Monday, May 31, 2010

Family Treasures

I meant to get a few more recipes posted over the weekend.  Really.  I mean, how are you going to live without my recipes for ruggelach, mocha chip cookies, pecan bars and biscotti?  However, when your very fabulous niece comes to visit for the holiday weekend, you drop everything so you can hang out with her.  And shop.  And eat.  And hang out with friends.  And shop.

As I write this, the Flight Track app on my iPhone just informed me that her plane has landed in Chicago.  I'm glad she got back safely, but I'm sorry she is no longer in Atlanta.  We had a great time together!

Since her grandmother is my mother-in-law (the one who was wearing that "Beam Me Up Scotty, There's No Intelligent Life on Earth" t-shirt the first time we met), I thought it only appropriate to post that ruggelach recipe I told you about.  Here's to you, Grandma Ruth and your awesome granddaughter!


For the dough:
8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Using electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Add flour, reduce speed to low and mix until just blended and mixture forms a ball.  Remove from mixer, place on a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk.  Wrap well in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

For the filling:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sultanas (white raisins)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, mix sugar, cinnamon, pecans and salt.  Measure out sultanas and chocolate chips in separate bowls.

Divide dough into 12 pieces.  Roll out on piece on a flour surface into an approximate 7-inch circle.  Cut into 8 wedges (as if serving a pie).  Sprinkle each one evenly with a small amount of the sugar/cinnamon/pecan mixture.  (You won't need a lot - if you add too much, you won't be able to roll it up).  Add a few sultanas or chocolate chips (one or the other but not many, as above).  Starting from the outer wide edges, roll dough to the inner point.  Pinch edges together and bring forward slightly to form a small crescent.  Remove to a baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough and filling.  Place tray in freezer and freeze for at least two hours before baking.  (These may be frozen unbaked and covered for up to three months).

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375-degrees.  Place ruggelach 1/2-inch apart on baking sheet lined with parchment.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until just lightly browned.  Cool completely on baking rack before storing.  Better yet, eat them all immediately.

Yield:  approximately 96 peices

I hadn't made these in years.  Whenever my husband or kids wanted them (which was often), Grandma Ruth would bake up a big batch and ship them down to Atlanta.  I think I made them once, but there was really no need since she was gracious (or crazy) enough to do it for us.

Wow, I had no idea what that really meant.  In the interest of full disclosure, these take a long time to assemble.  It took me almost an hour and a half!  No wonder I left it up to her!  Nonetheless, these things are crunchy, sugary, buttery little bites that will rock your world.  And so worth making.  Just think of it as therapy as you painstakingly roll up each and every one......

Friday, May 28, 2010

Not Bad for a Day's Work

Who am I kidding here?  This is actually the culmination of a FEW days' work.  It's been a baking marathon around my kitchen this week.

I wish I could report that I'm doing all this baking for a happy reason.  Unfortunately, that's not the case.  A dear friend unexpectedly lost her father last week so I volunteered to bake for the reception to celebrate his life.  Oh, how I wish I could make everything okay for her instead!  My heart hurts as I write this.  I hit the kitchen with a vengeance.  It's what I know.  It's what I do.  It's what I can give. 

You, of course, are the beneficiaries of all this baking.  I'm about to post some good recipes here.  Like most everything else I do though, this got a little out of hand.  I was just going to bake some Brown Sugar Shortbread, but then I remembered how much my friend loves those Lime Cornmeal Cookies we used to make at Star.  Okay, add that to the mix.  Then I thought about Pecan Bars - everyone always loves these when I make them and they have a sort of homemade, warm and fuzzy "wonderfulness" about them.  Okay.  Add those as well.  This is still manageable, right?

Except I didn't stop there.  What a perfect opportunity to make my mother-in-law's Ruggelach (which I promised to post in a previous entry).  But now I need something chocolate!  Hmmm - chocolate chip cookies are good, but that seemed a little ordinary.  Wait - let's make Elise's Mocha Chip Cookies!

From there it morphed into English Toffee with Fleur de Sel because I saw my chiropractor and she raved about how much she loved the tin of them I gave her last Christmas and how she ate the whole thing herself.  Why on earth didn't I think to include them?  Ka-ching!

Lastly, I thought maybe, just maybe there should also be some biscotti.  Mostly because I love the stuff.   Of course, I used Andy's Biscotti recipe which he used to make and sell when he was twelve (it's really, really good) but that deserves a separate post.  Suffice it to say it became the last (and final!) addition to my rapidly expanding menu.

