I made that!

Homemade Nutella!

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Don't BUY it, MAKE it! by brandi on December 20, 2009

Oh man, I am excited about this one!

Whilst perusing my new farmer’s market last weekend I spotted some locally grown hazelnuts. I somehow talked myself out of getting them with thoughts like “you have a freezer filled with nuts” and “you’re on a budget.” But a week later I woke up and begged John to drive me back to the market so I could get some. I just couldn’t stop thinking about them! And when I am thinking about hazelnuts, I am thinking about nutella, that sweet chocolate hazelnut spread that dreams are made of. I personally think of nutella as culinary crack, but I never buy it because of all the yucky stuff and puffed up oils inside of it. BUT WHAT IF I COULD MAKE MY OWN?!?! And what better way to try than with some locally grown heirloom hazelnuts?

So, first I roasted the hazelnuts, until I could smell them.

Then I unsuccessfully attempted to rub their skins off. Either I am not very good at this, or this particular variety is very attached to it’s skin. I gave up and tossed them in the food processor. I blended them for a good 5 minutes, until I had a smooth and liquid butter.

Then I mixed in cocoa powder, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla. I blended that for 15 seconds and then drizzled in the canola oil. And there it was. Beautiful nutella.

Except it was a tad grainy, since I am not a commercial nut factory. So I strained it, which took some muscle (this stuff is THICK) and I had to call in the reserves.

And then we ate it. On some banana bread that I just HAPPENED to have lying around. And it was delicious. Like a nuttier, more intense version of nutella. A grown up version, if you will. I smell christmas presents…

In case anyone’s curious about the actual nuts, I used Duchilly Hazelnuts from Holmquist Hazelnut Orchard. As someone who grew up munching on local pecans, I am a BIG fan of locally sourced tree nuts. So  I’m very excited to have found a yummy hazelnut farm, I suspect there will be lots of hazelnut desserts in the near future!

NUTELLA RECIPE:

2 cups hazelnuts

6 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup canola oil

– Roast hazelnuts in 375 degree oven for 10 minutes.

– Put roasted hazelnuts in food processor and puree for 5 minutes, until very smooth.

– Add cocoa powder, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla. Puree for 15 seconds and then stream in canola oil.

– Strain and spoon into jars.

– If you plan on having it around for more than a few days, store it in the refrigerator. Because it thickens when cold, you will need to bring it to room temperature before using.

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Pie Dough. The Movie. Except Without Pictures.

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Certified Pie Ninja, Don't BUY it, MAKE it! by brandi on December 13, 2009

Wow.

Remember that hole Orangette fell down? I was warmly welcomed into it this week! I have been working every single day and therefore have had literally no time for cooking at home. It’s my first day off in 7 days (and we’re talking 11 hour shifts here! (which I LOVE, in case Brandon or Molly are reading)), so I will be spending the day with John, exploring this fine city (finally!) and shopping for things to fill up our house. But people want some pie dough! So pie dough it is. Except my pie dough is kind of labor-intensive, so I’m just gonna tell you about it rather than actually make and document it. I think I can get away with this, and you’ll understand how in a second.

So. My pie dough technique is not a traditional one. If you’ve spent some time with sweet doughs (of the non-yeasted variety), you know they basically differ in 2 areas: the ratio of fat to flour, and how that fat is incorporated. Traditional pie dough involves a ratio of 3:2:1, with the fat cut into small chunks (it’s called the biscuit method). Those fat chunks will melt into pockets when the dough bakes, causing flakes. Puff dough involves a ratio of 1:1, meaning there is exactly the same amount of fat as there is flour. That’s what makes it so sinful and delicious. That and the fact that the butter is encased in the dough and then rolled out and folded repeatedly, stretching the butter into sheets, which cause the dough to rise up as the butter melts in the oven. There is also what’s called a “quick puff”, which is a tad less work than traditional puff. In a quick puff dough, you mix large chunks of butter into the flour and mix with just enough water for it to clump together. Then you roll and fold it as if it were puff pastry.

My pie dough falls in the middle. I use the 3:2:1 ratio, but I treat the dough like a quick puff. There are other techniques (I use this one when making galettes, because I don’t want such intense flakes there), but I like this one the best for pies. I also use a 9″ fluted quiche pan, because A) I don’t have the patience to shape beautiful edges and B) those beautiful shapes will melt out of a truly flakey dough anyways.

