Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Very Vanilla Chippers

It's funny how I struggle to break out the good stuff.  I had one last vanilla bean from my precious supply and I wanted to make the "right" decision on how to use it.  Vanilla beans are definitely not something I have in my pantry all the time.  They are expensive and a little luxurious to me, so I often wind up just keeping them on the shelf for way too long and dreaming about how to use them instead of actually using them.

A couple of days ago, I had a "vision" for a cookie recipe and I threw caution to the wind and used my last vanilla bean, but kind of hesitantly, because in the back of my mind, a vanilla bean should be used for a show stopping dessert like a cheesecake or a soufflĂ© or something.  But I'm pretty sure I made the right decision because these cookies were a HUGE hit.

My girl came by last night and ate one or six and then took some home to her family.  Then she texted me, "YOU NEED TO MAKE THESE COOKIES AGAIN, MOM, THEY ARE AWESOME!"  That made me feel good.

So if you are like me, just go ahead and get over it and break out the good stuff you were saving for a special occasion.   The good china.  Grandma's old lace tablecloth.  The vanilla beans.  Use them and enjoy them with your loved ones this Christmas.  Use them and enjoy them even when it's NOT Christmas.  Like on a regular Tuesday.  Or a Thursday.  Or whenever.  We can't take this stuff with us when we go, so let's make the most of our material things and enjoy them now with the ones we love.

Here are my notes:

--These cookies, like the name, are very vanilla-y, which is exactly what I wanted.  If you don't want to go out and buy a vanilla bean, then don't.  I think the 2 tablespoons of pure vanilla extract will give you a nice vanilla flavor.   But the vanilla bean does take them over the top.

--To scrape a vanilla bean, just slice lengthwise and then use your knife to scrape out the very tiny seeds.  Save that shell for vanilla sugar!

--To make homemade vanilla sugar, place a vanilla bean (the "used" vanilla bean after you have scraped out the seeds for another use) in some sugar.  I usually use a five pound bag to one vanilla bean.  Let it sit in your cabinet for days or weeks and the sugar will be infused with the vanilla.  Use it for all kinds of baking.  It's totally yummy.

--I rolled these cookies in a bourbon vanilla sugar I had from Rodelle (which I loved!).  But you could roll them in regular sugar, or homemade vanilla sugar.  Or not even roll them at all.  By the way, I didn't "roll" them into neat little balls with my hand, I just plopped them in the sugar with a cookie scoop and very quickly rolled them around.  They were still rough and irregular shaped.

Very Vanilla Chippers

1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar or vanilla sugar (made from putting a vanilla bean in granulated sugar and letting it set for a few days)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons vanilla
The seeds from one vanilla bean
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 (12-ounce) bag vanilla chips
Vanilla sugar or bourbon vanilla sugar for coating the outside of cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until mixed.  Beat in vinegar, vanilla and vanilla bean.  Mix together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cornstarch in a large bowl. Slowly add to batter and mix just until blended. Stir in the vanilla chips by hand until mixed. 

Place some vanilla sugar or bourbon vanilla sugar in a small bowl.  Using a small cookie scoop, drop the dough into the sugar, rolling it to coat all sides. Place on baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cookies are set and light golden brown around.  Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  
Disclaimer:  Rodelle sent me a gift pack of vanilla products, but I was not asked to review or write anything about it.  All opinions are my own.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Butterscotch Poke Brownies with Toasted Almonds and Toffee Bits

Let me just go ahead and get all the goodies out of the way since it's Christmas and everything.  I'll return to real food after the holidays.

These brownies are simply decadent.  It took me several tries to get them the way that I imagined they should be in my head, but I think I finally succeeded.  They have a strongish coffee flavor in the base that works really well with the salted butterscotch sauce.  I poked holes in the brownies too, to let the sauce sink in.  Toasted almonds and milk chocolate bits give a crunchy texture to the top.

Here are my notes:

--You could totally leave out or adjust the espresso granules.  I think 2 teaspoons give them a good coffee flavor.  Or you could use regular instant coffee granules.

--Chill these well before cutting.

--Cut them small.  They are SUPER rich and sweet.  I would cut them even smaller than what is shown here.  Probably the size of a piece of fudge.

--I like dark cocoa powder, but you could use regular.

--You can use regular salt in the the butterscotch sauce, but be careful because it is more potent than sea salt.