So first up are Lime Cornmeal Cookies.  I know ...  the name isn't very enticing but don't let that get in your way.  These are sweet, but not too sweet, tangy with the taste of lime but tempered with the addition of almond extract.  And the cornmeal gives them a wonderful texture.  We sold A LOT of these when I
worked at Star Provisions.

LIME CORNMEAL COOKIES  (adapted from Martha Stewart's "Cookies")

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 extra-large egg
4 teaspoons lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal

In electric mixer fitted with gthe paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt until very light and fluffy; about 5 minutes.  Scrape down bowl several times.  Add egg, lime zest, lime juice and almond extract and beat until blended.

With mixer on low speed, add flour and cornmeal.  Beat until just incorporated; do not overbeat.

Turn dough out on a piece of plastic wrap.  Flatten into a disk, wrap well and chill until dough is firm.  Using a small ice cream scoop, form dough into 1 1/4-inch balls.  Place on a sheet tray lined with parchment and place tray in freezer.  Freeze overnight or indefinitely until you are ready to bake the cookies.

To bake cookies, place them 2 inches apartment on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone baking sheet.  Bake in oven preheated to 350-degrees for 12 - 15 minutes or until just beginning to color.  Cool on a wire rack, then spoon glaze over tops of cookies, allowing it to run down the sides.  Let glaze set then store cookies in an airtight container for up to one week.

Yield:  48 cookies

For the glaze:
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice

Place confectioner's sugar in a medium bowl.  Add about half of the lime juice and blend well, adding more lime juice as needed to make a pourable glaze.

I'll get the rest of those recipes posted here in the next couple of days.  BTW, you already have the ones for English Toffee with Fleur de Sel (posted December 14, 2009) and Brown Sugar Shortbread (posted October 2, 2009).  Happy baking, y'all!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Vanilla Sleuth

This will be short.  We just returned from a trip to Philadelphia to find an apartment for Eric.


We found one that fit both his budget and his geographic parameters.  In the midst of a very tight apartment market, with limited availability.  Super Mom (and Dad) strike yet once again.

But before the kids arrived, that bald old man and I had dinner at Alma de Cuba.

Interesting food.  Some glitches, but we liked the place.  But I REALLY liked it when I tasted dessert.  Dulce de leche crepes with smoked vanilla ice cream.


Yeah.  It rocked.  Count on me to come up with a method and a recipe.  Soon.  First though, we have to get through the cookie marathon that is happening this week.  Stay with me!

Friday, May 21, 2010

What to Do?

You are a person who eats everything.  If it isn't nailed down.  Your very dear friend is coming to dinner.  She is vegan.

Vegetarian?  Doesn't bother me at all.  In fact, I used to BE one - many years ago.  It started when I was working on a catering job that involved prepping chicken for 500 people.  If that's not enough to turn one to the other side, I don't know what is.

But vegan?  Holy crap.  Stupidly enough, I initially thought that eggs would be okay.  Uh, no.  Plant-based, as my friend gently informed me.

Okay, Liz.  You can do this.  No cheese.  Okay.  That rules out risotto.  Maybe I could cobble together some kind of pasta dish.  Maybe not.  It all comes back to that umami thing - the fifth taste.  It's what makes a dish memorable.  Plain veggies just don't cut it.  How do I figure this out without my normal "go to" ingredients, like feta, goat cheese, butter or Parmigiano Reggiano?

And what about dessert?  Okay, fruit is fine and I don't mean to knock it, but plain fruit?  No, dammit, I want something a bit more special but I haven't got a clue.

Then I remembered Ina Garten's chocolate sorbet......

Let me tell you, I have the worst memory in the world.  If it weren't for my mom, I probably wouldn't remember half the stuff my kids did when they were little.  If I am introduced to you at a party, I won't remember your name five minutes later (sorry).  But I have an uncanny ability to remember recipes and where they are located.  Even if they are buried in the most obscure cookbooks I own.  Sometimes I worry about the way my brain works.

So I looked up Ina's recipe.  I knew exactly where to find it. 

OMG.  This is my new favorite dessert.  It will knock you over with its intense "chocolatey-ness" and depth of flavor.  It is an obscene hit of chocolate.  When I served it to my guests, I thought they were going to swoon right there at the table.  Seriously.  And, it is both fat and dairy-free.  If you don't own an ice cream freezer, BUY ONE.  If you never use it for anything else other than this, it will be well worth the investment.

