Friday, February 27, 2015

Caramel Fudge Brownies




Anything with caramel is typically a big hit at work and I hadn’t made any caramel treats in a while. I’ve probably made some sort of caramel and pecan brownie before, but each recipe is a little different. Caramel and pecan is a classic combination, so how can it be bad? This is a fairly traditional one bowl brownie (which I make in two bowls because it’s hard to mix in a saucepan) topped with a swirl of caramel and a sprinkle of chopped pecans.

The original recipe called for 14 ounces of caramels, which you have to unwrap and that’s really a pain. Now they sell caramel bits, but they come in 11 ounce bags. The wrapped caramels also come in 11 ounce bags now, too, so you have to make an adjustment. I didn’t use less evaporated milk, I used ½ cup that the original recipe called for, and so my caramel was pretty runny. I also made it harder to swirl, but eventually it made a nice swirl.

One problem with the caramel in these brownies is that it’s really hard to know when they are baked through. I baked them for 35 minutes, and testing with a knife they were still really soft. I kept adding a few more minutes, and I honestly don’t know how long I baked them. I hoped for the best, but figured a caramel-y gooey brownie would probably be ok. When I cut them, they are on the gooey side, but still very nice. They are gooey and the caramel makes them more gooey, which is not a bad thing at all!

Caramel Fudge Brownies
11 ounces caramel bits
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips, divided
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, divided

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9” x 13” pan with foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small saucepan, heat caramel bits and evaporated milk over low heat, stirring frequently, until caramels are melted and smooth. Set aside.

In a small saucepan or in the microwave, melt the butter. Transfer the melted butter to a medium mixing bowl. Add the sugar, vanilla and eggs and whisk to combine. Add the flour, cocoa powder and salt and fold in using a spatula. Stir in 1-1/2 cups chocolate chips and 1 cup chopped pecans. Spread the mixture in the prepared baking pan. Spoon the caramel over the unbaked brownies and swirl with a knife.
  
 Bake for 35-45 minutes or until set.

Once you’ve removed the brownies from the oven, melt the remaining ½ cup of chocolate chips in the microwave. Drizzle over the warm brownies and then sprinkle with the remaining chopped pecans. Cool for 20 minutes, then refrigerate for an hour before cutting into bars.

Lift the brownies from the pan and peel away the foil. Cut into bars.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Stollen



Ok, so you are probably wondering why on earth am I posting stollen in February? This month, the What’s Baking group that I am a part of chose bread. When the theme was picked, I was still in the mode of Christmas baking so I ended up making stollen and I just waited to post it. I know, it’s a little weird but I like this type of bread any time. Make sure you visit this month’s host, Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks , who will share all of the different breads that people made for this month.

Stollen can be as varied as can be, this version is fairly traditional, with a mix of dried and candied fruit, and almonds. This one doesn’t contain a lot of spices, but I’ve had stollen with spices and it’s very nice too. You can use any fruit that you want, as long as the quantities add up. I don’t usually have a lot of candied fruit on hand, usually just a little bit of candied lemon peel, so I usually just add more dried fruit to compensate. I think a little candied fruit can go a long way, and don’t use that horribly artificially colored candied fruit. It’s awful.

This makes two loaves, and the loaves are pretty huge! I don’t think that stollen is hard to make, but it does take a lot of time. The hardest thing in making stollen is when you are kneading the dough, all the nuts and fruits want to escape so it seemed like I was constantly adding those bits back to the dough! I know this isn’t a very seasonal recipe, but it’s one worth saving!

Stollen
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped mixed candied fruit
1/4 cup dried currants
3/4 cup apple juice
4-1/2 to 5 cups flour
2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, cubed
2 eggs
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup chopped almonds
Powdered sugar

 In a large bowl, soak raisins, fruit and currants in apple juice for 1 hour to rehydrate; drain and set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups of flour, yeast, sugar and salt. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter to 120 degrees. Pour the warmed milk into the bowl with dry ingredients. Beat on medium until mixed. Add the eggs, orange and lemon zest and almond extract; beat until smooth. Stir in the chopped almonds, rehydrated fruit mixture and enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. You might not need all 5 cups flour.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

Punch dough down; divide in half. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes. On a floured surface, shape each half of dough into a 12” x 8” oval. Fold one of the long sides over to within 1 in. of the opposite side; press edges lightly to seal. Place on the baking sheets. Cover and let rise until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Recipe from Taste of Home

Friday, February 20, 2015

Glazed Lemon Sugar Cookies



I love a good lemon dessert, and lemon cookies are no exception. I think of spring when I think of lemon desserts, and I know a lot of people are ready for spring! We’ve had pretty nice weather in the Seattle area, which is great, but it seems like the rest of the country has been hit so hard with winter. So here’s a little peek to spring, even if the weather outside isn’t cooperating.

This recipe said that it made about 2-1/2 dozen cookies, and I usually like to make at least 3 dozen to make sure that I have enough to take to work and still have some at home. I don’t think my husband appreciates it very much when there are no cookies left. I decided to do 1 and a half times the recipe listed here, and made just over 3 dozen cookies. You’d have to make them pretty tiny to get 2-1/2 dozen out of this recipe. If you want a nice big batch, just double the recipe.

I did roll my cookies in powdered sugar, but somehow that disappeared while the cookies baked. I’ve never had that problem before! It’s a little hard to tell when the cookies are done, as you don’t really want them to brown. I baked mine for 10 minutes and they still looked a tiny bit wet on top so one more minute seemed right. These cookies have a wonderful lemon flavor. If you want even more lemon flavor, you can make the glaze with lemon juice rather than milk, which is what I did.

Glazed Lemon Sugar Cookies   
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1½ cups flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar

1 cup powdered sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons milk or lemon juice   

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.

In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light. Add the vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and lemon juice and mix on medium until smooth. With the mixer running on low, add flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Stir just until the flour is incorporated.

Shape the dough into 1-1/4” balls. Roll the balls in powdered sugar and place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes, until set. The cookies will not be browned. Cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the glaze: in a small bowl whisk the powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Add additional milk if the glaze is too thick to drizzle; add powdered sugar if the glaze is too thin. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cookies.

Recipe from Swanky Recipes