Saturday, December 8, 2012

Aunt Sara's Famous Toffee

Now you too can use up 2.5 sticks of butter in a few short minutes.   We made this on Thursday but unfortunately we didn't let it get hot enough so instead of snappy brittle toffee we have snappy-ish crumbly deliciousness.  (A tragedy that has not gone unmourned, I assure you.)  The recipe says to go to 280 degrees, which we did, but the current thinking is that 280 degrees is correct for the thermometer of the recipe-author but our thermometer reads lower.  So, either cook your toffee to 280 as directed (make maybe a half batch to test) and see what happens, or cook to 300, which is what we're going to do next time.  Without further ado:

[Carter's] Aunt Sara's Famous Toffee
2.5 sticks butter
1/3 c brown sugar
1 c white sugar
1 T molasses
1/3 c water
2 tsp espresso powder*
1 shake cinnamon

1 c chopped nuts (ideally pecans but we used walnuts--technically nuts are optional).
A couple handfuls of chocolate chips (The recipe calls for a mix of dark and white chocolate...we used half a bag of bittersweet chips b/c I'm stubborn like that.)

*We don't have instant espresso/coffee powder so we ground some coffee beans really really finely, practically down into individual molecules, and it worked great.

Cover a baking sheet in foil (doesn't need sides) and spray with cooking spray.  Get all the ingredients measured and ready.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan.  Add sugars, molasses, water, espresso and cinnamon.  Cook over medium heat, stirring absolutely all of the time, until the mixture boils.  Keep cooking, and start checking the temperature-- aim for between 280 (written) and 300 (our goal for next time).

getting closer
just after sugars, etc. added

When the toffee reaches temperature, remove from heat and stir in the nuts.  Immediately pour onto foil-covered sheet and gently spread into a thin layer.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Wait 5 minutes, then smear chips (melted from heat of toffee) into a pretty pattern.  Slide foil onto cool surface or cooling rack, and let cool for what felt like an eternity (a few hours or overnight).  Snap the toffee into pieces and store in an airtight container.  Yum!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Chocolate Velvet Cheesecake

This recipe courtesy of the Velveteen Rabbit, obviously.  Actually it's from a cheesecake recipe book that my mom has, which has been loved to near-death (just like the Velveteen Rabbit!).  I changed the instructions only very slightly, because I have discovered that the less you (over)beat this cake, the less likely it is to crack in the end.

Crust of your choice, pressed into bottom of 10in springform pan.  (Preferably made with chocolate cookies, ground and mixed with melted butter.  There are many recipes on the internet for this sort of thing, or you can wing it.)

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, in small chunks (if this doesn't say "good chocolate chips" to you, it should)
2 T butter
1.5 lbs cream cheese, chunked, at room temp
1.5 cups heavy cream
1 t vanilla extract
1 c sugar
3 eggs at room temp
2 T cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350F.  Melt chocolate and butter carefully, stirring until smooth.  Set aside to cool.

Cream the cream cheese in mixer until completely smooth.  Scrape down sides of bowl and add chocolate, beat slowly until mostly mixed.  

Mix on medium speed for the following, and scrape down the sides of the bowl every couple minutes/between additions:
Gradually add cream and vanilla, beat until mostly blended.  
Gradually add sugar, beat until mostly blended.  
Add eggs, 1 at a time, beat until fully blended.  

Sieve cocoa powder over batter, stir in until fully mixed.

Pour into crust, smooth top.  Gently shake pan to destroy air pockets.  Bake 30 minutes, then reduce temp to 325 and bake another 30 minutes.  (KEEP OVEN CLOSED.)  Turn oven off, prop door slightly ajar, and let stand for 30 minutes longer.  Move cake to wire rack away from drafts, let cool for until room temp, then refrigerate until eating.  Cake will likely crack during cooling, which can only be fixed by covering it with fruit/ganache/whipped cream/other disastrous fates.  Cake improves with age (24-48 hours ideal), and is best (IMHO) if it warms up on the counter for a bit before you eat it.

It cracked as it cooled, but was still scrumptious!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chocolate Pumpkin Chess Pie with gingersnap crust

There will be no pictures because the pie was eaten before I could take them. Seriously. It's that good.
This was the dessert for my father-in-law's surprise 60'th birthday dinner.  It was such a huge hit that they made me leave the table to go write the recipe down before I forgot it.  Needless to say I kinda made the whole thing up as I went along. :-p

~1.5 cups crushed gingersnaps
4 Tbls melted butter

Preheat oven to 350. Crush gingersnaps to almost powder. Slowly mix in butter until the mixture, when packed together, will form a loose ball.  Press mixture into 9" pie tin.  Bake for 8 minutes and let cool completely before adding filling.