Quick notes: Since quiche pans are quite a bit larger than traditional pie pans, you’ll need more dough than a normal recipe, and a bit more filling. Also, since this dough gets worked more than a traditional dough, I HIGHLY recommend using pastry flour rather than all-purpose, to keep it from getting tough and chewy. Because this technique takes a while and is pretty labor-intensive, I usually make rather large batches that I portion and freeze for later use. Just pull the dough out of the freezer and into the fridge 1 day before you want to bake it.

So. Let us begin. At the beginning.

PIE DOUGH RECIPE (one 9″ pie):

9oz pastry flour

6oz unsalted butter, cold

3oz water, cold

1/2 tsp salt

– Cut the butter into tablespoon-sized chunks and place in the fridge to firm back up. It should be VERY cold.

– Dissolve the salt in the cold water and place in fridge.

– Put the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer.

– Put half of the chunks of butter into the flour and mix in medium low speed. Using the paddle attachment, mix for 1-2 minutes, until the butter starts to break down into small pieces. At this point you are trying to coat the flour with the butter, which will help shorten the gluten in the dough, making it more tender.

– Put the other half of the butter in the flour-butter mixture. Mix for only 15 seconds, just to coat the butter.

– Pour in the water in a quick stream. Mix JUST until there isn’t a lot of dusty loose flour. I sometimes mix the rest of the loose flour in by tossing it around with my hands. You may need to add a bit of extra water, like another tablespoon or so. You want to see big butter chunks, but you want the dough to hold together.

– Pour the dough onto a parchment-covered sheet pan and pat into a rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.

– Roll the dough into a long rectangular strip. Try to keep neat corners by using a bench scraper. Fold the strip into a book fold – there are picture directions for that here. It is OK that the dough looks all crazy right now, it will get smoother with each fold. Place back on sheet pan, wrap in plastic and put back in fridge for 30 minutes.

– Do that last step 2 more times.

– If you are making dough for more than 1 pie, chop up the dough into portions now. Let the dough rest in the fridge for an hour.

– Roll the dough into a disc that will fit into the pie pan. Gently place in the pan and smooth out the bottom. Use fingers to press sides into fluted edge. It is important to work fast while being careful to not stretch the dough, which will cause to shrink up. Place it in the freezer for 20 minutes. This will also help prevent shrinking. Go ahead and turn on the oven to 400 (375 convection). At this point I’m going to pull pics from old posts…

– Pull the pan out of freezer and place an 8″ round piece of parchment on top of the dough. It should fit neatly in the dough shell. Put an 8″ cake pan on top of the parchment. You should have just a little bit of space between the cake pan and the dough, because the dough will expand to hug the cake pan as it bakes. Fill the cake pan with beans. Then place something heavy on top of that (I use a round pizza stone). I know this seems excessive, but seriously that pie dough wants to puff up.

– Bake it at 400 for around 45 minutes, with a rotation after 25 minutes. It should be set up and almost cooked through, so that when you pull out the cake pan it doesn’t start rising or sinking at the sides. Lower the temperature by 50 degrees and bake for another 5-15 minutes, until the dough is fully baked and golden brown. It should look something like this.

– Let it cool on a rack and then fill it up with yummy stuff!

WHEW…That was a lot of typing! Good Luck!

What Hamburger Helper Wanted To Be When It Grew Up

Posted in All Things Pork, Don't BUY it, MAKE it!, I Like Salt Too by brandi on November 24, 2009

I know, this post is really pushing it. Some of you will forever think I am just plain gross. It’s thanksgiving week and I’m posting a recreation of a classic Hamburger Helper dish. What can I say? I’m at home sick (it’s been a week, I’m dying here!), I’m moving to Seattle in 5 days, I want comfort food and I can’t help it, sometimes I just like to reverse engineer recipes. A year ago the chef at the restaurant I worked at cooked a family meal that smacked of Hamburger Helper, and since then I’ve been obsessed with recreating Cheeseburger Macaroni. But of course I needed to up the game, so I made it Bacon Cheeseburger Macaroni. Well…duh…I think that was an obvious move. Definitely not a date night dish, but great for those nostalgic moments (I can admit it, I grew up in Alabama eating some pretty trashy food). Don’t judge me too harshly.

I started by slowly cooking the bacon, to render its fat. I probably cooked it for about 15 minutes on medium low.