CHOCOLATE SORBET   (from Ina Garten's "Barefoot Contessa at Home")

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup good cocoa powder*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups water
1/2 cup brewed coffee
1/4 cup Kahlua

Place sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt in a heavy saucepan.  Add water and coffee and stir to blend.  Cook over low heat until ingredients are dissolved.  Transfer to a container and refrigerate overnight until mixture is well-chilled.

Remove from refrigerator and stir in Kahlua.  Place in ice-cream maker and process according to manufacturer's directions.  The sorbet will still be soft so place in a container and freeze for at least one hour until firm.  Scoop into glasses for serving.  Serve it to your guests and prepare for major accolades.  Or, eat it all yourself.

Yield:  6 servings

*There are limited ingredients in this recipe, so the quality of the cocoa you use is crucial.  I used Valrhona cocoa which I found at Whole Paycheck Foods.  At the very least, use Droste.  The better your cocoa, the better the end result.

My vegan dinner was pretty good also.  Paella.  I winged it, but if you want the recipe, let me know and I will try to write it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Who Doesn't Love Peanut Butter?

Sure, there are preferences.  Like creamy versus crunchy or freshly ground versus the processed stuff.   But really, are there many of us out there who don't like a generous spoonful of peanut butter every once in awhile?  In this house, it's one of those guilty pleasures that we indulge in from time to time, but only when no one is looking or if there is even a jar of it around here in the first place.

Heck, we all grew up on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  And who doesn't like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup?  (Alright, if you are out there, don't let me know about it).  A peanut butter sandwich on toast?  Heaven!  Made even better with a few slices of crispy bacon or a smattering of banana slices.  I know, I know - we are not talking about healthy food here.  But everything in moderation, right?

So the other night we attended a party in the 'hood.  A BIG party in the 'hood.  We have a slew of really great neighbors and some of them put on a fantastic "Craw-B-Q" in their adjoining back yards every year.  Lots of crawfish, kids, beer, live bands and local color.  Folks bring lawn chairs, blankets and pretty much everything but their kitchen sinks.  It starts early and ends late.   It's not held in our back yard, but it may as well be since it is directly adjacent.  It's a great opportunity to just hang with our friends and neighbors.

But I am incapable of attending ANYTHING without bringing something.  It must be in my DNA (Mom?) or something.  One year I brought cupcakes.  They were great, but a little too "frou-frou", I thought.  It needed to be something more "down and dirty" (to use one of Henry's endless cliches). 

We used to make amazing peanut butter and chocolate bars when I worked at Star Provisions.  I thought about making them for this occasion, but worried that the chocolate might not hold up as it was a warm night.  Then I thumbed through Martha Stewart's "Cookies" and found a recipe for Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars.  That sounded right.

I made them.  I would make them again.  They were the perfect blend of nutty, sweet, crunchy and salty.  I jazzed them up a bit with the addition of strawberry-rhubarb jam, but regular old strawberry would do just fine.  We wandered over to the party at about 6pm and I set them out on the dessert table.  Twenty minutes later, they were gone!

PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY BARS  (adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies)

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 18-oz. jar creamy peanut butter (I used Jiff)
2 extra-large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 15-oz. jar of strawberry jam
1 1/2 cups salted peanuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Line a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with heavy duty foil, letting foil overhang sides.  Spray with cooking spray.  Line bottom of pan with a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit and spray again.

In electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy.  Add peanut butter and beat until combined.  Add eggs and vanilla extract and blend briefly until mixture is smooth.  Add flour and baking powder and mix until just combined.

Transfer two-thirds of the mixture to the prepared pan and press in evenly.  Top evenly with jam then crumble remaining peanut butter mixture over top.  Sprinkle with the chopped, salted peanuts.

Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool thoroughly.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.

Using foil overhang as handles, lift bars out of pan and place on a cutting board.  Remove foil and parchment and cut into squares.  Bars can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.  If they last that long.

Yield:  24 bars

So we already know that I am a RIDICULOUS PERSON who feels compelled
to make everything look good.  That means cutting off the imperfect edges so I can cut perfect squares.
I would say that's a pretty good excuse.   In other words, "Cook's treat."

