Monday, August 23, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

A simple iced cinnamon roll
Okay, so, for the past four years I have been entering the Tone's Cinnamon Roll Competition at the Iowa State Fair.  I haven't done it out of a passion for cinnamon rolls.  Actually, any taste I ever had for cinnamon rolls has all but died since I've made dozens upon dozens of these things for the past four years.  I do it for the money.  I want to win the $3000 prize for the best overall cinnamon roll.  I haven't won it yet, but I have won first place in the non-traditional class (see my Savory Cinnamon Pulled Pork Cinnamon Roll recipe).  I have finally decided that entering the traditional cinnamon roll and the sticky bun competitions is sort of like buying a raffle ticket--if all the stars align, and my rolls turn out perfectly, and I get the right judge who likes what I've done, then perhaps I will win that $3000 someday.  For now, I put most of my energy into my non-traditional entries.
From what I understand, this cinnamon roll is delicious.  I wouldn't know, because I don't eat them anymore.
The recipe says to make 8 cinnamon rolls in two 8" square pans, but the dough could be cut into 12 rolls and put into a 9 x 13 pan as well.

Cinnamon Rolls
Ingredients
DOUGH
  • ½ cup milk (2%)
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 envelope dry yeast
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4-4 ½ cups King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour, plus more for dusting work surface
FILLING
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground Saigon/Vietnamese cinnamon (or just use 1 tablespoon of one kind)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
ICING
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 6-7 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon Tone’s Pure Vanilla Extract
Instructions
1. Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave until butter melts. Remove pan from heat and set aside until the mixture is lukewarm (about 100 degrees).

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together the warm water, yeast, sugar, egg, and yolks at low speed until well mixed. Add the salt, warm milk mixture, & 2 cups of the flour,  and mix at medium speed until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute. Switch to the dough hook, add another 2 cups of the flour, and knead at medium speed (adding ¼ cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary) until the dough is smooth, about 10 minutes. Scrape the dough into a large lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover bowl with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk (1 ½ to 2 hours), or leave in the refrigerator over night.

3. After the dough has doubled, press it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, shape the dough into a 16 by 12 inch rectangle, with a long side facing you. Mix together the brown sugar, the cinnamons and the salt, in a small bowl. Evenly spread the softened butter over the surface of the dough. Pour brown sugar mixture over the dough and spread with a fork or your fingers evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving a ½-inch border at the far edge. Begin rolling with the long edge closest to you, pinching the dough with your fingertips as you roll, to make the roll tight. Moisten the top border with water and seal the roll. Press and gently squeeze the roll to make a uniform 16-inch cylinder.

4. Butter or spray with non-stick cooking spray, two disposable 8 x 8 inch square foil cake pans. Measure and mark the dough cylinder every two inches to make eight cinnamon rolls. Take a 2-3 foot piece of dental floss, slide it under the cylinder to the first 2-inch mark, then cross the ends and pull to slice through the dough. Repeat until you’ve cut 8 rolls. Slightly smush each roll before placing four rolls, evenly spaced, into each pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled (1 ½ to 2 hours). Preheat your oven to 350°.

5. When the rolls have fully risen, put in the preheated oven and bake until rolls are deep golden brown and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of a roll reads 185-190 degrees, about 25-30 minutes. Invert the rolls onto a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. While rolls cool, whisk icing ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Turn rolls upright onto a serving plate and drizzle with icing. Serve immediately.
Makes 8 rolls


Friday, August 20, 2010

Nanaimo Bars




Nanaimo Bars.  Mmmmmm..
(Disclaimer: If you are a true blue Canadian, before you read this post and get offended, please know that I realize that "real" or "traditional" Nanaimo bars do not use Jell-O pudding powder. For a more traditional Nanaimo bar that uses Bird's powdered custard, click here.)
   
Chocolatey, creamy, chewy, with just a hint of salt, the Nanaimo Bar endeared itself to me from the get-go. If a pastry could be a friend, the Nanaimo Bar would be my BFF and a half. I first experienced this amazing confection at an event at Portland State University.  The servings they offered were at least twice the size of what I make them now, and I ate THREE of them over the course of an hour.  I didn't know its name, but I knew I was in love.  I eventually called the PSU food service to find out what those amazing bars were called and whether I could get the recipe. Imagine my horror and disgust at finding out they had ordered the bars from a bakery, and the person I was speaking with had no idea which bakery. 

