June 30, 2008

New Barefoot Contessa Book!

Yes! Just in time for my anniversary, ahem (yes my sweet husband reads my silly blog) Ina Garten is releasing a new book- Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics.

It's coming out on October 28 and I'm excited already! Last time I pre-ordered something on Amazon it came the day before it was released (okay I'll admit, it was Enchanted, and I've watched it more than once already...)

So until October, check out the Barefoot Bloggers and join us in making Ina's fabulous recipes.

June 26, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers- Ina's Chicken Parmesan

This week's Barefoot Bloggers recipe was chosen by Megan and it was a great choice! I have to say, I've made this chicken several times and love it every time. So while this wasn't something new for me, it was fun to have a good excuse to make it again.

Ina recommends serving this with a lemon vinaigrette but I prefer Emeril's basic balsamic vinaigrette and think it's a good, tangy complement to this chicken. Another good variation is to pound out the chicken and make it into chicken cordon bleu. Yum.

I do have one recommendation, though. I usually try to cut back on oil and pare down my recipes when I can, but this is one Barefoot Contessa recipe where I really agree with Ina about all the fat needed. This time around on the chicken I skimped on the oil in the pan and the chicken didn't brown as well or hold onto the topping quite how it should have. Add a few minutes to your workout and add all the oil, in my opinion! :)

Parmesan Chicken
by Ina Garten

4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 extra-large eggs (I use large and add a little milk or water to make up the difference)
1 tablespoon water
1 1/4 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
Unsalted butter
Good olive oil
Salad greens for 6, washed and spun dry
1 recipe Lemon Vinaigrette, recipe follows

Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/4-inch thick. You can use either a meat mallet or a rolling pin.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate. On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Add more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts. Toss the salad greens with lemon vinaigrette. Place a mound of salad on each hot chicken breast. Serve with extra grated Parmesan.

June 25, 2008

Pie Crust and Quiche

My Aunt CarmaLee makes amazing pies. So does my mom. I remember making pie with them when I was little- using the pastry cutter, rolling the dough, and even making pie crust cookies (dough brushed with cinnamon sugar, cut into squares, then baked) with the left over crust. So while I can't say when I learned to make pie, I do remember learning that lots of people didn't know how to, which was a big shock to me!

One thing that's worth noting is that the weather and altitude really can affect your pastry. I'd always lived in Arizona and was in for quite a shock when I started baking in Utah. The first time I made pie up there my dough was a sticky mess and I was so frustrated until it came out of the oven flaky and perfect! Now that I'm back in the dessert, I sometimes add a little extra water to the paste mixture until I reach the right consistency. Just remember not to over work the dough so you get a nice flaky crust.

So... I made some hand pies with my left over berries from TWD this week. I whipped up the pie dough and liked those as much as the cobbler. It's simple, too- just roll out the dough, cut out about 5 inch circles, put a little filling in, and seal the pies with egg was around the edges. Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

I love pie, and it's easy! This recipe comes from an old friend of my mom's. I'd never met her until about three months ago when we ran into her at Costco and my mom said, "Anne, this is Conni" and I practically started bowing down to her and told her how much I LOVE her pie crust recipe! She laughed and said something to the effect of, "I haven't even made that in forever!" but it was fun to meet her and to hear she and my mom reminiscing about when they were newlyweds.

The recipe calls for lemon or vanilla added to the liquid, depending on the filling. I usually make a double batch and then make quiche with half and apple pie with the rest. It's a pretty fast meal and really homey and comforting- especially if you use left over Christmas Ham, the seasoning is amazing! The quiche recipe is also really flexible- go Southwestern with pepper jack and bacon, or Italian with a little Parmesan and Pancetta.

Here's one good tip- when you're measuring shortening, cut a piece of saran wrap a little bigger than your measuring cup and lay it over the top before you spoon the shortening in. Then, just pull it out and dump the shortening into your bowl. Your cup stays clean, you get a good measurement, and your hands don't get slimy. That's a good deal to me.

Double Pie Crust
by Conni Huber

With your fingers or a pastry cutter, blend into small pebbles:
2 Cups of Flour
1 teaspoon of Salt
3/4 Cup of Crisco

Then, make a paste by shaking these ingredients in a screw-top jar:
1/4 Cup of Flour
1/3 Cup of Cold Water
1 teaspoon Vanilla or Lemon juice

Pour the paste over the pebbles and stir lightly to combine. Divide the dough into two disk shaped pieces and refrigerate for a few minutes. Roll out and bake according to recipe. Yields two pie crusts.

