Blondies

I’ve been craving blondies, so last weekend I made a batch of toffee for the Bobby Flay blondie recipe.

The recipe said “Melt the butter, add the sugar, cook for a bit, then let cool”.  But I wasn’t patient enough – I rushed the cooling process, thinking that the only reason to let them cool was to keep from cooking the eggs when I added them.  So I only let it cool for 5 minutes or so, then carefully watched the eggs, which combined nicely with the butter/sugar mixture, so I breathed a sigh of relief and continued adding ingredients.

In went the vanilla, the flour mixture, the chocolate chips, and the toffee.  Then I turned my back for just a minute to prepare the pan – and when I turned back, I realized why I should have left the sugar cool.  The chocolate chips were entirely melted.  The toffee was mostly melted.  I no longer had blondies – I had brownies.

I sighed, mixed them a bit more to distribute the now-liquid chocolate, and baked them.  They were really amazing brownies – just enough chocolate, crunchy around the edges, and rich and gooey and caramelized in the middle.

But they weren’t blondies.  So last night I tried again, since I had half of the toffee left.  This time, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.  The night before, I put the chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli semi-sweet chips) and toffee in the coldest part of my refrigerator.  I was tempted to freeze them, but thought that might be a bit obsessive. I cooked the butter and sugars until they were caramelized, poured it into the bowl of my stand mixer, and left it alone for a solid half hour.  I preheated the oven, added the eggs, vanilla, and flour mixture, then prepared the pan.  Only then did I add the chocolate chips and toffee, omitting the nuts this time since I’d added nuts to this half of the toffee, and put the pan straight into the oven.

They took longer to bake then the recipe said, probably because so many of the ingredients were chilled, but they came out perfectly.  Here, have a close-up:

Blondies

They’re gooey and rich and buttery – everything a blondie should be!

( see the recipe )

Potato Chive Bread

I’ve admired the Bread Baking Babes from afar for a while, but I just don’t have good yeast luck. The last two or three things I’ve baked with yeast just haven’t worked.

I don’t know why that is – I used to be able to bake bread just fine. I thought buying new yeast would help, but the yeast-based cake I tried with the new yeast also didn’t rise.

But I saw Cookie Baker Lynn’s post about her potato chive bread earlier this month, and I figured I’d give bread another try.

The recipe is originally from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson. I didn’t have soy milk, so my version wasn’t vegan – I just used the 2% milk that I happened to have in the fridge. And I didn’t knead mine by hand – I used my stand mixer.

Otherwise, I followed the recipe as written. I made the potatoes the night before and put them in the fridge overnight. I should have mashed them more finely, but when I realized there were chunks, I just turned up the speed on the mixer a bit until they were pulverized out.

When it came time to let it rise, I stole an idea from a more-competent friend, who suggested preheating the oven to 200F, then turning it off, and letting the bread rise on the now-warm stovetop.

It seemed to do the trick – mine was slow to rise, but it did eventually. I suspect there may be a draft in my kitchen. Someone else suggested letting it rise in a cold oven with just the oven light on for warmth – I’ll try that next time.

It’s really great bread. We had half the first loaf with dinner, the second half of the first loaf with soup for lunch today, and the other loaf is going to turn into French Toast (yes, even with the chives – we’ll see how it turns out!) and bread pudding.

And I got this picture, which is terrible, yet amusing:

Chive Bread rising in the sun...or a rock from the next Star Trek movie?

Doesn’t that look like something you’d see on the set of a low-budget science fiction movie?

Anyway, I’m glad that my yeast problems seem to be over. At least for now.

( see the recipe )

Toffee!

I decided the perfect snack food for the weekend would be a batch of blondies.

We love blondies, and there’s a great bakery down the road that makes amazing ones – buttery and gooey without being cloyingly sweet.

So I went looking for a blondie recipe this afternoon, and found the Bobby Flay recipe on Food Network. I had everything except the toffee chips.

But I have a great toffee recipe. Mine is normally made with nuts and covered in chocolate, but can easily be simplified. I cooked it just a little hotter then it called for, just over 300F instead of 290F, just to make sure it would break cleanly.

The most important part of making any candy is having a good thermometer. I’ve bought a lot of them, and for a long time I despaired of ever finding one that worked. I’ve done the analog ones with dials, the probe-type ones, and I even tried one of the IR types you just point at the pan. None of them worked consistently.

Then I bought a Thermapen. It’s fast, precise, and accurate. Yes, it was expensive, but I’d spent more the that on an entire drawer of cheap thermometers that didn’t work. And I’ve never had another temperature-related candy failure since.

Anyway, I cooked the toffee to 300F, and instead of pouring it over nuts into a 13×9, I poured it out onto a SilPat on a cookie sheet. It took about half an hour to cool enough to be brittle, then I used the back of a heavy knife to shatter it into small pieces. Half of them got saved for blondies tomorrow – the other half are going to be snacks for later.

Because woman cannot live by blondies alone.

( see the recipe )

Butterscotch Pudding!

I have a massive collection of bookmarked recipes. I read too many cooking blogs, and I bookmark everything that looks interesting. Then, when it’s time to make something new, I sift through them and pick whatever strikes my fancy.

Tonight, it was butterscotch pudding. I have two recipes bookmarked for it, one from Eggbeater and one from David Lebovitz.

Both recipes had their good points. I like the idea of using half cream and half butter from the Eggbeater recipe. I preferred using just the two eggs from the David Lebovitz recipe – things that use part of an egg always result in the other half of the egg sitting in the bowl in my fridge until the next time I clean it out. It seems more efficient to use whole eggs when I can. I didn’t want the alcohol in it – my idea of butterscotch pudding doesn’t include actual scotch.

So I picked and chose the things I liked from each one, and came up with my own version.

First, I melted the butter, and mixed in the brown sugar. The longer you let the sugar cook, the more intensely butterscotch-y the pudding will be, but if you leave it too long or don’t stir it enough, it will burn and you’ll have to start over. I compromised at 5 minutes.

I heated up some of the milk to combine with the cornstarch – I’ve never had good luck getting cornstarch to combine with cold liquids. Make sure it’s cooled down enough to touch before you add the eggs, though, or you’ll end up with Butterscotch Scrambled Eggs instead of pudding.

Once the sugar is done, add the rest of the milk, whisk, then add in the egg mixture and whisk more. At this point, you don’t want to leave the stove until it’s done. If you don’t keep it moving, the bottom will get thicker then the top and you’ll get lumps – or if you leave it unstirred long enough, the bottom will burn and you’ll have to start over.

After it comes to a simmer, cook for another minute. I poured it into bowls through a strainer just in case, but there weren’t any lumps to strain out.

It was amazing. Rich and creamy, almost closer to a custard then a pudding. And the butterscotch wasn’t subtle – it really popped. It may be the best pudding I’ve ever had.

Next time, I’d put it in smaller bowls – it was a bit rich for the serving size I’d picked. Other then that, I wouldn’t change a thing!

( see the recipe )

Kitchen Lighting System

So I’ve been trying to figure out what to do about lighting in my kitchen. I don’t have a usable window, and I only have one overhead light. I keep putting bigger and bigger bulbs in it, but it’s still rarely enough light. Everything come out dark and very slightly blurry because of the long shutter times.

Clearly, I needed more light. I’ve looked at some of the commercial systems, but they’re all bulky and/or expensive, and I didn’t want to spend several hundred dollars on lights.

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