the tip of a butter knife under tough membrane that covers back of rack. Wiggle knife to loosen membrane. Grab membrane with a paper towel and pull it off. Repeat with remaining rack.

2. At least 1 hour before cooking, mix 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon pepper and smoked paprika in a small bowl. Season ribs very generously on all sides with spice mixture. Let ribs come to room temperature, about 1 hour.

3. Meanwhile, set up a grill to cook with indirect heat: For a charcoal grill, light charcoal using a chimney starter. When coals have started to ash over on top, pour them all onto one side of lower grate. This creates a hot zone and a cooler zone. If using a gas grill, light burners on one side of grill, leaving others off to create a hot zone and a cooler zone. Or preheat an oven to 350 degrees to cook ribs indoors.

4. Place ribs meaty-side up on cooler side of the grill and close lid. (Make sure vents are partly open.) Or put ribs in a roasting pan and place in oven. Cook ribs 1 hour. If using a charcoal grill, light more charcoal briquettes in chimney starter and pour on top of coals to replenish the fire. Flip ribs meaty-side down. Cook until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

5. Meanwhile, make blackberry glaze: In a blender, purée honey, blackberries, preserves, maple syrup, bourbon, vinegar, red-pepper flakes and remaining salt and pepper. Scrape into a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until reduced and syrupy.

6. Flip ribs meaty-side up, brush generously with glaze and close the lid. Cook 1 minute. Brush meaty side with glaze again. Move ribs to hot side of grill and flip over. Brush underside of racks with glaze. Close lid. Cook 1 minute or until glazed and caramelized on both sides. If cooking inside, brush ribs with glaze and place under broiler until glazed and caramelized, 1-2 minutes. Season generously with salt and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Bacon Bourbon Jam

I use bourbon like how a Chinese cook uses soy sauce – a dash of it never hurts. Indeed, bourbon is such a integral condiment in my dessert-baking repertoire that I’ve decided just to keep a handle of bourbon around. Why not, right? This bacon bourbon jam is another incarnation of my recent bacon obsession. I even went out to buy a baguette for the express purpose of taking a picture for this post.

And my, this spreadable bacon is quite heavenly. It’s a complex melding of flavors and textures – sweet and savory, sticky and crunchy, smokey and woody. I used apple-smoked bacon ends and pieces from Trader Joe’s – a much more cost-effective way since the bacon is going to be chopped up, anyway. It reminds a little bit like Bee Cheng Hiang’s bakkwa, a kind of Chinese pork jerky.

Bacon Bourbon Jam
Adapted from The Delicious Life
Makes a little over 1.5 cups

1 lb bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup apple cider vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar and it was fine)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
½ cup brewed coffee
4 tablespoons bourbon

In a large pot, cook bacon until just starting to brown and crisp at edges. Remove cooked bacon to paper towel-lined plate to cool and drain off grease. Pat with additional paper towels. When cool, cut bacon into 1-inch pieces.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat from pot. Turn heat down to medium low. Add onions and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent. Add vinegar, brown sugar, bourbon, and coffee. Bring to a boil. Add cooked chopped bacon.

If You Are Cooking on Stovetop:

Turn down heat to the lowest setting and allow to simmer for about 1½ hours, stirring every few minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and what is left is syrupy. Do not leave the pot unattended because 1) that’s just not safe no matter what and 2) there is a lot of sugar from the onions and well, the sugar, so it can burn easily.

If You Are Using a Crockpot/Slow Cooker:

Pour the contents of the pot into the crockpot. Cook on high for about 3 hours.

After Cooking:

Transfer the cooked bacon jam to a food processor. Pulse until you get the consistency of chunky jam. Alternatively, you can just chop it manually with a knife until it reaches your desired consistency.

Store covered in the refrigerator.

Bourbon Banana Muffins

These bourbon banana muffins might not be lookers but they definitely pack a powerful punch. You wouldn’t think to combine bananas and bourbon but I personally would find any excuse to sneak alcohol in my desserts. The muffins are very moist and flavorful, and have a great texture. You can’t just stop at one.

Bourbon Banana Muffins
From Cookie Madness
Makes 1 dozen muffins

1 1/2 cups (6.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra light olive oil or vegetable oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg plus 2 tablespoons lightly beaten egg
1 1/2 very large or 2 small bananas, mashed
1/2 cup bourbon whisky
3 tablespoons water

Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease 12 muffin tins.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir well to mix.
In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the oil, sugar and vanilla until well mixed. Add the egg and beat until light, then reduce mixer speed and beat in the mashed banana and bourbon. By hand, stir in the flour mixture and the water just until mixed. Pour the batter into the muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes. If you like, sprinkle nuts and chocolate chips down the center of the loaf before baking. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then carefully remove from the pan.