Perfect Salted Caramel Sauce

October 15, 2014

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Perfect Salted Caramel Sauce! Are you listening? I said…Perfect Salted Caramel Sauce!!! I don’t know about you, but I can’t get enough of the stuff. If you’ve never had it before, which I can’t imagine since it seems to be all the rage, it is luscious buttery caramel which has been spiked with delicate fleur de sel. Sweet/salty bliss I tell you. Veritable liquid gold! When a humble apple slice is dipped in it, it is suddenly elevated to gourmet treat. Drizzle it over ice cream with the same results. In fact, it seriously enhances almost anything it comes in contact with, be it cake, brownies, cookies or pies. It is hard to believe that 4 simple ingredients can produce such a magical concoction, but somehow they do. And with this recipe, you can make up a batch of Perfect Salted Caramel Sauce at home in about 10 – 20 minutes. Indeed I was able to make up a batch of Salted Caramel Sauce that was complete perfection on the very first try!

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I don’t know if you have tried making caramel sauce in your kitchen or not. Most folks say it is pretty easy as long as you keep a close watch of the pan as the sugar caramelizes. I know that, and I have tried to keep an eagle eye on it but…. it has not come easy for me to say the least. I remember a couple of years ago I wanted to make these Apple Pie Salted Caramel Cupcakes for the husband’s birthday.

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After much travail, I was finally able to get them done, but they literally took all day. Thankfully I was able to finish them two minutes before midnight, so technically they were done on his actual birthday, but talk about being exhausted. And really there was nothing terribly difficult about that particular cupcake recipe. Except that salted caramel…I failed making it 4 or 5 times. Perhaps that is why I am so completely psyched about making this Perfect Caramel Sauce perfectly on the first try. (If you feel inspired to make those terribly tasty and gorgeous looking Fall cupcakes, you might just want to sub in this Caramel Sauce recipe.The one I have listed in the Apple Pie Cupcake recipe was the one that finally worked for me on that day. I had tried several different ones.) I had made it before successfully, but not that day. Salted Caramel is strange and elusive that way. I think you just aren’t meant to make it on certain days. It is simply not in your stars. You should just accept it and move on. But I am pretty stubborn…so of course I never handle a caramel failure in such a zen manner. I panic and freak out! Which is silly. I mean you pretty much know if the caramel has failed early on, so worse case scenario you’ve wasted a cup of sugar and a bit of time. No big deal right? Well that’s what logical me says. The real me gets a bit nervous the night before I have planned to make some salted caramel. I should perhaps avoid salted caramel dishes…but that’s not going to happen. It is so irresistible. But I think I’ve got it this time. This recipe yielded up a big old batch of Perfect Salted Caramel Sauce on this very first try! I can not tell you how happy I was. So don’t be scared! You can do this. Say whatever prayers you need, check your astrological charts, complete any superstitious kitchen rituals you hold, whisper the appropriate incantation and then take a deep breath and calmly and patiently brew up this most exquisite Perfect Salted Caramel Sauce today. Folks will be completely enchanted!

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Perfect Salted Caramel Sauce

  • Difficulty: I won't lie...challenging!
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recipe from: Brown Eyed Baker

*The Brown Eyed Baker has great step by step photos on her site. Please have a peek before you take the plunge!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fleur de sel (or any other flaky sea salt)

Directions:

Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a heavy saucepan, with a capacity of at least 2 or 3 quarts. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking it as it begins to melt. You’ll see that the sugar will begin to form clumps, but that’s okay. Just keep whisking and as it continues to cook, they will melt back down. Stop whisking once all of the sugar has melted, and swirl the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks.

Continue cooking until the sugar has reached a deep amber color. It should look almost a reddish-brown, and have a slight toasted aroma. This is the point where caramel can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye. If you are using an instant-read thermometer, cook the sugar until it reaches 350 degrees F.

As soon as the caramel reaches 350 degrees, add the butter all at once. Be careful, as the caramel will bubble up when the butter is added. Whisk the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted.

Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour the cream into the caramel. Again, be careful because the mixture will once again bubble up ferociously. Whisk until all of the cream has been incorporated and you have a smooth sauce. Add the fleur de sel and whisk to incorporate.

