Archive | June, 2012

Saltine Toffee – So Good It Should Be Illegal

24 Jun

The first time I saw this, Trisha Yearwood was making it on her Food Network cooking show Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, which I love. The minute she started making this, I could feel myself start to drool, and so obviously the next step was to find the recipe on Pinterest and make it…ASAP
I was thrilled to discover that there were only 4 ingredients involved in this treat, all of which I already had at home (honestly, those are the best kinds or recipes, because nothing is worse than having to go to the store while in a “desperately seeking sweets” state of mind, you end up coming home with half the candy aisle, or maybe that’s just me?)

Ok. So I had my ingredients assembled, now it was time to tackle this recipe. And by tackle, I mean simply do it, because it didn’t exactly look difficult or time consuming:

Saltine Toffee (Recipe courtesy of A Southern Grace)

Ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter (no margarine allowed)
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
40 saltine crackers

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350ºF
Line jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray

 

 

 

Lay a flat layer of crackers out on the foil

 

 

 

 

Melt the sugar and butter until a boil is reached. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5-6 minutes or until mixture is thickened and sugar is completely dissolved

 

 

 

 

Pour this mixture over the crackers and spread to coat evenly

 

 

 

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the toffee becomes bubbly. After removing the pan from the oven, let it sit for 3-5 minutes

 

 

 

 

Sprinkle on the chocolate chips, let them soften and melt, and then spread them into an even layer. (You can add nuts, cracker crumbs, or whatever else floats your boat at this point.)
Let cool and, if desired for expediting purposes, refrigerate until hardened. Break into pieces the size of your choice. I personally prefer a hand-sized chunk.

 

I don’t really have many notes for this, I did exactly what the recipe says and my end product was exactly what I had hoped for/expected – a salty, chewy, sweet treat that certainly won’t last long in my house. In fact, I think it’s time I go get some right now, all this writing about it has made me want some.


Make this, share it (or hog it all to yourself, no judging here) – you will love it.

Battle Of The Banana Breads – Does BEER Really Make It Better?

16 Jun

For a lot of men, adding beer/bacon/cheese/meat to something can instantly make it more appealing to them. I’ve made beer cake, Guinness cupcakes, bacon cookies, and bacon cupcakes – all of which were enthusiastically received by my husband. So when I recently found myself with some extra bananas on hand, I thought “why not add beer to banana bread?” I had already has one delicious success with adding chocolate chips to banana bread, so beer seemed like the next logical step.

Then I decided, why not make two batches of banana bread, since I had enough bananas and well, I really DO like banana bread, so that’s when I settled on the two recipes below, the first one being the beer version, with which we used Saranac Vanilla Stout, and the second version being a more “classic” banana bread

Classic on the Left vs. Beer on the right

 

My husband even helped mush the bananas (even though it grossed him out….and he complained about it)

 

Getting ready to bake off our breads!

Banana Beer Bread
(Recipe courtesy of CD Kitchen)
INGREDIENTS:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 medium bananas, mashed
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine
1/4 cup beer

DIRECTIONS:
Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 9 1/4-by-5 1/4-by 2 3/4-inch pan.

In a large bowl blend together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, walnuts, and salt. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs until foamy before beating in the bananas, butter and beer. Combine the two mixtures, blending until the two ingredients are moistened.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean and the top is golden. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes before removing the loaf from the pan.

 

Dole Classic Banana Bread
(Recipe courtesy of Dole Bananas)
Ingredients
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
• 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
• 2 eggs
• 2 medium, ripe DOLE® Bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
• 1/4 cup sour cream
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 cup chopped almonds

Directions
1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in medium bowl; set aside.
2. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Blend in eggs. Blend in bananas, sour cream and vanilla until blended. Add in flour mixture; beat until just blended. Stir in nuts.
3. Pour into 9 x 5-inch baking pan sprayed with vegetable cooking spray.
4. Bake at 350°F, 55 to 65 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes.

