Friday, October 14, 2011

How Do You Say Caramel?

Do you pronounce it kar-uh-mel or kahr-muhl?

Well, any way you say it, you'll love this little delight.

Nick Malgieri's Caramel Crumb Bars
Makes 24 two-inch squares

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Ingredients:
For the dough
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)

For the filling
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Directions:

Position a rack on the lowest level of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, then use a little butter to lightly grease the paper.

For the dough: Combine the 16 tablespoons of butter, the sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is soft and light. Add the vanilla extract and mix to incorporate.

Reduce the speed to low, then gradually add 2 1/4 cups of the flour and beat until well incorporated to form a smooth dough. Use a spatula to scrape down the bowl and paddle.

Remove the bowl from the mixer; transfer three-quarters of the dough into the prepared pan. Use the palm of your hand to press the dough down lightly and evenly. Chill the dough-lined pan while you make the topping: Work the remaining 1/4 cup flour into the remaining dough with your fingertips so that it forms small crumbs. Set aside at room temperature.

For the filling: Combine the butter, corn syrup, brown sugar and condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Allow the mixture to boil gently, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until the mixture starts to thicken and darken slightly. Pour into a stainless-steel bowl to cool for 5 minutes.

To assemble: Pour the cooled filling on top of the chilled dough, then scatter the crumb mixture evenly over the top. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the filling bubbles gently and is a deep caramel color and the dough and crumb topping are baked through.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes, until lukewarm. Use the parchment paper to lift the slab of baked dough out of the pan and onto a cutting board before it has cooled completely. Cut the slab into roughly 2-inch squares

For the record, I only had light brown sugar on hand, so I used it. And...I misread the recipe and used all of the flour for the batter. I added a little more to make the crumb, but I don't think my "crumb topping" was as crumby (?!) as it should have been.

These bars are rich and surprisingly light. Those not photographed and taste-tested are currently residing in my freezer in the tenuouos hope that out of sight is out of mind.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Tongue Tantalizing Treat

This is not your momma's shortbread cookie!

Pepper-Cumin Cookies

This is a surprising and sophisticated twist on an old favorite that combines the smokiness of cumin, the richness of butter, the brightness of lemon, and the unexpectedness of black pepper.

But do not be confused. This is a cookie, not a cracker. It disolves on your tongue while the ghosts of flavors are still haunting your surprised palate. It makes you think. It makes you wonder. It makes you want more.

Would I take these cookies to the church bake sale? No. Would I serve these cookies to my rather "set in their ways" parents. Definitely not! However, would I set out a plate of these while entertaining my foodie friends? You betcha!

Imagine a table full of appetizers, savory and salty, cruchy and tart. And then, these cookies An excellent addition, I think.

The recipe is by Molly O'Neill of the NYT and is on page 695 of The Essential New York Times Cookbook.

Pepper-Cumin Cookies

2 c all purpose flour
6 Tbs sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp black peppercorns, cracked
1 tsp cumin seeds, cracked
2 sticks unsalter butter, cut into pieces and softened slightly
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Put the flour, sugar, salt, lemon zest, peppercorns and cumin in the food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and vanilla and pulse until the mixture forms a dough.

2. Transfer the dough to a work surface. Shape into 1" balls and place 2" apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Flatten each cookie with the palm of your hand to 1/4" thick.

3. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from pans and place on racks to cool.


The cookbook says approximately 30 cookies, but I got 3 dozen.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Celebrating A Life in Recipes

On July 29th, I posted a farewell to my online buddy Becky. Today, her birthday, I will share with you some of my favorites of the recipes she had shared with me over the years.

I invited some friends for lunch to enjoy Red Beans and Rice, a salad of spinach, sweet potato, goat cheese, and bacon, and a dessert of chocolate meringue pie while I told them the wonderful things I knew about Becky. Her roots in Louisiana, her two daughters and wonderful husband. Her farm in Tennessee and her residence in Alabama. Her dedication to the Huntsville Botanical Gardens and her passion for art deco, Fiestaware, and vintage linens.