I will admit that I personally happen to LIKE the processed version of peanut butter. Probably because of the salt content.  And sugar.  I hate to tell you this, but it works best here.  Freshly ground peanut butter just doesn't make it in this recpe.  Sorry!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bye-Bye Durham

As the mother of sons, I should have learned a long time ago not to get attached to anything (or anyone -  like girlfriends) in their lives.  For obvious reasons.  This should also include the places where they reside.
Here they are recently in NY at a Karaoke bar.  One of their
friends took this picture with her iPhone and sent it to me!

To be fair, Andy has lived in New York City since he left home.  He went to college and grad school there and never left the place.  Even if he did, we have so many friends and relatives up there that we will likely always continue to visit.

But Eric?  Different story altogether.  Let's see - New York, Washington, London, Santa Monica and Durham.  So far.  This summer it's DC again, then on to Philadelphia.

He departs Durham this week, having lived there for three years.  I have to admit I've developed a fondness for the place.  Other than a brief trip or two to Raleigh, I had never spent any time in the area before.  Durham is pretty much the red-headed stepchild of the Research Triangle, but it's coming into its own.  The area around Duke University is beautiful and there are more than just a few notable restaurants.  The farm-to-table concept is well-established, so much so that the New York Times recently took note.  Local produce abounds and chefs in Durham are making the most of it.

My favorite restaurant in Durham is Watts Grocery, which is heavily referenced in the above article.  Others I like are Nana's, Four Square and Magnolia Grill.  Vin Rouge, too, even though it isn't really farm to table.  But in my mind, Watts Grocery reigns supreme.  One of my favorite dishes is their "Grits bowl" on the brunch menu (I know, I'm not a brunch kinda gal, but I'll make an exception for this).  It's a big bowl of buttery, stone-ground grits and you get to choose four toppings which include sausage, chilies, chopped bacon, grated cheddar, salsa, avocado and a fried egg.

In honor of Watts Grocery, here is my version.  I opted for what I had on hand, which included fresh basil and pancetta.  Oh, and here's a picture of the basil in my back yard.  Maybe there's hope for me as a gardener yet!


1 serving hot stone-ground grits (recipe follows)
1 large egg (preferably farm fresh), fried sunny-side up
1 slice pancetta, sauteed until crispy then crumbled
2 tablespoons grated extra-sharp cheddar
1 large basil leaf, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place grits in individual serving bowl.  Place egg on top and scatter with pancetta and cheddar.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and top with basil.

Yield:  1 serving

OLD FASHIONED CREAMY GRITS      (From Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis' "The Gift of Southern Cooking"

This is the recipe for grits we always used at Watershed when I worked there.  We would make shrimp paste, then stir it into the warm grits and serve it with lightly toasted Pullman planks.  It is well worth it to seek out stone-ground grits.

2 cups water
2 cups milk
1 cup stone-ground grits
Kosher salt to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Heat the water and milk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until just simmering.  Sprinkle the grits into the pan, stirring well.  Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, until grits are tender to the bite and have thickened to the consistency of thick oatmeal.  This could take up to 45- 60 minutes.  Be sure to stir frequently to prevent them from sticking to the bottom and burning.  Season generously with salt, stir in cream and butter and remove from heat.  Serve hot.

Yield:  4 to 6 servings

I will miss you, Watts Grocery.  I will miss you, Washington Duke Inn.  Onward to Philadelphia!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day

This is Siev Mai, the student I sponsor in Cambodia.  I met her when I visited the country recently.  I know - you're wondering what this has to do with Mother's Day.
Keep reading.

I'll be the first to tell you I think Mother's Day is a Hallmark holiday.  Now before you accuse me of blasphemy, hear me out.  It's not that I think we shouldn't honor our mothers (heck, I am one) but I do have some thoughts on the subject (uh-oh, look out, here comes another rant....)

Let's start with brunch.  Oh, my favorite meal  (NOT, as you already know if you read my granola post).  The last thing I want to do is get all gussied up on a Sunday and head out for some overpriced buffet where they are probably just recycling leftovers anyway.  And then I will eat too much, because it's in front of me and I will subsequently feel miserable the rest of the day.  Uh ... no.

Dinner out?  Nope.  We tried that last year with my mom and it was a complete failure.  Any restaurant open on the Sunday night of Mother's Day was probably open for brunch also and guess what?  THEY ARE IN THE WEEDS!  The staff is stressed, there is no prep anywhere to be found, the larder is depleted, the bathrooms are filthy because no one has had time to check them and all the staff wants to do is get you in and out the door as fast as possible so they can go home.  I can't really blame them.