 

Ready to bake! Classic on the left, beer on the right

 

NOTES: the only change I made was to substitute the chopped almonds in the Dole recipe for chopped walnuts (why? Because almonds in banana bread sounded weird, honestly, and I think of walnuts as the ‘classic’ banana bread nut). If you don’t like almonds, walnuts, or any kind of nuts at all, feel free to leave them out of either recipe. I personally like to add them because I feel like it gives the bread more moistness and depth
As for baking times, it took a bit longer than state in the above recipes, I would say it took about 70 minutes in the oven for each loaf

 

The finished products

 

So how did they compare?

Well, both were delicious, but I have to say I prefer the classic banana bread to the beer bread. The beer bread had a slightly saltier, more crumbly texture which was interesting, but the dense/moister feel of the classic bread made it stand out in my book
My husband preferred the beer bread, of course, which I don’t blame him for – if I had only made the beer version I would have gobbled it up, but since I made two I would have to say my preference is for the classic version.

 

Cross section of the classic recipe

 

The Inside of the beer bread

 

But apparently you really CAN add beer to banana bread – with delicious results!

 

Banana Bread as French Toast

We even made it into super yummy French toast – which I highly recommend!

Putting These “Best Brownies” To The Test

9 Jun

I was going through my recipes the other day and I realized…wow, I have a LOT of brownie recipes, and then I realized why – I am a sucker for a brownie. Not just any kind of brownie though, I like the thick, dense, gooey, fudgey kind, which is why I have so many recipes, I am always trying to find the perfect brownie

So when I stumbled across this recipe titled ”Best Brownies”, I thought I better try them and see if they really are “the best”

My friend Kristen was over and she happens to love baking and chocolate as much as I do, so she agreed to help me conduct (and eat!) this experiment

Kristen helping me mix up the brownie batter

This is the point at which we have to refrain ourselves from sticking our tongues under the stream of delicious chocolatey goodness

Best Brownies

(Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.
  4. To Make Frosting: Combine 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons cocoa, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 cup confectioners’ sugar. Frost brownies while they are still warm.

A few notes:

-Melt the butter on the stove? Sillyness! I used the microwave, turned out fine

-The frosting needed a little thinning out, I ended up adding about 2 tablespoons of milk to get a more workable consistency

Me as I slather the brownies with frosting

The Finished Product

We ate these while they were warm, and they were AWESOME – everything I could possibly want in a brownie – gooey, dense, fudgey, plus they had frosting too, wow. I topped these with some brownie swirl ice cream and I was in heaven!

The Inside – Fudge To The Max

So are these really the “Best Brownies”? Well, they are pretty amazing, and I will definitely be making them again, and I would have to say they are definitely on par with the Brownie Rubble and the infamous Slutty Brownie.

*sigh* so many brownies, so little time

My “Go To” Chocolate Cake Recipe

5 Jun

Baking Confession: I used to make everything from a mix. Brownies, cakes, cookies – they all came from a box/roll/tub, and it wasn’t until I made cookies from scratch a few years ago that I realized “hey, this is way better, and not that much harder!”. Since then, I have been experimenting with making various baked goods from scratch, like cookies and brownies, and I have even attempted to make a cake (minus the boxed mix!)


I stumbled across this chocolate cake recipe and have made it several times – the cake itself stays moist (thanks in part to the sour cream!) and has the perfect chocolate flavor, and the frosting is the real star here – creamy, chocolatey, and irresistable – so much so that I find myself inhaling all the extra frosting every time!
Sour Cream Chocolate Cake (Recipe courtesy of Daisy Sour Cream)
Ingredients
• 3/4 cup vegetable oil
• 1 large egg
• 3 teaspoons vanilla extract , divided usage
• 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 2 1-ounce squares semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
• 2 cups all purpose flour
• 1 1/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder , divided usage
• 1 tablespoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup warm water
• 1 1/4 cup Daisy Brand Sour Cream , divided usage
• 1/2 cup softened butter
• 3 cups powdered sugar
• 1/4 cup 2% milk
Directions
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour two 8-inch baking pans; set aside.

In a large mixer bowl add vegetable oil, egg, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Beat at medium speed until well mixed (1 minute). Add brown sugar and granulated sugar; continue beating, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (1 minute). Add the melted chocolate. Continue beating, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (1 minute).

