Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Salted caramel walnut brownies

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I was all set to make coconut swirl brownies. The recipe was on the counter, and I'd noted the two things I needed from the grocery store. It was a done deal - and then I saw a post from Brown Eyed Baker for salted caramel brownies. Bye-bye coconut, hello salted caramel. I love the combination of salty and sweet - the way the salt makes your mouth water and gives the sweet a little something extra. A quick glance at the recipe eliminated that trip to the grocery store - I had everything I needed. In her post, Brown Eyed Baker mentions seeing a similar recipe on Pioneer Woman. I read through that one and my recipe is a combination of the two. I used the brownies from the first and the caramel from the second. I also added nuts and used 3 types of chocolate - why not?

Now, I do have to say I'm still adjusting to cooking with a newborn around. I set out all the ingredients during one moment of peace. Then during a nap, I set about making them... but she woke up. So I popped them in the oven while I fed her and then made the caramel sauce during the next feeding. It may have taken most of the day, but they were ready for us to enjoy after my little cream puff went to bed. The trick to cooking with a baby in the house, I'm learning, is to choose recipes that can be broken into different parts so that one or two steps can be completed whenever I have a few minutes... After all, we know who now makes the rules in our house! But who could resist this little sous chef!?!

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Salted Caramel Walnut Brownies

2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into quarters
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 eggs
1¼ cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)
Fine sea salt

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Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with overlapping pieces of foil and spray the foil.

In a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of almost-simmering water, melt the chocolates and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. (Or, melt in the microwave on 50% power for 30-second increments, stirring after each, until melted and smooth.) Whisk in the cocoa until smooth. Set aside to cool.

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Whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture; then stir in the flour until just combined. Pour about the brownie mixture into the prepared pan and spread into the corners.

Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs, 35 to 40 minutes.

Cool completely, then sprinkle the walnuts over the top and pour the caramel sauce over the whole thing. Sprinkle with a little extra sea salt if desired. Allow to set. (Note: I left them in the pan to keep the sauce from oozing. The gelatine helped it set, but in August, it still spread. Keeping them in the pan ensure maximum caramel on each delicious bite!)

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Salted caramel sauce

1/4 cup Heavy Cream
1 cup Sugar
1/4 cups Water
2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, Cut Into Pieces
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 package Powdered Gelatin Mixed With 2 Tbsp. Water

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm heavy cream. Do not boil.

In a separate tall saucepan, combine sugar and water. Do not stir. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture turns an amber color—not too dark, but definitely amber. Remove pan from stove.

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Add warm cream, butter, and salt. Stir gently until mixture is smooth and well combined. When it is smooth and calmed down a bit, pour in gelatin/water mixture and stir.

caramel-brownies

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Triple chocolate toffee walnut cookies

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In my kitchen, I have two cabinets dedicated to baking - one side has mixing bowls and such and the other is jam-packed with nuts, chips, sprinkles, extracts, etc. Over time, I end up with small amounts of numerous different things: a half cup or so each of a bunch of different things. Thus, these cookies! I use a basic cookie recipe and add whatever I have in the cabinet. This time it happened to be toffee bits and three kinds of chocolate chips: milk, semisweet and white. I also threw in some chopped walnuts. The result: chunky cookies packed with good stuff and a much neater cabinet!

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Try your favorite combo or let your own cabinet decide what goes into these cookies. Rather than letting nuts and chocolate get stale, this is a perfect way to make something delicious out of what you've got on hand.

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Triple chocolate toffee walnut cookies
  • ½ c. white sugar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/4 c. shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. flour
  • ½ tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. chocolate chips (use any combination of white, dark, milk, semi sweet, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup toffee bits
  • ½ c. chopped nuts
Preheat oven to 350°.

Cream together white sugar, brown sugar, butter and shortening, then beat in the egg. In another bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Combine flour mixture with butter mixture. Add vanilla and mix. Stir in chocolate chips, toffee and nuts (if using).

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Drop by rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes at 350°.

Makes about 3 dozen.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

The perfect little "e-Claire" plus Mediterranean lamb burgers

So I've been missing for almost a month now. But I've had a little something in the works that required my full attention. I was perfecting my little "e-Claire". This little cream puff was born on July 20th. I can't really call her little since she weighed a healthy 9 pounds 2 ounces - that's my kind of cream puff. But we named her Claire and she instantly earned the nickname eclair.

But now that we're getting into a routine with her, I'm getting back into the kitchen. I have a feeling it might take a while before I crack open The French Laundry, but there are plenty of great meals that can be made in less time. And more importantly, they can easily be prepped ahead of time so that we can sit down and enjoy a hot meal in between feeding, cuddling and just enjoying our little eclair.

lamb-burgers

These lamb burgers are packed with fresh mediterranean flavor - I first made them when trying to use up some ingredients I had in the fridge: kalamata olives, Greek yogurt and feta. They make a great weekend lunch or a simple supper. I like to use traditional Greek pocketless pitas, so I shape the burgers to fit in them. But your favorite rolls would work just fine too.

Keep the summer barbecues going with a change from a traditional cheeseburger. Have another favorite burger? Leave a comment and share your ideas with me and other readers!

Mediterranean Lamb Burgers

For the burgers:
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano or mint, chopped
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing:
1/2 cup greek yogurt
2-inch piece of cucumber, grated
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
kosher or sea salt, to taste

4 pocketless pita or 4 rolls
a feww lettuce leaves or some baby arugula
1 tomato, sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta

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Combine all the ingredients for the burgers and mix until combined. Don't overmix or the burgers will be tough. Form into 4 patties (round if you're using buns or ovals if you're using pita). Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Combine dressing ingredients and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat grill on high. Spray the grill with a little cooking spray then grill the burgers to medium or medium-well, about 5 minutes per side.

To serve, heat the pitas in a pan on the stove then place a urger in each. Top with feta, tomato, dressing, lettuce or arugula.

Makes 4 burgers.
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