Then I added a diced onion, a carrot, a green bell pepper and a jalapeno. I know technically there weren’t vegetables in the Hamburger Helper version, but come on people, we’re adults now. Kind of. I cooked those on medium until the onions started to turn translucent. Then I threw in 2 minced garlic cloves and cooked it all for a minute more.

Then I added some ground beef and chili powder. I cooked it all until the beef was nicely browned.

Then I added in tomato sauce, tomato paste and worcestershire sauce. I cooked that for about 10 minutes.

Then I added the sour cream and cooked it a few minutes longer. This is the part where it looks seriously unappetizing. But if you can hang in there, it’s worth it.

I turned off the heat and stirred in the cooked macaroni and the shredded cheddar cheese. I stirred it for a good while, to melt the cheese into the sauce. Then I added salt and pepper to my liking. And then I ate it. I’m not gonna lie, this recipe makes quite a lot of pasta. Probably enough to feed 6-8 people. But this one time, when I was testing out the recipe, 4 of us ate the entire thing. And then ate an apple pie. Shameful.

Bacon Cheeseburger Macaroni Recipe:

3 slices bacon, diced

3/4 cup chopped onion

3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped carrot (optional)

1 jalepeno, chopped

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb ground beef

1 TBSP chili powder

1 TBSP worcestershire sauce

2 TBSP tomato paste

3/4 cup tomato sauce

1 cup sour cream

12 oz macaroni, cooked and drained.

8 oz shredded cheddar cheese

salt and pepper

– Cook bacon on medium low heat until it is halfway cooked and releases it’s fat.

– Add onions, bell pepper, carrots and jalepeno and cook until onions are translucent.

– Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.

– Add ground beef and chili powder and cook until browned.

– Add worcestershire, tomato paste, and tomato sauce and cook for 10 minutes.

– Add sour cream and cook for 5 minutes.

– Add noodles and stir well.

– Add cheese and stir well.

– Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Homemade Power Bars!

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Don't BUY it, MAKE it! by brandi on November 20, 2009

Things are a bit hectic around here these days. Moving is HAPPENING! We finally signed a lease on the cutest little house in Seattle, so now it’s packing, goodbye party planning, psychotic cooking of everything in the fridge so we don’t have to take it with us while trying to eat our way through a long list of restaurants and debating whether we can actually afford to replace all the furniture that we never liked anyways. And on top of all that, I’m sick with a cold. So what do we need for all of this? ENERGY! Homemade power bars have been on my list for a while. I actually made them for a hike that never happened, so they came in quite handy all week! Oh yeah, and they’re super easy. I used Heidi Swanson’s recipe from “Super Natural Cooking”, but then adapted it to the ingredients I had on hand. And I added in some maple syrup and upped the salt, because that’s how I roll.

First you throw a bunch of stuff in a bowl: oats,  walnuts, flour, cereal, currants, ginger and coconut. Toss them around to coat everything in the flour.

Then I put the rest of the ingredients (rice syrup, maple syrup, sugar, vanilla, and salt) in a saucepan and simmered them until they thickened.

I poured the hot syrup on top of the oat mixture and stirred it all around to coat.

I pressed it into a sheet pan and let it cool down for a few hours.

Then I cut them into cute little bars! I have to say, at first bite we were like, “Meh, tastes like popcorn”. But then we just kept eating them and by the end we were convinced they were good. Not really sure what that means. Definitely worth making but I suspect I’ll be changing them up a bit next time.

Power Bars Recipe (adapted by Heidi Swanson):

1 TBSP mild oil

1 1/4 cups rolled oats

1 1/4 cups chopped toasted walnuts

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups unsweetened brown rice cereal

1 cup dried currants

2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

3/4 cup brown rice syrup

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp salt

– Grease a pan with the oil. If you like thick power bars, opt for an 8 by 8-inch pan; for thinner bars, use a 9 by 13-inch pan.

– Mix the oats, walnuts, flour, cereal, currants, ginger and coconut together in a large bowl and set aside.

– Combine the rice syrup, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly as it comes to a boil and thickens just a bit, about 4 minutes. Pour over the oat mixture and stir until the syrup is evenly incorporated.

– Spread into the prepared pan and cool to room temperature before cutting into whatever size bars you desire.

Halloween Candy Corn!

