Thursday, August 23, 2007

My Namesake

White Chocolate Toffee Pecan Blondies

Here it is, the end all and be all of Blondies. I am a sefl proclaimed Chocoholic and this recipe rivals any brownie recipe I have made or tasted.

This recipe rocks not only because of its flavor, but also because its base uses ingredients almost everyone has on hand at all times (egg, flour, butter etc).

It is so simple to whip up because the butter is melted, you do not need to wait for it to come to room temp making these the perfect last minute dessert. Plus the recipe is super versatile; you can stir in any addition you can think of to suit your tastes making them a totally different treat each time you bake! This one recipe will literally give you a thousand different dessert options by mixing up what you use for "add ins". I have not come across a bad combination of "add ins" yet and I have made these a hundred times or more. I dare you to see if Blondes really do have more fun.

*For the blondies pictured I used 1/2 cup white chocolate chunks, 1/4 cup toffee pieces and 1/2 cup toasted Pecan pieces.

Basic Blondies
6-7 TBS butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder (optional, creates lighter blondie texture)

"Add in" (see below)

Preheat oven to 350.
Line an 8x8 pan with foil and lightly spray with PAM.
In a large microwave safe mixing bowl melt the butter. Allow to cool for 5 mintues. Mix the brown sugar with the melted butter and beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla. Add salt, stir in flour and baking powder (if using). Mix in any additions (some ideas below).

Pour into prepared pan and use a greased spatula to evenly spread mixture in pan and level the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until set in the middle. (I baked for 22 minutes)Cool on rack before cutting.

Add in ideas:
1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, white chocolate or butterscotch chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans, walnuts, almonds
1/2 cup M&M candies1/2 chopped Reese's PB cups
1/4 cup toffee pieces
1/2 tsp mint extract in addition to, or in the place of vanilla extract

Crack is Whack

Ok, this is MY crack! I love this snack mix and have eaten myself sick off of it because I have NO self control. This is a recipe I made up to take to a family reunion based on what I had on hand about two months ago.Needless to say everyone loved it and I have made it about six times since then and shamefully admit have eaten the majority of during my late night cravings for something sweet and a tad salty. The recipe can be easily halved as well for those with little will power like me, but trust me, you will just be making another batch that much sooner!
This mix is very sweet indeed and is not for those who do not appreciate the wonderful goodness that is anything coated in a carmel/toffee type mixture. The snack mix bakes up golden and the carmel coating hardens forming the perfect coating on the nuts and cereal. The dash of salt and the salt from the nuts compliment the sweetness of the coating beautifully. While the toasting of the pecans and almonds is optional, I would highly recommend it. Toasting the nuts brings out a totally different and deeper flavor that adds a whole new dimension to any recipe you add them to.
No true snack mix (in my opinion) is complete without some chocolate and M&M's fill this requirement! I may try adding pretzel sticks to the cereal/nut mixture before baking next time and maybe tossing in some Reese's pieces or chopped Reese's Peanut Butter cups with the M&M's next time. Peanut Butter M&M's would be great as well. Heck, the possibilities are endless, mix and match to suit your tastes.
Carmel Nut Snack Mix
12 cups Crispex Cereal (Chex would work as well)
3/4 cup light corn syrup (Karo is my fave)
1 stick of butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
Dash of salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
3/4 cup almonds, toasted
3/4 cup honey roasted peanuts
1 cup M&M candies (I used plain and peanut)

Preheat oven to 250.
Line a very large roasting pan (or two rimmed cookie sheets) with quick release foil and lightly spray with PAM.
In a medium size sauce pan over low/medium low heat, stir together the syrup, butter and brown sugar. Stir constantly until melted and sugar has disolved.
Place the cereal, pecans, almonds and honey roasted nuts into the prepared roasting pan or cookie sheets. Carefully pour the brown sugar mixture over the cereal and nuts. Use a butter spatula to toss and coat the cereal and nuts completely with the brown sugar mixture.
Evenly sprinkle lightly with salt.
Bake for 45 minutes removing every 10 mintues to gently toss with a buttered pair of tongs to ensure even baking/browning.
While snack mix is baking, spread a few large sheets of parchment paper on counter. After mixture has finished baking add the M&M candies and stir to combine. Turn mixture out onto parchment making sure to spread out to prevent large clumps to cool.
While mixture is cooling, gently toss every 15 minutes to prevent further clumping together, breaking up clumps as needed. Store in airtight container.

