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Chocolate Brandy-Spiked Pistachio Walnut Banana Bread

  Many a mood swing, a care-free summer, starting my senior year of high school, saying goodbye to a farm I made fudge at for three years, getting some really good friends, touring colleges, having sweet people buy me my birthday dinner, reaching the big 18, keeping up with this space, joining Sundays with Joy...

  2012, it's been crazy.

  It's only fitting that I combine all of these experiences into one crazy bread.

  This is the most tender, cake-like banana bread I've ever had.  It might just be on it's way to being my absolute favorite.  There's so many flavors going on, I can't even deal.

  There's a bit of warm zing from the brandy, the pistachios add a lovely bit of intriguing richness, walnuts give their flavorful crunch, the banana makes everything super moist, and the chocolate...is chocolate.

  I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical when I popped this into the oven.  Would the flavors really complement each other?  Was the brandy overpowering?  Were pistachios the right move?

  Seeing how beautifully it was doming in the oven helped, and the aroma was downright heavenly.  But you're just never sure until you take that first bite.

  And it was a lot more than alright.

  I think such a crazy year and the coming of an even crazier one allows for the absence of a more elaborate post.  Sometimes, the world just needs a good banana bread.  And I can think of no other way I'd rather finish off 2012 than with a slice of this lightly booze-y guy.  Hopefully I'll be sharing him with friends!

  Happy New Year, you've been swell.  May I continue to see you!  I hope this bread doesn't get in the way of your resolutions.  But really...you've still got a whole two days.  Give it a go :)

Chocolate Brandy-Spiked Pistachio Walnut Banana Bread
Yield: one 9x5 inch loaf

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 3 medium bananas)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for one minute after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the mashed banana, lemon juice, and brandy and mix until well combined.  Add the dry ingredients on low speed and mix until just combined.  Fold in the walnuts, pistachios, and chocolate chips. 

Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and spread to distribute it evenly (Be sure that your pan isn't more than 3/4 full.  I ended up not using all of my batter for some reason.  Probably because my pan is a little small.).  Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Store bread at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Sources: adapted from Joy the Baker's Cookbook and Completely Delicious


Nutella-Swirled Vanilla Cupcakes with Crushed Peppermint, and a Blogiversary

  It started with a scone, a purple scone.  After years of caramel corn, cupcakes, cookies, and the like...I decided I should probably start documenting the crazy things I was turning out.

  Somehow, that turned into becoming somewhat internet savvy, buying a new camera, then a new lens, spending $20 on fabric and little baskets, turning down offers of hanging out to write a blog post, and swatting away eager hands because nothing could be eaten until pictures had been taken.

  Somehow, a year later, Indigo Scones is still standing, and standing tall.

  Those last couple paragraphs would be really inspirational, and this entire post would be pretty darn cool if it weren't for the fact that today isn't actually my blogiversary.

  Um, what?


  This past Sunday, 12/16/12, was the official day.  You know what I did?  I forgot.  I'm doing well just to remember the days of the week, and somehow the significance of December 16th slipped past me.  I went ahead with the Sundays with Joy schedule and threw together a post about hot cocoa.

  When I finally realized this a couple days ago, I was mortified.  But then...I had to laugh.  I'd spent months dreaming up my first blogiversary post.  An improved scone recipe, maybe a giveaway, just the right words...it was gonna be rad.  And then, I just got swept up into the busy rhythm of December, and brainlessly put up a post about hot chocolate.  Really?

  I only have myself to blame.  Who decides to start up a blog 9 days before Christmas?  Did I seriously have that much free time last year?

  I guess.  Apparently, being bored has its perks.  Like starting up a blog that forever changes the way you look at food, the internet, and recipes.  Or whatever.

  I reread my first post, and rediscovered the nonchalant way I dove into this whole blogging thing.  I semi-knew what I was getting into, and I was ready to tackle it, but not without a sense of humor.  Laughing at yourself is so much healthier than self-deprecation. 

  So, let's forgive, and laugh.  And I'll write December 16 on my forehead until next year rolls around.

  Alright, I'm feeling much better after that little confession.  Now let's talk for real.

  Indigo Scones currently has 115 posts, 241 facebook fans, 45 google followers, 59 RSS subscribers, 196 pinterest followers, and 106 followers on twitter.

  I don't care how you judge those numbers, all I know is that I'm still in awe of the fact that anyone reads this thing at all.  Honestly, when I started, I wasn't expecting much.  I just needed an outlet, and blogging seemed like the perfect place to blurt out some of the ideas boiling up inside me.

