Friday, November 30, 2012

Caramel Crumble Bars with Nuts

Caramel Crumble Bars with Nuts
(Macadamia Nuts and Pecans)

I probably don't need an entirely new blog entry for this, but it's my blog, my baking, and I'm going to do it. It's my little corner of the universe that I get to control all by myself, so here I go.
The Caramel Crumble Bars I made the other day went over so well (even my husband ate a bunch of them), that I decided to try them with nuts and a splash of vanilla. I actually made this pan with macadamia nuts AND pecans--not mixed, just one side for each type of nut.
Are they good? Yes. Tasty. I took two of them to work, one macadamia nut and one pecan, and evaluated with each bite whether I really liked them or not. I do like these better with the addition of nuts, but I don't know if I'll crave these. They're easy to make and look and taste good, so I probably will make them again for other people, but if I'm baking something yummy just for me, it's going to be Frosted Brownies, Gooey Brownies w/ Dove Chocolate, or no-bake Chocolate Truffles.

Caramel Crumble Bars with Nuts
     --Adapted from Emily Loves Food

Ingredients:
  •             1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  •             1/2 cup brown sugar
  •             1 teaspoon baking powder
  •             1/4 teaspoon salt
  •             1/2 cup butter, melted
  •             1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, macadamia nuts, or walnuts)
  •             1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
  •             1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  •             2 tablespoons corn syrup
  •             1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 7x11 inch pan with parchment paper. (If you don't have a 7x11 pan, use a 9x9 inch brownie pan.)
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Pour the butter over the top, then mix it through until it’s evenly combined. Mixture will be crumbly with some crumbs larger than others.
Reserve 1/3 of the crumble for the topping, and press the remaining 2/3 into the lined pan. Before firmly pressing in, sprinkle nuts evenly over the top. Press in firmly all over and make it flat. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-13 minutes, or until it starts to brown on the edges.
While the base is baking, make the caramel filling. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the condensed milk, butter and corn syrup, stirring continuously. Bring it to a gentle boil and keep it there, stirring continuously for 4-5 minutes until caramelized slightly and thick. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
Remove the base from the oven, and pour the caramel filling over the base. Smooth the caramel to create an even surface, and sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of the dry mixture evenly over the top.
Return the whole thing to the oven for another 10-13 minutes, or until the crumble topping is cooked through and slightly browned.
Allow to cool, then cut into triangles.
 - Makes about 20-30 pieces


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gluten Free Soft Pretzel Chunks


Gluten Free Pretzel Chunks

Look at that beautiful interior. Soft and bready.

Now that I know my gluten-limited son likes this soft pretzel recipe, I decided to bake some up that I can freeze for a quick breakfast for him (and his brother who is not gluten limited). My highly allergic nephew is no longer here, so I added the dairy and egg back into the recipe. If you want the egg and dairy free recipe, see my Gluten, Dairy, and Egg Free Soft Pretzel Nuggets post, which was also adapted from Gluten Free On a Shoestring.
I like the way these turned out better than the previous try. I think it's because I used more baking soda in the baking soda bath, and the pretzels turned out much darker. I also made these bigger because I really didn't want to take the time to make the tiny nuggets. So I have chunks here. 
I was so impressed with the texture of these pretzel chunks. I mean, when you break one open, it looks just like a soft pretzel made with wheat. Although my kids don't notice a difference in flavor, I do notice a slightly different flavor with these, so I can tell that they're not made with wheat. They're still tasty and satisfying, and as long as Max is happy about them, I will keep spending the money on Better Batter All Purpose Gluten Free Flour. It's totally worth it.

Gluten Free Soft Pretzel Chunks
     ---adapted from Gluten Free On a Shoestring

Ingredients:
  • 3 1/4 cups Better Batter All Purpose Gluten Free Flour, plus a few tablespoons more 
  • 3 teaspoons instant yeast
  • scant 1/2 cup dry milk powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • baking soda bath for boiling (6 cups water with 1/4 cup baking soda)
  • coarse salt for sprinkling
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line two or three cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, whisk together the flour, yeast, powdered milk, cream of tartar, baking soda, sugar, and kosher salt with a regular hand whisk. Add the cider vinegar, butter, and egg whites. Mix on low speed until mixed. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the water.
Once all the water has been added, turn the mixer up to high and let it mix for about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl in spots. The dough will still be pretty wet, but that's okay.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured piece of parchment or wax paper. Dust the top lightly with flour and divide dough into four pieces, and form each into a rope that is about 1 inch in diameter. Cut each rope into 6 pieces and set on parchment lined cookie sheets to rise, covered with plastic wrap, for 40 minutes. Nuggets should be about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart of the cookies sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
While dough chunks rise, bring the baking soda bath to a simmer in a deep pan or large pot over medium heat. 
Once nuggets have risen and soda bath is boiling, boil 4 nuggets at a time for just under a minute, turning a time or two to make sure all sides get boiled. 
Remove nuggets with a slotted spoon and touch back of spoon to a paper towel to drain a little. Place chunks back onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt.  When all chunks have been boiled and salted, cut a small slash into each nugget with a sharp serrated knife.
Bake at 375 degrees F for about 20 minutes, or until well-browned. Remove from oven, allow to cool a few minutes and enjoy.

