Friday, January 31, 2014

Caramel Treacle Tart

"Powerful infatuations can be induced by the skillful potioneer,
but never yet has anyone managed to create
the truly unbreakable,
attachment that alone can be called


- Hector Dagworth-Granger on love potions (Harry Potter)

I was introduced to Harry Potter long after it was popular, and, as a reader, am slightly ashamed to say that I skipped right past the books to watch the movies.  I will read the books, though, hopefully within the next year.

During the students' potions class, the instructor describes Amortentia as the most powerful love potion in existence.  The aroma of the potion is different to everyone, smelling of the things that attract them.  For Hermione Granger, those objects are freshly cut grass, new parchment and spearmint toothpaste, and although the movie makes no mention of this, also Ron Weasley's hair.

I can relate.  Certain smells remind me of friends I haven't seen in years, or places I've lived, pets I've loved and lost.  And depending on the memory they evoke, they can make me feel utterly uncomfortable or completely wonderful.

"Amortentia doesn't create actual love, of course.
That's impossible.
But it does cause a powerful infatuation or obsession.
For that reason, it is probably the most dangerous potion in this room."

- Horace Slughorn, during potion class (Harry Potter)

For Harry Potter, treacle tart is one of the aromas he smells when presented with the potion, and I've been curious about the dessert ever since I heard its name.

Treacle tart is an English dessert, a custard baked in a traditional shortbread crust.  The custard filling is typically made from little more than golden syrup and molasses (treacle), eggs, bread crumbs and lemon juice, but I decided to make mine quite a bit differently by using a combination of homemade salted caramel sauce, molasses and light corn syrup, almond meal instead of bread crumbs, and with vanilla, nutmeg and ginger for more flavor.  The lemon juice and zest added such a lovely brightness to the custard that's rich with eggs, cream and butter.

I let the tart cool for a few hours before cutting into it while it was still slightly warm, and it looked a little bit like a pumpkin pie, although of course tasting nothing like one.

What scents attract you?  When I was little, it was the smell inside my mom's closet - sometimes I'd just stand in there and inhale the scent of her mommy-ness that lingered on her clothes and shoes and all would feel right in the world.

These days, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, butter melting on hot toast, Jamie's neck when he hugs me close and the scent of cakes and bread baking are my favorites.

This coming Valentine's Day, I hope you don't need any magical love potions other than the aroma of your favorite things and something sweet baking for dessert after a romantic dinner...

Caramel Treacle Tart

Shortbread Crust:
·         1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
·         ¼ cup light brown sugar
·         1 teaspoon coarse salt
·         10 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
·         1 egg yolk

·         ½ cup caramel sauce
·         ¼ cup molasses
·         ¼ cup light corn syrup or golden syrup
·         ½ cup almond flour/meal or white bread crumbs
·         ¼ cup cream
·         ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
·         3 eggs
·         zest and juice of 1 small lemon
·         1 teaspoon vanilla
·         ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
·         ¼ teaspoon ginger

Prepare and Bake the Crust:
In a food processor, combine the flour, brown sugar and salt.  With the processor running, add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, just until moistened.  Add the yolk and pulse a few times to incorporate.  The mixture should resemble moist cornmeal.

Spray a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom with non-stick spray.  Pile the dough crumbs into the pan, and spread out to the edge.  Firmly press down against the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Freeze for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375.  Spray a piece of foil with non-stick spray and place the foil, greased side down, against the frozen crust, fitting it closely to the crust.  Fill the foil with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.  Carefully lift the foil and beans out of the crust and set aside.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350.

While you are pre-baking the crust, whisk together all the filling ingredients until smooth.  Pour the filling into the hot crust.  Bake the tart at 350 for about 30 minutes, until the filling is set.

Let cool for several hours, then serve warm with freshly whipped cream, or refrigerate and serve chilled.

Yields 10-12 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chocolate Pudding

Over the past few weeks while nursing a cold, I mentioned chocolate pudding enough times that Jamie finally figured out that I really wanted chocolate pudding.

But he is an eater of desserts.  He has very little interest in baking or cooking desserts, so I thought that these little chocolate puddings he made were quite impressive.

He cooked up from scratch chocolate pudding, poured it into my pretty little heart ramekins and set them in the refrigerator to chill, along with vanilla whipped cream.

After impatiently waiting for them to be ready - not to say I couldn't have eaten mine warm, though - I decided that it was a dessert first sort of evening.  Also, I wanted to photograph them before the sun set, and the sunset waits for no one when it comes to catching those last few rays of light.