And cards?  Oh please.  Don't get me started.  Do you realize the average cost of a card these days is $3.50.  WHAT?????  For something that you will read once or twice then throw away?  I wonder how many trees are destroyed for Mother's Day cards.  Or how much money is spent on them.  Between Henry and my mom, the four cards I received cost more than $20 dollars.  That's a ridiculous amount of wasted money and trees if you ask me. 

Approximately $14 billion annually in this country is spent on meals, jewelry and flowers for Mother's Day.  I wish I was making this up.

Nick Kristof wrote about it in the New York Times.  (His book "Half the Sky" inspired my trip to Cambodia).  He writes that $14 billion would pay for a primary school education for the 60 million girls around the world who aren't attending school, effectively ending female literacy.  This is something to think about.

Students I met in Cambodia  

In that spirit, I decided against expensive restaurants, fancy gifts and the like this year.  I called up my mom and invited her to dinner.  Along with three of her friends.  Now really, who wouldn't want that as a gift?  I'd love it if someone did that for me!

So she, Jean, Adelaide and Vallie showed up here on Saturday night.  What a wonderful time we had!  These ladies are feisty, interesting, smart and engaging.  Any one of them could have equaled Betty White's fabulous hosting gig on SNL. 

Dinner was simple, but delicious.  We started with crostini with various toppings then moved on to shrimp scampi.  Dessert was wonderful.  Yogurt panna cotta with macerated strawberries.   The perfect end to a perfect evening.  Without costing $14 billion.


2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder (or 4 gelatin sheets)
3 cups heavy cream
2 cups low-fat greek yogurt (I used Fage 2%)
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
1 cup granulated sugar

For strawberries:
4 pints fresh strawberries, cored and sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup good balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Lemon zest and fresh mint leaves, for serving

Place gelatin in a small bowl and add 3 tablespoons of cold water.  Stir and set aside for 10 minutes.  If using gelatin sheets, soak briefly in cold water, then squeeze out and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the cream, yogurt and vanilla paste.

Heat remaining 1 1/2 cups of cream and the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until just simmering.  Remove from heat and add gelatin.  Stir to dissolve then pour into the cream/yogurt mixture.  Stir to combine.

Pour mixture into 8 custard cups or ramekins.  Chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.

One hour before serving, combine strawberries, sugar, vinegar and pepper.  Let sit at room temperature to allow juices to develop.

To serve, unmold panna cottas onto plates by running a knife around edges and dipping custard cups into a bowl of hot water for 15 seconds.  Top with strawberries and garnish with lemon zest.

Serves 8

And besides this dinner, my gift to Mom?  A printed copy of this blog (she's not computer literate) and a straw purse made by a Cambodian woman who survived sex-trafficking and the brothels.

I'm finally done now.  Thanks for listening.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Triple Chocolate Dulce de Leche Brownies

I vaguely remember saying I wouldn't post any more recipes for brownies on this blog.  Well, people -  I lied.  This is one you definitely need to have in your repertoire.  As I mentioned in the last post, this recipe came from David Lebovitz's blog and it is DEFINITELY worth making.  Worth the calories, too.

Okay, so I did tweak the recipe though.  Just a little.  I used more dulce de leche than his recipe called for, mostly because I had it on hand after I made it from scratch and needed to get rid of it before I inhaled it.  I also added a little salt to the recipe and instead of adding toasted pecans or walnuts, I substituted chocolate chips. 

I also thought about doubling the recipe since it only calls for an 8-inch square pan.  Remember, I'm the queen of quantity - I ALWAYS make way too much of anything because heaven forbid you shouldn't have enough.  An eight-inch square pan of brownies seemed pretty skimpy to me.  What I didn't know, however, was how intensely rich and lethal these are.  Less is more when it comes to these.  Seriously.

So here is the recipe.  Be sure and read my comments at the end so you don't run into any pitfalls.  Learn from my mistakes!


8 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa (I used Droste)
3 extra-large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups dulce de leche

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Line an 8-inch square pan with heavy duty foil that covers the bottom and reaches up the sides.  Use one sheet of foil for one side, then another sheet of foil over that, making a large cross with edges that overhang the sides.  Grease well with butter or cooking spray (grease REALLY well).