Note: For quiche, I like to bake the crust for a few minutes before adding the filling so the crust cooks better.

Basic Quiche
by LaNell Strobot

2 Eggs
1/2 Cup of Mayonnaise (no Miracle Whip)
1/2 Cup of Milk
1 Tbsp Cornstarch

1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/2 Cup Shredded Swiss Cheese
1/3 Cup Sliced Green Onion
1 Cup Cubed Ham (I used sliced deli ham in the photo, whatever you have on hand works)

1 9 inch Pie Crust, blind baked for about 15 minutes

Blend eggs, mayo, milk, and starch with a fork in a medium bowl. Once all ingredients are smooth and combined, add the cheese, onion, and ham. Stir to combine and pour into crust.

Baked at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes until the filling starts to firm and brown a little.

June 24, 2008

TWD- Mixed Berry Cobbler

My best friend Robyn makes the BEST berry pies. So when I saw this recipe, I immediately thought of her and hoped it would be as tasty as her pie. It was! Dorie recommends mixed berries but not strawberries because they can be too watery. I used a blueberry, raspberry, blackberry mix of frozen berries from Trader Joe's. They weren't too liquidy and were really flavorful.

I wanted something very little so I made about 1/2 a recipe and rolled the dough out into little circles (about 5 inches in diameter) and pushed them into buttered muffin tins. Then, I put the berry mixture in and baked them for about 15 minutes. They were juicy, bright, and gorgeous!

So... might as well add whipped cream, right? I threw on a little lime zest, to emphasize the lime in the berry filling, and they were beautiful. Tasty, too. Seriously, Dorie is a genius. I've never had a cook book that so consistently works out.

With my extra berry filling, I made little hand pies from my favorite pie crust recipe. I used Ultra Gel to thicken them and it worked like a charm. If you haven't tried this stuff, you should- it's amazing.

This weeks recipe was chosen by Beth and it was delicious, like everything I've tried from Baking by Dorie Greenspan. You can see the recipe on Beth's site and you should really buy the book. I'll try to have my easy, no fail Pie Crust up soon along with pictures of my hand pies. Another yummy Tuesdays with Dorie- next week it's Apple Cheddar Scones!

June 23, 2008

Bakerella's Cupcake Pops

This weekend I made Bakerella's Cupcake Pops (sans pops) for my cousin's birthday. His wife helped me decorate them and it was a TON of fun. Seriously! They were so cute and festive and I can't wait to try them in every color.

I do have one word of caution, though- don't set them outside in Arizona in the summer, even if it's dark out! They started to mush from the bottom up but still tasted great. I made mine with yellow cake (that's Spencer's favorite color) but can't WAIT to try them in chocolate or even chocolate mint. So check out Bakerella's site and make some! Can I tell you how jealous I am that she was on Martha Stewart? Good for her, though, because these little pretties are ingenious!

June 17, 2008

TWD- Peppermint Cream Puff Ring

Wow, can I tell you how excited I was to make this treat? Yesterday was my cousins 30th birthday so I volunteered to make it for the party. We had to postpone the party, though I had already made this, so we ended up eating this extraordinary dessert on a normal, Monday night.

I've made cream puffs before (see post below) so I was excited to try a new shape and new technique (my other recipe doesn't use a mixer). I loved making the ring and even had extra to make some cream puffs so it was the best of both worlds.

Last week I saw Alton Brown's Good Eats episode featuring Pate a Choux and followed his advise and just used a gallon baggie to pipe out the dough. I didn't even use a tip, since I didn't have a plain one big enough. It worked out great and required zero clean up!

I thought the flavor of the mint was perfect- subtle, refreshing, and light. I decorated the top of my cream puff ring with mini York Peppermint Patties. They were a nice little addition flavor wise and super cute. One of my favorite things about this dessert was how over-the-top it looked, while still tasting kind of homey and simple.

I also made a banana whipped cream filling for the cream puffs and decided to drop them off for Spencer for a little birthday treat (he loves Banana cream pie).

I whipped 1/2 cup of cream, added a little powdered sugar, some vanilla, and one ripe, mushed banana to make the banana whipped cream. Then, I piped in the cream with a small star tip fitted to a pastry bag and dipped the cream puffs in the rest of the chocolate glaze. A little dusting of powdered sugar and they were beautiful! I hope he liked them!