Pie Filling
4 Large Eggs
2 Large Egg Yolks
1.5c Granulated Sugar
2.5 Tbls Cornmeal
1/4c Whole Cream
1/4c Pumpkin Puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 tsp Salt
1.5 tsp Vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3 Tbls Fudge sauce (recipe to follow)

Fudge Sauce
1/2c chocolate chips
3 Tbls butter
1/4c Whole Cream

-Melt Chocolate chips and butter in a small bowl in the microwave on medium power for 1 minute intervals. When mostly melted add cream and return to microwave until able to be stirred smooth.

Filling Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl using electric beaters or a whisk.  Make sure it's all smooth. Add filling to pie crust and bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes or until middle barely jiggles.  You may need to cover it in foil after 30 mins to keep crust edges from burning.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

His and Hers Pasta with Pesto

her pesto
This recipe comes from a Mollie Katzen cookbook (The Enchanted Broccoli Forest).  It's easy and delicious.  Simple to scale up or down.  Good for warding off vampires.

Pesto (makes enough for 4-6 servings)
3 c. basil leaves (washed and lightly dried, packed firmly into a cup measure)
1/4 c. pine nuts (or walnuts)
3/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated
5 cloves garlic
1/3 c. olive oil
generous salt and peppering

Add the first four ingredients to a food processor (or lawnmower) and begin processing.  Add olive oil slowly or in batches (if you add it all at once it splashes all over the place).  Whirr to desired consistency.  Sometimes it's fun to have slightly chunky pesto.  Taste and adjust salt&pepper.

Meanwhile, you boiled some noodles, right?  And rinsed them but not cooled completely?  And chopped a beautiful tomato and some fresh mozzarella?

Good.  Stir it together and eat it.

his pesto: fewer tomatoes, more PARM!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Movin' to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches...

Millions of peaches! Ok, maybe not millions.  Two pints a week for 4 weeks is still a lot for just two people to nom through. So when we got our produce box last week, with two fresh pints, and I was still staring at one, slightly wrinkly now, pint from the previous week; it was clearly time to make cobbler. I mean really, I had no choice.
Now, cobbler, when it's all said and done may look easy, but there's a reason that your grandmother's is the best you've ever had.  She's had 50+ years to perfect not just her recipe, but also her technique.  It takes practice people. Peaches are slippery little buggers.  And before you ask, yes, I still have all my appendages.

 Fastest way to get rid of peaches EVAR!

Onto the Howto:

What you need:
-1/2 Stick butter, room temp
-1/4c Sour cream
-3 lbs peaches, skinned-- see here for easy technique, just below the tomato picture
-1/2c sugar
-1/2c AP flour
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-Smidge salt
-1 Egg
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla

What you do:
Preheat oven to 375F.  Grease a 8- or 9-inch square or round baking dish. Peel, pit and slice your peaches.  Place in bowl with 1/4c of sugar and 1/4c bourbon :) Toss.  Set them aside.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and remaining 1/4c sugar and beat in your butter and sour cream.  I used my food processor which worked great.  Put your peaches in your baking dish and spoon your sloppy batter on top of it.  Don't worry about spreading it, just glop it on there.  Proceed to baking and let it go for 35-45, until golden brown and not soupy in the middle.

And as always, enjoy!

P.S. This makes amazing breakfast.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fluff cakes for my sweet heart

The thesis is done. I am officially a Master of Food Science. Do you know what this means? I might actually have time to cook again! And cook I have. On this particular weekend morning I woke up with pancakes in mind but a true craving to get creative in the kitchen (something I hadn't done in quite some time). I pondered over this whilst making coffee and it suddenly struck me that what I really wanted was extra fluffy pancakes. But how to achieve that? Well, as any good food scientist worth their salt knows, foam makes for fluff. And what better way to make foam than to use your handy-dandy stand mixer to make meringue out of the egg whites that are already part of your recipe?

Empty meringue bowl.

Batter with meringue *gently folded* into it (must maintain the fluff!)