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Red Beans and Rice

2 cups dry red beans
6 cups water
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon thyme leaves
6 grates nutmeg
1½ teaspoons salt
1 lb. smoked sausage, Optional
2 cups uncooked rice

About noon on Sunday wash the beans and put in crockpot with water, onion and garlic. Turn heat to LOW, cover and cook.
Sunday night before you go to bed add the Tabasco, Worcestershire, cayenne, oregano, thyme, nutmeg and salt. Add more water, if needed. Cover and continue cooking.
On Monday morning slice and steam the sausage if you are going to use it; add to crockpot. Again, add water, if needed. Cover and cook till suppertime. Cook rice according to package directions. Place cooked rice in soup plates and ladle the beans on top.
Serves 6

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Here is the link to Becky's blog and her recipe for Chocolate Pie.

I have only recently tried Becky's recipe for Pound Cake, and it is truly delicious. Here is the recipe and her history with it.

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Pound Cake
In my birth family I was known for never being able to get a cake out of a pan in one piece. However, when we got married, Mike's aunt gave me Southern Sideboards (Jackson Jr. League cookbook). In it was a recipe for Selma's VA Pound Cake. He had requested pound cake for dessert and being a newlywed, I wanted to try to make it. Well, I made it and it turned out of the pan perfectly! No more jinx. I tinkered with the recipe a little, and this is my version of that cake. It's been a success for 27 years now.

1½ cups butter
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups unbleached flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pinch salt
½ teaspoon baking powder

Grease and flour a large tube pan.

Cream butter and sugar till smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add flour a little at a time. Slowly add milk, flavouring and salt. Put in the baking powder last. Pour batter into pan and place in cold oven. Turn temperature to 325ºF and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool slightly and remove from pan.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Best Part of Late Summer

School children wimper and wail as Summer winds down and slowly eases into Fall, but those of us past the age of romping barefoot in fields of clover, chasing firelies and sucking honeysuckle have reasons to celebrate. While temperatures still dance in the low nineties, late summer fruits are in full harvest.

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Great grapes! It's time for grapes. Not the grapes available year round in the supermarket...those marevelously thick hulled grapes grown on arbors in back-yards and wild grapes with vines climbing sturdy old trees in secret places. Forget the ragweed, pick up your buckets and baskets and head out for Scuppernongs and Muscadines!

If you've never experienced it, you should give it a try. Take a grape and look for the point where it grew from the vine. Place it half-way between your lips and gently bite down until the juicy flesh pops into your mouth. Chew softly, separating the pulp from the seed. Your tastebuds will dance, your nostrils will flare, your eyes will light up.

These delights are native to the southern United States and make marvelous jelly and wine. But truly, they are best enjoyed with your feet propped on the porch rail, popping them in your mouth and discarding seeds and skins into a piece of newspaper while watching the sun set on another late summer day.

If you aren't fortunate enough to have a neighbor or friend with a vine, certain supermarkets will carry them for a short time. I've found them at the Piggly Wiggly, Publix, and even Walmart. Life is an adventure..try something new!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Goodbye, Dear Friend

A woman that I never met, but considered to be a dear friend passed away today. We "met" through an online community that started on the Food Network website as fans of Ina Garten. When the Food Network discontinued the discussion boards, we migrated to a new, ProBoards forum entitled "Contessa's Kitchen".

Beck Turner was a dedicated wife, mother, daughter, and sister. She was an adventurous and creative cook, and an expert at long forgotten food arts like canning and preserving and taught me a great deal. She collected FiestaWare and loved to create "tablescapes" with her beautiful dishes.

If you are reading this, please take a moment to look to the right at some of my favorite sites. There is a link there to her blog, Random Musings of a Decolady. Please visit it to truly appreciate how much she will be missed.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What To Do With All of These Tomatoes?

I've been quite busy, lately, canning and pickling. I made two batches of pickles and a batch of salsa in the last couple of weeks. Then I received a call from my dad stating that his tomatoes were coming in fast and furious and to come get some soon before they were all gone.