Set the sauce aside to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then pour into your favorite glass jar and let cool to room temperature. You can refrigerate the sauce for up to 2 weeks. You’ll want to warm the sauce up before using.

Enjoy!

Perfect Salted Caramel Sauce brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

 

 


Boozy Banana Crumb Cake

October 3, 2014

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You know, it is true what they say, that sometimes less is more. I mean, I’ve definitely told you how I love to make fancy pants birthday cakes for folks. And I think you might have seen some of the cupcakes I’ve fussed over in the past. Well, sometimes it is just not necessary to go through all that. Sometimes folks just want a simple little bit of crumb cake to quietly enjoy with their morning cup of tea (or coffee as the case might be…) And I think I’ve found the perfect recipe for that in this Boozy Banana Crumb Cake.

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Now when I said “simple” bit of crumb cake, you didn’t think that I meant that it wouldn’t be flavourful and delicious did you? This crumb cake has all of the usual moist buttery goodness of your traditional crumb cake, but also has the fabulous addition of banana flavour added into the mix.

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And not just plain old mashed up bananas, which don’t get me wrong, those are great. But to really enhance the flavour of the bananas and just put them way over the top, they have been caramelized under the broiler with brown sugar and rum. Yup…RUM. Rum on the bananas and rum in the cake! Just the thing to give you that extra little something to get you going in the morning huh? And being a crumb cake, this cake is topped with big buttery crumbles of cinnamon and brown sugar topped with a dusting of powdered sugar.

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So there you have it, no layers, no fluffy frosting, no fancy candy toppers. Quick and easy to make. Perfect for breakfast, mid morning snacks or with a scoop of ice cream added, a pleasing dessert. Simple home baking at its best!

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Boozy Banana Crumb Cake

  • Servings: 12 pieces - depending on how you slice it
  • Difficulty: easy
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recipe from: Ambrosia

Ingredients:

For the Bananas:

  • 3 medium ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons rum (or more, if you want… and you know you do!)

For the Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons rum

For the Crumb Topping

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon 
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled

powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions:

Line a small baking sheet or dish with aluminum foil (for the sake of easy cleanup). Peel your bananas and arrange them on the baking sheet.  Prick them a couple of times all over with a fork. Brush the bananas with 2 tablespoons of rum (or more…), and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of brown sugar on top.  Turn your broiler on high, and broil the bananas until the sugar begins to bubble and the bananas begin to burn slightly, about 7 minutes.  Keep an eye on them! Remove the bananas from the oven and allow them to cool slightly.  Dump the bananas into a bowl, making sure to scrape all that burnt sugary rum mixture into the bowl as well.  Mash the bananas with a fork.  

Preheat the oven to 325ºF, and position a rack in the middle of the oven.  Spray a 9×13″ pan with baking spray.

In a bowl, whisk together the 1 1/2 cups of  flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas, egg, milk, vanilla extract, and rum. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing just until the batter comes together.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and set aside.  To prepare the crumb topping, in a bowl, combine the 2 1/2 cups of flour with the brown sugar, and cinnamon. Add the melted butter to the flour mixture, and stir the mixture together until large crumbs form. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the prepared cake batter.  Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 25 minutes.  

Rotate the pan at least once during the baking time.  Remove the cake from the oven, and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack before dusting the cake with powdered sugar, and cutting it into squares.

Enjoy!

Boozy Banana Crumb Cake brought to you by: Runcible Eats (http://www.leaandjay.com )


Perfect Coconut Party Cake

September 23, 2014

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Recently another friend of mine had a birthday. Now I’ve told you how much value I place on the homemade birthday cakes. So of course, I started making baking plans for her cake. I wanted it to be a surprize, so this took a bit of sneaky detective work on my part. I was eventually able to deduce that her favourite cake was ” a yellow cake with white frosting and coconut all over it”. Hmmm…possibly a problem. I was familiar with the cake as it was described to me, but I didn’t have any coconut cake experience. The husband doesn’t like coconut. Actually he likes the flavour of coconut just fine, but finds the texture very objectionable, so I don’t pay a lot of attention to any recipes which call for the stuff. But luckily I had Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours close at hand. And voila! It seemed I flipped the book open to the exact recipe I needed, Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake.

