Foodbuzz

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Salty Sweet Nut Bars


They say that opposites attract and I believe in that statement. It applies when it comes to people as well as several other things. I guess it is human nature's attempt at making things more even instead of extreme. It is the diversity of people that make up the world, not people that are exactly the same.

Focusing on the theory of opposites, today I bring you a candy recipe that is a perfect example. One bite of the velvety chocolate surrounding sweet honeycomb and salty peanuts will have you believing that opposites attract. In the aftermath, you will be seeking out other salty sweet combos to satisfy your taste buds.

So if you are already in love with salty sweet combos or you have yet to take a step in that direction, this recipe is well worth a try.

Salty Sweet Nut Bars
adapted from Food Network

Ingredients/Honeycomb Candy
(this component adapted from pioneerwoman.com)
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tbs honey
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup corn syrup

Ingredients/Bars
7 oz of bittersweet chocolate (chips or chopped bar)
3 tbs of golden syrup or corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tbs butter
2 1/4 cup salted peanuts
6 oz of crushed honeycomb

Prepare an 8x8 inch cake pan by lining with parchment paper.

Fill a medium size saucepan with the sugar. Smooth out to cover the bottom with an even layer. Carefully pour in the water so the sugar is not displaced too much. Add the corn syrup and honey, pouring in the center of the pan. Then swirl (do not stir) the pan, so the liquid ingredients cover the sugar layer.

Place the pan over medium high heat and rest a candy thermometer in the liquid, clipping it in place on the upper edge of the pan. Monitor carefully as the sugar dissolves and cooks. Once the temperature reaches 300F degrees, remove from heat. It should take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes in order to reach the desired temperature. Once removed from the heat, sprinkle in the baking soda and stir. The mixture will foam up, but continue to stir until the foaming stops. Empty contents into the prepared pan and let rest until completely hard, about an hour.

Once hardened, break off pieces and place in a zip lock bag and crush into smaller pieces using a rolling pin or the bottom side of a glass. The largest pieces should be only pea sized when finished. Continue with the process until the crushed honeycomb equals 6 oz.

To make the candy, start by lining a 9x13 inch pan with foil.

Set up a double boiler and place over medium heat. Add the chocolate, syrup and butter to the top pot. The ingredients will start to melt together. As it melts, stir occasionally.

Fill a small bowl with the peanuts and honeycomb. Stir to combine. Once the chocolate and butter has melted in the double boiler, remove from heat and mix in the nuts and honeycomb. Using a spatula, empty the contents into the prepared pan and smooth out evenly.

Place candy in refrigerator to set up and harden. This should take about 4-5 hours. Then it is ready to cut and serve.

Tips and Notes:

1. You may have some honeycomb leftover. It is good in tea or ice cream or delicious on its own.

2. Semi-sweet chocolate can be used in this recipe as well. However, I do not recommend milk chocolate.
                                  **LAST YEAR:Italian Christmas Pastry**
  

Friday, January 5, 2018

Cocoa Almond Pound Cake


Chocolate cake..I recall one story from Bill Cosby about this dessert. Apparently, he was unwillingly in charge of breakfast. He did not want to get out of bed, but eventually was booted to the kitchen. Slamming around getting the pan and eggs out, in walks the youngest daughter. He asked her what she wanted and she pointed straight to the big chocolate cake on the counter. That was his cue for a shortcut. Well, the end result was all the kids eating cake for breakfast and the mother quite furious. It was Saturday, so I am sure they weren't sitting around quietly.

I do not recommend it for breakfast, but I will admit that there is something about a chocolate cake that makes it a choice favorite of all ages. When you find cake on the menu at a restaurant, there is very little chance that it is not chocolate. If there is a variety, chocolate flavor is always included. As far as type, milk chocolate has definitely taken a back seat to that deep, dark bitter or semi sweet chocolate.

So with that in consideration, this particular recipe reflects that dark chocolate that we all favor. In addition to chocolate, it is paired up with almond flavor. The almond paste in the batter and the crunchy almonds on top make this chocolate pound cake extra special.

If you are hosting a dinner party or are craving some dark chocolate, this is a good choice. It does make 2 loaves, but an extra loaf is good to have on hand. However, if you have kids, do yourself a favor and make sure it is not on the table at breakfast time!

