Sunday, October 21, 2007

Caramel Popcorn

Making caramel was a bit scary to me. Why? I'm not sure, but it might involve the several times I have attempted something with caramel and ended up with a mess. So I decided to conquer the caramel popcorn last night as part of family movie night.

I picked a recipe on Allrecipes with over 700 great reviews, figuring it must work out if over 700 people have rated it well. I also read the comments to get suggestions and tips for making it easier to do.

Caramel Popcorn

1/2 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 quarts popped popcorn

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (95 degrees C). Line 2 shallow baking dishes (jelly roll pans) with foil and spray with cooking spray. Divide popcorn between them.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in soda and vanilla. Pour in a thin stream over popcorn, stirring to coat.

Bake in preheated oven, stirring every 15 minutes, for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool completely before breaking into pieces.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pumpkin Butterscotch Muffins

In my house, we love pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and make many batches each fall. They are like little pumpkin flavor clouds with bursts of chocolate in them. So delicious.

So when I saw these pumpkin butterscotch muffins at Confabulation in the Kitchen, I just had to try them. So yummy looking!

They did not disappoint. The flavor was great, they are delicious. A wonderful fall treat, and a fun provider of variety in our pumpkin consumption. :)

I used nutmeg instead of mace b/c that's what I had on hand and I used whole wheat pastry flour for about half of the flour amount, like I do in most recipes. As much fun as the pecans sound, DH is allergic, and loves pumpkin, so no pecans here. Oh, and I added 1/2 tsp cloves, but I don't think most people would like the cloves, which is why they are probably not in the ingredient list though they are in the directions.

So here's the recipe:

Butterscotch Pumpkin Muffins

1-3/4 cups flour, sifted
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted (optional)


In a large bowl, mix flour, sugars, ginger, mace, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Create a well in the middle of the mixture.

In another bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin and butter. Stir in butterscotch chips and pecans and pour into the well of dry ingredients. Fold together just until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spoon batter evenly into greased muffin tins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Place on a rack to cool.

YIELDS: 18 muffins

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pain Au Chocolat (Chocolate Croissants)

Almost a week late (as usual?) I started the recipe for this month's Chocolate Therapy challenge between my friend at Create Cakes and me. I had stuff come up last weekend, and then there is the mental block that accompanies a recipe that takes all day. Luckily, I overcame that fear, partially by figuring out when I could leave the dough as long as I needed. So this recipe is taking 2 days for me instead of 1. :P

I have wanted to try croissants for years. Trying them with chocolate and with a friend for guidance is definitely a bonus.

Below is the recipe, intermixed with my commentary and thoughts while making them.

Pain Au Chocolat (Chocolate Croissants)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces), plus more for dusting work surface
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar (1 3/4 ounces)
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk , cold
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Butter Square
24 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (3 sticks), cut into 24 pieces
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

Chocolate Filling
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine

Egg Wash
1 large egg , lightly beaten

1. For the dough: Whisk 2 3/4 cups of flour together with yeast, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Place milk in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Add flour mixture and knead at low speed until ball of dough forms, about 5 minutes. Add butter pieces to dough. Continue to knead until butter becomes fully incorporated and dough becomes smooth, begins to form ball, and clears sides of bowl, an additional 5 to 6 minutes. (Dough should be sticky, but if more dough is sticking to sides of bowl than to itself, add remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, as necessary.) Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Umm, figuring out how sticky to let it be was the hardest thing here. Also - do NOT stick your hand into sticky dough. Find another way to get it into the plastic wrap. Yikes!

2. For the butter square: Using bench scraper, toss together butter pieces and flour on clean work surface. Smear butter and flour back and forth against work surface until they have combined into smooth, homogenous mixture. Wrap butter mixture in plastic wrap and use edges of plastic wrap to form even 7-inch square. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Wow that is a lot of butter! But what an amusing process. I don't have a bench scraper, so I improvised with the back of a plastic knife and ruler. Forming the butter into a square in the plastic is easier said than done. Beating it homogenous with a few tablespoons of flour I don't know the purpose.

3. Lightly dust work surface with flour. Roll dough into 11-inch square. Place chilled butter square diagonally onto dough. Fold corners of dough up over butter square so that they meet in middle and pinch ends of dough together to seal them.

Part I am dreading that turned out to be amazingly easy. The dough rolled out silkily and didn't stick. Yay!

