Nutella Brownies with Caramel and Toasted Meringue

20130428-214345.jpgSometimes this world hurts. Sometimes it down right aches to live in it. To find positivity and optimism amongst tragedy upon tragedy. To stay well informed, yet not to get overwhelmed and bogged down by the sadness in it. Amidst bombings, explosions, death and neglect. It was one of the main reasons that for years I said I didn’t want children. How could I do something as selfish as have a child when the world becomes a more frightening place on a daily basis?

But I did decide to have that child and now I struggle with trying to see the good. With trying to keep the belief that humans are inherently good. When everything in the news tells me otherwise and driving down the street or listening to a conversation between teenagers in the store screams at me to take this child to the far reaches of the world and get away from society. It’s finding that balance that I struggle with. And I am forever an optimist, so I must believe that things like this won’t happen to me or my child or my family, yet I still have to be wary. Every generation says that the world is worse then when they were growing up. This may be true to some extent, however it also speaks volumes to the ability of adults to shelter those little people in our lives while they’re so young and soft and gentle.20130428-215733.jpgI hope to teach this small girl balance. To learn to love and accept everyone, yet to be cautious enough to protect herself. To be informed, but not afraid. To be strong, but not hard. I hope to teach her how to cope, when the world all seems too big and scary. I hope she knows how to shut it all out for a moment and breathe.

My moment of pause used to always come in the kitchen. It still does, but I also find it in her these days. In the softness of her cheeks, the sweet smell of her breath and the glorious sound of her giggle.

Today I found it in both. My husband will be loosing a wonderful coworker to another location this week, so of course I felt the need to bake her something. This woman was there when he was sick last year, helped plan a baby shower for us when I was pregnant, and was one of the few people he called from the hospital when our little girl was born so fragile. She’s one of the sweetest people I’ve met and so to celebrate her I made dessert. And of course brought the baby in to visit.

This was one of two desserts I brought in, the second I promise to share later this week. These brownies were a big smash bang of ideas and substitutions in my brain. Oh I’m out of chocolate? Nutella is basically like melted chocolate anyway. I reallllllly liked these brownies. You could easily keep them in the pan, slather them with caramel, cover them with meringue and then toast them up. Make it simple. Just make them. It’s oh so worth it.20130428-215746.jpgNutella Brownies with Caramel and Toasted Meringue

Inspired by Bakers Royale, brownie recipe adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook

Ingredients

For the brownies:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup(2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup Nutella
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla

For the caramel:

1 cup cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the meringue:

3 large egg white
3/4 cup sugar

Directions

1. Make the caramel: In a large heavy bottomed saucepan heat cream, sugar and corn syrup over medium high heat. Bring mixture to a boil, whisking occasionally. Using a pastry brush dipped in water, brush any sugar crystals off sides of pan that may form. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, until caramel is dark golden brown or registers 250 degrees on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from heat and transfer to an ice bath whisking occasionally until cooled.

2. Make the brownies: Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13×9 baking dish and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Mix butter and Nutella until light and fluffy. Whisk in sugar and molasses. Whisk in eggs, yolks, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture all at once to the chocolate mixture. Fold together with a spatula until well incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Bake until a skewer inserted in the center of the brownie comes out clean. Cool completely.

3. Make the meringue: in a heat proof bowl whisk egg whites and sugar over a pan of simmering water until sugar is dissolved and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Transfer to a stand mixer and best on high until cooled, and mixture is glossy, has doubled in volume and stiff peaks form. Transfer to a piping bag.

4. Assemble: using a ring mold or biscuit cutter, cut out brownies. Pipe rosettes of meringue around outside edge of brownies, toast meringue using a torch or under the broiler for 1 minute. Fill center with caramel.

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20130427-194334.jpg“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week in 2013”

She started knocking down more milestones this weekend. One after another. It’s like I woke up today and she is so much more a little girl and less and less a baby. And I had a panic attack. It’s all happening way too quickly and it’s almost like something’s wrong the way it feels when I realize how fast she’s growing. Her baby babbling is changing. From cooing and oohs and aahs and growling to baba, gaga, na na. She sat up in her stroller. No longer needing the infant car seat. And the whole time I’m freaking out because I can’t freaking see her because she’s facing the other direction now. Is she ok? Is she happy? What does she look like? I kept asking that question while we walked. And she sat happily and patiently while we cooked and ate dinner outside on a blanket. And that tooth of hers is coming in more and more every day and she’s so much more aware. And she got up on her hands and knees in her sleep. And oh god she’s growing too fast and I just feel like it’s all out of control and it makes me nauseaus.