Bow Wow for Puppy Chow

If dogs eat this good I wanna be a Poodle in my next life!

Now we all know that this recipe isn't really for dogs as they are not to have chocolate. I am not sure where the title of this addictive treat comes from, but it is known as "Puppy Chow" in my family. (I have heard others call it "White Trash Mix" as well). Whatever you choose to call it, the fact remains, this quick and easy snack is addictively DELISH!

I love cereal and any recipe that involves Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Cereal has to be a winner in my book. Nothing is better than licking the white sugary goodness off of your fingertips after you are finished enjoying this addictive treat.

The recipe can be easily halved and keeps for days (if it lasts that long) in an airtight container kept at room temp or in the fridge during these hot months.

Puppy Chow
9 cups Crispex Cereal (Chex would work as well)
2/3 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
4 TBS butter
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Into large mixing bowl, measure the cereal and set aside. In medium saucepan, combine the peanut butter, butter and chocolate chips. Heat over low heat stiring frequently until all of the mixtuere is melted and creamy. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Evenly pour mixture over cereal and toss to coat completely. In a huge ziplock bag place half of the powdered sugar mixture. Toss half of the chocolate covered cereal to the bag and shake to coat. Spread coated cereal on waxed paper covered baking sheet or counter. Repeat with remaining sugar and cereal. Once mixture has cooled, store in tupperware container in fridge to keep fresh.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Christmas in August (at least in MY kitchen)

Wow, August is almost over, I can NOT believe it! Pretty soon Christmas will be right around the corner.

Well, this weekend I baked up a tasty little cookie that reminds me of the Christmas cookies my mom always bakes. I didn't take a picture but let me tell you these need to go in your holiday rotation! They are chocolatey, pepperminty, and oh so sweet (even if you have not been).

The real key here is a good quality cocoa powder. I LOVE Ghiradelli chocolate. I like Hershey's cocoa as much as the next gal (HELLO Perfectly Chocolate Cake and Frosting) but these cookies really deserve some high quality cocoa.

These cookies are sweet (may be too sweet for some: (cough, chickens!! cough)) so rolling them in sugar before baking is optional. However, doing so will produce the most glorious sugar crusted, crackly topped chocolate peppermint piece of heaven you have ever had the pleasure to indulge in.

*Can be easily doubled, I got about 14 cookies, just enough to eat some a freeze some.
Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup butter flavor Crisco
3/4 cups + 2 TBS sugar
1 egg, room temp
1/2 tsp peppermint extract (not oil)
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Ghiradelli cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup White chocolate chips
1/2 cup Andes Peppermint chips (the white and red ones) (NOT the regular green/chocolate Ande's mints!!)
Sugar (for rolling dough balls)

Preheat oven to 350.Line baking sheet with Parchement paper.
In medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, soda, baking powder and salt. Set asideCream the butter and Crisco. Add the sugar and beat until blended. Add egg and peppermint extract, beat until well combined.

Fold in with a spatula the flour/cocoa mixture. Mix with a blender 10 seconds to combine. Fold in the white chocolate chips and Andes chips. Using a medium cookie scoop form dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each dough ball in a cup of sugar to lightly coat. Place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 9-10 minutes or until edges are firm and the center appears slighlty soft, don't overbake. Cool on baking sheet 3-5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely.

