Sunday, August 30, 2009

Peanut Brittle and Caramel Crunch Ice Cream Pie

I made this pie the other day and ate...well, let's just say more than my share. It was soooo good. I tweaked it from the original recipe a bit and you can too. Just throw in whatever kind of sauce and crunchy topping you like. For my dearest and sweetest little bosom buddy with the deathly peanut allergy, try making the brittle without the nuts. You'd still get the sweet crunchy goodness without all that hassle of anaphylactic shock and premature death.
You'll love it!
**To save time and energy, you can always use store bought caramel, hot fudge and/or peanut brittle...but you know homemade is always better!
**Complete cooking and freezing time is about 7 hours so plan accordingly. Make it during the day and serve that night!

Caramel sauce
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
(this is, by the way, the best homemade caramel sauce ever. The vanilla bean steals the show)

Hot Fudge Sauce (this is my favorite chocolate sauce EVER. Makes even the cheapest ice cream taste divine)
3/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate

Peanut Brittle
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 cup chopped lightly salted dry-roasted peanuts
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

9 whole graham crackers
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, hot
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup salted roasted cocktail peanuts
3 pints premium vanilla ice cream, slightly softened (Haagen Dazs was delicious!)

Caramel sauce
Place cream in small saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring just to simmer. Mix in butter and sea salt; set vanilla cream aside.
Stir sugar, 1/3 cup water, and corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until syrup turns deep amber, brushing down sides with wet pastry brush and swirling pan occasionally, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla cream (mixture will bubble). Set sauce aside.

Hot fudge
Heat cream and butter over med-high heat until butter is melted and cream just starts to boil. Quickly add sugars and salt and stir until dissolved, remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth.

Line large rimmed baking sheet parchment paper. Bring sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber, swirling pan occasionally, about 10 minutes. Immediately stir in peanuts and all remaining ingredients. Scrape out mixture onto prepared sheet; spread out to about 13x9-inch rectangle. Cool completely. Coarsely chop enough brittle to measure 1 cup and finely chop enough to measure 1/2 cup. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Store in separate airtight containers at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 9-inch-diameter pie dish with foil. Finely grind graham crackers and brown sugar in processor. Add butter and vanilla; blend until moist crumbs form. Add nuts; blend just until finely chopped. Using plastic wrap as aid, press crumbs firmly onto bottom and up sides of foil-lined pie dish. Freeze 15 minutes.

Bake crust until brown, about 15 minutes. Freeze 1 hour. Using foil, lift crust from dish; carefully peel off foil. Return crust to pie dish. Drizzle 1/2 cup caramel sauce over bottom of crust. Freeze 30 minutes. Spoon 1 1/2 pints ice cream into crust; smooth top. Drizzle hot fudge, then more caramel. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup brittle. Freeze 1 hour. Spoon remaining 1 1/2 pints ice cream over; smooth top. Drizzle hot fudge, then caramel. Sprinkle pie with 1/2 cup brittle. Freeze 4 hours.
DO AHEAD Pie can be made 3 days ahead; tent with foil and freeze. Cover and chill remaining sauce.
Cut pie into wedges. Rewarm sauce and pass separately.

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know, I know...everyone thinks their recipe is the best. Frankly, i think that the cookies you like best are usually the ones you grew up with. This is as close to my mom's recipe as I've found (if not exactly the same, i can't remember). The keys are real butter, equal amounts granulated and brown sugar, plus blended oats (chewy!), nuts (crunchy!) and lots of chocolate (gooey!). So, if you're not already fanatically loyal to your own recipe, try this one. You'll love it.

(Recipe may be halved...but why would you make 50 when you can have 100??)
2 cups butter
4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups brown sugar
5 cups blended oatmeal (measure oatmeal and blend in blender to a fine powder)
24 oz. chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk)
1 tsp. salt
1 8 oz. chocolate bar (grated)
4 eggs
2 tsp. baking powder
3 cups chopped nuts (your choice)
2 tsp. vanilla (Mexican, if available)

Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and soda. Add chocolate chips, chocolate bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet.
Bake for 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 112 cookies..