My husband and I were discussing it. It’s like we’re 2 months behind. He and I that is. We feel like we only really got her, like she only really became ours around the time she was 2 months old. That first month and a week she belonged to doctors and nurses, whom we had to ask permission in order to parent her. Then when we finally got home the threat of going back kept looming(since it had happened once already) and we couldn’t let our guard down. So really it’s like she’s 5 months old in our minds, not the 7 months that she actually is.

But she is 7 months. And after 7 comes 8 and 9 and 10. And then she’s almost 1. It’s so overwhelming to think about and I simply can’t let go. I feel like I need to capture every minute, every bit of it, because it all fades so quickly in my memory. And here she is curled up next to me, sleeping so deeply that her head is wet with sweat. Because that’s just part of who she is with her special little heart, a sweaty little baby.

I feel lucky this week. For some reason I feel like I got to spend more time with her this week then other weeks, although it was the same as every other week. She amazes me so much on a daily basis that it frightens me.

This weeks photo is her from last Sunday, after her first swim. She seems so much older in just a week that it pains me. I love the way she’s looking at her papa in this photo. She looks at him like that a lot. She also loves his sweatshirt strings.

Last week I loved this photo. This same scene happens nightly in our house. And I loved her words on the Boston marathon as well, these same things have been rumbling around inside of my head too.

Strawberry Mango Oat Smoothie

20130424-120225.jpgI have been seriously missing my blender. Something terrible. Somehow the blade broke a few weeks ago, and while it being under warranty meant new blender jar for free, it also meant too many days without my blender whilst awaiting the arrival of my new blender.

Yes I still had my magic bullet, but the amount of stuff I shove into a smoothie really doesn’t fit into the magic bullet. Now if you are making baby food on the other hand, the magic bullet is exactly the perfect size to puree an avocado. Or peas. Or beans. Oh and pears. My baby eats food now by the way, which is extra awesome and so much fun, except when it comes to the whole diaper situation.20130424-120322.jpgI finally got my new blender in the mail and of course had to make a smoothie. I went with my old favorite green smoothie, but then I decided to mix it up. I really like to have a smoothie for either breakfast or lunch, it feels really super healthy, and gives me tons of energy to get through the day. Plus it’s super cute to let my baby munch on the straw. She’s not to the straw usage phase yet, but she sure loves to chew on them(reuseable hard plastic, not the bendy kind). Yesterdays smoothie was a total failure. Epic smoothie fail. Pineapple cucumber. It sounded so good. And brought me right exactly back to the day I went into labor, when I drank a pineapple castor oil milkshake. Barf is the exact adjective I would use to describe that concotion. Seriously ladies, if you’re waiting to go into labor, go ahead and skip the castor oil. It tastes awful, and frankly I still needed the iv filled with pitocin to get this kid to show up, but that’s a story for another day.

Today I went with strawberries and mangoes. Pretty much every smoothie I make involves frozen banana because it adds body and creaminess. I also decided to add oats to this smoothie. If you haven’t put oats in your smoothies yet I highly recommend it. It gives them a kind of nutty hint in the background and also helps thicken them up even more. Plus there’s the health and filling aspect. I like to soak my oats in milk for a couple of minutes before I blend them up. It makes them mix in just a bit easier, although completely not required. Honey and yogurt on the other hand are. You could even throw in some greens and you would have serious health in a glass potential. I’m trying to live healthier, can you tell?20130424-120412.jpgStrawberry Mango Oat Smoothie

Ingredients

5 large strawberries
1 frozen banana
Half of 1 mango, chopped
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup milk
1/4 apple juice
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt

Directions

1. Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. Makes 1 large or 2 small smoothies.

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20130420-222810.jpg“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week in 2013”

I’ve been letting time slip away from me again. The days go by so quickly. Monday through Thursday I spend my mornings trying to make my babe as happy as can be, and getting in as much sleep as possible, because once I leave for work, naps are elusive. Then when I get home my evenings are spent attempting to wind down an over tired maniac. By the time Friday and Saturday roll around I just want to spend the day with this girl without worrying about prepping her for time apart. It leaves little time for cooking and baking.

Some days I still feel like quitting my job. It’s not that I don’t like it, I do. I hate feeling like my baby could be having better days if I were home. Then there’s the part where my body aches after sitting in an uncomfortable chair at a poorly set up desk.

I’ve still managed to photograph. I love her little feet sticking out of a long outgrown outfit that I still stuff her into. I’ve been lugging my camera around more and more which feels amazing. I’ve found myself seeing things through my camera lens again, something I’ve missed.

My favorite last week was this photo. The light, the composition. I found it quite lovely.

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20130413-224626.jpg“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week in 2013”

I am so loving this project. I have picked up my camera with purpose more since starting this then I have in years. I take it with me when I leave the house, a habit I got out of years ago. I see the world, her world at least, through my camera lens. It feels exciting again.