Cocoa Almond Pound Cake
adapted from The Great Book of Chocolate

Ingredients
1/2 cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup or 2 sticks butter (room temp)
1/2 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup or 7 oz of almond paste
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup sliced almonds

Prepare two loaf pans (8 1/2 inch) by buttering the interior and lining the bottom and two long sides with parchment. Leave some over hang of parchment on the long sides. Butter the surface of the parchment paper. Dust with flour and empty out the excess. Preheat the oven to 350.

Start by taking the almond paste and breaking it up into small pieces. Add it to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until broken up into finer pieces. Then add the sugar and the almond extract. Beat the mixture on medium speed for about 5 minutes. The mixture should still be crumbly and have some pea sized pieces in it (it will not be all fine crumbs) Set aside.

Take out another bowl and sift the baking powder and flour together. Then whisk in the salt and cocoa, distributing evenly.

Cube the butter and drop into the bowl of the almond mixture. Cream the ingredients together with the mixer on medium high speed for 2 minutes, stopping at intervals to scrape down the size of the bowl. This should result in a less dense, airy batter. Add one egg and beat for 30 seconds to incorporate into batter. Repeat this process with the remaining eggs, adding and beating one by one.

In the next step, the dry ingredients are to be folded into the batter in increments. In between the increments, whisk in the milk. Start and end with folding in the dry ingredients.

Measure out half of the batter and fill one of the prepared loaf pans. Smooth the top and repeat, filling the other pan. Lastly, cover the top of each loaf with the almonds, making sure the amount is evenly distributed.

Place in oven and bake until tester comes out clean, turning pans at the halfway point in baking. The recommended bake time is about 45 minutes.

Tips and Notes:
1. You are welcome to try this recipe with marzipan, but be aware that it contains more sugar than almond paste.

2. As usual, the higher quality of cocoa yields a much taster cake.

3. Dark chocolate is very strong in flavor, so the almond flavor is subtle.
                                 *LAST YEAR:Almond Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies* 
 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Shortbread Squares


If you have been the host for the holidays this year, I am sure you are ready for some time to relax and unwind. The manner in which we do this varies from person to person. Some of the methods people have chosen may be bizarre or unbelievable. You will not find me building small houses out of pennies or washing my car. My method is actually pretty simple- enjoying a hot cup of coffee or tea with a shortbread cookie while sitting in a comfortable chair. The whirlwind of stress and anxiety just melts away.

If you have not found the key to unwind yet or are just looking to take a break from your day, these cookies may be the right choice. Outside of that special buttery, melt in your mouth factor that shortbread cookies have to offer, they are easy to make with a few simple ingredients. A great return for such a little investment of time. This recipe makes about 10 dz one inch squares and uses a 9x13 inch pan.

Shortbread Squares
adapted from My Great Recipes

Ingredients
4 cups and 2 tbs of flour
2 cups or 1 lb of butter (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
Sprinkles, decorative sugar or powdered sugar for topping (optional)

Prepare a 9x13 inch cake by by buttering the interior. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Reserve a sheet of wax paper, a size just big enough to cover the bottom of the pan.

Cut the butter into cubes and place in the bowl of a stand mixer. Pour in the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes on medium speed, stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Once the blend is smooth add all of the flour.

Combine the flour with the sugar mixture by using a wooden spoon. After all the flour is incorporated into the dough, empty it into the prepared baking pan.  Take the wax paper and use it as a barrier between your hands and the dough as you press the dough down to fit the pan. Make sure the dough is even and reaches all sides and corners.

Remove wax paper. Using the tines of a fork, make small indentations on the top of the dough. This will keep the dough from bubbling up when baked.

Place pan in oven and bake until golden on sides and bottom. This should take about 1 1/2 hours. After the bake time, turn the oven off and remove the pan. Cut the shortbread into squares or triangles (depending on your preference) about 1 inch wide. Place pan back in the oven and let rest until the oven has cooled.

As a last step, sprinkle sugar topping on the surface of the shortbread. Let cool completely before removing from pan.
                                     **LAST YEAR:Chocolate Tangerine Cannoli Cupcakes** 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Savory Kalacs


Since it is getting so close to Christmas, wrapping gifts, decorating and planning is underway. Hopefully you have many helpful hands during all this activity, but everyone needs to take a snack break. With all the holiday cookie and dessert baking, something savory is a tasty change of pace.

The sunburst of twisted dough (pictured above) may take a few hours to make due to the rising time, but the end result is well worth it. Sandwiched in between the 2 layers of dough is the bold flavor of Gorgonzola cheese. To compliment the flavor of the cheese is a mixture of onions, pancetta and mustard. Not ordinary-but extraordinary..as well as unique. Not only will this satisfy your taste buds, but the great presentation makes it a feast for the eyes.

