A mom's journal of the sweet things in her life...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Caramel Filled Brownies

Yeah, sorry about these. As if any of us needed another vice. Especially in the brownie department. The thing is, I've been having a bit of a love affair with caramels lately. And I don't mean those lovely homemade Fleur de Sel ones that are elegant and perfect and all the rage. I love those too but they're just too much damn work. No. I'm talking about those Kraft caramels that we used to get for Halloween when we were kids. 
I loved them as a kid but then I forgot about them for the past 20 something years. Needless to say, we've become reacquainted. The "Brown Butter Salted Caramel Rice Krispie Treats" were a product of this aforementioned love affair. They're a sort of 'love child', if you will. And the Homemade Twix Bars. Those were super yummy too.
Now there's these. I saw them on Fake Ginger, intrigued I mosied on over to get the recipe from Powdered Plum. I made a number of changes to the original recipe and I've posted the recipe as I made it.
These brownies are killer. Dense, moist and extra chewy (because of the layer of caramel baked inside). What more can you ask for from a brownie? 

Caramel-Filled Brownies

(Adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
12 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
19 oz. caramel candies, unwrapped
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Line a 9" x 13" baking pan with foil, leaving several inches hanging over the short ends of the pan. Spray the foil with cooking spray generously.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a large measuring cup at 50% power in the microwave for 2 minutes. Stir, then continue in 30 second intervals, stirring after each time until melted and smooth. Transfer the chocolate mixture to the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla mixing on medium speed with paddle attachment for 1 minute until thick and glossy. Stop the mixer, add the flour and salt, mix on lowest speed just until combined. 
Pour half the batter (about 2 1/2 cups) to the baking pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20 minutes. Let the brownies cool about 20 minutes.

The edges of my brownies rose quite a bit, making it slightly uneven:
I trimmed the higher edges off to level it, otherwise the caramel would pool in the centre and the edges would dry out or burn.
Melt the caramels and cream in a large measuring cup or a small glass bowl. (Start in 1 minute intervals, checking each minute and stirring. Once caramels start to melt, check after 30 second intervals, making sure not to overcook.) Pour hot caramel mixture over the brownies.
Spread the remaining brownie batter evenly over the caramel mixture
and spread gently, swirling the chocolate with the caramel. (But don't over mix or the caramel will become too incorporated with the brownie mix, and you won't have a thick caramel layer in the centre.)
Bake for additional 20 minutes. Cool the brownies completely in the pan, chill in fridge to speed up process if desired. Lift the brownies out of the pan by pulling out the foil. Cut into squares. (I found them easier to cut once chilled in the fridge.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chocolate Chip Muffins

These muffins are really easy to throw together and the best part is that you probably have the ingredients in your house already. No trip to the grocery store necessary. The original recipe called for regular white sugar - but I decided to go rogue and use brown sugar instead. Brown sugar adds moisture and also transforms them from plain white to a light brownish, butter-scotchy muffin. I also love the addition of the brown sugar topping -it adds a nice crunch to the top. They're delicious, moist, tender and a favorite with my kiddos. Just be careful you don't over-bake them. There's no rescuing over-baked dry muffins. Unless you mashed them up, added frosting and then made muffin pops (in lieu of cake pops). That could happen. But it ain't happening here, not today anyway, so you're on your own with that one. 

Recipe for Chocolate Chip Muffins
(adapted from Taste of Home)
Yield: 12 standard size muffins or 36 mini muffins
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup brown sugar (approximately)
1/3 cup chocolate chips
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in separate bowl; add to creamed mixture until just moistened. Fold in chocolate chips. If making standard sized muffins, fill paper lined muffin cups two-thirds full. If making mini muffins, fill mini muffin tins till slightly mounding.
Sprinkle unbaked muffins with brown sugar. Place a few chocolate chips on top of each muffin and press in slightly.
Bake at 350 degrees F. until toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean (approximately 25-30 minutes for regular muffins; or 10-16 minutes for mini muffins).  I made the minis and baked for 15 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Brown Butter - Salted Caramel - Rice Krispie Treats

Recently I've been seeing a lot of pimped-up recipes for Rice Krispie Treats. Hmmm... I thought. It's about time somebody shook things up in the Rice Krispie Treats department. I mean they're good, but let's face it, they can definitely be improved upon. Brown Butter Rice Krispie Squares is definitely a step in the right direction. I even saw vanilla beans in place of extract in these treats. Sure, why not. Count me in. But still...