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She claimed that this cake will be “just-right” for any celebration and as usual, she did not fail me. The cake not only looks festive, but also tastes delightful and met all of the requirements for my friend’s favourite cake, layers of delicious bright lemony cake interspersed with summery raspberry preserves and lemony buttercream frosting all topped with sweet coconut flakes.

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Well, I guess it met almost all of them. This cake is not yellow, but is a snowy white cake which makes the contrast of that raspberry jam layer all the more vibrant and festive! This cake is a reason for celebrating all on its own if you didn’t already have one in mind. And even better, it is easily customizable to fit your celebratory needs, switch out the raspberry preserves for another or you could use fresh berries along with a whipped sweetened cream frosting, …the possibilities are endless. The cake layers are moist, light and fluffy yet won’t crumble when you split them in half or begin piling on layers of preserves and frosting. This truly is a perfect cake recipe that you should always keep close at hand. It will make any celebration all the merrier!

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Perfect Coconut Party Cake

recipe from: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 stick ( 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice ( from 2 large lemons)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing:

  • 2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves, stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
  • About 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

Directions:

Center a rock in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter two 9 X 2″ round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk/egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2 minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months).

For the Buttercream: Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or other large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-hight speed until it is thick and very smooth 6 to 10 minutes. During this time, the buttercream may curdle or separate just keep beating and it will come together again. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny, smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To assemble the Cake: Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half. (or use a cake leveler, like I did.) Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Spread it with one third of the preserves. Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream left over). Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the side and top. Press the coconut in the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

Enjoy!

Perfect Coconut Party Cake brought to you by: Runcible Eats (http://www.leaandjay.com )


Boozy Birthday Bourbon Layer Cake

August 29, 2014

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Boozy Birthday Bourbon Layer Cake. Say that three times fast! I would try but I’m afraid my mouth is stuffed full of cake at the moment. Hey…sometimes one – meaning yours truly – needs inspiration to write these blogs. I mean occasionally I’m at a loss what to say. If you were here I would just hand you a big old plate full of whatever it was I was trying to artfully describe. Let the food do the talking if you get my drift.

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Other times I just stuff my face full of whatever it is and start writing. Luckily for me, it was the last piece of the Boozy Birthday Bourbon Layer Cake I made for my friends recent birthday. I’m a big believer that there is nothing like a big old fancy homemade cake to properly convey an enthusiastic Happy Birthday.

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I mean store-bought cakes are ok and I guess I could see if you have a favourite bakery ( mine is Baked & Wired – if anyone was wondering…) and a favourite cake from said favourite bakery (uhhhh… do you know me at all?…cupcakes from Baked & Wired – any flavour will do but please no fruit filling. Get those for my husband.), folks could do just fine stopping by there and simply picking up a big old bakery box of love. However, if you have a bit of baking skill, I think you’ll get quite a few points (there I go with those supposed points again…) by making someone a cake, with as many layers as you can manage (the more layers, the more points) from scratch.

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My Grandmother, of the Jewish Apple Cake fame, always made me a Hot Milk Cake with Old Fashioned Chocolate Fudge Frosting for my birthdays. I can remember one above all of the others. I think I was about five years old. It had the usual chocolate frosting and shaky script handwriting spelling out Happy Birthday.  But this one was decorated with tiny plastic cake decorations. In this case they were ballerinas wearing pink tutus. I thought it was awesome!  I can still picture it perfectly in my mind’s eye.

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Here is the only picture we could find with the remembered cake. Perhaps also showing my early tendency towards cupcake obsession.