Thanks to Caroline for choosing such a fun and tasty recipe. The recipe can be found on her blog or at Epicurious. Next week's recipe is Mixed Berry Cobbler- I can't wait!

June 16, 2008

Cream Puffs

Here's a post I had waiting for a photo. This weeks Dorie recipe was a great chance to compare the two recipes. This recipe has no milk in it, which is a plus if you haven't been to the store in a while! :) It also doesn't require a stand mixer, which is nice. The technique is similar to Dorie's but a little different- though it's never failed for me, which is a plus. Here goes:

My last semester in college I did something totally frivolous- I took a class out of major, something just for fun- Basic Food Preparation. My professor was amazing and so practical. At the end of lecture she would ask for questions and people could ask anything ("Why are my cookies flat?" or something equally vague) and she would have the perfect answer. Here recipes are easy to follow, economical, and delicious.

While I learned lots of really practical things, my absolute favorite is her cream puff recipe. Before this class I had only ever eaten a cream puff that came out of the Costco freezer! Needless to say, these are much better. Fill them with pudding, sweetened whipped cream, or cream cheese, and drizzle with chocolate for an unforgettable dessert. While this is a very versatile recipe, it doesn't double well, so take your time and make it in two batches if you need a lot of puffs!

Cream Puffs
Recipe by Janet Stocks

3/4 C. Water
1/2 C. Butter
1/2 t. Salt
1 C. Flour
4 large eggs (or 5 medium)

Preheat over to 375. Combine water, butter, and salt in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then add the flour all at once, stirring constantly to make a stiff dough (I like to use a big silicone spatula).

Remove from heat and stir to cool for one minute. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir until mixture is smooth and creamy (it will be thick and difficult to stir.)

Drop by spoonfuls onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Use about 1 teaspoon for appetizer sized puffs, or 1 tablespoon for individual servings.

Bake until golden brown and dry (25-30 minutes for small puff,s, 35-40 for larger. If time allows, turn oven off and leave cream puffs in over for an hour so they harden.

Use a pastry bag with a large tip to fill the puffs with desired filling by gently piercing the bottom of the puff. It should be hollow inside. Drizzle with chocolate glaze or sprinkle with powdered sugar, or do both!

Crunchy Thai Salad with Ginger Lime Dressing

I found this recipe on The Pioneer Woman Cooks (check it out, her recipes look SO tasty!) and adapted it for a pool party a few weeks back. It's crunchy, colorful, flavorful, and light- great for summer. It's also very adaptable and works great with whatever you have in the fridge. I reduced the size and this still makes a huge bowl of salad. Make sure to add the jalapeño to the dressing- they are kind of intimidating but if you remove the membrane and seeds you'll end up with a lot of flavor and not too much heat (but if you're like me, keep some in, and it's perfect!) Another thing I like about this salad is that it's so good that even men will eat it. That's right, a rare find. Add some chicken breasts and you have a meal, nice, huh?!

Crunchy Thai Salad with Ginger Lime Dressing

adapted from Jamie Oliver and Ree Drummond, photos by Anne Strawberry
1/2 package cooked & cooled linguine or fettuccine noodles
1 head thinly sliced cabbage (combine a few types or just use whichever type you have on hand)
2 big handfuls baby spinach
1 bag of bean sprouts
6 scallions, thinly sliced
1 bunch chopped cilantro (remove the stems)
1 cup chopped bell peppers- I like the mixed bag of mini peppers from Costco
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup raw cashews, toasted
1 handful of snap peas, if available

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

Ginger Lime Dressing:
Juice of 1 lime
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 jalapeño, chopped (remove the membranes and seeds for milder dressing, or add it all for some great heat!)

Put all ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake to combine.

When you're ready to serve this salad, toss it with the dressing and eat immediately. Enjoy!

June 15, 2008

My First Blog Award

Today Prudy gave me my first ever blog award. I've been blogging for about a year and a half (mostly private stuff for my family) but just recently got into food blogging. I love it! I know my little food blog isn't going to change the world but I love all the new things I've learned so far and the fun new people I've met. (Speaking of Prudy, you've got to check out her site... in a blogosphere of over budget ideas she brings you back to reality in style!) So thanks girl! I know I should put a recipe in but... I'm going to go work on my Dorie treat for the week. I'll have pics up soon! Thanks Prudy, and happy father's day everyone!