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Don't BUY it, MAKE it!, The Candy Store by brandi on October 31, 2009

I know it’s been a little while since my last post. I went on a much needed vacation to Seattle with some girlfriends for a little girl’s weekend. A 5 day weekend, but a weekend non the less. Two of my friends were the architects for the new Delancey pizzeria (if you read the blog Orangette, you’ve probably already heard of it) in the Ballard neighborhood and we were itching to check it out. I’m happy to report the pizza and the restaurant were amazing, as well as the entire city of Seattle, which stole my heart. It was my first time there and hopefully I’ll be returning soon.

But back here in San Francisco, it’s Halloween! I actually am not motivated at all this year, so instead of partying with my friends, (I have to get up early and I’m old and lazy! Stop judging me!) I’m making candy corn. I’ve seen this recipe floating around on the web and have been curious, so it was good timing.

I started by boiling granulated sugar, corn syrup and butter for about 5-6 minutes. I mixed in some vanilla and let it cool for 15 minutes.

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While that was cooling, I sifted together powdered sugar, powdered milk and salt in a large bowl.

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I poured in the warm sugar mixture.

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I kneaded until it was a smooth dough.

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Then I split it into 3 parts and mixed in some food coloring.

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I rolled the dough into thin ropes and pressed the 3 colors together.

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Then I sliced them into triangles.

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And then spent an embarrassing amount of time squishing each little piece together. Since I lost steam pretty fast, John came to the rescue. It made a certain amount of sense, since he’s the one that will be feasting on these little sugar bombs for the next week!

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UPDATE: We’ve had 3 little kiddies visit us for our homemade candy! That alone was worth it!

CANDY CORN RECIPE:

yields aprox. 300 3/4-inch pieces

1 cup white sugar

2/3 cup corn syrup

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup powdered milk

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

10-40 drops red and yellow food coloring

– Heat white sugar, corn syrup and butter in a sauce pan over low heat. Stir until all ingredients are dissolved. Turn heat to high until mixture comes to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and let bubble (uncovered) for 5 minutes.

– Stir in vanilla extract and remove from heat. Allow to cool until warm to the touch (about 15 minutes).

– In a large bowl sift powdered sugar, powdered milk and salt. Add cooled mixture from sauce pan and stir until it’s too thick. Begin to work with your hands and knead the dough until all of the powdered sugar have been absorbed.

– Divide dough into 3 sections, make a dent in 2 pieces and add 20 drops of yellow food coloring to each. In one of those, add 9 drops of red food coloring to create orange. Mix each until colors are even throughout.

– To make candy corns, eyeball 1/8th of the dough from each piece. Roll each color into long ropes and press together. Cut with a bench scraper or knife and smoosh the seams together. John reported good luck with microwaving them in short bursts to keep the dough warm. Allow the candy to cool and air dry.

– Once dry, store in an airtight container.

Salt and Pepper Soup Crackers!

Posted in Don't BUY it, MAKE it!, I Like Salt Too by brandi on October 22, 2009

Seriously, get ready for the cutest little soup crackers ever. So simple, so fast, but totally worthwhile.

You start with a basic biscuit dough, but one with very little butter. You can spice them up however you like. On this batch I made salt and pepper crackers, since I didn’t know what kind of soup they were gonna land in.

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After the dough relaxes for a bit, roll it out to be very thin. Then stamp or cut into whatever your desired shape. I went with the smallest fluted cutter I had, because it’s cute.

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Use a skewer or a fork (I ripped one of the teeth off of a plastic fork) to poke little holes in the crackers. You want to try to go all the way through, this helps them bake evenly and keeps them from totally ballooning up in the oven.

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The you brush them with melted butter and sprinkle on some salt.

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Then you bake them until they’re nice and crispy!

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And aren’t they frickin’ adorable?! These ended up in a delicious delicata squash soup. I think next I’m gonna play with a spicy version to go in a chili….yummmmm.

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OYSTER CRACKERS RECIPE:

2 cups AP flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 TBSP butter, cold

2/3 cup milk

– Mix dries.

– Mix in butter by squishing into the flour with your fingers.

– Mix in milk.

– Let rest for 1 hour.

– Roll very thin.

– Stamp out shapes.

– Poke holes.

– Brush with melted butter sprinkle with salt.

– Bake at 375 until browned and crispy (9 – 12 minutes, depending on size).