Months passed, and I ended up getting a name AND a recipe for these wonderful bars from my friend Kathi, who lived near the Canadian border.  They are a Canadian dessert (the best cuisine Canada has to offer, I might add) and they are called "Nanaimo Bars."  Once I had a recipe and a name, I could tweak it and make it mine.  As I introduced the little bar to friends and family, they all fell in love with it too.

Fast forward a few years to my first food competition at the Iowa State Fair.  Actually, the Nanaimo Bar is the only reason I really entered in the first place.  The first time I saw the winners' displays at the ISF,  and looked at the blue ribbon cookies, I thought, "My Nanaimo Bar would kick all these cookies' butts."  And kick some cookie butt it did.  Not only did it take first place in its class in 2006, but it went on to win best cookie overall: the "Cookie of the Fair."  Top dog over 54 other classes of cookies.  Once you eat these, you will know why, and you too, will feel the love.

      For a blonde Nanaimo bar, click here.

Nanaimo Bars

Ingredients:

Bottom Layer
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1/2 cup Ghirardelli Ground Chocolate (or ¼ cup cocoa powder and ¼ cup white sugar)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 ½  cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup pecans, finely chopped
Middle Layer
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons half & half
  • 2 tablespoons powdered vanilla pudding mix(of the instant variety)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
Top Layer
  • 1 cup semi-sweet-chocolate chips (or, even better, about 22 Dove Dark Chocolate Promises)
  • 1 tablespoon Crisco or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped white or milk chocolate, melted
Instructions:

Line the bottom of a 9 X 9-inch pan (glass or metal) with parchment paper or non-stick foil.

Bottom Layer:  In a 300° oven, toast coconut and chopped pecans until golden brown and fragrant, stirring occasionally.   Remove from oven and set aside.  In the top of a double boiler, melt ½ cup butter and Ghirardelli Ground Chocolate (or cocoa and sugar). Whisk to combine.  Whisk in the beaten egg.  Whisk until thickened, and then remove at once from heat.  Fold in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and pecans.  Press into prepared pan.  Put in refrigerator while you prepare the next layer.

Middle Layer:  In a large mixing bowl, cream together ½ cup softened butter, half & half, and pudding mix.  Fold in the powdered sugar.  Beat until very light.  Spread evenly on top of the first layer.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Put in refrigerator again for an hour or so, until middle layer is firm.

Top Layer:  In a double boiler melt the chocolate chips and Crisco or vegetable oil. The chocolate may melt the middle layer if it’s too hot, so you might want to let it cool for a little bit.  Pour onto second layer and spread evenly.  Drizzle white or milk chocolate over the top for decoration.*  Let set in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes and then cut.  (This keeps the chocolate from cracking when you cut it.)  Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. 

Note: Be sure to remove any foil or parchment paper that may have stuck to the bottom of individual bars.
*I've created a post that gives explicit instructions and photos on how to make the "feathery" lines you see on these bars: How to Make Those Feathery Lines on Nanaimo Bars.
Nanaimo Bars with pretty designs
Makes 16-25 servings, depending on how you cut them.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chile Colorado Burritos

Chile Colorado Burrito.  My Mexican comfort food.


Great Mexican food is hard to come by so far here in Des Moines, Iowa. This recipe takes care of my craving for some good Californian Mexican chile colorado. Tender chunks of beef in a yummy sauce, wrapped in a soft flour tortilla, smothered in more sauce and cheddar cheese, and then broiled to bubbly perfection. Mmmmmm.
I don't even think I'd had chile colorado until I met my husband and he took me to Casa Gamino in Paramount, California.  Now, Casa Gamino is MY idea of great Mexican food.  Their salsa is fresh, peppery, and perfect.  Their chips are made in the restaurant.  And everything I've ever tried there has made me happy. 
This recipe isn't exactly Casa Gamino, but it's pretty darned close, and I like to exclaim every time I make it, "This is the BEST Mexican food in Iowa!"  Sadly, I mean it.  
The times below are approximate.  Mexican cooking is not an exact science in my house the way baking is.  The meat can rest for a little while if it's done cooking early, but if you try to eat it before it's reached tender perfection, you might be disappointed in the results.  Try this out and let me know what you think.  I'm willing to bet you'll think it is is de-li-ci-oso.