What if I browned the butter and then added caramel? I could throw in some good salt too - just a little bit - that might be fun!
These Rice Krispie Squares are amazing. I would even go so far as to say that I like them better than the ordinary run of the mill treats we grew up eating. They have more flavor, and they're not as sweet. They're still sweet, of course, but that hint of salt seems to tone it down a bit. The texture is slightly chewier than the original, they seem a bit more sturdy without being too hard. Next time you're looking for a crowd pleaser but want something a little more original - try these. They're like the Rice Krispie Square's sexier, more sophisticated cousin.

Recipe for Brown Butter - Salted Caramel - Rice Krispie Treats
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
5 ounces (approximately 3 cups or 1/2 bag) marshmallows 
6 cups Rice Krispies
1 340 gram bag of Kraft caramels, unwrapped
1 Tbsp. milk
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Unwrap all the caramels and put in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 Tbsp. of milk.
Microwave the caramels and milk for 1 minute on full power. Stir. Cook for 30 second intervals stirring in between each, until the caramels are melted and smooth. Do no over-cook or they will make the squares hard.
Meanwhile, place your butter in a large pot and melt over medium heat, allowing it to cook until it reaches a medium brown color. (I didn't go as dark as I could have - because I didn't want the butter to overcook after I added the marshmallows and caramel.)  
Pull the butter off the heat, add the marshmallows. 
Stir quickly until most of the marshmallows have melted, then add your warm caramel sauce. Stir vigorously. If it appears as though the mixture isn't completely melting, put back on the heat for a couple of seconds, stirring constantly. Add salt.
 Once smooth, add rice krispies and mix until evenly coated. 
 Press into a greased 9 inch square pan and allow to cool. Cut and serve.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bourbon Glazed Baby Back Ribs

This one gets filed under my new "Weeknight Dinners" category, my long-overdue and very neglected project for the New Year. 

Bear with me. 

So, these ribs are fantastic. IF you like bourbon. Now, you don't have to like bourbon enough to drink it in order to appreciate these ribs. I would never be able to drink a glass of it.  But flavor my dessert with it? Use it in a marinade for chicken or a glaze for ribs? Sign me up - I'm totally in. I don't know what it is about bourbon when it's used with meat, but I'm a fan. Having said that, you could always cut the bourbon in half if you want it to be a little more subtle. Nothing wrong with that - subtle is good too.

Recipe for Bourbon-Glaze
(adapted from Bon Appetit)
-makes enough for 2 to 4 racks of ribs - depending on saucy you like your ribs-
1/2 cup, plus 2 Tbsp. honey
1/4 cup bourbon 
3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. plum sauce
1 Tbsp. molasses
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp. sambal oelek (hot chili paste found in Asian isle)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper to taste

2 to 4 racks of ribs
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of unsweetened pineapple juice

For the glaze: Whisk the first 13 ingredients together and set aside. Can be made 1 day ahead, cover and refrigerate.

For the ribs: Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Remove the silver skin from the back of the ribs. Season generously with Hy's seasoning salt and pepper. (Regular kosher salt is fine too.) Place ribs in a shallow roasting. Pour 1 cup of pineapple juice over the ribs. Cover with foil. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the meat is tender.

Remove from oven. Generously slather the ribs with the glaze. Finish on the barbeque on medium heat, basting the ribs with the glaze, and allowing the glaze to bake into the ribs, creating a crust (10 to 15 minutes). Serve.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chocolate Cookies with Caramel & Fleur de Sel - and - Chocolate Cookies with Cadbury's Easter Eggs

By now we're all over those annoying resolutions to eat better, right? It's almost Easter, after all. We should put all those crazy diet books back on the shelf, until next year. It's time to move on. Please and thank you.

This was one of those recipes I bookmarked because it looked so good and then I forgot about it for 6 months. It's originally from Obsessed with Baking. The kids and I were assembling the batter for the cookies, working harmoniously as a team (heavy sarcasm and exaggerated eye-roll), when it occurred to me that I had spotted a bag of Cadbury's Easter Eggs in my cupboard, hidden in the back with the Kraft caramels I was using for these cookies. And then I had a flash of the post I saw on With Sprinkles on Top, a chocolate based cookie with crushed Cadbury's eggs. Why not do both cookies? That's normal, right?

So I divided the dough in half, (I decided to forgo the chocolate chips for both types of cookies, it just seemed a bit redundant). In the first half I added the crushed Cadbury's Easter Eggs. *Make sure you reserve a few eggs that you hand chop so that you can put those nicer looking pieces on top of your cookies before baking. (I kinda forgot that part but salvaged a few large crumbs.)
The second half got the chopped Kraft caramels, and on a whim, I decided to add a few flakes of Fleur de Sel. By now I'm sure we can all agree that caramel and salt belong together so this didn't feel like much of a leap. (I cut the caramels into quarters with kitchen shears.)
The end results for both were amazing. This is a great chocolate cookie recipe to use as a base for whatever you want. White chocolate chips, milk chocolate chunks, nuts, whatever you want. Isn't Ina the best? 