When I got to be about 14 -15 years old and was the standard clueless teenager, I asked my Mom for a store-bought sheet- style birthday cake. I got it into my head that they were pretty cool with all of their fancy colours and big frosting flowers. Not to mention, that is the type of cake most of my friends had on their birthdays. Mom got me the cake, but it just wasn’t all I hoped it would be. It tasted ok, if not a bit plasticy and sickeningly sweet as those cakes often do. The bakery misspelled my name, which was a bit of a bummer. But luckily, Grandma, either through force of habit or some greater knowledge (mom-mom worldly wisdom) had still made me my old standard Hot Milk Birthday Cake. From then on, I knew which cake I’d be requesting when asked. Yup…although Grandma is not around to bake it for me anymore, my Mom has picked up the torch and has been known to whip up one mean Hot Milk Cake with Old Fashioned Fudge Frosting in no time flat! So when my friend’s birthday rolled around, I wanted to make him something special. A cake he would really like. I was pretty sure that vintage plastic ballerinas wouldn’t do a thing for him, so I turned my thoughts to something which seems to get most folks pretty excited…booze! In his case Bourbon. He has been known to take an occasional sip or two of that Knob Creek elixir from time to time. And there is quite a lot of bourbon to be found in this cake. Yup…it is in the cake, in the ganache and in the icing. A veritable Bourbon bonanza!

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This cake was a huge hit. The buttermilk, yeah that’s right….even more “B” words, made the cake layers wonderfully light and moist. The frosting was rich, yet fluffy and fantastically boozy.

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Made for quite the happy birthday, not only for the birthday boy, but also for all his well wishers to boot! Got a special occasion coming up and some bourbon lovers in the house? Look no further, this Boozy Birthday Bourbon Layer Cake will get the job done!

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Boozy Birthday Bourbon Layer Cake

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: easy but a lot of steps!
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recipe from: Love & Olive Oil

Ingredients:

For Cake:

  • 1 vanilla bean split and scraped, seeds reserved
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) bourbon (pick your poison…I used Knob Creek)
  • 2 cups (13.5 ounces) all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

For the Buttercream:

  • 4 ounces dark chocolate
  • 6 ounces milk chocolate
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar, or more as needed
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon Bourbon

For the Ganache:

  • 4 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon

Directions:

Combine the bourbon and vanilla bean together in a small bowl. Steep overnight, or as long as you can before proceeding.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter and line 3 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Butter parchment.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

Combine the sugar, butter, and reserved vanilla bean seeds in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed for 10 minutes, until very light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl periodically as needed.

Reduce the speed to medium low and add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

Add the flour mixture, one cup at a time, alternating with buttermilk, mixing on low speed until incorporated. Immediately add the bourbon (discard the vanilla pod) and mix until combined.

Divide the batter among prepared pans. You can just eyeball it, or weigh the pans like I do, with my handy dandy OXO Food Scale. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until tops are lightly browned and springy. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack until cool enough to handle. Run a small knife around the edges of each pan, then gently invert onto wire racks. Cakes should come out cleanly. Allow to cool completely.

For the ganache:  Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring cream to a bare simmer over low heat. Pout hot cream over chocolate, and stir until smooth. Add bourbon. Set aside and allow to cool until thickened slightly (the room temperature ganache should be about the consistency of peanut butter). If it’s too thick, you can add a little bit more hot cream and stir until smooth.

For the buttercream: Melt chocolates in a microwave or double boiler over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar, 2 Tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. If you don’t add the sugar slowly and mix thoroughly after each addition, you run the risk of ending up with gritty icing, which no one will be pleased with! Add cooled chocolate and beat until smooth. Add heavy cream and bourbon and beat until light and fluffy. Add more powdered sugar or heavy cream as necessary to achieve desired consistency.

To assemble:  Level each cake layer by cutting of the domed top with a long serrated knife. Or use a handy cake leveler like I did. Place one layer, flat side down, on a cake stand or serving platter. To keep the platter clean while frosting, place 4 small strips of parchment or waxed paper just under the edges of the cake. This will allow you to frost the cake and then remove these strips cleanly later.

Spread half of the ganache evenly over top of layer, followed approximately 1/2 cup of buttercream. Position second layer on top and press to adhere. Repeat with remaining ganache, another 1/2 cup of buttercream, and final cake layer, flat side up.

Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of buttercream. This “crumb coat” will make frosting the cake easier. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes to allow this crumb coat to set.

