Birthday Beans

Andy loves baked beans. I’m talking a level of love that most people reserve for chocolate. Or coffee on Monday mornings. In fact, he once bought a 10-pound can of baked beans for himself because “they were the best deal per ounce” and “who wouldn’t want that many beans!?”

So, when Andy saw Bridget and Julia making these beans, he was interested right away. I wasn’t opposed to the dish (I mean, there’s brats and bacon in it), but I didn’t catch all of the ingredients and steps during the TV episode. I didn’t write it down, so I moved on to other recipes.

Luckily for Andy, our PBS channel airs a lot of reruns, and we happened to catch the same episode again. This time, I took notes, and waited for the right time to make a batch of beans large enough to feed an army. Late January rolled around, and when I asked Andy what he wanted for his birthday, these beans were at the top of his list. I’m a big proponent of eating what you want for your birthday (even it’s boring vanilla ice cream), so I was all in for birthday beans.

Andy, of course, loved them. So did Arron and Karen. I enjoyed them too, and the four of us did our best to put a dent in 116 ounces of beans. In fact, we liked them so much that I made them a few weeks later to share with Janelle and Josiah (and all of the kids) too. They were a hit again, and even after feeding six adults and 12 children, we still had a decent amount left over. (To be fair, we also ate pork roast, mac and cheese, salad and bread that night, but still…) 

So, this makes a ton of beans, obviously. OK, not a literal ton, and maybe I should have realized that by the ingredient list, but still. It filled every inch of my 9″ x 13″ pan. It’s a good thing that I took Bridget’s advice and put the pan on a cookie sheet before it went in the oven, otherwise I’d been cleaning baked bean sauce off of the bottom of my oven.

It’s very obvious that this recipe comes from the Cook’s Country side of America’s Test Kitchen, instead of the Cook’s Illustrated side. First of all, it calls for canned beans. And not just cans of plain beans. You use two cans of prepared baked beans and a can of Ro-tel. Then there’s the sauce. It’s part ketchup and part prepared barbecue sauce, plus some spices and other items. Finally, it’s super easy to put together, which, as most people know, is not always the case with recipes from CI.

Easy beans with lots of brats and bacon? That’s a birthday win for sure.

BBQBeans

Backyard Barbecue Beans 

1 1/4 pounds of bratwurst, casing removed
2 onions, chopped
2 28 ounce cans of baked beans (CC used Bush’s; I’ve used both Bush’s and Aldi’s baked beans with good results.)
2 15 ounce cans of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 15 ounce cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 10 ounce can of Ro-Tel tomatoes
6 slices thick-cut bacon

For the sauce: 
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup prepared barbecue sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Brown the brats in a 12″ skillet (you guessed it; I used my Lodge again), breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon. When the meat is almost completely browned, add the onions to the pan and cook until both the onions and the brats are nice and brown.

While the brats and onion are browning, cut the bacon into 1″ pieces and set them aside. Preheat your oven to 350°.

Whisk the sauce ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add the brats and onions to the bowl, and stir to combine. Add the Ro-Tel and the beans to the bowl, and gently stir to combine all of the ingredients.

Pour the bean mixture into a straight-sided 9″ x 13″ metal baking pan. (Trust me on this one. Your glass 9″ x 13″ Pyrex dish will not have enough room for all of the beans, meat, and sauce.) Lay the bacon pieces over the top of the beans in an even, single layer. (It always looks like there won’t be enough bacon to cover the entire pan, but it’s worked out perfectly both times I’ve made this. Trust the source.) 

Place the baking pan on a rimmed baking sheet, and baked for 90 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool 15 minutes before serving.

From Cook’s Country

Click here for a printable version.

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My Kind of Cake

I know I said I’d try to keep things balanced around here, but it’s birthday month, which means that it’s all about the chocolate. Being the birthday girl AND the baker means that you get what you want for a birthday treat. 😀

For as long as I can remember, chocolate (cake or pie) has been my birthday go-to. So, when this recipe popped up in my Facebook feed, I knew that I had to try it. I’m sure glad I did!

I was surprised to discover that this recipe is very similar to my standard chocolate cake recipe. It uses buttermilk and coffee instead of regular milk and hot water. I also really liked the fact that Sally provided the weights for the ingredients, so I’m including them as well. It’s SO much easier to weigh out ingredients than it is to scoop with a measuring cup. And it’s more accurate. And there’s fewer dishes to wash. I did use the volume measurements for the liquid ingredients, since I figure there’s less room for error there. Plus, my scale only goes from ounces to grams, not milliliters. (Don’t worry, I’m including the volume measurements too, but seriously. Go buy a scale.)

The cake was fudgy and super-chocolately. It had a great texture (not too dense, but not so delicate that it would fall apart), and it stayed nice and moist from the day that I baked it (Thursday morning) until the last crumb was gone (Monday night). Hmm. Guess that means we need another cake around here. After all, there’s still a couple weeks left in birthday month!

ChocolateChocolateCake
It’s birthday season around here. Sprinkles are mandatory.

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting 

For the cake:
220 grams (1-3/4 cup) AP flour
350 grams (1-3/4 cup) sugar
65 grams (3/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
240 milliliters (1 cup) buttermilk
120 milliliters (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
240 milliliters (1 cup) hot coffee

For the frosting:
290 grams (or 1 1/4 cups or 2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
360 –  480 grams (3-4 cups) powdered sugar
65 grams (3/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
45-75 milliliters (3-5 tablespoons) heavy cream or half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Sprinkles, for decoration

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour two 9″ cake pans and then line the pans with parchment paper. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla until well-combined. Slowly add in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Mix in the coffee. The batter will be very thin.

Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake until cakes test done with a toothpick, between 25-30 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool in the pans for about 10 minutes. Flip the cakes out of the pans and let cool completely on a wire rack.

While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Turn the mixer off and add the cocoa powder and 3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar to the bowl. Turn the mixer on to low and mix until the cocoa powder and sugar are absorbed by the butter. Increase the mixer speed to medium and add the vanilla, half-and-half and salt. Increase the speed to high and beat the frosting for another 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of powdered sugar if you’d like a stiffer frosting.

To assemble the cake, place the bottom layer on a cake stand (or serving plate, or cardboard cake round). Spread a layer of frosting on top of the cake, then place the second cake layer on top of the frosting. For a smooth finish, cover the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting and then place the cake in the refrigerator. After 15 minutes, remove the cake from the refrigerator and frost with the rest of the frosting. Garnish with sprinkles as desired.

Store cake covered, at room temperature, for up to 4 days.

From Sally’s Baking Addiction, originally adapted from Ina Garten

Click here for a printable version.