The Candy Bar Factory – Round 3

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Don't BUY it, MAKE it!, The Candy Store by brandi on September 20, 2009

The fun just never stops! Yesterday I had my friends Kaveena and Sareena helping me out and we made Almond Joy Bars for the Party Corps Fundraiser. I’m not usually excited about coconut, but I couldn’t resist this recipe…

I started by boiling sugar, butter, corn syrup and water.

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I poured the mixture over the chopped chocolate and let stand for about 1 minute.

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Then I whisked in the rest of the ingredients to make a brownie batter.

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I spread out the brownie batter.

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I baked the brownies until they had a nice flaky top.

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I made a meringue, then folded in shredded coconut, sour cream and the seeds from a vanilla bean.

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I spread on the filling and popped it back in the oven.

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I baked the coconut filling until it was nice and browned.

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Then I sliced the bars into bite-sized squares.

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I finished them off by pouring on some ganache and topping them with an almond. Adorable!

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RECIPE:

14 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup granulated sugar

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup water

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

COCONUT TOPPING

7 large egg whites

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

1 pound finely shredded unsweetened coconut (6 1/2 cups)

1/4 cup sour cream

1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (optional)

GLAZE-AND-GARNISH

1 pound 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

4 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 1/4 cups heavy cream

40 unsalted roasted almonds

DIRECTIONS

MAKE THE BROWNIES: Preheat the oven to 350°. Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet with parchment paper and spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup and water and bring to a boil. Pour the mixture over the chopped chocolate and let stand for about 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in the flour and salt, then whisk in the eggs and vanilla until fully incorporated.

Scrape the brownie batter onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it to the edge. Bake for 15 minutes, until the top of the brownie looks dry and crackly. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack to cool, then transfer the baking sheet to the freezer to chill for 30 minutes, until the brownie base is completely firm.

MEANWHILE, MAKE THE COCONUT TOPPING: In a large heatproof bowl, combine the egg whites with the sugar. Set the bowl over a large saucepan of boiling water and whisk the mixture over moderate heat until it is warm to the touch and the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 8 minutes. Fold in the shredded coconut, sour cream, vanilla seeds and grated orange zest, if using. Spread the coconut topping evenly over the brownie base. Bake for 30 minutes, until the coconut topping is lightly golden and set. Transfer to a rack to cool, then cover and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.

MAKE THE GLAZE: Combine the chopped bittersweet chocolate, butter and corn syrup in a large bowl. In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 1 minute, then whisk until the chocolate is melted and the glaze is smooth. Let stand until warm to the touch, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, trim the border of the chilled brownie base to make it neat. Cut the base into 2-inch squares and transfer them to 2 wire racks set over baking sheets. Top each square with an almond. Using a small ladle, pour a thick coating of the chocolate glaze over each brownie bar. Using a small offset spatula, spread the glaze to coat the top and sides completely. (Rewarm the glaze over a pot of simmering water if it gets too thick.) Refrigerate the brownie bars until the glaze sets up, about 1 hour. Serve chilled.

The Candy Bar Factory – Round 1

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Don't BUY it, MAKE it!, The Candy Store by brandi on September 17, 2009

Guess what? I’m on the board or directors for a nonprofit company called Party Corps. What is Party Corps, you say? Well, we like to throw parties! Parties that generate cash for other nonprofits in San Francisco. This Saturday is our third party and will be benefiting The Women’s Community Clinic. Of course, my participation in the company means I get to do what I do best – feed people! The last party was for outreach in Africa, so I made African donuts. This time, I’m going retro. I’ve decided to recreate classic candy bars, but without all the nasty preservatives and artificial flavors. So my first mission: Whatchamacallit bars! This was my personal favorite candy bar when I was a kid (or adult, but who’s keeping track?). I was so excited to make them that I broke my #1 budget rule and ran out and bought a cookbook new instead of waiting to find it used at Green Apple. The book was “Baked – New Frontiers in Baking” and I highly recommend it. They don’t actually call this a Whatchamacallit in the book, but that’s wht it is. So. Let us begin…

I started by pouring my puffed rice in a large bowl.

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Then I made a sugar syrup. Once it reached 235 on a thermometer, I stirred in some butter.

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I poured that syrup over the puffed rice and mixed it together. Then I pressed the rice into a buttered pan.

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While that was cooling I started on the next layer: peanut butter and milk chocolate.

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I melted them together into gooey bowl of deliciousness.

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ANd poured that on top of the puffed rice.

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I spread it out all nice and smooth and popped it into the fridge to firm up.

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Once that firmed up I melted some chocolate and butter to top it with.