Remove cake from refrigerator and frost with remaining buttercream, reserving some if you’d like to add any decorative details or borders.

Enjoy!

Bourbon Birthday Cake brought to you by: Runcible Eats (http://www.leaandjay.com )


Peach Dumplings With Bourbon Hard Sauce

August 8, 2014

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Peach Dumplings! And as if that didn’t sound delightful enough, the following words, Bourbon Hard Sauce, just might just zombify you.  What do I mean by zombify? You know how zombies are just shuffling forward, driven by a burning desire to eat something, in their case brains, in your case these Peach Dumplings with Bourbon Hard Sauce. Zombified…you get what I’m saying right? And I have to tell you that when I served these Peach Dumplings I didn’t just stop after dolloping out a generous amount of that Bourbon Hard sauce which promptly began to melt and trickle down over the sides. Nope. I added a big old scoop of ice cream. Oh yes. I did. Sheer summer-time dessert bliss!

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I don’t usually make a lot of peach desserts. It’s not because I don’t like them, cause believe me I do. I just have really bad luck with them. I mean often I will go to the store and see a big, glorious mountain of peaches. They look great and smell phenomenal. Sometimes there will even be a little plate of cut up sample peach pieces, which I try and find they taste great as well. Alright! I’m in business. These are perfect peaches, I think and then I pick out a bunch out and take them home, already drooling over the spectacular desserts I will be making. Alas, when I actually get into the kitchen, I find out that they are either not ripe enough, way too ripe or have some weird mealy consistency. Bleh! But somehow the peach gods were with me when I picked these bad boys out. I guess persistence pays off. I mean certainly the odds must dictate I will eventually pick out the delicious peaches rather than the duds if I try often enough right? These peaches were just sweet juicy perfection!

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I found this recipe in Deb Perlman’s Smitten Kitchen cookbook, which if you don’t already have it, you absolutely need to buy it today! I kid you not, every single thing I have made from it has been just incredible! For these dumplings, Deb gives the recipe for what I’m sure is a fantastic pie crust. I however already had a batch of the pie crust which I usually use all made up and ready to go, so I substituted in my crust for simplicity sake. (If you buy her book, you could get her recipe and try it out as well…hint, hint.)

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Without a doubt, these Peach Dumplings were impressive, though pretty dang easy to make. And when I say impressive, I mean in a down homey kind of a way, not a fancy pants French restaurant kind of a way. You know just delicious, kind of old-fashioned goodness. Your Granny would have served this dessert. The buttery pastry bakes up golden and flaky, the peach halves are sweet and glazed in caramalized brown sugar with overall hints of sweet buttery bourbon. And when you add that scoop of ice cream…you will be in a zombie trance indeed. Need. More. Peach. Dumplings!

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Peach Dumplings With Bourbon Hard Sauce

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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recipe from: Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perlman with the substitution of my favourite pie crust

Ingredients:

For the crust: 

  • 2 1/2 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (227 grams) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (2 sticks)
  • 6 tablespoons vodka (chilled)
  • 2 Tablespoons ice water

For the filling:

  • 3 large peaches
  • 1/3 cup (65 grams) light or dark brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Few fresh gratings of nutmeg, or a pinch of ground
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, cut into 6 pieces, kept cold
  • 1 large egg, for glaze

For the hard sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons (55 grams or 1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (95 grams) confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon bourbon ( your choice – but let me just say Knob Creek is delicious!)

For Serving:

  • Ice Cream! ( not necessary, but really yummy)

Directions:

 

Mix 6 tablespoons of vodka and 2 tablespoons of water. Put in fridge or freezer (don’t forget it) to chill.

 

Add 1 1/2 cups flour, salt to a food processor. Pulse 2 to 3 times until combined.

 

Scatter butter cubes over flour and process until a dough or paste begins to form, about 15 seconds. (There should be no uncoated flour).

 

Scrape bowl, redistribute the flour-butter mixture then add remaining 1 cup of flour. Pulse 4 to 5 times until flour is evenly distributed. (Dough should look broken up and a little crumbly).

