This Sunday ends a long week of birthday celebrations for my beautiful daughter Eva. She turned 13 on March 19th; I now have two teenagers in the house. We'll see how it goes. My daughter's birthday celebrations do tend to go on for at least a few days. But she's pretty and sweet, so who cares!
Our celebration started last Monday. I always ask my children to pick a dinner they would like prepared for their special day. This year Eva chose a crab and shrimp boil. This hearty menagerie included shrimp, Alaskan King crab legs, corn on the cob and baby red new potatoes, all cooked up in an Old Bay seasoning based broth. We were in crab cracking heaven.
On Tuesday (her actual birthday) I baked up some Smitten Kitchen brownies. You really can't go wrong with Deb's recipes - they are all so good! This recipe was super easy to make and I adorned it with some powdered sugar art. These sugar designs are so easy to create and people are really impressed. For the larger cut (16 2-inch squares) brownies we had at home, I stenciled on an E for my special girl. I also cut up smaller squares (32 2×1-inch bites) and decorated them with polka dots and flowers to take to her softball practice that evening. The girls were impressed - Yay! (see recipe and directions below).
The big party was Saturday evening. Have you all seen the movie Pitch Perfect? We had a Pitch Perfect birthday party! I'm telling you, this is one of the funniest movies ever. It's a bit juvenile, but that's what I love about it! It's fun to be silly every once in awhile. The movie is about a capella singing groups in college and the relationships that evolve from them. There's lots of singing and jokes and predictable Hollywood moments and all of the girls had already seen it at least four times. We had a trivia quiz, a cups contest (Becca's Cup Song) and Chinese food.
Once again I was compelled to bake, so my daughter picked out a cake from Sweetapolita. If you have never stopped by this glorious dessert blog, I suggest you have a look. It is beautiful and leads to dreams of confectionary genius. Eva picked a dark chocolate raspberry layer cake that was breathtakingly gorgeous. I'd like to say that my version stood up to the original - but it didn't. It was delicious and pretty but not as pretty. I expected this since I am not an accomplished baker. If you do prepare one of her desserts, be sure to set aside a few hours. Perfection doesn't come quickly or easily.
OK, my final task was assembling the perfect little Easter baskets for party favors. I filled cute pastel baskets from the dollar store with fun and colorful candy, as well as hand sanitizers from Bath and Body that included luscious scents such as Fresh Picked Blackberries and Pink Lemonade.
It was girlie, fun, a lot of work and worth every minute!
The beauty of these brownies lies in the flaky sea salt which appear throughout the brownie as pockets salty yumminess. To create good powdered sugar designs you will need a small or medium colander and some purchased or handmade stencils. Place about two tablespoons of powdered sugar in the colander and gently shake and knock it against your other hand. This will create a nice thin layer of sugar. You can also view this link http://www.ehow.com/how_7392285_decorate-powdered-sugar.html
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 1/3 cups (265 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt (about 2 grams)
2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Heat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment, extending it up two sides, or foil. Butter the parchment or foil or spray it with a nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain. Off the heat, stir until smooth and fully melted. You can also do this in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible spatula and scrape batter into prepared pan, spread until even. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out batter-free.
Once brownies are completely cooled, remove from pan, cut in desired size and decorate with sugar.