Friday, July 13, 2012

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

Yield about 5 dozens
For the shortbread layer:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
For the caramel layer:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 2 (14 oz.) cans sweetened condensed milk

For the chocolate layer:
  • 8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. light corn syrup
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • Fleur de sel or sea salt, for sprinkling

To make the shortbread layer, preheat the oven to 325° F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir with a fork to blend, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well blended, about 1-2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed blend in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press in an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden. (If the crust puffs up a bit while baking, just gently press it down while it is cooling.) Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.

To make the caramel layer, combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup and condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, stirring constantly. Continue simmering and stirring until the mixture turns an amber color and thickens slightly. Pour the mixture over the shortbread layer, smooth the top, and allow to cool completely and set. (I chilled at this stage to ensure that the caramel layer would not melt when the warm chocolate was added.)

To make the chocolate glaze, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour evenly over the caramel layer and use an offset spatula to smooth the top. Allow to cool for a minute or two and then sprinkle with fleur de sel. Chill, covered, until ready to slice and serve.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes
  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix
  • 1 (3.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 cups Andes Crème de Menthe baking chips
For the Frosting

  • 4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1.5 pounds (28 ounces) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • green gel dye
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • 2 ounces semi sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tin with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl with a hand mixer, add the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, eggs, vanilla and water. Mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes until all ingredients are well combined and the batter is smooth. Stir in the Andes Crème de Menthe baking chips.

3. Using a large scoop distribute the batter between 24 muffin wells; about 3 tablespoons of batter per well.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 18-23 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly touched. Allow cupcakes to cool inside muffin tins for about 10 minutes.

5. Remove cupcakes from muffin tins and allow to fully cool on a wire rack. Once cupcakes are cool, prepare your frosting.

For the Frosting

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes.

2.Turn the mixture down to low speed and gradually add in the confectioners' sugar until it is completely incorporated. Add in vanilla and heavy cream. Turn the mixer back up to medium-high speed and beat the mixture for about 3-4 minutes or until light and fluffy.

4. Remove half of the frosting from the mixer bowl and set aside. Add a tiny amount of green gel dye to the remaining frosting (I used Wilton Leaf Green). Turn the mixer on and fully incorporate the dye. Slowly add more dye until you achieve a nice minty green color. Stir in peppermint extract.

5. Remove the mint frosting from the mixing bowl and set aside. Add the other half of the frosting back into the bowl of your stand mixer. Add in the cooled, melted chocolate and cocoa powder. Mix until fully incorporated.

6. For the two-toned effect, I used this method from GoodLife Eats. You can also carefully layer the two colors into the piping bag, but I find Katie's method to be much easier and cleaner.

7. Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and garnish with mini chocolate chips.


- Mint Chocolate Cupcakes are best served the day they are made. However, they will keep in an airtight container within the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Remove to room temperature one hour before serving.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bread Thickened Sicilian Tomato-Basil Soup

Bread Thickened Sicilian Tomato-Basil Soup

Serves 3-4
  • 2 1/4 cup water
  • 10 scallions, white and green parts both chopped and separated
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 balsamic vinegar
  • 20 basil leaves, 3/4 shredded and 1/4 left whole for garnish
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 oz. Italian bread, torn into small pieces

In large pot, heat 1/4 cup water over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook 3 minutes. Add the white part of the scallions, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, shredded basil and cayenne pepper. Cook over medium high heat for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the broth, 2 remaining cups of water, salt, pepper and bring to a boil. Stir in the pieces of bread, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook an additional 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining scallion parts and cover the cooking pot with a lid. Turn off the heat and let stand for 20 minutes before serving. Garnish with basil leaves.

Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 large banana
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin. I used a jumbo muffin tin. This recipe will make 12 regular-size muffins or 6 jumbo muffins.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
In a bowl of a mixer, whisk banana and sour cream together until combined. Add egg, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla extract, and whisk to combine. Fold in the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill each muffin tin a 1/3 of the way full.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until the tops of the muffins spring back, or a tooth pick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.

Miniature Blueberry Cheesecakes

Miniature Blueberry Cheesecakes

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 24 vanilla wafer cookies
  1. In a food processor pulse cream cheese, sugar, zest and vanilla to combine. Add blueberries and pulse until mixed.
  2. Cut 24 small rounds of waxed paper and fit each into a cup of a 24-cup miniature muffin tin. Divide blueberry mixture among cups, spooning in mixture on top of waxed paper. Gently smooth with an offset spatula or back of a teaspoon. Place 1 vanilla wafer, flat side up, on top of each cup, pressing gently to adhere. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  3. To remove cheesecakes, run a warm, thin knife around each, then slide tip of knife under and lift out.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Grilled Eggplant, Goat Cheese, and Sun-dried Tomato Burger

Grilled Eggplant, Goat Cheese, and Sun-dried Tomato Burger

Serves 4
  • 12 oz goat cheese log
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten for egg wash
  • 1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
  • vegetable or sunflower oil for frying
  • 4 thick slices eggplant
  • olive oil for brushing
  • 4 plain or sourdough burger buns (I bought pretzel buns from Trader Joe’s – yum)
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
  • 1 cup arugula
  • balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1/2 cup spicy tomato relish (see below for recipe)

Divide the goat cheese log into four equal parts – mold into patty shapes carefully so the cheese doesn’t crumble apart. Mix flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow, wide dish. Coat cheese in the following order: dip into flour and cover both sides. Dip into egg wash and then into the panko crumbs. Press panko crumbs into goat cheese firmly. Dip into egg wash a second time and again into the panko. It is important to double coat to prevent the cheese from oozing into the fryer oil. Chill cheese patties in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat to 350 degrees F.

Heat a cast iron pan grill until very hot, brush eggplant slices with olive oil, and grill them until cooked to a golden color, about 3 minutes on each side. (I cheated and used my roommate’s panini press.)

Fry the goat cheese burgers for 3-4 minutes until golden, then drain well on paper towels. Toast the burger buns on both sides.

Toss the arugula with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and fresh-ground black pepper.

Assemble burgers by topping the base with the eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese burger, tomato relish, and arugula. Serve with leftover relish.

Spicy Tomato Garlic Relish

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Aubergine & Green Bean Curry

Aubergine & Green Bean Curry

Serves 6 - 8
  • Sunflower oil, for frying
  • 5 aubergines, sliced into long wedges
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 300ml roast tomato passata
  • 300g green beans
For the curry paste
  • 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 5-6 shallots, roughly chopped
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, roughly chopped
  • 4 hearts of lemongrass, chopped
  • 5 green chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
For the raita
  • 3 tsp mango chutney
  • 8 tbsp plain yogurt
  • Fresh coriander, to garnish
  1. Put all the paste mix ingredients into a blender along with a couple of tablespoons of water and blitz, pushing the paste down from the sides of the blender periodically, you want a smooth paste mix.
  2. Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying pan and fry the aubergines in batches until lightly browned.
  3. In a deep saucepan heat a little oil and add half the curry paste, fry the paste for a couple of minutes stirring all the time.
  4. Add the aubergines, stir to coat in the paste. Add the coconut milk and roast tomato passata. Bring to a simmer and add green beans and cook for about 10 minutes or until the beans are tender but still have a bit of bite.
  5. Make the raita by stirring the chutney into the yogurt, sprinkle over a little coriander and serve alongside the curry with some naan breads or rice.