Southern Belles

Northern cooks can make ‘em too!

Better Half and I visited friends to help them put a roof on a rental home they own.  Well, let me clarify: Better Half was going to help with a roof and I was playing around with my buddy C.   These Southern Belles (courtesy of my cookbook Sassafras)  are my contribution to the good folks that volunteered to roof.  It takes maybe five minutes to prepare these caramel morsels.  I also made a few snide comments to some of the guys—those count as contributions too. . . .

C and I had a blast.  We shopped in a little Ozark town and played around on their 100 acres.  We went on a golf ball hunt, (the men love to see how far they can hit the golf balls) which sort of reminded me of an Easter Egg hunt.  Not surprisingly, I found very few while C found a sackful!  We walked around the property quite a bit and listened to the beautiful sound of the water rushing through their cave.  The cave is huge and amazing; archaeologists have visited to find and document Indian artifacts.   C’s husband is awesome at finding arrowheads in the creek and cave.  We played multiple games of dominoes, marbles, and gin rummy.  We made homemade feta and mozzarella cheeses, as well as visiting their workshop where we gals utilized saws, drills, and other myriad “manly” tools and crafted something special for my knitting. . . . (another post!).

We had a lot of fun cooking loads of food for the men and talking until the wee hours.  Oh, we also damaged a few items: an antique chair from France (honestly, I don’t weigh that much!) and C’s thumb (which I’m sure will grow back together.  Thank God she’s an RN!).

Southern Belles

2 c flour
1¾ c packed light brown sugar
1 c butter, softened
1½ to 2 c whole pecans
1½ c chocolate (semi, milk, etc.) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.  Mix flour, 1 c brown sugar and ½ c butter until crumbly.  Press on bottom of ungreased 9″ x 13″ pan.  Sprinkle with single layer of pecans.  Combine remaining butter and brown sugar in small saucepan and boil one minute.  Pour over pecans (making a thin layer).  Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until caramel layer bubbles.  Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips, gently spreading as chocolate melts.  Cool and cut into bars.

Enjoy y’all!

Millionaire Shortbread w/ a Twist

A Twix in Disguise

I needed a dessert for company, and after perusing the internet for a bit, I kept seeing posts for Millionaire Shortbread. Never heard of it, but was intrigued after several bloggers likened it to a Twix Bar.  Whoa Nellie!  I’m so a fan of anything in the chocolate candy aisle that I decided this recipe must have been heaven-sent just for me.  It’s a shortbread base, with an embarrassingly easy caramel filling, and to top it off, a lovely chocolate ganache.

Virtually all the recipes were identical with the exception either making a 9″ x 13″ pan of shortbread or basically the recipe being cut in half to make a 9″ x 9″ pan.  Of course, I opted for the bigger version. . . .

I used my easy trick of making shortbread in my food processor (pulse, pulse, done!) and then pressing it into the pan.  Easy peasy.  Made the embarrassingly easy caramel, spread it over the shortbread and popped it into the fridge overnight.  The next morning I made the chocolate ganache and while making it suddenly decided the “Twist” needed to be some freshly grated orange zest.  Mmmm.

Millionaire Shortbread w/ a Twist

½ cup sugar
2-½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
2-½ cups all-purpose flour (KAF)
1 large egg yolk
⅛ tsp salt
2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (Scharffen Berger)
1 tsp light corn syrup
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Zest of one orange
⅛ tsp orange extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter bottom and sides of 9″ x 13″ baking pan.
Place first five ingredients in food processor and pulse until the consistency of wet sand.  Using your hands and fingers, gently press dough into baking pan.  Prick the dough with a fork and bake for 20-24 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Place condensed milk in large microwave-safe bowl. Cook on 50% power for 5 minutes, stirring halfway through. Cook on 30% power for approximately 10 minutes (stirring every 2-3 minutes) or until the milk is thick and caramel colored.  Stir the milk until smooth and pour over shortbread.  Refrigerate until cool or overnight.

In double boiler (or in glass bowl set over simmering water) combine chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Stir mixture and once chocolate has melted, add orange zest and extract, and stir until smooth.  Pour ganache on top of caramel and spread gently to all sides.  Place in refrigerator and chill for approx. one hour.  Allow shortbread to stand at room temperature for approx. 30 minutes for easier cutting.

Caramel Cake

Nirvana, Heaven, Sublime…  I’m not going to lie (again, because lying is bad for karma).  This is an amazing slice of supremeness (real word?) to put in your cake-hole.  I saw this recipe in Food & Wine and knew that I had to bake it.  Correction:  Had. To. Eat. It.

It is a little time-consuming.  I suggest making the three cake layers the day before and making the caramel icing the next day.  The reasons are that it does take a while to get the caramel made and it seriously takes time for the caramel to set up.  I was icing that cake for a long time.  Next time I will let the caramel set up for way longer than 15 minutes.  The caramel between the layers set up fine, but I will not frost the top and sides next time until I know it’s really thick and will set.

Please, do yourself a big cake-love favor and make this cake.  This is one of those cakes that I would pay serious money to just have a slice.  It’s that good.

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