Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie: Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies

This week for Tuesdays With Dorie, I made Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies, chosen by Pamela of Cookies with Boys. This is one of those recipes that looked nothing like it was supposed to, was frustratingly sticky during the assembly, and turned into a big, spread out mess on the cookie sheet. But it was so tasty I didn't even mind, and that's saying something.

Maybe it was the molasses I used. Dorie said not to use blackstrap, but I've only ever seen one brand of molasses in all of my years of grocery shopping, and it doesn't even say whether it's blackstrap or not. These cookies, which were supposed to be golden brown and form perfectly round discs, were very dark brown and spread out so much that the cookie sheet actually became one giant cookie - even though I refrigerated the dough before baking it. I cut the massive cookie into circles and was planning on grinding up the scraps to make a crust for a pie in the future, but my fiance chowed down on them instead. He couldn't help himself - they were that tasty.

In terms of flavour, this is a go-to recipe for sure. But I'll have to figure out how to ease the preparation in the future. Based on Pam's experience, it sounds like more flour may be the key.

Thanks for a great pick, Pam! Visit her blog for the recipe.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Butter Toffee Crunch

It's hard to believe, but it is already my turn to host Sweet Melissa Sundays. As I pored over the cookbook a few weeks ago, I realized what a hard decision it was going to be. I had at least 20 recipes on my short list. Slowly but steadily, I worked it down to my selection: Butter Toffee Crunch. I'm a sucker for candy-making.

Ah, and what a choice. Chewy, buttery toffee smothered in chocolate, with chopped blanched almonds on the top and bottom. Not only is this recipe beautiful to look at, but it is delicious and seriously addictive. It tastes exactly like a Skor bar but has the added crunch and flavour of the almonds. On top of all that, it lasts for weeks in the fridge while still maintaining that perfect crunch, which means it's a great gift giving option for Christmas. In fact, I plan on serving Butter Toffee Crunch at the candy bar we'll be having at our wedding - I can make it a couple of weeks ahead of time and I know it'll be just as tasty as the day I made it.

The preparation is relatively easy, as long as you've got the proper equipment (particularly a candy thermometer), a bit of patience and the ability to quickly add your baking soda and vanilla at the right time. Sure, seeing how much brown sugar and butter goes into the preparation may make you feel a bit guilty. Case in point:

Still, given the end result, I think it's totally worth it. Hopefully, you feel the same. Thank you for baking along with me this week, and I hope you enjoyed it! Click here to check out the other Sweet Melissa Sundays bakers. The recipe is below.

Butter Toffee Crunch
Makes 3 pounds toffee crunch (Note: it halves beautifully!)

1 1/2 cups sliced blanched almonds, finely chopped
4 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons water
20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
2 cups (one 12-oz bag) semisweet (58%) chocolate chips

Before you start: lightly butter a jelly-roll pan or rimmed cookie sheet.
1. Coat the prepared pan with half of the chopped almonds.
2. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat, stir together the brown sugar, water and butter and bring to a boil. Cover for 3 minutes (this will melt any sugar crystals stuck on the sides of the pan, which will prevent crystallization). Uncover, attach a candy thermometer, and cook, without stirring, to 290F. Watch carefully after it reaches 280F to avoid scorching.
3. Have ready a long-handled spoon and a buttered metal offset spatula. Remove the hot sugar from the heat, add the vanilla and baking soda, and stir with the long-handled spoon (the mixture will bubble up when you add the baking soda).
4. Immediately pour the hot toffee onto the prepared pan. Spread as evenly as possible with the buttered metal spatula. Quickly scatter the chocolate chips over the hot toffee. Wait for 5 minutes and then spread the melted chocolate evenly with a clean, ungreased metal spatula.
5. Sprinkle the remaining almonds over the chocolate. Cool completely before breaking the toffee into pieces.

The toffee crunch keeps in an airtight container at room temperature in a cool dry place for up to 1 week, or in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie: Cran-Apple Crisps

Behold, the world's best variation on an apple crisp, brought to you by none other than Dorie Greenspan (and our recipe-chooser this week, Em of The Repressed Pastry Chef). Please excuse the superlatives, but really, this crisp is amazing. Since I finished up my first batch of it, I've been thinking, daily, about making it again. In between projects, essays, midterms and just scraping dinner together at the end of a long day, this dish has been the culinary goal that I have been looking forward to.

The fruit component of the recipe involves placing a mixture of chopped apples, fresh and dried cranberries, sugar and flour in ramekins.

The topping is made of oats, flour, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, ground ginger and what is bound to be my secret ingredient in crumble toppings from now on: sweetened shredded coconut. The coconut adds a beautiful complexity to the flavour of the crisps, and yet, the coconut flavour itself is subtle.

Baked until bubbly, the apple and cranberry soften and form a delicious sweet-tart blend which perfectly complements the coconut-infused topping.

You have. To. Make. This. Visit Em's blog for the recipe.

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