June 12, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers- Pasta, Pesto, and Peas

This week's Barefoot Blogger recipe was chosen by Elizabeth from Ugg Smell Food. I was so excited that I made it the day I saw it and it was a good as it looks! I made a half recipe and it yielded a big batch of pasta that tasted yummy warm and great cold out of the fridge. This recipe is also easy to assemble and is much more interesting than a normal pasta salad. The pesto is also easy to make and worth the extra flavor the homemade stuff adds. I omitted three quarters of the mayo and used healthy pasta so between that and all the spinach and peas I felt pretty good about this dish, not to mention the amazing taste! Don't miss the other Barefoot Bloggers' takes on this recipe- with all that pesto, it's sure to make you crave Italian!

Pasta, Pesto, and Peas
from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa
3/4 pound fusilli pasta
3/4 pound bow tie pasta
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 cups pesto, packaged or see recipe below
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry (I would not recommend fresh spinach, it significantly changes the flavor of the dish)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 cups good mayonnaise
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
1/3 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook the fusilli and bow ties separately in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes until each pasta is al dente. Drain and toss into a bowl with the olive oil. Cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice. Add the mayonnaise and puree. Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the Parmesan, peas, pignolis, salt, and pepper. Mix well, season to taste, and serve at room temperature.

1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Notes: Air is the enemy of pesto. For freezing, pack it in containers with a film of oil or plastic wrap directly on top with the air pressed out.

To clean basil, remove the leaves, swirl them in a bowl of water, and then spin them very dry in a salad spinner. Store them in a closed plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel. As long as the leaves are dry they will stay green for several days.
Yield: 4 cups

June 11, 2008

Oh Man.

Check out my new baby. Only $64.99 at Macy*s after all the smoking deals. It's a good thing I'm going camping this weekend or we might be eating pesto, pastries, and graham-cracker crust tasties all weekend long. As it is, I can hardly stand making something that doesn't require it's immediate use.

Since I'm also trying to prove it's worth to my skeptics, please leave a comment and let me know what your favorite thing is to make in your food processor. So long, 1 1/2 cup Cheftmate- Hello, Cuisinart!

June 10, 2008

TWD- La Palette’s Strawberry Tart

I'm sure no one would guess this... but I LOVE strawberries. A few weeks ago I was eating some perfect strawberries and thinking, "Wouldn't a Dorie treat with strawberries be just perfect?" So when I saw that Marie (love her) had chosen La Palette's Strawberry Tart I seriously jumped out of my chair which made my husband laugh and look at me like I was crazy. He changed his mind when he ate this, though, let me tell you.

Last time I made this crust, I tried making it by hand. It didn't work at all, even though I always make my crusts by hand. I guess it's because this is more of a cookie crust instead of a flaky pie crust (see Dorie's comment). This time, I busted out my mom's awesome 1 1/2 Cup Chefmate Mini Processor and had at it. This processor is so great, let me tell you, that I'm waking up EARLY tomorrow to haul the baby down to Macy's to buy the Cuisinart 11 Cup FP that's on sale for a special early bird event. Anyways, I made three half batches of the crust and put them all together into my big pie tart (One recipe didn't cover the whole 11 inch pan). I froze the crust over night and popped it in the oven on Sunday morning. It came out perfectly and wow it smelled SO good. Sometimes I think the dough is better than the finished product and I'm a little disappointed- this time they were both amazing!

Next, I added a thin layer of strawberry preserves. I bought some at Trader Joe's that were cheap and delicious. Love that store.

It came to me that a little rebellion would be a good idea. Instead of just sticking to the jam and berries, I made a batch of Pastry Cream and smoothed it over the jam. I love Dorie's pastry cream. Wow.

Next I poured on my strawberries that I had halved and tossed in a few tablespoons of sugar (no liqueur around here). They were so shiny and delicious that I might have snitched a few.

A quick dusting of powdered sugar and this baby was beautiful and ready to go. I took her to dinner with the fam and my cousin who lived in Paris told me that it tasted just like the pastries she ate there! I was so flattered. So there you go, I never thought it would be possible to make pastries like they do in Paris (and boy, I still miss those, and it's been five years almost to the day since I left Paris) but this was pretty dang close.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie group's interpretation of Dorie Greenspan's La Palette's Strawberry Tart. And once again, buy the book already!