Makes about 4 dozen chunks



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Caramel Crumble Bars


Caramel Crumble Bars

While perusing FoodGawker, looking for blogs whose designs I was interested in, I ran across a picture of these caramel crumble bars on Emily Loves Food. I immediately pinned the picture on Pinterest and then looked through my cupboards to make sure I had all of the ingredients. I don't know if "golden syrup" is even sold in the U.S., so I substituted light corn syrup. I've seen other recipes calling for golden syrup, so I'm going to have to locate some and try a recipe like this with it.
If you like caramel and super sweet things, you'll like these. It just tastes like a tender brown sugar shortbread with soft, thick layer of caramel baked on top. If I make these again I will add something to give it a little more flavor character, like vanilla or finely chopped pecans, or both. While I like these, I'm not craving more after trying two little triangles. Maybe that's just because I'm a chocoholic. I'm not sure. At any rate, these look good, hold together well, and were very, very easy to make. A must-try for caramel lovers, I'd say.

Caramel Crumble Bars 
     --Adapted from Emily Loves Food

Ingredients:
  •             1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  •             1/2 cup brown sugar
  •             1 teaspoon baking powder
  •             1/4 teaspoon salt
  •             1/2 cup butter, melted
  •             1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
  •             1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  •             2 tablespoons corn syrup
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 7x11 inch pan with parchment paper. (If you don't have a 7x11 pan, use a 9x9 inch brownie pan.)
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Pour the butter over the top, then mix it through until it’s evenly combined. Mixture will be crumbly with some crumbs larger than others.
Reserve 1/3 of the crumble for the topping, and press the remaining 2/3 into the lined pan.  Press in firmly all over and make it flat. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-13 minutes, or until it starts to brown on the edges.
While the base is baking, make the caramel filling. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the condensed milk, butter and corn syrup, stirring continuously. Bring it to a gentle boil and keep it there, stirring continuously for 4-5 minutes until caramelized slightly and thick.
Remove the base from the oven, and pour the caramel filling over the base. Smooth the caramel to create an even surface, and sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of the dry mixture evenly over the top.
Return the whole thing to the oven for another 10-13 minutes, or until the crumble topping is cooked through and slightly browned.
Allow to cool, then cut into triangles.
 - Makes about 20-30 pieces

I think the triangle cut on these makes them super cute.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Salsa Verde (Green Tomatillo Salsa)

Salsa Verde with chicken taquitos and chips
Salsa Verde. I didn't really eat it until recently. My husband LOVES the stuff, but just the kind you get at a Mexican restaurant. The jarred ones we've tried haven't been all that great. I usually like salsa verde okay, but generally choose a medium hot red salsa. 
This salsa, though, is something special. I first tasted it at the ESL family potluck at the school I work at ("ESL" means "English as a Second Language.") Areli's mother brought chicken taquitos with this salsa verde. When I ate it, my lips were on fire, but I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. The crisp, salty chicken taquito with the cold and spicy green sauce was perfect. 
It wasn't until parent-teacher conferences last week, though, that I finally asked Areli's mom for the recipe. She told me the recipe in Spanish, and although I had our fabulous Spanish interpreter Belen right there, I tried to get it all by myself because I'm trying to practice my listening skills in Spanish. It's a super easy recipe and it tastes just like I remember. Well, the first time I made it, it did. The second time I think I threw the ratio off and had too many tomatillos and not enough jalepeños, so it's not as hot. So, the takeaway here is that if you want it spicier, use more  jalepeños. If you want it less spicy, use fewer  jalepeños. There you go.

Salsa Verde
   --adapted from Areli's mom's recipe

Ingredients:
  • 6 medium tomatillos
  • 4 medium sized  jalepeño peppers
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic
  • salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon for starters)
  • water
Instructions:
Fill a medium sized pot about halfway with water. Bring water to a boil over medium high heat. 
Cut tops off jalepeno peppers and cut in half lengthwise. (If you want your salsa less spicy, remove some or all of the seeds and ribs of the jalepeños before boiling.) Carefully place cut jalepeños into the water and boil for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel the papery skin off the tomatillos and wash lightly in cold water. Cut in halves or quarters if they're large. If you're using small ones, you can cook them whole. Place tomatillos into the boiling pot with the jalepeños and cook for another 5 minutes or so, or until the tomatillos are soft.
Drain water. Add cooked jalepeños and tomatillos to a blender (or a tall cup if you have a hand blender). Add garlic and salt and blend to puree. 
Allow to cool to room or refrigerator temperature before serving.
Tastes great with homemade taquitos and homemade tortilla chips.


Makes about 1 to 1 1/2 cups salsa.


Dutch Letters (Jaarsma's Bakery Recipe)

Flaky yummy Dutch letters

I've made Dutch letters once before, with traditional puff pastry. Today I tried it with the Jaarsma's Bakery recipe from midwestliving.com. I haven't decided yet if this method of puff pastry is easier, but it's different, and just as delicious. The pastry is puffy, flaky and crisp. I used leftover almond filling from my first try. The leftovers had been in the freezer for a couple of months, and it thawed and baked up great in these Dutch letters. If you're not afraid to spend a little time folding, rolling and forming the letters, don't be intimidated by this recipe. Even if they don't look perfect, they'll taste great.