Butterscotch Poke Brownies with Toasted Almonds and Toffee Bits

Butterscotch Sauce:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar 
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel or other sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup dark baking cocoa
2 teaspoons instant espresso granules
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup toasted almond slices
1 cup milk chocolate covered toffee bits

Melt 1/2 cup butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 cup dark brown sugar, the heavy cream and 1 teaspoon fleur de sel.  Whisk until well blended. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for five minutes, whisking often.  Remove from heat and stir in two teaspoons vanilla.  Let cool completely to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt 3/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the cocoa and espresso granules until combined.  Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup sugar and 2/3 cup light brown sugar.  Whisk in the eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Stir in the baking powder, salt, and flour, just until combined.  Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Spread brownie batter evenly in pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached.  Do not over bake.  Let cool completely.

Using the end of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the brownie about 3/4 to 1 inch apart, all over the surface.  Measure out 3/4 cup butterscotch sauce and spread over the top of the brownies, pushing into each hole.  Heat the remaining butterscotch sauce over low heat.  Whisk in 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar until smooth, then quickly spread over the brownies.  Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and toffee bits.  Chill in fridge for at least 2 hours before cutting.  

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rosemary-Olive Oil Dutch Oven Bread

This bread.  

This bread is beyond amazing.  And I can hardly believe that I made it myself because bread making intimidates me, but if I can turn out a crusty, chewy, gorgeous loaf like this, then anyone can.

I kept seeing this bread recipe floating around Facebook and it caught my eye.  Not that that recipe is not *completely* amazing in itself, but I had some really great olive oil and fresh rosemary that I wanted to incorporate into it, and when I did it worked really, really well.  My carb loving family devoured it.

Slather it with butter fresh out of the oven and you will hear angels singing.  I kid not.  This is a crusty bread with a chewy interior.  Rustic.  Not fancy.  Completely doable for non-bread makers like me.

Read my notes and tips below before you make it.

--One of the things I love about this bread is that it uses regular all-purpose flour.  I never have bread flour, so it just makes it more simple.

--The fresh rosemary makes this bread.  I didn't really measure how much, but it was two large sprigs.  But you can use however much you think it needs.  Or, you could leave it out completely for a plainer bread.

--There is no need to knead.  Did you hear that?  I did not knead it at all.  How easy is that?  I didn't even use my Kitchen Aid, I just mixed it in a big mixing bowl by hand.

--Yes, I punch it down and yes, the dough is sticky.  Just scrape it off your hands a bit.  No biggie.  Make sure your board is well floured and don't mess with the dough too much.  I'm not even sure you would need to punch it down, but I just feel bread dough needs to be punched.

--Yes, you could add other herbs, cheeses, nuts, seeds, garlic…the possibilities are endless.

--I leave mine out on the counter overnight to rise.  I have left it for as few as 4 hours though and still had good results.  Overnight is better.  If leaving it for just a few hours, I would pick a warmer place, so it can rise faster.

--Dipping this in olive oil sprinkled with herbs would be fantastic.

--Let it cool for about ten minutes before you cut into it or it is not easy to cut.

Need a Christmas gift?  The Olive Oil Source will personalize the labels on their olive oils and vinegars for the foodie in your life.  How cute is that?

And since I am talking about bread today, for your listening pleasure, here is a Christmas song that I am currently obsessed with.

And now for the recipe:

Rosemary-Olive Oil Dutch Oven Bread

Adapted from Simply So Good

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon Instant or Rapid-rise yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil , plus more for drizzling
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, yeast and sugar.  Add the water, olive oil, and rosemary and mix by hand until a shaggy dough forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 4 to 18 hours. (I left mine on the counter all night.) 

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place a cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, punch down dough once, and pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and let set while the pot is heating. Remove hot pot from the oven and drizzle and brush the inside with extra virgin olive oil, then drop in the dough.  Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the lid and drizzle the top with extra virgin olive oil, then bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove bread from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Disclosure:  The Olive Oil Source sent me a gift pack of olive oils, but I was not asked to write a review.  All opinions are my own.

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Peanut Butter Ball Stuffed Oreos

I couldn't stop at Martha Washington Candy Stuffed Oreos.  I had to keep stuffing, so I stuffed my all-time favorite Christmas candy into some Double Stuf ones.  Yes, they received all kinds of praise and are perfect for gift giving.  Read my notes below.