June 6, 2008

Just Because Sticky Buns

Since joining Tuesdays with Dorie a few months ago, I've made lots of different things I never would have tried without this awesome group. My husband's hands down favorite recipe is the sticky buns. I made three batches (two of Brioche, my poor KitchenAid!) last weekend for a family party and had to do something with left over brioche dough... so I went ahead and made some more sticky buns just for my husband. They came together quickly and I had fun realizing how much I've learned in the past little while, thanks to Dorie, awesome friends from TWD, and lots of trial and error in the kitchen.

One of the things I've learned is that making dessert is much interesting than making dinner. Well, I knew that before, but it's really hit home as I sit at my desk and think about what to make for dinner, and all I find is more pictures of baked goods on my memory card and nothing for dinner tickling my memory. So I'm going to pretend that making dinner is more like baking and head to the kitchen, while I envy my husband and his ability to eat three sticky buns and a full dinner in his skinny jeans. So... whats for dinner at your house? Any fabulous ideas?

June 5, 2008

Ina's Perfect Pesto

One of my best friends used to work at Macaroni Grill as a summer job. She had a day job as well so she would run from one to the next and it left little time in between- so she just ate Macaroni Grill bread and pesto for dinner every night. I'm not going to link to her blog, though, because you'd be disgusted how thin she is for having eaten that for everyday for a whole summer. Anyways, I never knew they had pesto there for your bread... but since Robyn gave us her insider tip we never go without asking for some to dip our bread into. It is SO good.

I've tried the recipe from Everyday Food and a couple others but when I made Ina's Pesto for next week's Barefoot Bloggers event, I knew I'd found a winner. This is easily as good as Macaroni Grill's- easy to whip up (even in my junky, tiny Chefmate mini-food processor), garlicky, and tasty.

This pesto tastes awesome dipped in crusty bread, spread on a sandwich, or served with pasta. I cooked up some Penne (that awesome new healthy Barilla), browned some spinach chicken sausage, tossed in some sauteed onions, grape tomatoes, arugula, fontina cheese, and about 3/4 cup of the pesto.

Recipe from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves) (I only used 4 cloves)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil (I only used about 3/4 to 1 cup)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Notes: Air is the enemy of pesto. For freezing, pack it in containers with a film of oil or plastic wrap directly on top with the air pressed out.

To clean basil, remove the leaves, swirl them in a bowl of water, and then spin them very dry in a salad spinner. Store them in a closed plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel. As long as the leaves are dry they will stay green for several days.

Yield: 4 cups

June 3, 2008

TWD- French Chocolate Brownies

This weeks Tuesdays with Dorie was selected by Di and I was SO excited when I saw it. To be honest, I'd never made homemade brownies until last year so I was kind of on the fence about the kind I preferred. I don't like them TOO thick but not too thin either. I made the Quintuple Chocolate Brownies a few weeks ago and while I thought they were delicious (and they got rave reviews) they weren't my dream brownie exactly. So, I figured, another brownie recipe would be great to try and see if I liked it even more...

Wow, I did! These brownies were PERFECT. I'll admit, I omitted the raisins. My excuse to bake these early in the week was that my Mom was coming home from a long trip, so I thought I'd surprise her with a treat. She hates cooked raisins so I just added nuts since she loves those. I did keep the cinnamon in and while I could tell it was cinnamon, none of my testers could put a name to the extra depth of flavor and everyone liked it.

This recipe was fast and easy and I'll certainly make them again (instead of turning to a box). Some people had problems with the baking time or the crust on top but mine turned out great and, I decided, were just how I like a brownie. In the pictures they look pretty cracked but they came out just right and held together nicely. They didn't sink in the pan and they lifted right out on the foil- a new trick I'll be keeping!

And in case you were wondering (since this is an important consideration in a brownie)... the batter was wicked delicious. Even with some generous snitches this recipe yielded 16 perfect-portioned brownies. Thanks again Dorie, you rock!

French Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from Baking by Dorie Greenspan

1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1/8 t. salt
1/8 t. cinnamon (optional- I did just less than this and the flavor was subtle and perfect)
1/3 C. raisins, dark or golden (I omitted these and added 1/2 C. chopped walnuts)
1 1/2 T. water
1 1/2 T. dark rum (I omitted this since I skipped the raisins)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks (12 T.) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 C. sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.

Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean (this took about 63 minutes for me). Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they're even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!

Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months (but let's be honest... these aren't going to stick around long enough for that. Go bake them right now!).