Chile Colorado Burritos


Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds stew meat or other beef cubed (top sirloin is great)
  • 1 large can mild (red) enchilada sauce* (at least 19 oz.)
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes (or just one--or none--if you want it less salty AND you do NOT add water, just the bouillon)
  • 1/2 can refried beans (optional)
  • 5-7 burrito size flour tortillas
  • 1 cup or so of shredded cheddar cheese
Instructions:
Put beef, whole bouillon cubes (do NOT add water), and enchilada sauce*** into a crock pot and cook on low for 7-8 hours**, or until meat is very tender. (Can also cook on high for maybe 3-4 hours.)  I've also cooked it in a dutch oven for about 4 hours at 325 degrees.  More meat, more time.  A third option is to cook it in a large heavy saucepan--bring it to a boil on high heat, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the meat is tender.  If you go with a method other than the crock pot, make sure the pot is covered and pretty well sealed to minimize evaporation of the liquid.

When beef is done (very tender and flakes off when stirred), taste and add more salt, if desired. Heat up refried beans in the microwave (covered and in a microwave-proof dish, of course)and put your oven on broil. On an oven-proof plate, or cookie sheet even, lay out a tortilla.  Place on tortilla about 1/2 cup of the meat, drained by using a slotted spoon, and a spoonful or two of beans. Roll into a burrito (hopefully you know how to roll these). Pour some of the remaining enchilada sauce from the crock pot over the burrito to cover it. Sprinkle with some cheddar cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly, about 2-4 minutes.


Serve.
Makes 5-7 burritos, depending on how full you make them.




*Lots of people ask about what brand of canned enchilada sauce I use. There's even some controversy there. Lots of people seem put off that I use a canned sauce and make their own. I originally used Las Palmas mild because that's what was mostly available in California. When I moved to Iowa, I had to switch to Old El Paso mild, and now my family is used to the super mildness of that and comment how spicy it is when I use Las Palmas. Both are great, as far as I'm concerned, but the Old El Paso mild is definitely the way to go if you want a mild experience. Enchilada sauce update: I finally tried making my own, and what do you know--it IS easy and more delicious. Check out the easy peasy recipe here.



**Note: You may have to adjust the cooking time depending on this size of your chunks of meat.  Larger chunks (like 1 1/2 to 2 inch chunks) may need a little longer.  Scrappy sort of chunks that are less than an inch may need a shorter cooking time.

***Another note: A commenter said she was disappointed when she made these because she couldn't really taste the enchilada sauce. That's happened to me too, and really, I prefer making these on the stove top. But sometimes when making them in the crock pot, I will either reserve 1/3 or so of the enchilada sauce or have a small can on the side that I add right before assembling the burritos.




Chips on the side are great for scooping up that extra cheese.


Chile Colorado leftovers in the form of
a Chile Colorado Quesadilla

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mini Rainbow Cheesecakes

Mini Rainbow Cheesecake
My fascination with making things with rainbow colors started with quilts.  I made a scrap quilt in a rainbow pattern, and to date, it's my very favorite quilt. Then my husband Stumbled Upon a rainbow cake recipe.  Ahhhh--now I could incorporate rainbows into my baking too!  I started with rainbow cupcakes, and I soon realized that cheesecake was the perfect vehicle to push my rainbow passion forward.  I started with a whole cheesecake. Beautiful.  

Then I tried mini cheesecakes in a muffin pan, but I used the paper liners, and they didn't look very elegant.  

When I saw this mini cheesecake pan online, I told my husband that's what I wanted for Mothers' Day.  Three months later, I'm finally getting around to trying it.  I'm entering the little cheesecakes in a Des Moines Art Center sponsored competition at the Iowa State Fair today.  It was the perfect excuse to try my new pan out.  I think they turned out pretty well.  
If you don't want to bother getting the cute pan, these can easily be made in muffin pans.  I would recommend using white cupcake liners so you can see the rainbow.
P.S. The mini cheesecakes you see above took second place in the "Lunch at the Art Center" competition.




Mini Rainbow Cheesecakes


Prepare one day in advance and refrigerate overnight for best results.
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Crust:

  •  2 T sugar
  •  2 T melted butter
  • ½ cup graham cracker crumbs
Mix together and put in bottom of 12 mini cheesecake pans.