A cross between pancakes and Soufflé these cakes made for a divine breakfast treat. At the last minute I decided to take half the batter and make them in these silicon heart shells that I got for valentines day. They are officially sweet heart cakes now, all they need is a bit of red food coloring and they'd be almost too 'sweet' to eat. ;)
The results were pretty amazing. Somewhere in the process my wonderful husband (did I mention I got married?) woke up and decided bacon was necessary. Isn't it always? Silly me.
Now, if you are wondering how you might make your very own fluff cakes see directions below.

1) Pull out cook book with pancake recipe (yes you do need to make these from scratch, but trust me it's easy and oh so worth it)
2) In stead of adding whole egg to your batter, separate them and whip your whites into soft peaks
3) Gently fold peaks into the rest of the batter you've prepared in another bowl
4) Cook on in a hot pan just like regular pancakes or in a muffin/cute shaped baking tin*
*if using muffin tins bake a 350 for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick comes clean
5) Serve to your family and listen carefully for phrases like "Oh my god these are the best things ever."
6) Smile and enjoy your awesomeness

Friday, February 10, 2012


Do you know what you need to make homemade applesauce?  Apples.  Water.  Heat+time.  A potato masher.  (Maybe a scale, but if you weighed the apples when you bought them that's close enough.) That's all!!

Peel, core, and slice the apples into small chunks.  Add to a pot with 2 ounces of water per pound of apples (or so).  If you'd like, add some cinnamon and/or a splash of lemon or lime juice.  Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.  Mash.  Eat.

I used two very large apples, which was about 1.5lbs of apple, and got about 2.5 cups of applesauce from them.  Yum, yum, yum.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies

These are awesome.  One lucky eater dubbed them the best cookies I've ever made.  I agree-- chocolately, hazelnutty, not too sweet, and quite pretty to boot.  They're easy to transport too (they don't crumble or get too soggy or too crisp) and they'll, theoretically, last for about a week in a tupperware.  Unfortunately they require the aid of a food processor (mini one is fine), so if you don't have one yet add this to the list of reasons you need one.  The only mildly annoying thing is that you have to chill the dough two hours (or overnight), so plan accordingly.  P.S. As you might have noticed, I changed the blog format.  Do you like it? Some of the older posts might have some formatting quirks, but I'll work on fixing them...

lightly adapted from:, originally from Gourmet 2006
3/4 cup hazelnuts
6oz good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or same weight bittersweet chocolate chips)
2 3/4 c. AP flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1 stick butter, at room temp
1 1/2 c sugar (the recipe calls for brown but I used mostly granulated b/c I ran out...)
2 eggs
1/4 c whole milk
1 t vanilla
3/4 c powdered sugar

Roast hazelnuts on an ungreased baking sheet or cake pan at 350 for 10 minutes, or until they start to brown and the skins loosen.  Dump into the center of a kitchen towel, fold the edges over the nuts, and let cool for five minutes, then rub briskly in the towel to remove skins.  (It's fine if some stubborn skins stay on.)  [Turn oven off.]  When they're cool, whirr in a food processor until finely ground.

 Melt chocolate.  As it cools...

Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

Cream together butter and sugar until, well, creamy.  Beat in eggs, then milk, then vanilla, then chocolate.  Stir in dry ingredients, then ground nuts.  Cover and chill 2+ hours.

Preheat oven to 350 and put one rack in the top part of the oven and one in the bottom.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Take half of the dough out of the fridge and sift powdered sugar into a small bowl.  Shape dough by hand into about 1.5 inch diameter balls (meatball-sized), then roll in powdered sugar. I shook them gently to loosen some of the powdered sugar and thought it was plenty, but if you want stark white sugar on your cookies in the end pile it on thick.  I didn't flatten my doughballs at all and ended up with mound-cookies, which were fabulous, but if you want thinner ones, flatten them slightly.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, swapping position of the cookies sheets (top to bottom and bottom to top) about 8 minutes in.  I'm not sure at what point in this business they crack, but trust me, they will.  When they're done a toothpick stuck into a crack should come out mostly clean and the edges should feel firm and dry (tap them with the toothpick to check).  If you have a cooling rack big enough, slide the whole parchment sheet+cookies onto the rack all at once.  (I wish I could take credit for that stroke of brilliance, but, alas, I can't.)  Don't forget about the other half of the dough in the fridge; it is waiting to be rolled once you finish the first half.  Let the sheet cool and then re-paper and continue baking cookies until the dough is gone.  I ended up with 32 cookies.  Eat while still warm and soft in the center with a glass of milk, a cup of coffee, or a glass of red wine.


Monday, January 9, 2012