English Butter Toffee

Four ingredients=OMG

Oh yeah, baby.  This stuff is good.  It’s so scrumptious, easy, and quick that you will never ever buy an expensive box of toffee again.  I promise.  I pinky-promise.  Hear me?  I pinky-promise.

You can make this delicious candy in about 15 minutes.  Throw it in the fridge to cool off, and you’ve got a lovely platter of gourmet candy.

This is my gift to you.  Seriously.  Enjoy the gift.  Ready?

English Butter Toffee

1 c butter (b.u.t.t.e.r.-don’t mess this up!)
1 c granulated sugar
1 c chocolate chips (chunks, slivers, whatever) I used Scharffen Berger 62% semi-sweet chunks; you can use milk, semi-sweet, etc.
1 c toasted, finely chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc.)

Preheat oven (or use warming drawer) to lowest temperature setting and place a four-sided baking sheet inside.

Meanwhile, combine butter and sugar in medium-sized saucepan and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches soft-crack stage (280° on candy thermometer).  Reduce heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches hard-crack stage (300° on candy thermometer).  Remove baking sheet from oven and pour mixture on warm sheet.  Using rubber spatula, spread mixture to about ¼″ thickness (it will NOT cover entire sheet).  Sprinkle chocolate over toffee and allow to sit for 2 minutes.  Using spatula, spread chocolate to edges of toffee.  Press nuts (for above, I used a mix of pecans and almonds) onto chocolate.  Cool in refrigerator and when hardened break into desired size of pieces.  Makes approx. 1.5 pounds

See?  You’ll never buy toffee again.  You’re welcome.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls w/ Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing

Ahhhh, la, la, la  (I’m singing, can’t you tell?).  The weather is cool[er] and my pumpkins are off the vine, and this makes me happy, happy, joy, joy!

These little gems are my gift to you.  Well, not really, because I’m not up to sharing. . . .   But the recipe is my gift to you.  Bonus:  the pumpkin replaces most of the fat in the roll recipe without sacrificing flakiness or tastiness!  Thank you pumpkin!  Start puréeing those pumpkins kids and get busy.  Fall has arrived!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls w/ Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing

3¼ teaspoons dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
1 cup milk, scalded
½ cup puréed pumpkin
⅓ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
4 to 5 cups all-purpose (unbleached) flour

Filling:

1 tablespoon water
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

2 cups powdered sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of cinnamon
2-4 tablespoons milk or half/half

In measuring cup, mix yeast with water and allow to proof 10 minutes.

In large bowl (I used my trusty, beloved KitchenAid) mix milk with pumpkin, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.  Cool for 5 minutes.  Add yeast and egg.  Using kneading paddle, add flour, one cup at a time, mixing and then kneading for approximately 6 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic.  Let dough rise, in an oiled bowl, until doubled in size (approx. 1½ hours).

Punch dough down and roll into a rectangle approx. 18″ x 14″.  Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in small bowl.  Sprinkle water on your hands and rub onto dough.  Sprinkle dough with sugar mixture.  Roll up jelly roll style, starting with the long side.

Cut into 12 pieces using scissors or string and place into a lightly greased 13″ x 9″ pan.  Cover with clean towel and let rolls rise for approximately 1½ hours.

Prepare frosting by mixing all ingredients together.  You can tweak the milk and sugar to reach the consistency you desire.  Set aside.

Preheat to 350° and bake approximately 20 minutes or until rolls are done.  Ice the rolls and let the fun begin!

Note: I tried putting the rolls, once sliced, into the refrigerator overnight for a rise in the morning.  I didn’t like what happened to the filling.  However, I also put slices in the freezer for a later time, and they froze beautifully.

As always, for more yeast love, check out: YeastSpotting!

Blueberry Lemon Biscuit Scones

I have a secret.