Filling: 
  •   2 8oz. cream cheeses @ room temperature
  •   2 eggs @ room temperature
  •   1 tsp. vanilla
  •  ½ cup sugar
  •  ¼ cup cream
  •  ¼ cup sour cream
  •  blue, yellow, red, and purple food coloring
Topping:
  • 4 oz. sour cream
  • 1 T sugar
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla            
Mix together while cheesecake bakes.

Garnish:
  • 1 cup fresh berries
Cream cream cheese until smooth.  Add sugar and beat until smooth.  Beat in eggs, sour cream, and vanilla.  Stir in cream until incorporated.

Set six unzipped sandwich sized zip top baggies in six small cups.  Place ¼ cup of batter in each baggie.  Pour the remaining batter into another zip top baggie—this will remain white.

Mix batter with food coloring to produce one baggie each for the following colors: blue, green, yellow, orange, red, and purple.  Start with one or two drops of color and gently squish around with your hand.  Add more food coloring if necessary.  Zip tops when done mixing colors in.

Start with the baggie of plain white batter.  Cut about 1/8 inch off one of the corners of the baggie and “pipe” in enough to just cover the crust of each individual cup in the pan.  Next, cut 1/8 inch off the green, and pipe a swirl of green in each cup.  Use up all of the color, but know that the layering will show patches of white.  Pipe with white.  Then pipe with blue, and so on until you’ve used all the colors.  Hopefully you’ll have enough white left for a final layer of white for each cup.

Place mini cheesecake pan in plastic roasting bag, leaving the top wide open.  Place in a large roasting pan and pour in very hot water to reach half way up the pan sides, being careful not to splash water onto cheesecakes.

Bake at 350° for about 35 minutes or until center is set.  Remove from oven and pour sour cream topping mixture on top and smooth out.  Return cheesecake to oven for another 5-10 minutes.

As soon as you take pan out of the oven, run a knife around the edge of each mini cheesecake to release the cheesecake from the sides.
Let cool.  Refrigerate overnight.
Remove from pan and garnish with fresh berries.
AmeriColor makes GREAT gel food color.
My first rainbow cheesecake attempt. I like it.
My favorite quilt

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dulce De Leche Cheesecake

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

If you've never made a cheesecake, or never boiled sugar to make candy before, this recipe might be overwhelming...but if you're up to the challenge, it makes a fantastic cheesecake.  It's got a sweet, rich caramel flavor, but it's not too sweet.   If you want to go the extra mile, I really recommend making the caramel sauce with a vanilla bean. It gives you the lovely little specks that make the cheesecake look so fancy.
The whipped cream and toffee bits are optional, but they make it look pretty and add another couple of dimensions to the texture and flavor of this cheesecake.


Dulce De Leche Cheesecake

Prepare one day in advance and refrigerate overnight for best results.


Ingredients:

Crust
  • 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
Mix together and put in bottom of spring form pan.  Wrap bottom and up sides of the spring form pan with heavy duty aluminum foil. (This helps keep water out from the water bath--just in case the oven bag fails.)

Filling 

  • 4 8oz. cream cheeses @ room temperature
  • 4 eggs @ room temperature
  • 1 cup caramel sauce (recipe below)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
Topping
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350°.
Cream cream cheese until smooth. Add caramel & mix until smooth. Add eggs & mix until smooth. Add cream and mix until smooth. Pour over crust. 



Place pan in an open-topped oven bag (the ones you use to roast a turkey) and place that into a water bath that comes halfway up the sides of the pan. (This water bath isn’t absolutely necessary, but it does make for a creamier and therefore more delicious cheesecake.) Bake at 350° for 60-70 minutes or until center is set. 

As soon as you take it out of the oven, run a knife around the side of the pan to release the cheesecake from the sides. This helps prevent cracking and caving.  If you've used the water bath, though, these after effects will be minimal.
Let cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Before serving, pour remaining caramel sauce over the top of the cheesecake and garnish with whipped cream and toffee bits.