 

Transfer to a medium bowl then sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water/vodka over mixture. Using a rubber spatula, press the dough into itself. The crumbs should begin to form larger clusters. If you pinch some of the dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough falls apart, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra water/vodka and continue to press until dough comes together.

 

Remove dough from bowl and place in a mound on a clean surface. Work the dough just enough to form a ball. Flatten it into a disc. Wrap the disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months (just thaw it overnight in the fridge before using).

 

Roll Crust out to a 12 X 18″ rectangle, and divide into six 6″ squares. If dough gets too soft or warm while you’re rolling it, continue to the square stage, but then transfer the squares to a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill them in the freezer for a couple minutes until they firm up again.

 

Halve the peaches and remove the pits. Using a melon baller or a knife, scoop out a tiny extra bit where the pit was so that there will be more room for the filling.

 

Mix the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a little dish. Spoon 1 lightly packed tablespoon on top of each peach, packing as much of the sugar mixture as you can into the center indentation. Dot the tip of each with a piece of cold butter. Center a peach half, cut side up, in your first pastry square. Bring the corners up to meet each other over the center and seal the seams together, pinching with you fingertips.

 

Arrange the peach dumplings in a buttered 9 X13″ baking dish and chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375°F.

 

Whisk egg together with 1 teaspoon water to form a glaze. Brush glaze over the tops and exposed sides of dumplings. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until pastries are puffed up and golden on top.

 

While baking, make the hard sauce. Beat softened butter, confectioners’ sugar and bourbon until smooth. Scrape into a serving dish. When pastries come out of the oven, dollop each with a heaping spoonful of the hard sauce. And don’t forget that ice cream!

 

Enjoy!

Peach Dumplings with Bourbon Hard Sauce brought to you by: Runcible Eats (http://www.leaandjay.com )

 

 

 

 

 


Malted & Salted Buttered Popcorn Cookies

August 1, 2014

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Malted & Salted Buttered Popcorn Cookies! Were so many delicious words ever strung together? I mean you just know these cookies have got it all going on. I love anything malted, salted tells me I’ll get my sweet/salty fix, and buttered popcorn? I can barely contain myself! And my reaction to the words “buttered popcorn” doesn’t even register next to the husband’s. Oh my Lordy in heaven! He loves him some popcorn. I am not kidding you that our popcorn popper is in high use nearly every night. In all honesty, he wants popcorn about 4 -5 times a week. Well, let me re-phrase that…he eats popcorn 4-5 nights a week. I think he wants popcorn every single day of the year! So you can just imagine the fabulous wife points I got when I sashayed on out of the kitchen and sidled up next to him with a plate full of these stunners in my hands! And it’s not just the idea of them that is good. You know how sometimes you get an idea of a flavour combination that you think will be killer but when you actually make it, it kind of falls short? Not happening here. These cookies are really quite remarkable and unique. Each bite delivers a crispy crunch as well as a malted chewy chocolatey blast. And when you a get a bite that just happens to have that little extra buttery surprize popcorn piece, well it’s nothing short of sheer bliss!

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I initially came across this recipe in one of my all time favourite cookbooks, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman. I had taken note and was planning on baking up a batch of those cookies. But Deb hadn’t added malted milk balls to her version. Then I saw that enhancement to the Smitten recipe over at Sift and Whisk. I really love malted milk balls so their addition certainly made it a winner for me. The only problem I had with the Sift and Whisk version was that it called for using microwave popcorn. Uh-ohh! That was a deal breaker. I really do not like microwave popcorn and as much as the husband loves popcorn, even he would turn his nose up at the microwave variety. Call us crazy. Whatever…There really is a big taste difference between microwave and stove top corn, so much so that we sort of consider it a different animal altogether. I know microwave popcorn is supposedly easy. But really…how hard is it to pop up some corn with a glug of good old oil right on top of your stove? We actually have a Whirley-pop stove top popcorn popper that has a hand-crank on top to allow you to stir the corn kernels while they pop. Yup, if you stop by and wander into my kitchen, I’m pretty sure you’ll see it in permanent residency on my stove top. (remember…the husband is popping corn about 5x a week). But if you don’t have that level of specialty popping equipment, don’t despair. Just grab any old big pot with a lid, and shake it a bit while the kernels are popping. It is so much tastier than that old microwave stuff. And don’t even think to ask my husband about the differences in popping oil, you know olive oil vs. coconut oil vs. peanut oil, unless you’ve got awhile because he can go on and on about it. Consider yourself warned…But anyway, back to these Malted & Salted Buttered Popcorn Cookies.