4. Using rolling pin, gently tap dough, starting from center of dough and going outward, until square becomes larger and butter begins to soften. At this point, start gently rolling dough into 14-inch square, checking often to make sure dough is not sticking and dusting with additional flour as necessary. Fold square into thirds to form long rectangle. (This method of folding is called a “turn” and resembles folding a business letter.) Starting from narrow ends, fold rectangle into thirds again to form square. You have now given dough 2 turns. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

5. Repeat step 4, giving dough 2 additional turns (for total of 4 turns) and chilling again for at least 2 hours.

Again, surprisingly easy. The butter is in pockets when I'm doing this - not evenly distributed per se, and I don't know if that's okay or not, but it looks alright! I was surprised at how easy rolling it out and folding it was. I did let it sit overnight after step 5. It got really large.

6. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place chilled dough on floured work surface and gently roll dough into 20-inch square. Use pizza cutter and ruler to cut dough into 4 equal 10-inch squares. Cut each square into thirds to make total of 12 rectangles, each approximately 10 by 31/4 inches. Place 1/2 ounce (about 1 tablespoon) chocolate in middle of each rectangle. Fold each rectangle into thirds and place it seam-side down on baking sheet.

That is A LOT of chocolate! These should be pretty good with that much chocolate in them. I'm surprised that it only makes 12, when there are over 3 sticks of butter involved. Mmmm... these are going to be good! I didn't want to chop the chocolate, but was worried that the large pieces wouldn't work out, so I tried the mini food processor and didn't have too much luck overall so I have some chocolate powder and some chunks of chocolate in each croissant. Hope it works out!

7. Cover croissants loosely with plastic wrap and let them rise at room temperature until puffy (they will not double in size), 45 to 60 minutes.

Another thing this recipe uses a lot of is plastic wrap! How did people make these before plastic wrap and parchment paper?

8. Meanwhile, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 400 degrees. Using pastry brush, brush croissants with beaten egg. Bake until croissants are golden brown, 18 to 22 minutes, rotating baking sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking time. Cool croissants on wire rack until warm, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Mine started smelling done and looking totally done at 14 min. I blame the egg wash, which I'm not a huge fan of. I left them in until 18 and they didn't burn (I think they needed it to set up the layers) but I was nervous!

Flavor? Amazing. Definitely fluffy and layery and delicate like croissants. The huge amount of chocolate seems like not much when eating it, though more would probably overwhelm it. It really melted down! Yummmm. I think making smaller ones next time might be nice. I could halve them easily. I even think it would be fun to try them without anything in them. Wow. I want to eat them all day! LOL.

I used a combination of Lindt dark chocolate and Hershey's special dark (since that's what I have on hand!) and it was great. Dark and flavorful. Mmmm. Good chocolate therapy.

Foodie Blogroll

I'm a member of the foodie blogroll! How fun! :) Join a large community of foodie's over at the Leftover Queen's community. :)

Pain au chocolat later today! :)

Friday, October 5, 2007

Chocolate Molasses Cookies

My first memories of molasses is having it on a hot buttered biscuit. Beyond that it is an ingredient I use in whole wheat bread sometimes and also in gingerbread cookies. It is a unique flavor perhaps, strong and sweet.

When I saw the recipe for Chocolate Molasses cookies in the newspaper this week, I immediately wanted to try them. They looked fantastic, and definitely were.

Chocolate Molasses Cookies

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tblsp dark molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
powdered sugar (optional dusting)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Melt chocolate and butter in microwave-safe glass mixing bowl on high power in 30-second increments, until almost melted. Stir to len well, then left cool. (About 1 minute total in microwave)
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
Stir brown sugar, egg, molasses and vanilla into cooled chocolate mixture. Add flour mixture, stirring until combined.
Place scant tablespoons of dough on ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake 10-11 minutes until tops begin to crack and cookies are still soft to the touch. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to wire rack and dust lightly with confectioners' sugar. makes 36 cookies.
Source listed: Kansas City-Star

Monday, October 1, 2007

Indian Curry in a hurry dinner

For those college siblings of mine, wanting to eat good food, but not having much time. How to look like an amazing chef, the easy way. :)

Buy a stack of fresh tortillas, a sweet potato & a jar of Patak's Curry Sauce (I like the Korma, Tikka Masala or Jalfrezi sauces). Also, some plain yogurt & frozen berries. (I'm assuming you have rice on hand at home.)

Now peel and dice the sweet potato and saute in oil until it starts to soften. Add the sauce and cover and simmer. Put the rice in the microwave or on the stove and cook it. Turn the oven on to broil and put the tortillas on a baking sheet and put them under the broiler.

Make the laasi, mixing up the yogurt, berries, a bit of sugar and water in the blender. (Recipe) Check on the tortillas (making them more like naan in the oven) and set the table.

In about 20 minutes you have an awesome dinner on the table! :) So yummy!

You could use chicken or beef, but sweet potatoes are cheap and taste wonderful in the dish. Watch out for steam in the puffed up "naan".


Blog Widget by LinkWithin