Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Salted Caramel Brownies

These are some of the best brownies I've ever had!  And the salted caramel is amazing!  Taken from Smitten Kitchen.

Caramel

1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (or salted, but then ease up on the sea salt)
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or 1/8 teaspoon table salt, more to taste)
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Brownie

3 ounces (85 grams) unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/8 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour

Make caramel: Set a square of parchment paper over a medium-sized plate. Lightly butter or coat the parchment with a spray oil, just as an added security measure.

In a medium, dry saucepan over medium-high heat, melt your sugar; this will take about 5 minutes, stirring if necessary to break up large chunks. By the time it is all melted, if should be a nice copper color; if not, cook until it is. Remove from heat and stir in butter. It may not incorporate entirely but do your best. Stir in cream and salt and return saucepan to the stove over medium-high heat, bringing it back to a simmer and melted again any sugar that solidified. Cook bubbling caramel for a few minutes more, until it is a shade darker.

Pour out onto parchment-covered plate and transfer plate to your freezer. Freeze until solidified, which can take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes in a decent freezer to 40 minutes in my terrible one.

Meanwhile, or when your caramel is almost firm, make your brownies: Heat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment, extending it up two sides. Butter the parchment or spray it with a nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain. Off the heat, stir until smooth and fully melted. You can also do this in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible spatula.

Assemble brownies: When caramel is firm, remove it from the freezer and chop it into rough 1-inch squares. Gently fold all but a small amount of caramel bits into batter. Scrape batter into prepared pan, spreading until mostly even. Scatter remaining caramel bits on top. Bake in heated oven for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool thoroughly — a process that can be hastened in the freezer, which will also produce cleaner cuts — and cut into squares or other desired shapes.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Homemade Pretzels

I've been in search of a good homemade pretzel recipe for a long time.  Not just a bread-like recipe you shape in the form of a pretzel, but one that tastes more like the pretzel at the Auntie Anne's in the mall.  And I finally found one that satisfies in every way--quick to make, fun to bake, and tastes great!  Adapted from here. Enjoy!


pretzels
1 t dry yeast
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/8 tsp salt
1 C. bread flour*
3 C. regular flour*
1 1/2 C. warm water

baking soda wash
2 C. warm water
2 Tbsp baking soda

toppings
2 – 4 Tbsp butter (melted)
coarse salt or cinnamon sugar

Mix yeast, brown sugar, salt, and flour in a mixing bowl with a whisk.  Add 1 ½ cup warm water.  Knead dough with dough hook until smooth and elastic about 5 minutes.  Place dough in a greased bowl.   Cover with saran wrap.  Let rise about at least 30 minutes.

While dough is rising preheat oven to 450.  Then prepare a baking soda water bath in another large bowl with 2 cups hot water and 2 tbsp baking soda. Be certain to stir often.

After dough has risen, punch down and pinch off bits of dough and roll into a long rope (about 1/2 inch or less thick) and shape. We live making pretzel sticks for dipping or traditional pretzels shapes.  To make the pretzel shape roll into a long rope (24+ inches) pick up both ends of the dough and give it a little spin so the middle of the dough spins around once. Lay the dough down with the loop nearest to you. Fold the ends down toward you and pinch to attach them to the bottom of the loop. The twist should be in the middle.

Dip pretzel in soda solution and place on baking sheet lined with a slipat or parchment paper. Allow pretzels to rise again (optional). Bake in oven at 450 for about 8-10 minutes or until golden.

Brush generously with melted butter. Sprinkle with coarse salt or cinnamon sugar.  Enjoy!

*Note: I don't usually have bread flour on hand and I like to use whole wheat flour so I used the following: 1 cup white whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten, and 1 3/4 cup flour.


Dittmer Mix

This recipe is known by many other names.  But it will always be remembered as "Dittmer Mix" for my friend Anna who introduced it to me.  Beware it is very addicting for those who like sweet/salty combinations.  It's a fun treat to make with seasonally colored M&M's.  Slightly adapted from here and from the Dittmer family recipe.

3 ½  cups Cheerios toasted oat cereal
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Corn Chex
16 ounces M&M's plain chocolate candy
2 ½ cups salted mixed nuts or almonds (about 12 oz)
2-3 cups small pretzels (we like the square window-pane ones for this recipe)
1 ½ (11 ounce) packages white chocolate chips (Ghirardelli brand preferred)*
1-2 T shortening*

Directions
Dump the cereals, M&Ms, nuts & pretzels in a large bowl.

Melt the white chocolate and shortening in the microwave or in a double boiler. Melt very slowly, stirring occasionally, being careful not to burn the chocolate.  Stir.

Dump melted chocolate over the rest of the ingredients and fold over and over until you have well-coated hunks and chunks.

Spread the whole mess out on parchment paper and set in a cool place until it sets up, then break it into pieces.

Store in zip-top bags or air-tight containers.

*I used 1 package Ghiradelli chips plus about 1 cup of white melting wafers and 1 T shortening.  You can also use almond bark if you like.