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Bottom line is that you’ve just got to make them. I can honestly say, it is one of the few cookies I’ve ever seen my husband eat more than two of at a sitting. Remember, he likes those fruit desserts and couldn’t really care less about chocolate (shock, horror). But he came back to the cookie jar several times the evening these babies showed up. Actions speak louder than words so that should tell you something!

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Malted & Salted Buttered Popcorn Cookies

  • Servings: 24 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
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recipe from: sift and whisk &  The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup (45 grams) popcorn kernels
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) butter, melted
  • 1¼ cup (155 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • ½ cup (109 grams) light brown sugar, packed
  • ⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (100 grams) roughly chopped malted milk balls
  • coarse sea salt, for sprinkling

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Make popcorn. Pour the oil over the bottom of a large dutch oven that has a lid or a Whirley-pop stove top popcorn popper. Add the popcorn kernels. Cover the pot and heat it over medium- high heat. Once you hear the kernels beginning to pop, keep agitating or stirring the pan until you no longer hear the popping noise. Pour the melted butter over the popped corn and then sprinkle with the salt. Transfer the popcorn to a large bowl and separate out any unpopped or partially popped kernels. You should have about 4 -4 1/2 cups of popped corn.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add egg and vanilla. Beat for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, until egg is totally mixed in. With the mixer on the lowest speed, gradually add flour mixture, and stop mixing when there is still a little flour visible.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Fold the buttered popcorn into the dough taking care not to crush the popcorn completely. When popcorn is almost evenly distributed, add chopped malted milk balls (even the dust!), and fold into the dough.

Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet, spacing each dough ball at least 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the tops of each dough ball with coarse sea salt. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges turn light brown.

Allow to cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies will deflate a little once they come out of the oven, and will end up thin, with crispy edges and chewy centers.

Enjoy!

Malted & Salted Buttered Popcorn Cookies brought to you by: Runcible Eats (http://www.leaandjay.com )

 

 

 


Festy Besty Boozy S’mores Fudge

July 28, 2014

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Woo wee! Would ya’ll just take a look at this fabulous S’mores Fudge I just whipped up!  Yup, what you’re seeing there is a rich decadent creamy chocolate fudge, surrounding fluffy mini marshmallows, all sandwiched between a buttery graham cracker crust. And you did read that title right…there’s booze in it! Marshmallow Vodka booze to be exact, which goes along just perfectly with the whole s’mores vibe. (Though I suspect Bourbon would be a good choice as well.) Why is it that I’m always reaching for that bottle of booze to give recipes that little something extra? Wait…don’t answer that. :)

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Anyhoo… This fudge was super easy to make and only required me to have the stove top on for 5 minutes and there was nary a bit of oven time need at all. As I’ve mentioned in past blogs, heating up the kitchen one fraction of a degree during these hot swampy Virginia summers is really frowned upon. So no-bake desserts are very popular around here right now. The only thing you might be left wondering at this point is what is the meaning of that “Festy Besty” bit in my recipe title. Well let me explain and also take a moment to plea for a favour.