This recipe hails from a blogger in New Zealand, so measurements are in grams and milliliters. Baking temperature is in Celsius. Conversion charts to cups and ounces are available through the internet.

No matter what occasion- happy hour, football watching party or just a friendly get together, this appetizer is the one thing that should be on your table. So set the sugar aside and pull out the cheese- let's get baking! My tweaks on this process can be found in the tips and notes at the end. They are helpful hints to for you to have baking success with this recipe.

Savory Kalacs
adapted from atdownunder blogger 

Ingredients/Dough
4 tbs of olive oil
a few pinches of salt
1 tsp of sour cream
200 ml of milk (room temp)
300 g flour
15g of yeast

Ingredients/Filling
1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola (or your cheese of choice)
1 tsp mustard
2 heaping tbs of sour cream
2 green onions/scallions, sliced thin
25g pancetta, diced
salt and pepper to taste
nutmeg to taste (optional)

Topping
1 egg yolk, whisked or lightly beaten
1 tsp sunflower seeds

Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. Set aside. Also, dust a flat surface with flour.

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and sprinkle the top with yeast. Form a well in the center. Using another bowl, whisk together the milk and the sour cream. Pour the liquid into the sifted ingredients. Fold mixture together until a dough is formed. Transfer to prepared surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Shape dough into a mound and cover lightly. Let rise for 20-25 minutes.

Once first rising time is complete, punch down dough and form a well in the center. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the center and knead for about 30 seconds. Make another well and fill with the remaining amount of oil. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Form into a round disc and cover lightly. Let rise for another 30 minutes.

As it rises, create the filling by mixing all listed ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Punch down dough and divide into 2 equal pieces. Take the parchment paper from the baking sheet and roll out one piece of the dough into a circle, about 25 cm in diameter. Using a small spatula, spread the filling over the surface the dough, leaving a 1/2 centimeter border on the edge.

Lightly dust a flat surface and roll out the second piece of dough, measuring the same size as the previous one. Place this second piece, making sure to center it, over the dough with the filling on top.

Invert a drinking glass over the center of the disc, slightly indenting the dough. Score the dough into four equal pieces (like cutting a pie) using the back of a knife. Score the four pieces into two equal segments and then score each of the two segments into three equal portions. After scoring, cut through dough with the back of a knife, following the score lines.

Take each portion of dough (there should be 24) by the outer tip and twist three times. Remove the glass and brush the surface with the egg yolk. Top the center circle of dough (as marked off with the drinking glass) with sunflower seeds.

Place in oven and bake until it has a golden hue. This should take about 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven and invert onto large platter. Remove parchment paper and invert bread again, this time onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely.

Tips and Notes:
1. Filling ingredients were combined in a blender, to make it into spreading consistency.

2. I increased the ingredient amount by half to make sure there was enough to cover the dough

3. Take care to not stretch the dough when twisting, so it will remain the same diameter and hold together.

4. After cutting with the back of the knife, re-cut with a sharp knife. The back of the knife process is to make sure the dough does not stretch when cutting.


                                      **LAST YEAR:Chocolate Custard Tart** 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Chestnut Pie


Gardeners and tree farmers are all too familiar with blight, which is a disease than can kill flowers, vegetables and trees. Overall, I believe that the most destruction it has caused would be the extinction of chestnut trees in the US.

Before the blight took over, chestnut trees were quite plentiful here. They spanned from Maine to Georgia and the amount of trees were too many to count. Sadly, blight can kill a tree in about 5 days. The Christmas song lyrics of "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" no longer applies here in the US. That is, unless you go to the expense of having them shipped to you from another country in order to roast them.

In scanning my pantry, I did find a can of chestnut puree from France. It was an import I ordered previously. With the holidays coming up, I decided to put it to use and make a chestnut pie. This pie is much like a pecan pie, without the chunks of nuts. However, the filling is not as sweet and has a thicker consistency. Regarding flavor, it has the unmistakable earthy taste of chestnuts with a touch of orange.

Outside of crust preparation, the pie comes together easily and only has about 6 ingredients. The crust is not par-baked so you can prepare the dough days before rolling and forming.