I loaded up the cats and headed south to find his garage over-run with tomatoes and many still on the vines. First I made another batch of salsa. Then sat and calculated the amount left. His neighbors and friends have reached the saturation point and are refusing to take his calls.

Today I decided to try my hand and canning tomato sauce and found this recipe.

Tomato Sauce with Fresh Herbs

15 lbs tomatos
2 lbs onions
1/3 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic
2 cups chopped fresh basil
3 TBS salt
1 TBS pepper
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 bottle red wine (optional)

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I know the color is wild, but that is 15 pound of tomatoes, pealed and chopped.

Peel and chop tomatoes and set aside. Dice onions and saute in olive oil. Add chopped garlic just before onions become translucent. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil and wine (if using).

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Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until reduced by 1/3, about 2 hours. Add lemon juice and cook an additional 5 minutes. Fill jars and place immediately into boiling water bath for 30 to 35 minutes (30 minutes for pints, 35 for quarts). Makes 8 qts if using wine, 6 if not.

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My sister contributed the basil from her garden and the smell is divine. I can hardley wait to cook up some pasta and try it! Imagine garden fresh goodness in the middle of winter!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pie, Pie, Me Oh My!

Say the word pie, and two things immediately come to mind...Andie McDowell's song about pie in the movie Michael and an obscure skit from Saturday Night Live in which Alec Baldwin reproaches diner waitress Jan Hooks for giving away pie with a meal because it made her look cheap.

I am a pop culture junkie.

A pop culture junkie that looooves me some pie!

I was invited to participate in an online event in which over a thousand of us baked pie and posted the photos on Facebook or Twitter and it threw me into a tizzy (for those of you not from the South, I was terribly excited.) What kind to make? Fruit, cream, or custard? One crust, two crust, or lattice top? Which pastry recipe to use? Cold water pastry? Hot water pastry? Pate brisee?

A quick inventory of my pantry and fridge and I decided on Lemon Meringue, a personal favorite.

First, the pastry. This recipe came from Suzie in the Contessa's Kitchen discussion board and was quite lovely.

Perfect Pie Crust
1/2 cup water
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vinegar

Mix together with a fork and set aside.

In a large bowl put
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 & 3/4 cup of Crisco (no substitutions)

Cut the Crisco into the flour mixture (I just use my hands) When it is well blended add the liquid. You don't have to worry about toughening the dough, mix it in. Don't worry if the dough seems wet, divide into 2 or 3 equal discs and wrap in plastic wrap and chill for approximately 2 hours. Roll on a floured board to 1/8" thick and about 12" round.

Place in 9" pie pan and trim pastry so that it is 1/2" larger than the rimmed edge of the dish. Fold under and crimp. Poke the bottom of the crust with a fork 4 to 6 times. Place a piece of foil (I like the non-stick) in the bottom and add pie weights (I use dried beans). Place in a 375 degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes. Remove foil and weights and reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake until golden brown, about another 15 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.


crust2

And then, the filling.

The original recipe is a bit spotty. It is from the Calling All Cooks cookbook by the Alabama Telephone Pioneers. The submitter, Evelyn Gullett, must make this filling by rote and tried to write it by memory. A few things were not very clear, so I've tried to clean it up a bit.

1 1/2 c sugar
3 T salted butter
1 1/2 c water
1/3 cornstarch
juice of three lemons
3 egg yolks, beaten well

Cream together butter and sugar. Dissolve cornstarch in water and add lemon juice. Add sugar mixture and egg yolks and mix well. Place in medium sauce pan and cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat and cook approximately 10 minutes. Place in prepared shell.

filling

For the meringue.

3 egg whites
6 Tbs sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar

Beat until stiff and spread over the filling, making sure meringue meets crusts to seal the pie. Bake at 350 degrees until peaks begin to brown, about 10 minutes.

The finished product.

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lmpie

Now then, everybody sing along...

Pie
Pie
Me oh my
Nothing tastes sweet, wet, salty and dry
all at once o well it's pie
Apple!
Pumpkin!
Minced
an' wet bottom.
Come to your place everyday if you've got em'
Pie
Me o my
I love pie!