November 28, 2012

Would you like some caramel with your butter?

What do you get when you add four sticks of butter to a bowl full of sugar, milk, and caramel?

It looks a little something like this:

That sounded like a build up to a joke, but instead it is just an uncreative start to a blog post.

Please don't ask me why I felt it was necessary to add an entire box of butter to something then feed it to my coworkers, because there is really no good reason except that Paula Deen says it's ok. This isn't her recipe but I know she would like it.

For some reason I was just thinking that Paula Deen was maybe dead? A quick google search revealed that no, she just has type 2 diabetes. All is well.

Back to the butter.

It truly doesn't get much better than a crumbly shortbread topping, gooey salted caramel center and mini chocolate chips. The only thing that may be greater is that new docudrama on MTV that follows people as they meet their online boyfriends for the first time, who usually end up being overweight men living in trailers instead of young body builders. Quite possibly the most entertaining part of all this though isn't the unveiling, but the fact that these girls are actually surprised. Really?

These bars are rich. They taste like butter and they smell like butter and I ate one for breakfast. These are what I like to call a vegan's worst nightmare.

Something that I don't enjoy is substituting healthy alternatives in baked goods even though it's all the rage right now. Have you seen that chart of healthy baking substitutions that's been making it's way around the interwebs yet? Apple sauce instead of sugar? What is that shit? My take on this is simple: Using greek yogurt instead of oil to make your cream cheese pound cake makes you a moron.

I am also offended by the sugar-free items in the baking aisle that think they can just sit next to the real people items like it's nbd. I almost bought sugar-free graham crackers on accident the other day and I literally said "fuck you" out loud right next to the butterscotch chips and children when I realized my mistake. Things like this belong in their own store, and that store is called the trash can.

Salted Caramel Butter Bars
Adapted from Cookies & Cups

For the crust: 
1 lb. salted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbs. vanilla
4 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling:
1 bag caramel candies, unwrapped
1/3 cup milk or cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tbs. sea salt

In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Using mixer on medium speed, beat together until creamy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth soft dough forms.

Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Press one-third of the dough evenly onto the pan to form a bottom crust, and place the remainder of the dough in the fridge to chill.

Preheat oven to 325F.

Bake until firm and edges are a pale golden brown, approximately 20 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool about 15 minutes.

While the bottom crust is baking and the remaining dough is chilling, make the caramel filling. Place the unwrapped caramels in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the cream and vanilla. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth. If caramels are not completely melted, microwave on high for 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth.

Pour the caramel filling over the crust. Sprinkle salt on top.

Remove the remaining chilled dough from the refrigerator and crumble it evenly over the caramel. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly and the crumbled shortbread topping is firm and lightly golden, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Let cool before cutting into squares.

So let's embrace these, my friends. Let's embrace the fact that each square contains a tablespoon of butter. Pretend I didn't just tell you that.

November 8, 2012

A cookie recipe for the baking challenged or maybe even an infant.

I'm going to do you a favor.

First, I'm going to inform you that Bartell's frowns upon the act of unwrapping multiple lipsticks and testing them before setting them down and walking away. They really don't like it and they will even sic a really scary security guard on you when you are trying to leave. Then you will get a picture taken under unflattering fluorescent lighting in the secret back room, and they also don't like it when you joke about looking good because, well, you just found the perfect shade of berry-colored lipstick. They will also try scaring you into believing you can't enter another Bartell's for a year but aha! That is a lie. Because I tested it myself.

Second, I'm going to give you the most fool-proof cookie recipe that is going to be your permanent go-to, so you're welcome. Some of my friends tell me they are terrible at baking. They say nothing ever turns out as planned and then I will be over at their house watching them make cookies and they start throwing random amounts of flour and sugar and baking soda into a bowl and are confused when they come out spread across the pan in one giant clump. "how much flour did you put in there?" "oh i don't know, i like to just eyeball it." Ok then. Interesting tactic.

So these classic chocolate cookies are easy. They are easy so long as you follow the recipe, which apparently is a novel concept. And I bet you even have all the ingredients in your pantry already.

Classic Chocolate Cookies
Recipe from my homegirl Martha Stewart

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar + some for dipping
2 eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, 2 cups sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add vanilla and mix to combine. Gradually add dry ingredients and combine with mixer on low speed. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill until dough is firm, about one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Dip top of each ball into sugar. Place on prepared baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Flatten balls just a TINY bit. Bake until set, about 7 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Soft, chewy chocolate there anything better? Friday.

Friday is better.

November 5, 2012

A really boozy sunday.

I almost threw up multiple times while making this cake.

Poor planning found me in the kitchen Sunday morning baking a cake for a whiskey-themed dinner party after a night out at a whiskey bar. Not advised. In fact, strongly discouraged.

None of the whiskey cake recipes online really did it for me, so I kind of pieced togeth my own like a G. I poured a whiskey glaze over two layers of yellow whiskey cake, stacked them together, and covered them in a toffee buttercream frosting. Please know that I felt so badass pouring Southern Comfort into the stand mixer of my kitchen aid. I was having an identity crisis between a rebellious teen and a perpetually drunk mom on Intervention.

I'm not much of a whiskey drinker. If I am drinking it, it's because I think I look cool. I can get down with this cake, though. It's moist (moist is your favorite word, right?) and has a good, strong flavor. The toffee buttercream makes it incredibly rich, but I think it pairs perfectly with the other flavors.

Sooo I got drunk off this cake. Really, though. Most of the whiskey is in the glaze, which doesn't get cooked off, so hello there cup of whiskey. Something I would not do is recommend this cake post-breakup. That would mean you would probably eat the entire thing and then as a result be shitfaced.

Whiskey Cake with Toffee Buttercream

1 box yellow cake mix
1 small box vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1/8 cup whiskey
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup butter
3/4 cups whiskey
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup milk
2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.

For the cake: Add cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, vegetable oil, milk, and whiskey to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat for 5 minutes on medium speed. Add the walnuts and beat for another minute. The batter will be thick.  Pour batter into two greased 8'' cake pans. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

For the glaze: Melt the 1/4 cup butter in a large bowl. Add the whiskey and powdered sugar. Whisk until smooth. Poke holes all over the cake and pour the glaze all over both layers of cake. I poured some over the top, spooned it to cover the entire top and let it soak in. Repeat this until the glaze is gone.

For the frosting: Heat brown sugar, butter, and milk in a heavy bottom pot and bring to a boil, stirring constantly for two minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 30 minutes. Add powdered sugar and blend until smooth. Ice cake immediately. This frosting does set up rather quickly, so don't be slow! Hurry up and frost that sucker. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on top.

I rarely bake cakes myself, but I have obviously seen every episode of Amazing Wedding Cakes and Ace of Cakes, so the expectations of how this was going to look cosmetically were a little high. They slowly decreased as I went along and at one point any expectations at all were entirely non-existent. But hey, the rough edges and rustic nature make it look like it would fit in with some cowboys. In fact I'm pretty sure they were eating this exact cake in True Grit. Not positive though.