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The Festy is this phenomenal 3 day camping music festival which takes place the 2nd weekend in October on the beautiful grounds of the Devils Backbone Brewery in Nelson Country Virginia (about 45 minutes away from Charlottesville). This event is the brain child of  The Infamous Stringdusters. The Stringdusters are a pop bluegrass, progressive bluegrass or newgrass band – take your pick of descriptors there. Basically  these incredibly talented musicians are schooled in traditional bluegrass which they are able to combine seamlessly with the improvisational skills and blistering solos of a consummate jam band. To hear a recording of them is delightful but let me tell you, seeing their enthusiastic and passionate performance live is a unforgetable experience to say the least! Every year, The Stringdusters hand-pick the line up of bands which will perform at the Festy in an attempt to display a wide range of musical genres, not just bluegrass. Yeah…you heard me. A music festival… held on the grounds of a brewery! And you don’t have to worry about driving anywhere after a full day of listening to a lineup of smoking hot bands, eating tasty grub and washing it all down with cold refreshing Devils Backbone brews. Nope cause you’ve got a tent pitched only a small bit away from the stages. Brilliant!  (And even more brilliant if you leave all that tent pitching work to the Show Sherpa. Sooooo worth it!) The husband and I went last year for the first time and that is all it took. We were hooked and have vowed not to miss any of the future Festys come what may! (I think there is supposed to be a vow which specifies something about hell and high water here…)

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I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it our not, but the husband and I are both musicians. I play mandolin and he plays pretty much anything with strings, but most recently has been seen with a banjo over his shoulder.

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We love to play bluegrass tunes as well as some Old Time and Americana songs. So we are really looking forward to the Festy this year because in addition to hearing all those great acts over the weekend, there are many impromptu jam sessions taking place back at the camp sites and everyone gets to join in. That is where this Festy Fudge comes in.

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When we are ready to take a break from picking, I will be ready to offer everyone some of that delicious Festy Besty S’mores Fudge. It will be just perfect, enough sugar to keep you going, a little booze to keep you loose and the wonderful campy S’mores vibe to boot. I mean what is camping without s’mores? And these little gems are coated with a graham cracker crust which will keep the melted chocolate off of your fingertips, and hopefully off of your strings, when the snacking is done and the playing resumes.

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The husband and I will definitely be in attendance at Festy 5 come this October. In fact, I even entered a photo contest which the Festy Experience is hosting. And I’m a finalist!!! Here is what I hope will be the winning pic:

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The winner gets free weekend camping and back stage passes. Oh my goodness! We would so love to win this. And this is where that favour I mentioned come into play. I’m going to have to ask you for some help. You see the winning photo will be chosen from the photo that gets the most votes. So….Please…pretty, pretty please with S’mores Fudge on top, please take a couple of minutes and cast a vote for our picture at this link: http://thefesty.com/festybesty-finalists-cast-vote-winner/ The deadline for voting is Sunday August 3rd, and thus far, I don’t really have a lot of votes compared to some. Help a girl out ya’ll! But regardless, even if you don’t do the “vote for people” thing, you should check out the Festy. Tickets are on sale and the lineup looks incredible. You don’t want to miss the raging good times to be had by all! If you are a bit too far away to take part in the Festy, make some of this stunning S’mores Fudge to console yourself. You won’t regret it and keep your fingers crossed for us to win!

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  • Servings: 16 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted (I added the booze bit – go figure!) from: On Sugar Mountain

Ingredients: 

For the Graham Cracker Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons melted butter

For the fudge:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 (7 ounce) jar of marshmallow fluff
  • 1 (12 ounce) bag of semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 -4 Tablespoons Marshmallow Vodka  (some folks would say this is optional. I don’t think so, but do as you will…)
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

Directions:

Prepare the graham cracker crust. Line one 9 X 9″ square pan with aluminum foil. Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a medium bowl and stir until well combined. Press half of the graham cracker mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan. Set the remaining graham cracker mixture aside for the moment.

Make the Fudge. Add the sugars, butter, heavy cream and salt into a medium-sized , deep pot and bring to a boil Boil for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and using and electric mixer, beat in the marshmallow fluff. Next add the chocolate chips to the mixture and beat until the all of the chocolate has melted and the fudge is smooth. Add the Marshmallow Vodka to the mixture and continue to beat until combined.

Pour half of the fudge over the prepared graham cracker crust in the 9 X 9″ pan. Top with the mini marshmallows. Cover the mini marshmallow layer with the remaining chocolate fudge and smooth the top. Cover the top of the fudge with the remaining graham cracker mixture and press down gently. Cover the pan and place it into the refrigerator to set for at least four hours. Cut into squares and serve.

Enjoy!

Boozy S’mores Fudge Brought to you by: Runcible Eats (http://www.leaandjay.com )

 


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