My notes:

--I had to use my fingers to pack the filling into the cookie around the edges and make it smooth.

--I used a level-packed small cookie/candy scoop to put the filling in the cookie.

--I used 2 packs of Double Stuf Oreos.  (They were actually a generic brand of the cookies.  So I guess I sit on a throne of lies according to the title, but you know you still call an off brand of coke, "Coke."  Therefore, I am justified.)

--I went through 2 packs of chocolate bark.  The first batch was really thick and really stuck to the cookies without dripping off a lot.  On the second batch, I added about a tablespoon of vegetable shortening while I was melting it and it was much smoother and thinner, which I liked.  There's a tip for you the next time you dip something.

--I would definitely leave these in an air tight container at room temperature.

--This is the peanut butter ball filling I have been using for like 25 years or something.  (Lord have mercy, I NEVER thought I would be old enough to say that I have been using a recipe for 25 YEARS!) Yes, I always use pecans, which doesn't really make sense with the peanut butter, but you could use peanuts if it bothers you.  I chop them VERY fine in a mini food processor.  What I love about this recipe is the texture that the nuts and graham crackers give it.

Peanut Butter Ball Stuffed Oreos

1 cup butter, melted
2 cups smooth peanut butter
1 cup very finely chopped pecans or peanuts (I use pecans)
1 1/2 cups very finely crushed graham cracker crumbs
4 cups powdered sugar
2 (16-ounce) packages Double Stuf Oreos
2 packages chocolate bark or chocolate melting disks

Mix first five ingredients well.  Separate each cookie into two halves.  Using a small cookie scoop, scoop a level mound of candy mixture onto one of the halves and top with the other half, slightly pressing down and use fingers to smooth the edges and pack in the filling.  Repeat with remaining cookies.  Chill in fridge for about an hour.  Melt chocolate according to package directions.  Dip cookies in chocolate, letting excess drip off, and place on wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Place in fridge until chocolate  hardens.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Martha Washington Candy Stuffed Oreos

Christmas is rapidly approaching and I know this because we have actually already had a Christmas miracle at our house.

One night last week, my husband and I sat down and came to an agreement on how to remodel our house.


And I feel like God is so in this because of that very fact.  Never mind the financing, finding a contractor, choosing materials….THE HARD PART IS DONE.

Glory Hallelujah.

So to celebrate, I stuffed my husband's favorite Christmas candy into some Oreos and dipped them in chocolate.  Except that I really didn't.  I actually did this last year and I am just now posting it.  But I do plan to make these again soon.  Because as much as I love eating ball-type candy, I hate the rolling them into balls part that much more.  Stuffing Oreos is SO much easier and interesting.  With added crunch.

Yes, I know what your thinking right now.  Your mind is rolling and I agree.  This would be awesome with peanut butter ball filling too.  Maybe even awesome-er.


Martha Washington Candy Stuffed Oreos

1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 (32-ounce) bag powdered sugar
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (14-ounce) bag sweetened, flaked coconut 
2 cups chopped pecans
1 (16-ounce) package Oreo or chocolate sandwich cookies
Chocolate bark or chocolate disks for dipping (melted according to package directions)
Coconut for decoration

Mix the butter, powdered sugar, sweetened condensed milk and the vanilla together well.  Stir in the coconut and pecans.  

Separate each cookie into two halves.  Using a small cookie scoop, scoop a level mound of candy mixture onto one of the halves and top with the other half, slightly pressing down.  Repeat with remaining cookies.  Chill in fridge for about an hour.  Dip in chocolate, letting excess drip off, and place on wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with coconut and place in fridge until chocolate hardens.

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Three Easy Compound Butters for Thanksgiving

I am going to make this quick because it's Thanksgiving week and things are crazy busy.  An easy way to dress up your Thanksgiving table and let people know they are special and stuff, is to make compound butters.  And I've got three options for you today.

One of these butters, the cranberry-orange butter, has been a tradition in my family a long time.  It's tangy and sweet and yummy. (And yes, it was already on my blog before, right here.)  The other two are my own creation.  I am absolutely in love with all of them because they play such different rolls in my life.

The caramelized onion and gruyere is TO. DIE. FOR. on warm, crusty bread because the cheese melts slightly.  DO YOU HEAR WHAT I AM SAYING?!  THERE IS CHEESE *IN* THE BUTTER!

