Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Baked Bars

The last weekend was so relaxing. We spent it at my future parents in law's place discussing wedding themes, colors and centerpieces. It was a lot of fun looking at wedding blogs and on pinterest. I also feel a lot better now having made some decisions about what direction we want to go with decorations.

Ok, now let's talk about these yummy bars! Sweetened condensed milk is an amazing and vesatile ingredient. I love it in all forms: straight out of the can or caramellized into dulce de leche or baked into a gooey topping like in these bars from the "Baked" cookbook by the guys from the famous NYC Bakery: "Baked". They are so good that they are even named after the bakery itself!

Cut these bars into small squares as they are extremely rich and so so good. When I brought these to work the entire tray disappeared almost as soon as it was wet out.

"Baked" Bars
9x13 inch pan | "Baked"

2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
2 1/2 cups ground graham cracker crumbs (about 20 crackers)
1 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 1/3 cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped
1 1/2 cup (9 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup white chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup butterscotch chips
2 cans (8 oz each) sweetened condensed milk

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13" baking pan. Line with Parchment.

2. In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and toasted coconut. Add the melted butter. Combine the mixture, then turn it out into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press the crust into an even layer on the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to create a perfectly even crust.

3. Refrigerate the crust for 15 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let the crust cool completely.

4. To make the filling, increase the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Evenly spread the walnuts onto the bottom of the crust. Spread the chocolate chips over the walnuts, followed by the white chocolate, followed by the butterscotch chips.

6.In a steady stream, pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the filling. Shake the pan very gently to make sure the sweetened condensed milk is evenly distributed.

7.Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan every 10 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut into squares and serve.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sour Cream Maple Walnut Muffins

Maybe it's because I'm Canadian... but when I'm looking for a comforting treat to bake, I often reach for the bottle of maple syrup in the pantry. It adds a lovely depth to any baked good, even if the maple flavor is not front and centre. Maple brings out the warmth in any cake or muffin. However, in these muffins, Maple is the star.

Sour Cream Maple-Walnut Muffins
Makes 12 small | adapted from food.com

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
6 tablespoons sour cream
6 tablespoons maple syrup
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tsp sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place paper liners in 12 muffin cups.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using an electric mixer, cream butter, 1/4 cup sugar, and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream and maple syrup. On low speed, add 1/2 dry ingredients to butter-sugar mixture. Pour in 1/3 sour cream mixture.

4. Add remaining dry ingredients in 2 batches, alternating with sour cream mixture then gently fold in first amount of chopped walnuts. Beat until just blended.

5. In a small bowl, stir together walnuts, cinnamon and sugar. Pour batter into muffin cups. Sprinkle top of each muffin with walnut mixture.

6. Bake until muffins are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Happy 5th Birthday Baby Boy!

Today my little darling is 5 years old! He is really into hockey - like a true Canuck - and is taking skating and hockey lessons at our community centre. It is beyond cute to see him in all those layers of hockey equipment.

He wanted a hockey party but a lot of the kids at this age don't know how to skate yet, so we settled on a swimming party instead with a hockey-themed cake. In the party room we set off the fire alarm with the sparklers and candles on the cake. Everyone had to be evacuated until the fire department showed up to turn off the alarm panel. I was horrified at the time, but now looking back, it is pretty funny and definitely memorable. The kids said, "the fire truck came! that was the best part of the party!"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hazelnut Cream Cheese Brownies - Fat Witch Bakery

Fat Witch Bakery is in the lovely Chelsea Market in New York City. I have previously mentioned how wonderful that trip was with my then boyfriend, now fiance. It was on that vacation that we knew we were meant to be. Through the overwhelming humidity and frustration of navigating the subway system, we grew closer and learned to laugh at ourselves and enjoy the time together even when we got lost for 3 hours trying to get back to our accommodation.

When we finally found our way to Chelsea Market, my face lit up. I'd heard so much about it before. To be there in person was unreal! So many delicious treats, I didn't know where to turn my attention. These brownies feature Chocolate, Hazelnuts and Cream Cheese. They are not overly rich nor sweet. I like the simplicity of this amazing combination. If you like Nutella and cheesecake you will definitely enjoy these brownies.

Fat Witch Bakery Hazelnut Cream Cheese Brownies
Makes 9" square | Fat Witch Bakery Cookbook

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup finely chopped hazelnuts

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts

1. Filling: In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add egg, lemon juice, and vanilla extract, beating until well-blended. Stir in hazelnuts. Cover bowl and refrigerate.

2. Grease and flour a 9-inch square baking pan. Melt chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat to cool.

3. Beat sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Add cooled chocolate mixture. Beat until well-combined. Gradually add flour and salt, mixing just until combined. Stir in hazelnuts. Spread half of the brownie batter into prepared pan, just covering the bottom. Spread chilled filling over brownie batter. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread remaining brownie batter on top of the filling. (This is far easier said than done.) Swirl the layers with a butter knife.

5. Bake 30-33 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean or with dry crumbs. Cool in pan on wire rack for 1 hour. Brownies should be covered and stored in the refrigerator.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Recycling and Practical Use for Bottles

Yes, I'm a tree hugger. Yes, I'm that person who always reminds others to recycle. I'm a pack-rat at times, hoarding things that I could possibly use for some other purpose in the future. I load scrap paper in the printer so that I can print on the back side of page. My fiancé sent me this link last week. I loved the idea so much that I had to share it here.