Caramel Sauce


Ingredients:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 T unsalted butter 
  • pinch salt
  • 2 T Karo Light Corn Syrup
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract (or 1 whole vanilla bean, split and scraped)
Instructions:
Combine the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan, pouring the sugar into the center of the pan to prevent the sugar crystals from sticking to the sides of the pan. Cover and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, uncover and continue to boil until the syrup is thick and straw-colored, about 7 minutes (it will register 300° on a candy thermometer). Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook until the sugar syrup is golden and just begins to smoke, 1 to 2 minutes (it will be 350°).
Meanwhile, bring the cream, butter, vanilla, salt, and corn syrup to a simmer over medium high heat in a small saucepan. If you’re using a vanilla bean, now is the time to put the scraped “seeds” into the cream. (If the cream mixture reaches a simmer before the syrup reaches the proper stage, remove from the heat and set aside.)
As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 350°, remove it from the heat, pour about half of the cream mixture into it, and let the bubbling subside. Add the remaining cream mixture and whisk until the sauce is smooth.



Chicken Egg Rolls

Chicken Egg Rolls
Here's the recipe for those famous egg rolls. I'd like to say the recipe is an ancient Chinese secret passed through the generations of the Wong family, but I actually got the recipe from Debbie Fredericks-Gillentine, who got it from her mom who got it from a Chinese woman they knew when they lived in Germany. The recipe isn't rocket science, it just takes some time and practice with the rolling. The main tip I have to offer is to make sure the filling is sealed in well, because when the oil gets inside, or the filling escapes into the hot oil, bad things ensue.
These are well worth the work, though. : )


Chicken Egg Rolls

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 chicken breasts, cooked & shredded or finely diced
  • 1/2-3/4 head green cabbage, finely shredded (can purchase pre-shredded cabbage)
  • 2-3 cups broccoli, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cups cauliflower, finely chopped
  • 2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 cups carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup potato, peeled & shredded
  • soy sauce, about 2 tablespoons, or to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 packages egg roll wrappers
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 egg, beaten & mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Instructions:
Mix cut veggies in a large bowl. Heat a large skillet & spray with Pam. Stir fry the veggies in two batches, adding the soy sauce and pepper just as the cabbage starts to wilt. Cook veggies until just underdone to your taste, as they will cook more when you fry the egg rolls. Place cooked veggies in large bowl and mix in chicken. Let mixture cool slightly before rolling. Heat oil, about 1-1 1/2 inches deep, in a frying pan. Lay out a wrapper, brush egg mixture on two adjacent edges, spoon as much as you can fit (3-4 tablespoons) into a wrapper, and roll according to package instructions. Fry egg rolls 4-5 at a time, turning as they get to a golden brown color. Remove to paper towels, or a wire rack to drain & cool. Enjoy.

All lined up to cool down

Swedish Cream Cookies



Swedish Cream Cookies All Colorful and Happy
A few red and green sprinkles make these ones Christmasy.

Simple and delicious. Mmmmmmmm. Swedish cream cookies are basically smooth, creamy frosting sandwiched between two tender pie crust circles.  They're not really much to look at, but the flavors and textures are just one of those combinations that make your mouth happy. 
I originally got the recipe for these from my good friend Karla.  Her recipe had no salt, but I definitely tasted salt in this cookie.  She insisted she added no salt, which we finally discovered was true, but she had used self-rising flour.  Since I liked Karla's version better than the no salt & no leavening original recipe, I've added a little bit of salt and baking powder to this recipe.  I think it makes for a more tender melt-in-your-mouth kind of experience, and who doesn't want THAT?
Believe it or not, these cookies are a favorite for several of my friends, but beware: you can't stop eating them once you've started.  You've been warned.

Note: You can  just use one or the other of the extracts. If you do, use 1 tsp vanilla OR 1 tsp almond. You can also make the frosting vanilla bean flavor by following the instructions at the end of this post.*

SWEDISH CREAM COOKIES

INGREDIENTS
Cookie:

Frosting:

  • ½ cup salted butter
  • 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoon cream
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • food coloring, if desired
INSTRUCTIONS
1. Mix flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl.  Cut 1 cup of the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the cream and form the dough into a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Note: I do all of the mixing in my Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment, and they turn out fine.  The original recipe calls for the cutting in of the butter.)