The honey butter gets a subtle spicy kick from coarse black pepper.  It is fantastic with buttermilk biscuits as well as traditional rolls.  Plus it's pretty.  Like a little speckled log.

The really great thing is that you can make these well ahead of time and stick them in the fridge. (Like maybe a week!)  Pull them out and let them come to room temperature before you serve them.  Shape them into logs or put them in a bowl.  Whatever stuffs your turkey.  But just make them.


Black Pepper and Honey Butter

4 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Whip butter on high speed until smooth and fluffy.  Beat the honey and black pepper.  Shape into 2 logs of equal size using parchment paper.  Refrigerate until needed.  Let come to room temperature before serving.

Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Butter 

4 sticks butter, softened to room temperature, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup finely shredded Gruyere cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place 2 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet over medium heat until melted.  Add onions and cook until caramelized, about 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in Worcestershire sauce.  Remove from skillet and cool completely.  

Whip remaining butter on high speed until smooth and fluffy.  Beat in the onions, gruyere cheese, thyme, and black pepper.  Shape into 2 logs of equal size using parchment paper.  Refrigerate until needed.  Let come to room temperature before serving.

Cranberry-Orange Butter

4 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup whole cranberry sauce
1/4 cup orange marmalade

Whip butter until fluffy with electric mixer or hand mixer.  Beat in cranberry sauce and orange marmalade. Shape into 2 logs of equal size using parchment paper.  Refrigerate until needed.  Let come to room temperature before serving.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Roasted Apple Salted Caramelitas

I think we all know that I am long overdue for a fattening fall treat on this blog.  The last three posts have been about vegetables and that's probably some kind of record for me.

I think these bars will satisfy your autumn sweet tooth.  I know they did mine.  I'm ashamed of how many of these I put away.  I will NEVER tell anyone how many I ate.

Never.  Ever.

Alright, I ate six.

In my defense, this recipe only makes a small 8 x 8 pan.  That is so not big.

Plus, there are apples in them.  An apple a day keeps the doctor away, I've heard.

Then there are the oats.  Oats are good for you.  [Feeling better all the time.]

I would take these over a brownie any day.  These were crazy good.  But I won't make them again for a long time because I simply cannot be trusted.

I am weak when it comes to caramelitas.  Weak and pitiful.  And selfish.

Read my notes if you decide to make them, because, you see, I have gone before you.  I have some things to say.

PS.  I did not eat six at one time.  I only ate four at one time, then I devoured the other two the next day.  I just didn't want you to think I was a pig.

PPS.  There are some {{{ADORABLE}}}} fall pictures of my grandson at the bottom of this post.  Because I can, you know. ;)

My notes:

--I used honeycrisp apples which is my new favorite variety.  Now, I know there are going to be some apple baking experts that are going to say that honeycrisps are not good for baking, but you know what?  I ate six.  Enough said.

--Let them cool.  Don't be like me and cut into them while they're warm.  Oh sure, they will melt in your mouth and make you think you have died and gone to heaven, but they will fall apart.

--These probably need to be stored in the fridge because of the apples, but let them come to room temperature before you eat them.  Or zap them in the microwave.

--I love roasting fruit when I add it to desserts instead of baking the fruit into them.  The fruit gets caramelized and that deepens the flavor.

--I added 1 teaspoon of fleur de del, but I really feel like I could have upped it.  Also, I think maybe sprinkling some salt on top would not be a bad idea.  And bacon crumbles.  I think bacon crumbles on this would be quite awesome.

Roasted Apple Salted Caramelitas

3 medium baking apples, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

3/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts, divided

1 (11-ounce) bag caramel melting bits
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the apples, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar together.  Spread on a baking sheet and roast in oven for 30-40 minutes or until tender and golden brown, stirring several times.  Set aside.

Combine 3/4 cup melted butter, 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, the flour, oats, and baking soda. Stir in 1/2 cup walnuts.  Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 8 x 8 inch baking pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, combine caramels, cream, 2 tablespoons butter, and the fleur de sel in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until completely smooth.  When base comes out of oven, spread the apples over it, then the remaining 1/2 cup walnuts.  Drizzle evenly with the caramel.  Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture evenly over the caramel. Return to oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Do not over bake.  Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.

*Store in fridge but they should be brought to room temperature before eating.



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