It is a lot like the Copco gadget that you can buy in stores for $5-10. But isn't it more fun and economical to make it yourself? Some uses I can think of are: chocolate chips, shredded coconut, raisins, etc.

All you need to do is:
1. Clean out an empty bottle and cut the bottom of bottle off.
2. Slide the plastic bag through the inside and up through the mouth of the bottle.
3. Fold back the plastic.
4. Screw on the lid. Tada!

Here is the Copco version:

On another note, this is my 501st post!!! When I started this blog 3 years ago I had no idea I would ever reach five hundred posts! Tihs blog has brought me on such a wonderful journey. I have met food bloggers from all around the world. Thank you everyone for reading and commenting on my blog. I love you all!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Raspberry Cream Coffee Cake

Some flavors are meant to be together. Peanut butter & grape jelly, maple & walnut, and here, raspberries & almonds. What are your favorite flavor pairings?

This coffee cake is elegant and easy. It starts off with your basic sour cream coffee cake with a layer of jam and a tangy cream cheese filling. Then it gets topped off with an almond crumb topping. The jam and cream cheese remind me of the Danish pastries I used to eat as a kid.

Raspberry Cream Coffee Cake
9" round cake | adapted from food.com

2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup raspberry jam
1/4 cup sliced almonds

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour and 3/4 cup sugar. Using pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 1 cup of crumbs.

2. To remaining crumb mixture, add baking powder, baking soda, salt, sour cream, almond extract, and 1 egg. Blend well. Spread batter over bottom and 1 1/2 inches up sides of greased and floured 9 inch springform pan. Batter should be about 1/4 inch thick on sides.

3. In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 egg. Blend well. Pour in batter lined pan. Spoon jam over cream cheese mixture. In a small bowl, combine reserved crumbs and sliced almonds. Sprinkle over jam. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Caramel Filled Shortbread Bars

Happy Valentine's Day!!! I feel incredibly loved today. I curled up under a comfy blanket on the couch and watched the Magic Schoolbus with my son this morning before sending him to preschool. Later tonight I am seeing my wonderful fiancé! A nice treat since he lives across the border and we only usually see each other on weekends. Wishing everyone a fantastic Valentine's Day! If nothing else it is a good excuse to induge in lots of sugar!

These bars combine a crumbly shortbread base with a soft, decadent caramel filling. Then they are topped off with a thin layer of chocolate. I love love love the filling. Made with sweetened condensed milk, it is very dulce de leche-ish. Firm enough to hold its shape when cut but soft enough to melt on your tongue.

I have heard of a variation of these called "Millionnaire's Shortbread" because they are so rich. They are also incredibly addictive.

Caramel Filled Shortbread Bars
9" Square Pan

1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, cold

1 can (approx 1 cup) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
2 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or line a 9" square pan. Make base by combining flour and sugar. Cut in butter until pea-sized. Press the crumbly base mixture into the prepared pan to form an even layer. Bake this for 20-25 until golden brown.

2. Filling: In a medium saucepan, combine condensed milk, sugar, butter and cornsyrup over medium-high heat. Stir constantly. When butter is melted and sugar is dissolved, bring to a boil then reduce and simmer, stirring often, until it carmellizes and turns golden brown. Stir in vanilla and pecans (if using. Pour the filling over the base and spread to cover base evenly. Let cool and set fully, at least 1 hour. [I left mine overnight].

3. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the filling. It will be a thin layer. Let stand to set fully (another hour or so) before cutting and serving.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cranberry Walnut Orange Muffins

Here is yet another great recipe from Cook's Illustrated. Orange and cranberry flavors are natural partners, while the walnuts are outstanding little gems within the muffin. They were light and flavorful and smelled wonderful as they baked.

Remember, if you’re short on time, you can melt the butter, mix it with the eggs, and stir it into the dry ingredients. When thoroughly mixed, beat in the yogurt and proceed with the recipe. To cinnamon-coat muffin tops, dip warm muffins in melted butter, then in mixture of one-half cup granulated sugar and two teaspoons cinnamon.

Cranberry-Walnut-Orange Muffins
makes 12 | adapted from Cook's Illustrated, Jan/97

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
1 cup granulated sugar , less 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups chopped cranberries , fresh or frozen
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add orange zest to butter-sugar mixture. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in one-half of dry ingredients. Beat in one-third of yogurt. Beat in remaining dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with yogurt, until incorporated. Fold cranberries and walnuts into finished batter.

3. Spray twelve-cup muffin tin with vegetable cooking spray or coat lightly with butter. Use large ice cream scoop to divide batter evenly among cups. Bake until muffins are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Set on wire rack to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove muffins from tin and serve warm.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Copycat Club: February 2012

Here are the famous clones for February 2012! Thanks for participating! If you have any copycat recipes you would like me to include next month, please email them to me.

Lofthouse Sugar Cookies by "The Baker Chick" at www.the-baker-chick.com

CPK's Kung Pao Spaghetti by Tia of www.buttercreambarbie.com

Homemade Girl Scout Cookies by Michele of SomethingNewisCooking.blogspot.com

Carraba's Champagne Chicken by Steph at www.plainchicken.com