I debated on photos again this week. It’s becoming harder to choose, which seems to me to be a good sign. I ended up going back to this one over and over. The only reason I could come up with not to choose it came back to my poor dear husband. He doesn’t much care for me using his photograph these days, I’m guessing it stems from 11 years of my shoving a camera in his face. So terribly sorry dear husband, but this was the winner this week. Yet again, in the doctors office, after her echo. So tired but still happy and cooperative. She’s lived out so many moments in doctors offices and hospital rooms, that I’ve decided to document those moments as well. They are part of what makes her who she is, part of what makes her strong.

Last week I loved the photos on Endearing Life. The soft squish of baby rolls, and the moment captured of taking it all in.

Lucky

20130412-212639.jpgI’m feeling extremely lucky today. Lucky for so many reasons. Lucky my babe is healthy and keeps getting stronger everyday. Lucky to have been given this amazing child. Lucky to be allowed to be her parent.

This new life we’ve stumbled into is so different then anything I expected. I am in love with this child. Madly. I feel so lucky to know her, to be her friend, her mother, her parent. She is the most amazing human being I have ever met. I feel so lucky that I am so happy being her mother. Not just being a mom, but her mother. It’s like everything I always felt was missing in my life showed up in this tiny little package of sweet smelling breath and soft baby rolls.

I feel incredibly lucky to have a husband and partner who is 10 times stronger then I, who picked me up at the beginning when I was terrified by it all. When I needed to mourn, he taught me how to be grateful.

I feel especially lucky today to have this perfect little heart baby snuggled next to me, having received a clean bill of health. Hearing her doctor tell me, that just looking at her Michelin Man thighs lets him know she’s thriving. Removing two more medications from her daily routine. And being ok with hearing when she’s an adult she may need a new tricuspid valve. Did you know that’s a thing? That doctors can simply craft you a new valve for your heart? Modern medicine is insane and awe inspiring, something I never thought I would feel or say. Parenting changes you in so many ways you never expected.

So today I’m grateful. And feeling oh so lucky.

Banana Cupcakes with Molasses Butterscotch and Whipped Cream Frosting

20130411-234742.jpgTo say that my brain has been mushy this week would be an understatement. I have had a lot swimming around in this head of mine, most of which has nothing to do with working. I only work 20 hours a week, but at times feel as though it takes up so much time. Maybe that’s because it impacts my family in more ways then I ever imagined. All I have to say is I am so lucky to have found a way to only work part time. Full time would have killed me.

This weekend I was determined to make something delicious. I wanted to make something labor intensive. Something that took time, that I could get lost in. I did just that, even if I had to spread it out over 2 days to get it done.

I’ve been eyeing up these cupcakes for a while now, even though I am a bit over cupcakes at this point. They are still delicious little creations and this combination intrigued me. I made the cakes late on Sunday night, then the butterscotch while my babe slept on monday morning, and the frosting while she played in the afternoon. My child is not much for playing alone, so this involved lots of interaction while frosting said cupcakes. She herself is quite a labor intensive baby. My husband said it best, she’s the happiest baby in the world, if you’re willing to give her every bit of energy and attention you have, while disregarding anything you hoped to accomplish. I do have to admit she takes it easier on me then that. These cupcakes start with a banana cake, almost like banana bread but less dense. They are filled with an intense molasses butterscotch and topped with a creamy whipped cream and cream cheese frosting. Oh the frosting. It’s soooooo good. If you make nothing else just make the frosting. Dip fruit in it. Or cookies. Or spoon it over ice cream. It’s worth it I promise. 20130411-234753.jpgBanana Cupcakes with Molasses Butterscotch and Whipped Cream Frosting

Makes 60 mini or 24 regular cupcakes

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup pure cane sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
3 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 over ripe bananas, well mashed

For the molasses butterscotch:

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup pure cane sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners sugar, sifted

Directions

1. Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pans with liners. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a stand mixer on medium speed cream butter, sugar and molasses until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla to milk. Alternating flour and milk, add to the butter mixture beginning and ending with flour. Add mashed bananas, beat until well incorporated. Pour batter into muffin pans. Bake for 11 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely.

2. Make the molasses butterscotch: Melt butter, sugar and molasses in a medium saucepan over medium high heat, stirring frequently. Once sugar is completely dissolved add cream and salt. Cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes, swirling occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Cool completely and transfer to a squeeze bottle.

3. Make the frosting: Using the whisk attachment in a stand mixer beat cream cheese at medium speed until light and fluffy. Remove from bowl and set aside. Don’t worry if there is a small amount of cream cheese left behind. Beat heavy cream on medium speed slowly increasing speed until soft peaks form. Add vanilla and confectioners sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Slowly beat in whipped cream cheese until completely incorporated. Transfer to a piping bag.