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I spread that around and put it back in the fridge to set up some more.

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Then I wait and wait and FINALLY! I get to slice them into cute little bite-size squares!

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So pretty! And they totally taste like Whatchamacallits! 35 down, 365 to go!

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RECIPE:

For the crispy crust
1 3/4 cups crisped rice cereal
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons unsalted (their recommendation) or salted (what I used, and liked) butter, melted

For the milk chocolate peanut butter layer
5 ounces good-quality milk (their recommendation) or semi-sweet (what I’d use next time) chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup creamy peanut butter

For the chocolate icing
3 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72 percent cocoa), coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Make the crispy crust: Lightly spray a paper towel with nonstick cooking spray and use it to rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan.

Put the cereal in a large bowl and set aside.

Pour 1/4 cup water into a small saucepan. Gently add the sugar and corn syrup (do not let any sugar or syrup get on the sides of the pan) and use a small wooden spoon to stir the mixture until just combined. Put a candy thermometer in the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; cook until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 235 degrees F.

Remove from the heat, stir in the butter, and pour the mixture over the cereal. Working quickly, stir until the cereal is thoroughly coated, then pour it into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan (do not press up the sides). Let the crust cool to room temperature while you make the next layer.

Make the milk chocolate peanut butter layer: In a large nonreactive metal bowl, stir together the chocolate and the peanut butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for about 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the cooled crust. Put the pan in the refridgerator for 1 hour, or until the top layer hardens.

Make the chocolate icing: In a large nonreactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter.

Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the chilled milk chocolate peanut butter layer and spread into an even layer. Put the pan into the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the topping hardens.

Cut into squares and serve. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, covered tightly, for up to 4 days.

Lemon Pistachio Biscotti

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Don't BUY it, MAKE it! by brandi on May 16, 2009

It’s been 2 weeks and Matt at Etiquette Lounge is ready for my second batch of biscotti. After only 2 rounds with this crispy little dunker I have decided that biscotti is super fun. Once you find a dough you like, the flavor options are endless! Today I wanted something bright and springy, so I made a batch with meyer lemons, pistachios and anise seeds. I like to work in pistachios whenever possible, I have a thing for that shade of green.

First I made a dough. Traditionally biscotti is made without butter, but I like a little in mine. Call me a fatty…I like fat.

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Then I formed the dough into 2 loaves and baked them.

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I let the loaves cool for 10 minutes, and then sliced them into  cookies.

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Then I baked them some more, to dry them out and caramelize the sugar.

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A Labor Camp Weekend (of frying)

Posted in Don't BUY it, MAKE it!, I Like Salt Too by brandi on March 29, 2009

This weekend was a lovely one spent up in Napa Valley. My friend Bronson has a house in the woods that he’s been trying to fix up. So this weekend he threw a labor camp party, inviting a bunch of his friends to come up with him and build stuff (fun stuff like concrete foundations!). Not a difficult proposal with a bunch of architects as friends. Since I’m a pipsqueak with some culinary skills, I was hired as camp chef. There was a breakfast of dried cherry scones and homemade granola, a lunch of tuna sandwiches and homemade potato chips, and turkey pot pies for dinner. And lemon poundcake with strawberries and whipped cream for dessert. While that was certainly a big pile of cooking, the part that got me all giddy was the potato chips.

Bronson wanted to keep lunch simple, with some sandwiches and chips. When I heard that, all I could think was “Yes! I can make homemade potato chips!” At first he wasn’t too keen on the idea of making them ourselves (What is UP with all the fryer haters? We’re people too! I’ll fry anywhere, anytime. I don’t even need a deep fryer, just a pot. I even travel with my own splatter screen…), thinking it would be too messy. But he was swayed. Potato chips are very simple – you just need 2 ingredients: potatoes and oil. We went with a mix of sweet potatoes and yams. Oh yeah, I guess you need a mandolin too.

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Mandolins make light work of slicing, and allowed me to get super-thin discs of potato.

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The trickiest part is getting the temperature of the oil right. We didn’t have a thermometer with us, so it took some trial and error to get to the sweet spot, but I think 350 is about right. Once the oil temperature is set, they only take about 3 minutes to fry!

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While they were still warm I tossed them with some salt, pepper, cumin and parsley.

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They were way better than any chip I’ve ever gotten out of a bag. I think they’ll make it into the regular picnic rotation.