  What I'm trying to say is, thank you.  Thank you for putting up with the inconsistent postings, for the sweet messages, tweets, and comments, for liking my pictures, for the encouragement when I put up the inevitable downer post, for just for plain ol' sitting here and reading the words I throw onto the screen, and for forgiving me when I forget my own stinkin' blogiversary.  Thanks for coming back.  You've made this a special place for me.

  I've grown in many ways since I started out, and numbers are one of them!  For funsies, here are the top 10 posts of Indigo Scones, made possible by your page views.  Most bloggers (who, you know, stick to the unofficial rules of blog posting) do this around New Year's anyway.

  Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies.  My number one post couldn't go to a more deserving cookie.

  Baked Nutella Doughnuts.  You people like your Nutella!  And apparently I do as well...

  Chocolate Rolo Cookies.  Duh.

  Cookies and Cream Cupcakes.  Pretty much all of my favorite things ever, in one cupcake.

  Chocolate Cupcakes with Nutella Cloud Frosting.  Not a surprise, considering the fact the words "Nutella Cloud" were used.  Frosting look familiar?  Scroll up a bit.  It's darned good with crushed candy canes.  More on that soon!

  Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake.  For the ultimate birthday.

  Cinnamon Roll Sugar Cookies.  Yes.  Just yes.

  Sweet & Salty Guinness Chocolate Marshmallow Pie.  I'm inordinately happy that you guys liked this one, it deserves a bit of spotlight!

  Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Whoopie Pies.  Beautiful, delicious, and just everything.

  Chocolate Cherry Nutella Fudge Pops.  These made hot days bearable, and delicious.

  These guys didn't make the top ten, but the top ten exists because of this blog's humble origin, Blackberry Lemon Scones.  AKA Indigo Scones.

  This post has gotten to be beastly long, so I do apologize if you're a newcomer.  Please don't run away, I'm finally going to talk about the cupcakes that made you come here in the first place.

  When I discovered that I was days late for a blogiversary post, I panicked.  I was working away prime photo-taking daylight hours, we were out of some essential baking groceries (nutella, duh), and I had no time to develop the perfect scone recipe.  Then, I remembered that since it's, you know, almost Christmas, something seasonal might be a good idea.

  I actually received a request a while back for a holiday cupcake along the lines of a nutella-swirled vanilla cake topped with nutella frosting and crushed candy canes.  I loved the idea when it was proposed, so I finally set to throwing together a recipe.

  The first cupcake recipe I tried was a total flop.  I don't even want to talk about it.  That alone set me back another day, and ate up my precious nutella supply and pretty cupcake liners.

  I ended up pulling this cake from the archives, and developing a successful way to swirl nutella into the batter.  After that, it was a total no-brainer. 

  Fluffy (and I mean reallyyy fluffy) vanilla cake swirled with nutella, topped with an equally fluffy frosting, and then all that fluffiness is complemented by the refreshing crunch of peppermint candy.  The finished product is a very humble cake, that only wants to make you happy.  In that way, I think it mirrored my blog pretty well.

  Merry Almost Christmas friends, and thanks for bearing with me throughout this novel.

  Make life indigo.

Nutella-Swirled Vanilla Cupcakes with Crushed Peppermint
Yield: 18-20 cupcakes

Ingredients for the Cupcakes:
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 large eggs, at room temperature*
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6-8 tablespoons Nutella
*To halve an egg, crack into a bowl or measuring cup, lightly beat together, then simply measure out half.

Ingredients for the frosting:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, but cool
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (about 4 oz.) bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/3 cup Nutella
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • pinch of salt
  • Crushed peppermint candy

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two cupcake pans with liners, and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk together and set aside.  Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.  Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition.  Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.

Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full.  Place your Nutella in a microwavable bowl, and microwave until it's smooth and less stiff, but not too runny (about 15 seconds).  Place a generous teaspoonful on top of the batter, and use a toothpick to swirl the mixture around the top, being careful not to over-swirl and totally combine the two.     

Bake for 16-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.  

To make the frosting, in a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the butter and powdered sugar and beat on low speed for about 1 minute.  Add vanilla, and beat on low speed until well combined. Add the melted and slightly cooled chocolate and beat on medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes).  Add the Nutella, milk, and salt, and beat on med-high speed for another minute.  If too thick, you can add small increments of additional milk and blend until smooth (Although I personally have never had to do this.).

To decorate the cupcakes as pictured in the photo, fit a large star pastry tip into a pastry bag.  Pipe a swirl onto the cupcake.  Using the back of a small spoon, put slight pressure on the top swirl then pull your hand up and away.  This creates a classic look, and a well for decorations.  Sprinkle with the crushed peppermint candy* (I also used some coarse sugar, for additional sparkle).  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

*Note that when stored in the fridge for long periods of time, the peppermint candy will began to melt down.  For best results, garnish just before serving, or don't keep in the fridge for too long.