2. Preheat oven to 375°F.
3. Dust a cutting board with the sugar/flour mixture.  Roll dough out a third of the dough at a time to 1/8-inch thick and cut with a 1 1/2” circle cutter.  Place circles on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick cookies three times with a fork, or gently just stamp (don't cut) with a shaped cookie cutter.
4. Bake at 375°F for 8-11 minutes until lightly browned on the edges. Let cookies cool before frosting.
5. Beat ½ cup butter until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and beat until creamy. Beat in the vanilla and the 1 ½ T cream. Adjust cream and powdered sugar until frosting gets to a nice spreading consistency. Add food coloring, if desired. Scoop frosting into a sandwich or quart size zip top bag, and cut about a ¼ inch tip off.
6. Squeeze some frosting onto the bottoms of half of the cookies and place the remaining cookies on top to make sandwich cookies.
Makes about 30 cookies.


Vanilla Bean Swedish Cream Cookies*
*For the vanilla bean frosting, warm two tablespoons cream with the vanilla bean seeds scraped from a two-inch segment of a whole vanilla bean.  Whisk to disperse vanilla bean seeds.  Pour into a small bowl/cup, cover, and refrigerate.  Use this vanilla bean cream in place of the heavy cream, almond extract, and vanilla extract.  I pour off about a half a tablespoon into another container and use the remaining vanilla bean cream in the frosting, making sure to scrape all of the vanilla bean goodness into the butter/powdered sugar mixture.  If I need more liquid in the frosting, I add what I poured off into another container.





These cookies won a blue ribbon at the 2008 Iowa 
State Fair Midwest Living Cookie Competition in the Frosted Cookie-Other Than Named class.



I think part of the fun is all the different color combinations.


English Toffee

Buttery, crunchy English Toffee

I really should try to locate some business sense and sell this English toffee.  It is everything I want English toffee to be: buttery, nutty, chocolatey, with an amazing crunch to the toffee... Excuse me while I get some tissue to wipe the drool from the corner of my mouth.
My brother requests this every year, and I think I send him progressively more each year as he lets his amigos try it, and they know the time of year to start trolling his house to pick up a little nugget of deliciousness.
I specify the brand of sugar because in candy, I think, it really makes a difference.  I actually purchased the C & H Brown Sugar at Sam's Club one time, and I noticed the toffee tasted off.  When I looked at the ingredients, they listed, "sugar, molasses."  Apparently, the processing of sugar takes all of the molasses out to make it white.  The cheaper kinds of brown sugar are the ones they add molasses back into.  This means your brown sugar is doubly processed.  C & H Brown sugar in the box or 2 pound bag only has "brown sugar" listed as an ingredient because only some of the molasses has been extracted, but it's never been white.  All that to say, the sugar makes a difference in the taste. 
This English toffee has not won any awards, but I've chalked that up to the disgusting Iowa humidity in August (Iowa State Fair time). The toffee is both delicious and unhealthy. As always, feel free to message me if you have any questions.


English Toffee


Ingredients

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped almonds or macadamia nuts (roasted unsalted)
  • 1 cup finely chopped almonds or macadamia nuts (roasted unsalted)
  • 3/4 cup packed C & H Light Brown Sugar 
  • 3/4 cups  C & H white sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 9 ounces chocolate, melted and tempered (I like to use Dove Milk Chocolate)
Instructions
1. Line a rectangular Pyrex pan (9x13) with parchment paper (I suppose the non-stick foil might work as well...). Spread coarse nuts in bottom of pan. Set aside.
2. In a heavy saucepan heat butter and sugar to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil over medium heat until it reaches 300° on a candy thermometer. At that point immediately pour and spread over the nuts. Allow to cool 5-6 minutes.
3. With a bench scraper, cut toffee while it is still soft into 36 pieces. Allow to cool to the touch, and break apart. Set on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

4. Over a double boiler, melt chocolate until it is 2/3 melted. Remove from heat and stir until completely melted. Place finely chopped nuts in a shallow pan.
5. Using two forks, completely coat each piece of toffee with the chocolate. Toss in the finely chopped nuts until coated. Return to parchment paper to cool and set.
Makes about 36 yummy chunks.

Note: An easier alternative to coating individual pieces is to just pour melted chocolate over the cooled, uncut toffee and sprinkle with nuts. Then when the chocolate has set, break toffee into pieces.




Dove Chocolate unwrapped and ready to be melted and tempered.


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