Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Brown Sugar Pecan Shortbread

My kingdom for a packet of sugar in the raw....

This recipe calls for turbinado sugar.   Basically sugar in the raw.   Enough to sprinkle on the tops of the cookies.   Of course, when I was baking these, I wasn't ready to run to Whole Foods to see if they had it in their bulk bins.  I'm also not in the habit of liberating sugar packets from restaurants.  So there I was in the KS (King Soopers for those not in CO) and I gave in and bought a box of sugar. A freakin' $4 box of sugar. 

I'm going to be dusting cookies and sweetening my coffee with this sugar for a long time!  

Enough about the sugar, let's focus on the cookies:  Crisp, buttery and full of brown sugar goodness.    Yum!

What You Need

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons finely chopped pecans, toasted  (basically a 1/4 cup before you chop them)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened (real butter is the only way to go with shortbread)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup ice water
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
What You Do

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt), stirring well with a whisk. Place butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 1 minute).

Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed. (Mixture will appear crumbly.) Sprinkle ice water over flour mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Shape the dough into 2 (6-inch-long) logs; wrap each log in plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour or until very firm.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Put a silicone baking mat on your cookie sheet. Unwrap dough; cut each log into 16 slices (my slices must have been skinny, because I ended up with more than 32 cookies total...ok by me) using a serrated knife. Place dough circles 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle tops evenly with turbinado sugar, gently pressing into dough. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from baking sheets; cool on a wire rack.

Recipe Source:  Cooking Light, June 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Caramel Pecan French Toast

This french toast is amazing!

I had pulled this recipe from a library book earlier this year (I think it was from Paula Deen, but I'm not sure...let's give her the credit anyway) and was waiting for an occasion that could justify a recipe that involves copious amounts of brown sugar, butter and eggs.   

This is not your standard Saturday morning french toast. 

This is special occasion, plan ahead, who cares about calories, french toast.   
In fact, it was my Thanksgiving toast.  

After enjoying all the traditional Thanksgiving fixings at last weekend's Friendsgiving, I was not inspired to cook a big meal on Thursday.   My turkey, a holiday gift from my employer, is hanging out in the freezer.    I'll cook him later.   Possibly in early 2013.

What You Need

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (lay them flat on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 for 3-5 minutes - watch them so they don't burn)
1 loaf french bread, sliced into 16 slices (it's ok if they aren't all the same size)
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk (I used skim...is that like ordering a diet soda with meat lovers pizza?)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

What You Do

Ideally, make this the night before so that you don't have the morning impatience of waiting for it to "rest."      This toast of awesome will be served in a 13x9 baking pan.

In a medium saucepan combine the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup.   Cook and stir until butter is melted and the sugar dissolves.     Pour this caramel sauce into your ungreased 13x9 pan.   Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the toasted pecans.

Arrange half the bread, eight slices, in a single layer on top of the caramel sauce.    Sprinkle with the remaining pecans then top with the other eight slices.  

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla.   Gradually pour egg mixture over the bread.   Use a spoon to press the bread down to moisten it.    Mix the granulated sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a small bowl.   Sprinkle over bread.

Cover and chill for 2-24 hours.  This is that "resting" phase I mentioned.    No one wants to wait 2 hours in the morning for the magic to happen.

Preheat oven to 350.   Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until lightly browned.   Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.     Now here's the tricky part - the recipe says to invert the toast onto a platter for serving.   Inverting is never as easy as it sounds and increases the possibility of me making a mess.    However, it's how you get the caramel on top looking amazing.     If inverting scares you, just use a big spatula to pick up both the top and bottom slice of toast and flip it on to your plate, getting plenty of the caramel pecan sauce.  

This is so rich and delicious, that you don't need any syrup.    Just a cup of coffee or a big glass of milk.   

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends!


Friday, November 23, 2012

Sausage Rolls

Bacon gets all the love.       Recently a restaurant had a radio ad campaign about how their queso was better than bacon.   Bold statement.  Other things can be delicious, it's true.   But they can't replace bacon.    We had an impassioned discussion about this over Friendsgiving last weekend.

I digress.   This isn't about bacon.   These are sausage rolls.  

I forget that sausage is also delicious.   I don't normally order sausage over bacon when it comes to breakfast, but sausage can make for some tasty treats.    This is just one example.  

What You Need

2 tubes of crescent rolls
1 pound ground breakfast sausage, cooked, drained and crumbled
8 oz of cream cheese (I use the light cream cheese - tastes great), at room temperature
4 teaspoons dried sage (I'm sure fresh sage would be amazing, but I didn't have it on hand)

What You Do

Preheat oven to 375 (if your package of crescent rolls says something different - follow those instructions). 

Cook the sausage in a skillet, use your spatula to break up all the pieces.    Drain all the fat, then put your sausage in a bowl or on a plate. 

Mix the cream cheese and sage together in a small bowl to create your herb spread.

Open your tubes of rolls (I hate the popping sound - it always catches me off guard).   Break them apart into triangles.    Before you roll them up like the picture on the package, spread the triangle with your herb cream cheese and then press sausage crumbles into the cheese.   Now roll them up.  

Put a silicone mat on your baking sheet for easy clean up, 15 minutes or until golden brown.     These are great hot out of the oven or at room temperature, and they travel well.  

I did not use all the sausage when I made these rolls - I had enough left to make a great dip (recipe coming soon).

Now...back to bacon.   I can imagine a similar roll, maybe with some different herbs or sharp cheddar, made with bacon.   Yum!

Recipe Source:  Paula Deen (not sure which book - I got it from the library and only wrote down the recipe)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Playing with Your Food: Thanksgiving

Yesterday my sister and I went to a Friendsgiving dinner.     The co-hosts took care of the turkey, mashed potatoes and pie.   Everything else was up for grabs.

My sister had found pictures of these cookie turkeys on facebook and we traced our way back to the original sites that published the recipes - and step by step instructions on how to assemble these awesome treats.

Nutter Butter Turkeys:  7th House on the Left
Oreo Turkeys:  Our Best Bites

The authors of both these recipes were very specific about using cookie icing and it really helped to hold these top heavy birds together.    You can decorate faces and feet however you want.

Cookie Turkeys are Expensive:  When you're using brand name convenience foods like double stuff Oreos, Nutter Butters, Reese's cups, Nabisco Chocolate Wafers, and more, your grocery bill adds up fast.    You walk away from the grocery store thinking, "wow...all this food and I still have nothing to eat for dinner."  

Mind Readers:   Another friend who was going to the same party also made the Oreo turkeys.    Of all the things in the universe you could take to a Thanksgiving potluck, what are the odds that two friends who didn't plan this in advance would make the same treat?

Friendsgiving:  It's all the good things about Thanksgiving...without the family drama or the football.   Everyone brings their favorite dish, you drink some wine, and enjoy the best possible company.   I'm hoping this becomes an annual tradition. 
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