4. Assemble cupcakes: Using the tip of a squeeze bottle, hollow out the center of each cupcake and fill with butterscotch until it oozes out the top. Pipe frosting onto cupcake using piping tip of your choice(I used a rosette). Top frosting with a small drop of butterscotch.

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20130406-224444.jpg“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week in 2013”

I’ve been struggling with worry again. Over the small and trivial, over the large. Big and small. It’s all plaguing me. This happened to me last time too. You see this Friday is my babes next appointment with her cardiologist. It’s been three months, so it’s time to look at her heart again. Each time these appointments come up I start to panic a bit. It’s strange, a perfect mix of excitement and fear. Like Christmas Eve for a kid, or the night before the most terrifying day of your life. This time will be even more interesting, as we try to get an almost 7 month old to hold still while they do an echocardiogram. Which takes about an hour…yeah. That should be interesting. So expect me to be a blend of excitement and nerves all week. Worries today included a head bump, pink cheeks and sweating, although not in that order. I’m sure the list will grow as the week progresses.

This photo was taken right before my poor babe took a tumble(the aforementioned head bump). She was so happy, playing and smiling. And then boom, over she went bonking her little head on the rail. Poor kid, our reactions probably scared her more then the fall. Why I didn’t go her pillow and blanket before we all walked away is a good question. Plain stupidity. I hate seeing this kid get hurt. In even the smallest way. It’s something I’m going to have to learn to deal with, if she’s anything like me she will be quite clumsy.

My favorite this week comes from the brains behind this whole 52 project, Jodi over at Che and Fidel. The sick little Poet looking dazed and lost is quite haunting. I’m still loving the daily photos of little Lamb as well. I’ve discovered so many new blogs through this lovely project, it’s been really amazing to connect with other mommas as crazy as me.

2 years

20130406-120546.jpgWhile looking at the calendar I just realized this blog turns 2 this month! On the 2nd to be exact. My photos have improved, although the frequency of posts has decreased. Did you notice that I’m on Facebook and twitter now? Check out the links on the sidebar and follow and like them both! I’m also on instagram but that’s a work in progress. Search thenightbakery and you will find me. If you’re still reading after 2 years and a huge change in direction, thank you! And if you’ve just found me, thank you too! Seeing comments on here makes me so excited, especially when they’re from someone I’ve never met, so keep them coming. I promise to keep the recipes and baby stories coming as long as you keep reading.

Oh and the eggs? I just like pictures of eggs. I think they’re kind of beautiful in their own little way.

Lemon Curd Trifle

20130402-124640.jpgEaster for us was full to the brim with cuteness, food and learning. The cuteness of course came from the babe, and the fact that we bought her 2 Easter outfits. I put her in the frilliest dress, which you never could have told me I would do 3 months ago. She looked so cute in it though.20130402-124844.jpgThe food was easy, delicious and substantial. Sometimes after a holiday I am surprised at how easily I pull off the food. It felt even easier this time. It’s all about planning. And preparation. So that by the time the day comes, all that’s left is a few simple steps.20130402-125026.jpgAnd then came the learning. The realization that I need to let go a bit. Feeling like the baby is overwhelmed by people(um there were only 3 extra people here most of the day). I’m realizing I am over thinking it. Mistaking her boredom for sadness. Reinforcing the idea that all is only right in the world when it’s just her and I. I lay next to her that day and thought about how much I am sheltering her. How what was once necessary is no longer. How if I keep up the way I am, she won’t have any friends. I don’t know that a 6 month old needs friends, but does a 1 year old? When do I stop and let go? When do I admit its mostly me that feels best when it’s just her and I snuggling and playing all day? Take a breath and let go.20130402-125147.jpgHer first Easter was perfect. Her momma was a touch overwhelmed for no good reason. She did wonderfully.20130402-125238.jpgDid I talk about the lemon curd yet? If you’ve never made lemon curd before I highly recommend you do. It’s silky smooth lemony bite elevates any dessert you add it to.

Lemon Curd Trifle

Lemon curd recipe adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients

1 pound cake(store bought or recipe here)

For the curd:
3 lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
3 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the trifle:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 cup each blueberries, raspberries and strawberries

Directions

1. Make the curd: using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of 3 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.

2. Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.

3. Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat, strain through a mesh strainer and cool or refrigerate.

4. In a mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Set aside. Switch to the whisk attachment and beat the cream until stiff peaks form. Add the vanilla and confectioners sugar. Slowly add the cream cheese being careful not to deflate the whipped cream.

5. Assemble the desserts. Using a trifle dish, dessert cups or jars start with a layer of crumbled pound cake. Next spread a thin layer of lemon curd over the cake. Top with about 1/3 of berries. Spoon half of he cream mixture over berries. Repeat until you are our of ingredients, ending with berries. Chill for at least 1 hour, up to overnight.