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hazelnut Crunch Cake with Mascarpone and Chocolate

Courtesy Giada's Kitchen

When I made this thing, I screwed it up and so the presentation was less than desirable. Luckily I figured out a way to salvage it and it was delicious! Next time it'll be yummy AND pretty! Watch for my notes to save yourself my embarrassment :)

1 boxed chocolate cake mix, plus ingredients needed to make it

1 cup hazelnuts (abotu 4.5 oz.), toasted and skinned (toast by baking in single layer at 350 for 8-10 minutes)
2/3 c. sugar

2 (8oz.) containers mascarpone cheese, room temperature (can substitute all or half for cream cheese if you're cheap or dislike the taste of mascarpone)
1 c. heavy cream
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 c. bittersweet chocolate
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. orange zest

Prepare cake as directed on box and bake in 2 round cake pans; let cool.

Crunch: Place toasted nuts in a single layer on parchment-lined baking sheet. Combine the sugar and 1/3 cup water in small saucepan and bring to a boil on med-high heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved and then continue to boil WITHOUT STIRRING (my first mistake) until sugar is light brown, about 8 minutes (just swirl the pan from time to time). Remove from heat, let bubbles subside and then pour over nuts. Place baking sheet in fridge and let cool until hard, about 30 minutes. Once cool, place on cutting board and chop, saving a few larger pices for decoration.

Filling: The directions say to beat mascarpone, cream, sugar and vanilla together until soft peaks form but when i did this the mascarpone curdled. Next time I will beat cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form, beat mascarpone separately until creamy, then combine both mixtures by hand. Then mix in chopped nut crunch.

Topping: Blend or process chocolate (chips or small pieces), sugar and zest until finely ground.

Assembly: Place one layer of cake on plate or stand, spread 1 inch of filling on top, place second layer of cake on top and then frost entire cake with remaining filling. Sprinkle top and sides with ground chocolate topping and add decorative shards of hazelnut crunch.

Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce

Penne and cream sauce...there ain't nothin' better. Or easier, for that matter!

1 lb. penne pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb. shrimp, deveined and peeled
4 cloves minced garlic
1 (15 oz.) can whole tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (I used a couple tablespoons of dried, instead)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine (or cooking wine)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta in large pot of salted boiling water, 8- 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain and set aside.
In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add shrimp, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Cook about 3 minutes, until shrimp are pink. Remove shrimp from pan, set aside.

Add tomatoes, 1/4 cup of each basil and parsley and red pepper flakes to pan, cook for 2 mintues. Add wine and simmer another few minutes. Add cream and bring to a boil, reduce heat to med-low and simmer for 7-8 minutes.

Add half of the parmesan, shrimp, pasta and remaining basil and parsley. Toss together, season with salt and pepper and add remaining cheese before serving.

Layered Brownies with White-Chocolate Caramel and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

This dessert is a bit time consuming...but so stinking delicious that I ate almost the entire pan by myself. Holy cow. Go make it now!
**Best to cool overnight so plan accordingly.

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup pecan halves, toasted

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (54% to 60% cacao), chopped
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons water, divided
3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
4 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
4 ounces high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced, room temperature

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (54% to 60% cacao), chopped

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Lightly butter baking sheet. Stir sugar and 1/4 cup water in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil until sugar syrup is light golden, occasionally brushing down sides of skillet with wet pastry brush, about 8 minutes. Add pecans and stir until syrup coats pecans, about 1 minute. Immediately pour pecans out onto prepared baking sheet; spread in single layer with heatproof spatula. Cool completely. Coarsely chop nuts. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan with foil. Butter foil. Combine 1/2 cup butter and bittersweet chocolate in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Whisk cocoa powder, flour, and salt in small bowl. Whisk sugar, eggs, and vanilla in medium bowl to blend. Pour butter mixture into sugar mixture; whisk until blended. Add cocoa mixture; whisk until blended. Transfer brownie batter to prepared baking pan; smooth top (layer will be thin).

Bake brownie until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 18 to 20 minutes. Allow brownie to cool slightly, then gently press down on edges to form flat, even layer. Cool completely in pan on rack.

Spoon 1 tablespoon water into small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over and stir to blend. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 tablespoons water, sugar, and pinch of salt in heavy small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil until syrup is deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 8 minutes. Slowly add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Reduce heat to low. Stir to dissolve any caramel bits. Remove from heat; let cool 5 minutes. Add gelatin mixture; stir until gelatin dissolves. Add white chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk in butter. Pour caramel atop cooled brownie; spread evenly to cover completely. Chill uncovered until caramel firms slightly, at least 8 hours or overnight.