Chocolate Cookies with Caramel & Fleur de Sel and/or 
Chocolate Cookies with Cadbury Easter Eggs
(adapted from Obsessed with Baking, original cookie base recipe from Ina Garten)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs at room temperature (I used large eggs)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa, sifted
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chocolate chips (I omitted)
Chopped caramels and/or large bag of Cadbury Easter Eggs 
*Note I used a 140 gram bag of Easter Eggs for half the batter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add vanilla then the eggs,one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the cocoa and mix again. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt and add to the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips, if using.
For Caramel Cookies: 
Drop the dough by a rounded teaspoon on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put chopped caramel pieces on top. Sprinkle with a few flakes of Fleur de Sel. Use sparingly! Press cookie gently to flatten slightly. 

For Cadbury Easter Egg Cookies
After adding the chocolate chips (if using), place the easter eggs in a ziploc. Pound them with a rolling pin until broken to a coarse consistency (reserve a few larger crumbs) before folding into batter. Drop the dough by a rounded teaspoon on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place a few of the larger easter egg crumbs on the cookies. Press cookie gently to flatten slightly. 

Bake for 12 -15 minutes (I baked for 12). The cookies will seem underdone. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Parker House Rolls & Cinnamon Twists from scrap dough

I've been on a bit of a kick lately, baking fresh buns on Sunday afternoons for my kids to eat with their lunches the following week. I don't know how this happened, since both my husband and I are trying to stay away from eating white bread (or any bread), but here I am making one of the things I crave most...for my kids. It's torture. But they keep asking for 'my bun's...and so I look at it as an opportunity to try something new. 
Since Sunday has kind of become our "free pass day" for eating, it does allow me to at least taste the results of my hard work. These buns were really, really good. Their texture was soft and fluffy and though they might not look ideal for sandwiches, I sure wouldn't complain if someone threw in a slice of ham, some cheese and a tomato and called it lunch. 
I honestly didn't know what Parker House Rolls were until recently, and by 'recently', I mean earlier this afternoon. I had to do a little research to figure out what they were supposed to look like, and how they were made before I chose my recipe. Now that I know, these will definitely be a repeat.

Parker House Rolls
(adapted from Food Network via Omni Parker House Hotel)
6 cups all purpose flour (approximate)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 packages (1/2 ounce) of active dry yeast 
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 large egg
2 cups warm water (120 degrees F. to 130 degrees F.)

In large bowl, combine 2 1/4 cups flour, sugar, salt and yeast; add 1/2 cup softened butter (1 stick). With mixer at low speed, gradually pour in 2 cups of warm water into dry ingredients. Add egg. Increase speed to medium; beat 2 minutes. Beat in additional 3/4 cup flour, or enough to make a thick batter; continue beating 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl. With a large wooden spoon, stir in enough additional flour (about 2 1/2 cups) to make a soft dough.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and need until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, working in more flour (about 1/2 cup) while kneading. Shape dough into ball and place in greased large bowl, turning over so top of dough is greased. Cover with towel; let rise in warm place until doubled about 1 1/2 hours. 

Punch down dough and turn onto lightly floured surface; knead to make a smooth ball, cover with bowl for 15 minutes to let the dough rest. 

Melt remaining 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter in a small bowl. Spray a large roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray. On lightly floured surface, roll the dough to 1/2 inch thick. Cut dough into 2 3/4 inch circles with biscuit or cookie cutter. Dip circle of dough into the melted butter, fold the dough in half, press lightly to seal, and then place in your greased roasting pan. Continue until all the dough has been cut. The buns can be snugly placed into the roasting pan, just touching one another, but not overlapping. 
Cover with towel, allow to rise in warm place until doubled (about 40 minutes). Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake rolls about 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Okay, so now you have your buns all cut and you have this pile of leftover dough. What should you do with it? The recipe does not say to re-roll leftover dough - and I'm pretty sure that would result in a tough bun. So here's what I did:
Knead dough back into ball. Re-roll to 1/4 inch thickness. Spread with a generous layer of butter; sprinkle with cinnamon. Sprinkle 1/2 cup white sugar. 
Use a pizza roller and cut the dough into approximately 1 inch strips. Twist the strips and place on parchment lined baking sheets. 
Bake at 350 degrees F. for 18 to 20 minutes, or until light golden brown.
It's always the things you least expect that turn out great. These were delicious! Crispy and tender and perfectly sweet. A perfect Sunday afternoon snack, the kids loved them. (Inspired, I also whipped up a fast dip made with 4 ounces of cream cheese, 3 Tbsp. of icing sugar and 1Tbsp. of milk to replicate the frosting you'd get on a Cinnabon.)

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