Dutch Letters (Jaarsma’s Bakery Recipe)
     --from midwestliving.com

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups cold butter (1 pound)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 8 - ounce can almond paste
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • Granulated sugar
Instructions:
For dough, in a large mixing bowl, stir together flour and salt. Cut cold butter into 1/2-inch-thick slices (not cubes). Add butter slices to flour mixture; toss until slices are coated and separated.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together egg and ice water. Add all at once to flour mixture. Using a spoon, quickly mix (butter will remain in large pieces and flour will not be completely moistened).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured pastry cloth or wax paper. Knead the dough 10 times by pressing and pushing dough together to form a rough-looking ball, lifting pastry cloth (or wax paper) if necessary to press the dough together. Shape the dough into a rectangle (dough still will have some dry-looking areas). Make corners as square as possible. Slightly flatten dough. Working on a well-floured pastry cloth, roll dough into a 15x10-inch rectangle. Fold 2 short sides to meet in center; bring top edge down to meet bottom edge to form 4 layers each measuring (rectangle will now measure 7-1/2x5 inches).

Repeat the rolling and folding process once more. Wrap dough with plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes. Repeat rolling and folding process 2 more times. Chill dough for 20 minutes before using.

For filling, in a small bowl, stir together egg white, almond paste, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the brown sugar. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using a sharp knife, cut dough crosswise into 4 equal portions. Wrap 3 portions in plastic wrap and chill. On a well-floured surface, roll 1 portion into a 12-1/2x10-inch rectangle. Cut rectangle crosswise into five 10x2-1/2-inch strips.

Shape a slightly rounded tablespoon of the filling into a 9-inch-long rope and place it down the center of one strip. Roll up the strip lengthwise. Brush edge and ends with water; pinch to seal. Place, seam side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet, shaping strip into a letter (traditionally the letter "S"). Brush with water and sprinkle with additional granulated sugar. Repeat with remaining dough strips and filling. Repeat with remaining dough portions and filling.

Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. Remove from baking sheet. Cool on wire racks.

Makes about 20 letters




Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Heidi's Stuffing


I love this stuffing.
Oh my goodness. It's 1:09 on Thanksgiving morning, 2012, and I'm up blogging as my sister-in-law and I wait for an apple pie to bake. So many fun (and not so fun) food-related memories this year. I'll have to let things settle and then perhaps write about some more. Suffice it to say, I'm even more neurotic about food than I'd previously believed. Yikes.
At any rate, my WHOLE family has been coming out to enjoy Thanksgiving out here in Iowa for the past three years. It's become quite the tradition, and the holiday my kids most look forward to. Yeah, I know. They love it even more than Christmas because they get to have their cousins come for a five-day sleep over. It doesn't get much better than that for a 10 and 11 year old.
I love the food. I love that my sister-in-law Heidi makes this dressing/stuffing every year. Tomorrow I don't even know if I'm going to bother with eating any turkey. I think I might just eat this with gravy and Grandma Kelly's Rolls with butter. Mmmmm... so, so tasty. I love this stuff. It's very salty and flavorful with the sage sausage, pistachios, and seasonings. I can't even do it justice with a description (especially at 1:14 A.M.).
Time for bed. I'll probably get some better pics tomorrow as well, when the sun is shining and I'm more alert.
Happy Thanksgiving!

(Heidi's) Aunt Beth’s Stuffing

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 pound chestnuts in shell (or 1 1/2 cups pre roasted jarred chestnuts)
  • 1 cup pistachios, shelled
  • 1 1/2 pounds Jimmy Dean Sage Sausage
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 large loaf French bread, stale & cubed
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon sage powder
  • 1/2 cup half and half (maybe a little more)
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 325˚Fahrenheit.
If bread is not already stale, cut into 1” cubes and toast in 325˚ oven for about 25 minutes, or until lightly browned.
If roasting your own chestnuts make an “x” on the op of each chestnut. Place on a baking sheet and roast in 325˚oven for 20 minutes. When chestnuts are cool (or you remove them from the jar) cut them up into rough 1/4 inch pieces.
In a skillet over medium high heat, brown the sausage, keeping the rendered liquid/drippings, but removing the browned sausage to a large bowl while you sauté the vegetables.
Sauté garlic, celery, and onion in the sausage drippings.
Combine the sausage, vegetables, bread, seasonings, and parsley. Pour half and half over mixture as you stir.
You may also want to add turkey stock and drippings and more half & half until desired moisture level is reached.
Pour mixed stuffing into a greased 9x13 inch baking pan.
Bake in 350˚ oven for about 25 minutes, or until heated through and browned on top.
Dressing may be made a day ahead of time, cooled and stored covered in refrigerator. Reheat in 350˚ oven for 30-45 minutes.

Makes about 6 servings. Recipe is easily doubled or tripled.



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