The pudding was chocolatey goodness, comforting and sweet.  Exactly what I was craving, and it somehow made me feel like my cold was on the mend.

I'm not sure what recipe he used, but here is my recipe for an egg-less chocolate pudding that I made last spring to fill a chocolate cream pie...

One Year Ago:   Rose Garden Cupcakes
Two Years AgoBlack Bean Turkey Burgers with Spicy Chipotle Ketchup

Chocolate Pudding

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, heavy cream or half 'n' half
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium saucepan, combine the cocoa powder, sugar, corn starch and salt.  Slowly whisk in the milk and cream.  Set the pan over medium heat and slowly bring to a boil, while whisking constantly.  Once it begins to bubble, cook for two minutes, continuing to whisk constantly, as the pudding thickens.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the chopped chocolate, butter and vanilla until smooth and creamy.

Spoon into bowls and serve warm, or cover with plastic and chill for several hours to serve cold.

Yields 4 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fudge Brownies with Andes Mint Buttercream

Against my will, or maybe I should say, in spite of how I would most enjoy spending a Sunday, I will be going to a Super Bowl party this weekend.  And it's not that I don't enjoy spending time with my friends, but when the event centers around football, then I feel like I might literally die of boredom.

I have to satisfy myself by dreaming of all the things I'd rather be doing - much like my fantasies of riding through Scottish moors on horseback and being rescued by a ruggedly handsome fisherman who would take me back to his castle where my room would even have its own crackling fire in a huge stone fireplace - these fantasies were my escape from many long church services in high school.

I'm not into football.  Or sports in general.  The fact that the Broncos are going to the Super Bowl and I live in Denver should mean something to me, maybe...  but it doesn't.  Not even one tiny little bit.  Last year, I fell asleep while the game charged noisily on around me.  The whole ordeal - and yes, it's an ordeal - feels a bit like I'm being punished for something, except that I don't know what I did wrong to deserve it.

But I will go, so as not to be anti-social, and sit and chat with the other non-football-watching ladies and babies in the kitchen while the men commandeer every couch and comfortable lazy-boy chair facing the big screen.

I might even bake something.

You know, to show how sweet and cooperative I can be, even when surrounded by all that cheering and screaming over something as meaningless as a football game.

I have - half jokingly - told Jamie that I hope our kids are more the artsy, creative type and not into sports, because I'm not exactly looking forward to spending every weekend either shuffling them back and forth to practices or sitting on a freezing soccer field watching 5-year-olds run around after a ball while I feign interest.  Okay, well, I'm sure if it was my own 5-year-old, I wouldn't have to feign interest and would actually be quite proud of them.  But still.

Just a few weeks ago, I baked these brownies for a New Year's Eve party since brownies are always a hit, and I've learned that whole cakes are just not the way to go at casual house parties.  People are afraid of being the one to cut into it and mess it all up.

But I actually like my baking to be thoroughly messed up and devoured and enjoyed.  Just not left uncovered.  Baked goods left to dry out uncovered is one of my biggest pet peeves.  So I think I might make some kind of lemon tart for the party, since it will not suffer in the least bit at being left out on the counter throughout the day.

But, these brownies, though, were truly one of my favorite brownie recipes I've baked.  Fudgey, chewy and rich, as good unfrosted as they were with cool and creamy mint buttercream.

They're the sort of brownie that compels you to reach for a carton of ice cream late at night and make a huge brownie sundae to eat while watching a movie.  But not football.

Please, no more football.

Fudge Brownies with Andes Mints

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
mint buttercream:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 1 package Andes Mints, chopped

Preheat the oven to 325.  Spray a 9x13 baking pan with nonstick spray.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder and salt.  Pour the melted butter over the cocoa mixture and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth.  Add the vanilla, and the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg; batter will be very thick.  Stir in the flour, just until moistened, then the chocolate chips.  Spread evenly into the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist, sticky crumbs clinging to it.  Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting or the buttercream will melt on the hot brownies (these are also wonderful unfrosted).

To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat the butter for one minute.  With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar and meringue powder until moistened.  Add the peppermint extract and the milk and whip on medium high speed until very light and fluffy.

Stir in half the chopped mints and spread the frosting over the brownies.  Sprinkle with the remaining chopped mints.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Monday, January 27, 2014

Toasted Almond and Basil Goat Cheese

Today's recipe couldn't be more simple, and really isn't a "recipe" at all since precisely measured ingredients are not needed here.