I’m a lousy breakfast cook.  I don’t know why, but eggs, pancakes; basically all traditional breakfast food, seem to elude me and my spatula.   I do have a few things that I cook well, like amazing homemade waffles in my 50 year-old waffle maker, breakfast casseroles are easy, and seriously, my sausage gravy rocks (when I don’t curdle it).  But ask me for an omelet or scrambled eggs, and good luck.  Better Half makes the omelets and pancakes in our household.  Yum.  When lovely daughter was little he would make her Barbie pancakes—not for her, for Barbie!

This little gem is one of my no-fail, always impresses recipes.  I make it from start to finish in my KitchenAid mixer (no hand kneading for me!), but I realize most people make biscuits or scones without the need of a machine.  I just love my KitchenAid!

These are so darn good with lemon curd.  I’ve even varied the recipe to make orange coconut biscuit scones, but that’s another recipe for another blog post.

Blueberry Lemon Biscuit Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached)
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup granulated sugar
Zest of one lemon
⅓ cup shortening
1 beaten egg
¾ cup milk
½ teaspoon lemon extract
¾ cup blueberries (if frozen, do not thaw)
2 tablespoons turbinado (raw) sugar

Preheat oven to 400°.  In large bowl or mixer, combine first 6 ingredients and cut in shortening.  Add egg, milk, and extract to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened.  Add blueberries and knead about 6 times.  Place dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet and pat into a circle about 9” wide.  Using pizza cutter, cut into wedges (but do not move the wedges).  Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes.  Re-cut wedges and serve with lemon curd.

Black & Tan Brownies

Oh my, oh my.  I needed a dessert, but I wasn’t feeling too great, so I knew I wasn’t up to being too creative.  There’s where my fav ‘lil baker comes in; let’s here it for the boy:  King Arthur.  King Arthur Flour that is.  It’s my favorite foodie place of all great foodie-love places, and every time I try one of their recipes, it never fails me.  Plus, I’m a sucker for their flours.  I read their catalogs like a 16 y/o male reads Victoria Secret’s catalog.  If only I lived in Vermont and didn’t have to pay shipping costs.  Sigh…  Here is their recipe, but with my tweaks (in red) to change it from KAF’s Fudge Brownies to my Black and Tan Brownies.

Black & Tan Brownies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2-1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1-1/4 cups Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa Black Cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 cups chocolate chips 12 oz. brick of 36% cocoa, coarsely chopped (pic below)
Homemade caramel sauce (click here for my earlier recipe)

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan

2) In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the heat (or microwave) briefly, just until it’s hot (about 110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling; it’ll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating this mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.

3) While the sugar heats a second time, crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla till smooth.

4) Add the hot butter/sugar mixture, stirring until smooth.

5) Add the flour and chips, again stirring until smooth. Note: If you want the chips to remain intact in the baked brownies, rather than melting in, let the batter cool in the bowl for about 20 minutes before stirring in the chips.  For tan chocolate to show yes, let batter cool.

6) Spoon the batter into a lightly greased 9″ x 13″ pan.

7) Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not uncooked. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.

8) Drizzle caramel sauce over brownies.  Now sing its praises!

coarsely chopped chocolate

Apple Cranberry Crostata

Still jonzing for fall. . . .  Better Half was craving grilled chops and while I toyed with making an apple cider/maple glaze for the chops to satisfy my need for all things fall-like, I realized Better Half is a meat purist, so a fall dessert using crisp apples would be better.  (Okay, I really, really like dessert and it has nothing to do with Better Half being a meat purist, even if there is such a thing, blah, blah).  Hence, Apple Cranberry Crostata.

Apple Cranberry Crostata

1 prepared pie crust
3 crisp apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼″ slices
(tossed with a little lemon juice to prevent browning, if you like)
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°.  Center pie crust on baking stone or sheet.  Mix sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl and toss with apples to coat.  Arrange apples in a circle on pie crust, leaving a 2″ border free.  Add cranberries on top of apple slices.  Gently fold edges of pie crust over filling.  Dot filling with butter and drizzle with cream.  Bake for approx. 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.  Enjoy with ice cream or fresh-whipped cream.

And please pray for fall.  I really need it, and secretly you know you want it too.

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