In small bowl stir together flour, 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add the flour mixture to chocolate mixture alternately with water, beating well after each addition. Add 1 cup sour cream; mix well.

Pour into prepared pans and bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean (about 30 to 35 minutes).

Remove cakes from the oven; cool 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans; cool completely.

Meanwhile, in medium bowl add ½ cup softened butter; beat at high speed until creamy (1 to 2 minutes). Add 2/3 cup cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon vanilla; continue beating, scraping bowl often, until mixture is creamy (1 to 2 minutes). Add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the milk and ¼ cup sour cream; continue beating, scraping bowl often, until creamy (1 to 2 minutes).

Place one cake, flat side up, on the bottom of a serving plate. Place about 1 cup frosting in the center of the cake. Spread to about ½-inch from the edge of the cake. Place the second cake, flat side up, on top of the frosted first layer. Frost the sides and top of cake with remaining frosting.

Here is the cake – complete with Birthday candle holes!

This cake really is easy, and turns out perfect every time, it has definitely become my “go to” chocolate cake recipe.

I have yet to find a yellow/white from scratch cake recipe that I like, I have tried a few, and until I find “the one”, I will keep using boxed mixes for now. I especially enjoy the funfetti variety of boxed white cake mix (did you know you can make cookies out of funfetti cake mix? I make these all the time, they are so good, and they stay fresh for longer than a cake and can even be frozen!)

Why I Bake

4 Jun

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Baking is one of my favorite things to do, I love the ingredients and how they come together to form something delicious!

I love the way the smells fill my kitchen, and I love searching for new and interesting recipes to try. And I love eating my creations and critiquing and tweaking them to make them even better

But the number one reason I bake? I would have to say its to be able to share what I make with others, to be able to make things that make people smile and that they can enjoy and savor.

So “keep calm and bake” sums it up pretty well for me!

The Peppermint Patty Transforms From Candy To Amazing Cookie

2 Jun

I have never been that big of a fan of peppermint, but as I am growing older, and more mature and refined in my tastes (mature and refined being relative terms, of course), I am liking it more and more, especially when it’s paired with CHOCOLATE!

 

I stumbled across these cookies in the book Big Fat Cookies, and while the directions are lengthy and they aren’t a fast cookie to make, they are pretty easy, none of the steps are difficult and the ingredients aren’t weird or expensive (big pluses in my book!)

 

Peppermint Patty Sandwich Cookies Recipe

Ingredients:
for the cookies:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the filling:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

for the glaze:
1 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325ºF and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

In your mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract, mixing until smooth and blended. Slowly mix in the flour mixture until the dough is just mixed and smooth. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge to chill for about 20 minutes.

Scoop out equal scoops of dough onto your prepared cookie sheets, pressing them down with your palm to about 1/4 inch thick.

Bake for 15-17 minutes, until the cookies are firm and no longer shiny. Let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

When the cookies are cool, make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and peppermint until smooth and thick. Turn half of the cookies bottom side up and scoop a full teaspoon of filling into the center of each. Carefully place another cookie, bottom side down, on top of the filling and press down gently to spread the filling into an even layer.

Place the filled cookies back onto a baking sheet and place in the fridge while you prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, stir together the chocolate chips and oil and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir well to melt the chocolate chips, and – if you need to – microwave again for another 15 seconds, stirring until smooth.

Take the cookies out of the fridge and spoon a dollop of chocolate on top of each sandwich, smoothing out with the back of the spoon. Return the tray to the fridge to chill for about 2 hours.
Store the cookies in the fridge in a tupperware container, separated by wax paper, for several days, or freeze for later! Or you can wrap them individually with wax paper (this is my favorite way to store/present these!)

 

The yummy finished product

These are cookies that are worth the work! They are delicious, and the flavor of the filling pairs perfectly with the chocolate cookie and rich chocolate topping.
They would be really great for almost any holiday, as you could tint the white filling with food coloring (green/red for Christmas, pink for valentine’s day, orange for Halloween, etc), and you could even use sprinkles on the chocolate topping! I think I may even use these for a Christmas cookie exchange this holiday season!

….I think even the real Peppermint Patty would love these cookies, don’t you?