If you like chestnuts, do not be discouraged by the fact the trees are extinct in the US. Seek out the chestnut puree on line or at specialty grocers this season. You will be glad you went to the extra trouble. As always, reading the whole recipe along with the tips prior to creating are helpful in order for your efforts to be successful.

Chestnut Pie
adapted from Mrs Rowe's Southern Pies
Ingredients/Pie Pastry
2 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup plus 2 tbs vegetable shortening
6 to 8 tbs milk
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 egg white (depending on form of pie edge)

Ingredients/Pie Filling
3 egg yolks
2 egg whites
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbs orange liqueur
1 tbs orange juice
1 1/2 cups sweetened chestnut puree ( about 1 pound)
ground nutmeg (optional for sprinkling)
sweetened whipped cream (optional for topping serving)

For the crust, start by whisking together the flour and the salt. Then add the shortening and use a pastry blender to cut and mix it in with the sifted ingredients. This will result in a dough that has several small, "pebble sized", clumps. At that point, sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of the milk and blend by folding the dough over several times with the fork. Once the liquid is absorbed, continue with the process by adding one tablespoon of milk at a time. Test for consistency at 6 tablespoons, mixture should easily clump together leaving no dry crumbs behind.

Dust a flat surface and a rolling pin lightly with flour. Flatten the dough into a disk and roll out to 1/8 of an inch thick. It should be between 13 and 14 inches in diameter. Once rolled out, carefully roll dough around rolling pin. Then unroll over the top of a 9 inch the pie plate or dish. Lightly press the dough into the plate, smoothing out evenly.

If you are using the fold under and shape type of edge, trim the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch overhang. If you intend to decorate edges with cut out dough, trim leaving only a 1/4 inch overhang.When adding decorative toppings to the edges with cut outs from the excess dough, be sure to brush top of dough edge in pan prior to placing the extra layer of the cut out dough on top. As you can see by the picture, the pie edge has layers of overlapping rectangles. This is the decorative edge that I created with the excess dough.

After you have formed the pie crust, mark the bottom with the tines of a fork to prevent bubbling up when baking. Then place in the refrigerator while you make the filling. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

The filling starts with 2 egg whites. Beat the whites until they are very stiff. Set aside. Using a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Then stir in the cream, orange liqueur and orange juice. Add the chestnut puree and sugar. Using a wooden spoon, blend the mixture together until it comes together, creating a thick batter. Lastly, carefully fold in the egg whites.

Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator. Pour the filling in the prepared pie crust and smooth the surface until even. At this point you can opt to sprinkle the surface with some nutmeg, if you prefer. Place in oven and bake until center is set and a knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 hour on rack and then transfer to refrigerator for an additional hour to chill. Then it is ready to slice and serve. Feel free to top each serving with sweetened whipped cream.

Tips and Notes:
1. The original crust recipe was modified, so the above reflects a 1/4 increase in the amount of each pie crust ingredients. This gave me enough to do a nice edge on the crust. The original quantity did not roll out big enough to make a nice edge.

2. I used a stoneware pie dish instead of aluminum. The refrigeration time and the type of pan used added an extra 15 minutes to the baking time.

3. My decorative topping made the back crust too heavy and it collapsed upon serving. Next time I will just make a formed, fold over edge.

                                     **LAST YEAR:Oatmeal Raisin Sandwich Cookies*

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Samoa Bundt Cake


There are just some girl scout cookie flavors that are such favorites that they have crossed the cookie boundary into everything from mixed drinks to ice cream. The most common replicated flavor has been from the Samoa cookie. We just can't seem to get enough of that crunchy cookie base that is laden with caramelized coconut and chocolate made famous by the Girl Scouts.

In this post, the flavor of the Samoa cookie can be found in a delicious Bundt cake. The cake has the tender crumb you know to be a great quality of the traditional Bundt. Each piece has a tasty blend of brown sugar and coconut flavor in the base with a caramelized coconut topping. The flavor is good enough to stand on its own. However, I could not resist to add some ganache drizzle to a slice.

While the cake was pretty tasty, there was a problem issue. The recipe calls for a blend of coconut/brown sugar and butter to be pressed into the bottom of the Bundt pan. I used a black bundt pan. After baking, quite a bit of the coconut stuck to the pan and the cake was difficult to release. The original recipe was posted noting that the pan used was a new, cast aluminum non-stick Bundt pan. Baking with this particular equipment turned out to be crucial to insure that the cake releases with a thick and toasty layer of coconut on top.