Say CHEESE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Cheesecake, Oh Cheesecake. How I love thee.
I made this about a month ago, took a picture (NO cracks!!!!) and never had anywhere to post it! So, with out further ado, here is my PERFECT cheesecake. She is a glorious combination of three recipes and let me tell you she was so rich, creamy and quite possibly the best tasting dessert my mouth has ever had the pleasure to enjoy. I kept it simple so I could top with whatever my heart and tummy fancied at the time. Let me tell you, she tasted just as good topped with fresh fruit as she did douced in hot fudge, caramel and nuts! I don't have the recipe written down, but I promise the next time I make this glorious marvel I will take another picture and post the recipe.

A Woman's Work is NEVER Done: More Chocolate Chip 'Cookies

Here is a recipe I have been wanting to try forever and this past weekend I finally did. It comes from Sarah Phillips' book Baking 411. She promises a cookie with a crunchy outside and a chewy inside that is not cakelike. These cookies deliver. They taste like how the Nestle Tollhouse cookies should taste (if the recipe can be prepared correctly). That is the great thing about these cookies, you don't need special flour (like Alton's) or to chill the dough. The addition of baking powder is what gives these cookies their slight lift and soft chew without becoming cake-like. Just whip them up and bake them and you won't be sorry!
Bonus: I froze several of these, and even out of the freezer they are slightly "chewy" and not rock hard!

Here is her recipe for:
Thick with a Chew Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon into meauring cup and level to top rim)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 easpoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter (can be cold from refrigerator - cut each stick into tablespoon size pieces if cold)

2 large eggs, can be cold from refrigerator

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts, optional (chop, then measure)


Position the oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Heat oven to 375.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

If the butter is cold, in a large bowl, beat the butter until just softened with a handheld mixer on low speed. Add the sugars and cream on low until well combined.

If the butter is at room temperature or somewhat soft, combine it with the sugars in the mixing bowl and cream together. If you cream the mixture just right, it will look somewhat creamy and a little shaggy.

Do not overcream it to the point that it is really creamy and the butter starts to feel greasy. If you do, place the mixing bowl in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or until the fat hardens.

With the mixer still on low, add the eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated.With a large rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture. The dough will be stiff. Beat on low for 5 to 10 seconds to combine.

Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.Roll one tablespoon of the dough into a ball for each cookie, and place the balls about 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

The dough will spread very little when baked. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes (about 5 minutes for smaller cookies) until just browned around the edges, and pale and slightly unset in the middle. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 1 minute. Then remove the cookies from the sheet to wire racks to cool completely.

Taste Testing: Chocolate Chip Cookies

I LOVE to bake, so when a friend passed along a new recipe for the classic Chocolate Chip Cookie, I had to give it a whirl. These cookies bake up with a slightly crisp exterier and a moist crumb interior. This is not the cookie for those who like nice and soft puffy cookies. However, these cookies are nice and sturdy and after chilling in the freezer for 30 minutes and are perfect with a big ol'scoop of icecream sandwhiched in between two of them! These would travel well and can be easily stacked for shipping as well.

I was a bit surprised by the end result of the cookies. The recipe uses shortening, which I thought would produce a puffy cookie, but I was wrong, yet not disappointed with the results. The flavor of these is just the right combination of chocolate and vanilla. What makes these cookies stand apart from my usual recipes is the use of Milk Chocolate chips (a welcomed change) but SemiSweet chips can be easily subbed. Although I would suggest giving the Milk Chocolate chips a whirl, they are under-utilized in cookie recipes in my opinoin.

Milk Chocolate Chippers
1 cup butter Flavor Crisco
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp water
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups Milk Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl whisk the flour, salt and soda. Set aside.
Cream shortening and sugars until blended. Add eggs and vanilla and mix to combine.
Fold in the flour mixture just until combined.
Fold in the chips.
Bake on parchement lined baking sheets for 8-10 minutes or until edges are light brown. Do not overbake. Cool on sheet for 3 minutes and transfer to rack to cool completely.