Sources: cupcake adapted from Annie's Eats, originally from Confections of a Foodie Bride, frosting
adapted from Sweetapolita


Hot Chocolate

  Hot chocolate.

  Runny noses, Spongebob, sledding, snow angels, licking icicles, hogging marshmallows, shooting whipped cream directly into one's mouth (I'm sure there's some sort of term for this, but I'm not cool enough to know it.), and cookies.

  Maybe you've grown up with that Swiss Miss whatsit...and maybe there's a giant jar of that in my kitchen right now (Why...why are those little dry marshmallows so good?).

  But sometimes...you need to binge and heat up milk and melt chocolate and stuff.  It will take approximately 10 minutes of your life.  That's a lot longer than the 75 seconds required to heat up water and stir in powder...but for good reason.

  When you want someone to know that you give a crap, make hot chocolate from scratch.  Seriously.  It's rich, warm (no way), and with just the right amount of froth.  And top it off with every garnish ever (I live for marshmallows.).

  That's what Christmas is all about.

  To get the recipe, visit Joy the Baker's blog post, or buy her book for an even more delicious version! 


Orange Gingerbread Squares with Cream Cheese Frosting

  It's December.  And despite the fact that you can still comfortably wear a t-shirt outside (in Wisconsin...what the heck??), I'm feelin' the holidays.

  Last year I got major Christmas stress.  I was planning Christmas dinner and the gift boxes for neighbors, while trying to successfully shop for the perfect present for everyone.  I got sort of absorbed.

  The menu planning is what really got me.  I spent hours on the computer, perusing my favorite blogs for (affordable) recipe inspiration.  It was no small task.

  After much perusal, I finally got one set.  But by the time Christmas got here, I was exhausted.  I dragged myself out of bed early to make food, and just went through the motions.

  That's no way to enjoy Christmas.

  But this year, I'm on top of things!  My shopping is all done,  and I'm letting mom take over most of the Christmas gift baking.  I'll contribute a few simple recipes that were loved on last year, just enough to get me into the spirit of things.

  And thanks to Sundays with Joy, I've already got part of my menu covered.  This gingerbread is everything you need for a simply elegant, crowd and taste bud-pleasing dessert.  It tastes like Christmas should.

  I adore the garnish on this, it totally makes it.  And now I want to figure out more ways to incorporate pomegranate seeds into my life.

  Simple, pretty, happy, and with just enough baking.  That's how I want Christmas to be.  And after whipping up this beauty, I think I'm well on my way.

  The key to being content during Christmas: don't set ridiculously high goals.  And even if you don't hit the small ones you made, you know what?  It's ok.  Christmas will still happen.

  Be sure to check out the other members' gingerbread at the end of the post!
  (Please, only link up if you're a fellow Sundays with Joy member.)

Orange Gingerbread Squares with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: one 8x8 inch panful (about 9-12 squares)

Ingredients for the cake:
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • Dash of freshly-grated nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup unsulphered molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 3/4 cup warm water

Ingredients for the frosting:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Big pinch of salt
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pomegranate seeds, for garnish

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8×8-inch square (or 9-inch round) baking pan.  Line with parchment paper and grease the parchment paper.  Set pan aside.  

To make the cake, in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl whisk together vegetable oil, sugar, and eggs until thick and pale.  Stir in molasses, honey, and orange zest.  Add the dry ingredients, all at once, to the wet ingredients.  Stir together until entirely incorporated.  Add the warm water and gently stir until entirely incorporated and the mixture is silky smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  If you find that the mixture fills the pan more than three-quarters of the way full, you might consider using a larger pan (a 9 or 10-inch pan may serve your better). (I had about 1/2 cup of batter leftover after filling my pan 3/4 full, not enough to merit moving up to a bigger pan size.  I just tossed it.)

Bake cake for 35-45 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Allow cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes.  Using the edges of the parchment paper, remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting the cake.

To make the frosting, in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, blend the cream cheese on medium speed.  The cream cheese should be as soft and smooth as possible.  Stop the mixer and add the softened butter.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat the two together over medium speed until smooth and incorporated.  Add one cup of powdered sugar.  Blend on low until incorporated.  Add remaining cup of powdered sugar and the vanilla on low until incorporated.  Increase to medium high speed and beat until frosting is smooth and silky.

Frost the cooled cake and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds before serving.

This cake can be stored, in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days. 

Sources: adapted from Joy the Baker's Cookbook and blog post