I would not make this recipe again without the specific type of cake pan as noted in the recipe. Cooking the coconut mixture in a saucepan until it caramelizes is another option. Then the cake batter can be split and the coconut mixture put in between the two cake layers. The coconut would bake with the mixture as a tunnel in the cake instead of on the surface. Another idea is to eliminate the recipe for the coconut topping and use another Bundt recipe that includes a coconut filling.

The recipe is listed below as I originally baked, adapted from the author. I have included the ganache topping recipe as well. Even though you may not have a non-stick cast aluminum pan, the website link below does have numerous Bundt cake recipes that can accommodate different types of Bundt pans.

Samoa Bundt Cake
adapted from Food Lust People Love 

Ingredients/Topping
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
2 cups sweetened coconut

Ingredients/Cake
6 eggs, room temperature
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients/Chocolate Glaze
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz chopped dark chocolate
pinch of salt

Start by melting a few tablespoons of butter. Brush the interior of a 12 cup Bundt pan (specific type of pan as noted above) with the melted butter and dust with flour. Tap out excess flour and make sure all areas are completely covered. Then place pan in refrigerator. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the cake, place the butter and both types of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium high for about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl in intervals. The mixture should be very light and fluffy after this process. Set aside bowl.

In another bowl, sift together the salt, baking powder and flour.

Add one egg to the butter/sugar mixture and beat for about 30 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat this process, adding one egg at a time, until all 6 eggs are incorporated into the batter. Using a separate bowl, pour in the coconut milk and stir in both extracts. Pour the coconut mixture into the butter/sugar mixture and beat until thoroughly blended. Lastly, using a wooden spoon, fold in the sifted ingredients.

Fill the cake pan with the batter and place in oven and bake for about 60-70 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Place cake pan on a rack to cool for about 20 minutes and then invert onto rack and let cool completely before covering with ganache.

To make ganache, place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Then fill a saucepan with the heavy cream and place over medium high heat. Let the cream heat up just to the point of simmering and remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract and salt. Pour mixture over the chopped chocolate and let sit, undisturbed for 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth and then pour over cake evenly, covering the top and letting drip down the sides. Once the ganache is set, the cake is ready to serve.
                                 
                                      
 Tips and Notes:
1. The ganache is optional, but remember that dark chocolate is a strong component and may overpower the flavor of the cake. You can put it on the side when serving so your guests can choose how much or how little they want.

2. Again, the success of the coconut topping requires the specific pan. The top surface of the cake will have a crispy chewy layer when baked, resulting in a mix of caramel and toasted coconut.

3. You are welcome to bake this in a 10 cup bundt pan. The pan is to be filled 3/4 full, so there may be batter left over. Also, baking time may need to be adjusted.

3. The cake lasts for about 3 days when stored in an air tight container.
                                    **LAST YEAR: Peanut Butter Bundt Cake**

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Favorite Cookie Round Up


With the holidays coming up, most bloggers are getting ready by digging up their favorite recipes from the past or searching for something new and delicious for cookie swaps or to surprise guests. This year, I decided to bring out some tasty gems from the past.

One the recipe I chose is a traditional favorite from the Hershey website that has not been posted previously. The others are in the blog history. As you know, all recipe books have indexes on types of cookies. I feel that this compilation covers most of the types listed. If I was limited to only making one of these recipes, it would be quite difficult since they all are wonderful in flavor as well as texture.

If you only have the time for one recipe, remember that there is no "wrong" choice here. Time to click on one of these links and get started in the kitchen!


Chocolate Covered Alfajores - Two tasty vanilla cookies sealed together with Dulce de Leche and dipped in chocolate. Caramel and chocolate with the crunch of a cookie- a nice package of what good is.

Spicy Date Filled Cookies - a decorative, crunchy round cookie filled with dates, nuts and spices. There is enough exotic flavor in one of these to transport you to another country.

Minnies Chocolate Chip Supreme Cookies - A monster cookie that has all the components to make these the ultimate treat for kids- toffee, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and nuts.

Peanut Butter Blossoms - this traditional combo of peanut butter and milk chocolate is so tasty that the recipe has remained as a keeper in a countless number of recipe boxes.

Maple Pecan Pinwheel Cookies - A nice example of format change. These gems have all the flavor of pecan pie in the form of a cookie- one layer of flaky crust and one layer of maple/brown sugar and pecans all rolled up in a round swirl.

Hmmm..after typing all of this I am hungry for some cookies!