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the chocolate pieces and stir over low heat until chocolate is melted.  Remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder.  Add eggs, one at a time, then stir in the sugar and vanilla.  Mix well then add flour and salt.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan.  Spoon half of the dulce de leche over and swirl it in with the tip of a knife.  Spread remaining batter over top and repeat with remaining dulce de leche.  Don't get too invested in making it look artful - by the time it bakes, it mostly just looks like all chocolate anyway.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until center is just slightly firm.  Do not overbake.  Remove from the oven and cool completely then refrigerate until well-chilled.  Cut into squares as desired.

Yield:  12 - 18 brownies, depending upon how you cut them (the smaller, the better)

A couple of things: 

These are a bitch to get out of the pan.  The dulce de leche bubbles over as it bakes, creating something like glue between the foil and the pan.  I could not lift the brownies out of the pan using the foil handles because the foil stuck to the sides.  Hence, I put the pan in the freezer until it got good and solid then just cut them in the pan and lifted the brownies out one by one.

These are pretty sticky and ooey-gooey.  I find that it is best to store them in the refrigerator.  They will last for up to 5 days unless you eat them all in one sitting which I do not recommend.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dulce de Leche vs. Dulce de Leche

I've been collecting recipes since I was in college.  Yup, that's a long time ago.  For years I kept all of those clippings in manila folders, frantically going through them when I was searching for something specific I THOUGHT was in there.  I usually didn't find what I was looking for.

Several years ago, I pasted all of those clippings in notebooks and indexed themON. MY. COMPUTER.  Does any sane person do that?

That said, it's now extraordinarily easy for me to find recipes when I am looking for them.  My own personal recipe trove! 

So now I have all these recipe "books."  Of course, I'm not quite sure what to do with all of the clippings I've acquired since then.  Guess I will have to figure that one out later.

And my point?  Do I ever have one on this blog?

Yeah.  Here it is.  I am going to start cooking and posting based on these accumulated recipes.  At random. 

The first one?  Dulce de Leche Brownies from David Lebovitz.  I met him years ago in NYC.  He is the pastry and dessert chef extraordinaire   I fell in love with his partner, Kip and we stayed in touch.  Sadly, Kip is no longer with us, but his memory lives on. 

Before you can make these, you have to have a cup of dulce de leche on hand.  Huh?  What's that?  Well, basically it is caramelized, sweetened milk that lends itself to all sorts of incredible dessert recipes.

Sometimes you can find it in the grocery store, but I'm never that lucky, so usually I just caramelize sweetened condensed milk.  But here's where that silly indexing of mine came in handy.  I actually found a recipe in there for a homemade version of dulce de leche from Alton Brown.  Since I am a food snob, I decided to make it in lieu of the canned stuff.  Good call, Liz!

Now that I have made it "from scratch", I will never look back.  Yeah, it takes some time, but there is little work involved and the payoff is worth it.  While the canned version was good, it still had that "canned" taste.  The homemade version was just pure milky caramel.  Oh, this makes me SO happy!


(2) 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk

Pour the condensed milk into a large glass baking dish.  Cover with foil and place in a bain-marie (that means place it in a larger pan filled with hot water to come halfway up the sides of the glass baking dish).  Preheat oven to 300-degrees and bake for about 1 1/2 hours or until mixture caramelizes and is golden brown.

Yield:  approximately 1 cup

DULCE DE LECHE (2)  (from Alton Brown)

1 quart whole milk
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (available at Whole Foods)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine milk, sugar and vanilla paste in a 4-quart saucepan.  Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves.  Reduce heat to low and add baking soda.  Continue to cook on VERY low heat, stirring occasionally until mixture is a dark caramel color.  This will take approximately 2 1/2 - 3 hours.  Strain mixture and store in refrigerator in a sealed container for up to one month.

Yield:  approximately 1 cup

At the end of the day (that would be the end of this experiment), I was left with something that looked like the caramel sauce I usually make (see previous blogs).  But yet ... this tasted different.  The milk tempered it, made it less stringent and it lingered longer in the back of my mouth.  Sorry, don't want to sound like I am tasting wine, but it was radically different from the usual caramel.  Verdict?  Suck it up and take the three hours it takes to make this stuff....

Since it took me three hours to make it tonight, I did not get around to making the brownies.  Sorry, everyone!  That will be tomorrow's blog.  Sleep well.