Bring cream to simmer in small saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth. Cool until mixture is slightly thickened but still pourable, about 15 minutes. Pour ganache atop caramel on brownie; spread just to edges. Sprinkle chopped candied pecans evenly over. Chill uncovered until ganache is firm enough to cut, about 4 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.
Using foil as aid, lift brownie out of pan; place on work surface. Fold foil sides down. Using sharp knife, trim off about 1/4 inch of brownie on all sides. Cut brownie into eight 3 1/2-inch-long, 1 3/4-inch-wide bars. Top each brownie bar with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream (Haagen Dazs is great with this, or make your own!).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Melon Granita with Chantilly Cream

This is a great solution for overripe melons. Cold, refreshing, low-cal and super yummy! I highly recommend using the mint.

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated
orange peel
3 cups chilled 1-inch cubes peeled seeded
canteloupe or other melon
1 cup chilled
whipping cream
2 tablespoons
powdered sugar
mint sprigs (optional)

Place sugar, 1/2 cup water, and orange peel in small saucepan. Bring to simmer over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium
. Simmer 1 minute. Pour into 8x8x2-inch metal pan and cool.
Puree melon in processor until smooth but some texture remains. Measure scant 2 cups melon puree and add to syrup in pan. Whisk to blend. Freeze mixture until thoroughly frozen, about 4 hours, stirring with fork every 1 1/2 hours. Cover and keep frozen. (Or, once slushy, you can also just dump mixture in a gallon ziploc. Then take it out of the freezer and smash up with rolling pin every hour or so).
Using electric mixer, beat cream and sugar in medium bowl until peaks form. Using fork, scrape granita into icy flakes. Spoon 2 rounded tablespoons granita into each of 6 glasses. Top granita with 1 rounded tablespoon whipped cream. Repeat layering with granita and whipped cream. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired, and serve immediately.
**I tried another variation which was also DELICIOUS. Instead of canteloupe, use watermelon and strawberries. After pureeing, you may want to add sugar to taste.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pizza roll

Ok, here's a super easy lunch/dinner/appetizer that I guarantee your kid will eat and you will enjoy. And it takes like 5 minutes to make.

1 purchased pizza dough (in a can like pillsbury rolls)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
7 oz. prosciutto, sliced (or other yummy sliced deli meat)
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper

Roll out dough, sprinkle half of cheese over dough. Add prosciutto in a single layer, spinach and remainder of cheese. Roll up dough tightly and tuck ends under. Brush with olive oil and add salt and pepper. Place on parchment paper on cookie sheet and bake at 425 F for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Delish!

Brie and Chocolate Panini

I have a confession to make. I cheated on Luke today. Think of me what you will but if this sandwich and Luke were both drowning in the ocean, I can't promise I wouldn't save this sandwich first.
Take two slices of sourdough bread, brush with olive oil and toast lightly (in panini maker or frying pan, whatev). Top the bread with a couple good slices of Brie cheese and about 1/3 cup good semi-sweet chocolate. And I mean GOOD. If you put Nestle or Hershey's chocolate on this thing I will come over there and smack you. Think Valhrona, Ghirardelli, Lindt, etc. If you're a gourmet chocolate virgin, run on over to Whole Foods or Trader Joes for a good selection. Giada adds fresh basil leaves to her sandwich but I didn't. Throw the other piece of bread on top and toast until chocolate is melted.

You're welcome. You have my permission to name your firstborn after me. Or after this sandwich. Hmmm, Brie Chocolate Wiscombe. Has a nice ring to it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pumpkin Cake Mix Dessert

This is my all-time favorite pumpkin dessert. Makes pumpkin pie seem boring and predictable!

1 (29 oz.) can pumpkin
1 lg. can evaporated milk
3 eggs
1 c. sugar
3-4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)

Whisk together and pour into greased 13x9 inch pan.

Yellow or spice cake mix
1 1/2 cups walnuts or pecans
1 cup melted butter or margarine

Dump the entire box of cake mix (DRY, just the mix itself) on top of pumpkin mixture. Sprinkle with nuts and pour butter on top of it all. Bake at 350 F for 50-60 minutes (until browned) and then let cool for about 30 minutes (or not...I burn my tongue on this stuff every time cause i just can't wait!).
Serve with vanilla ice cream or (spiced!) whipped cream.