Just take a log of goat cheese and roll it in chopped herbs such as basil, dill, parsley or chives, toasted nuts like almonds, pecans or pistachios, or even chopped dried fruit like cranberries or apricots.  Be creative and use what you like.

This would be a pretty tasty snack for all the super bowl parties coming up this weekend, and something a little different from the usual chips and queso.

One Year Ago:   Cinnamon Cardamom Raisin Swirl Bread
Two Years AgoLemon Cream Pie Ice Cream

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Toffee Crunch Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars

How did I ever forget to share this recipe after Thanksgiving?  We had Thanksgiving dinner at a friend's house, and besides apple pie and sweet potato casserole, I also made a big pan of these cheesecake bars.

Not just any cheesecake bars.  Toffee crunch chocolate chip cheesecake bars.  It was almost two months ago, but I still remember how good they were.  I guess I just got busy with the holidays and this post sat in the queue, almost, but not quite, forgotten.

Thankfully (no pun intended), this is not strictly a holiday recipe, and would be just wonderful where you need dessert for a lot of people.

One Year Ago:   Cinnamon Cardamom Raisin Swirl Bread
Two Years AgoChinese Steamed Pork Buns and a Snowy Walk through Dalian

Toffee Crunch Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars

Crust and Topping:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coarse Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 bag (8 ounces) toffee bits
  • 2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick spray.


In your food processor or with a pastry cutter, combine the flour, sugars, salt and butter until pea-sized pieces of butter remain.  Scoop out 1 ½ cups of the crumbs into a bowl, and toss with the toffee bits.  Set aside in the refrigerator.  Press the remainder of the crumbs firmly against the bottom of the baking dish.  Bake crust for 15 minutes at 350.  Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the temperature to 325.


In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and both sugars for 5 minutes until smooth and creamy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl down between each.  Beat in the sour cream, vanilla bean seeds and nutmeg.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spread the filling over the crust.  Sprinkle the chilled topping over the filling.

Bake at 325 for 35-40 minutes, until the filling is set and the topping is golden brown.  Cool at room temperature for several hours, then refrigerate until well chilled/overnight before serving.  Can be made 1 day in advance.

Yields 25-30 servings

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Soft Raisin Molasses Cookies

There's a moment of hesitation, when there's only one or two cookies left, and you have to make the decision to eat them or save them for later.

On the one hand, you think with relief, the cookies are almost gone.  But on the other hand, you think with sadness, the cookies are almost gone.

My mom used to make cookies similar to these called Raisin Molasses Gems, and I remember that they were my dad's absolute favorite cookie.  He'd eat them until his stomach was aching... and then he'd still eat a few more.

I didn't do much baking last weekend, being sick and all, but I did bake cookies Saturday morning, because when I have a cold, sweets are incredibly satisfying, and I wanted the comfort of soft, homemade cookies.

Soft molasses cookies are the epitome of comfort, in my opinion, since there's something incredibly old-fashioned about them with the dark spicy aroma of the molasses, ginger, cloves and nutmeg.  Every sugar coated mouthful is like Christmas at Grandma's house.

When they emerge from the oven, hot and puffed, the edges are slightly crisp and the centers gooey, but after cooling, they get so soft.  These are cookies that I think are even better a day or two after baking than fresh from the oven.

After Jamie finished the last cookie, I was a little sad...  until I remembered that I hadn't baked all the dough yet, and there was a little left in the fridge to bake a few more...

One Year Ago:   Banana Caramel Cream Pie for Two
Two Years AgoLime and Mint Mascarpone Ice Cream and Almond Shortbread Cookies with Lemon Glaze

Soft Raisin Molasses Cookies

·         ½ cup raisins
·         ½ cup water
·         1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
·         ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
·         ¼ cup molasses
·         1 egg
·         1 teaspoon vanilla
·         2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
·         1 ¾ teaspoons baking soda
·         1 teaspoon cinnamon
·         1 teaspoon ginger
·         ½ teaspoon cloves
·         ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
·         ½ teaspoon salt
·         3 tablespoons granulated or coarse sparkling sugar

Combine the raisins and water in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer, and remove from the heat; let the raisins soak in the water for 10 minutes then drain and set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar and butter for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Beat in the molasses, egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices and salt.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture by spoonfuls, just until moistened.  Stir in the raisins.  The dough will be thick.

Cover and chill the dough for 2-3 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Roll the chilled dough into rounded tablespoonsfuls, coat in the granulated sugar and place two inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.  Bake for 8 minutes, until slightly puffed and slightly cracked, then cool for 1 minute on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack.

Yields about 3 dozen cookies

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen