Salty Goodness

Well, these are just ridiculously good.

The combination of the sugary dough and salty flakes is perfection.  I didn’t include the cranberries, Paul’s not a fan.  So my version is much more simple than Ina’s (yes the Barefoot Contessa and I are on a first name basis, we’re great friends – at least in my mind).  However that aforementioned sweet/savory combination brings a complexity to such a basic cookie.  I would’ve liked a walnut thrown in but Paul doesn’t like those either.

Pretty much anyone who cooks or bakes knows that the quality of ingredients makes all the difference in the quality of the dish.  Yeah, yeah, yeah… yada yada yada.  But seriously, it’s so true!  The chocolate I used for these cookies were little drops of heavenly love.

Last weekend Paul and I were wandering around Los Olivos, a cute little town about 45 minutes north of us.  During our visit we stumbled upon a chocolate shop called Strafford’s Chocolates.  These people do not mess around when it comes to chocolate.

First of all, the actual shop is in an old ranch water tower, maybe from the early 1900’s.  Who woulda thought to put a chocolate shop in a water tower?  It’s adorable!  The space is homey and cozy and just draws you in.  Everywhere we looked we were in awe.  So of course we had to buy a bunch of things.  One of the purchases was two bags of homemade chocolate chips.

You wouldn’t think that the flavor of chocolate chips would vary that much, however it definitely does.  No preservatives, no chemicals to make them last on a grocery store shelf for years.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love Tollhouse as much as the next guy.  But these chips were just so honest, so true.

Right about now ya might be thinking that I’m a little crazily obsessed with chocolate and you would be absolutely right.

The moral of the story is go to Strafford’s Chocolates and stock up on all their goods.

Salty Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies (recipe care of barefootcontessa.com)

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INGREDIENTS:  1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature, 3/4 cup light brown sugar (lightly packed), 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, 2 extra-large eggs at room temperature, 1¾ cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1¼ cups old-fashioned oats (such as Quaker), 3/4 pound bittersweet chocolate (such as Lindt) chopped in chunks, 3/4 cup dried cranberries, Fleur de sel

 

DIRECTIONS:  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 3 sheet pans with parchment paper. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. On low speed, add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl again. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix in the oats. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture. Don’t overbeat it! With a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate and cranberries until the dough is well mixed. With a 1¾-inch ice cream scoop (or two spoons), scoop round balls of dough onto the prepared sheet pans. Sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until nicely browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

A Little Rustic Love

I told Paul this morning, as I was pouring today’s cornbread batter into my mom’s old, cast iron dutch oven, that I felt like this is be something I would bake in our fantasy cabin on Whitefish Lake in Montana.  It is my dream to one day live in Whitefish, work in the Buffalo Cafe, pouring coffee for all of the lovely locals who live there year round.

There’s just something really special about hearing batter sizzle as it hits the hot bacon grease before I place it into the oven.  And the fact that I’m using my mom’s cast iron dutch oven from the 70’s for this bread makes it even better.

I do believe that when food is made with love, it is even more delicious than it was intended to be.  Using all of my senses when baking (appreciating every color, sound, and smell while creating a delectable treat) and honoring the cooking legacy I received from my mom bakes love right into this cornbread.

Yes, I’m that cheesy.  But anyone who know me knows that I’m ridiculously cheesy and  completely sincere.

This is a damn good cornbread, simple as that.  It’s complex in that when you take a bite the flavors reveal themselves in layers.  The sweet corn… then the subtle cheddar cheese… then the salty bacon.  It’s just lovely.  I would serve this warm with a thin slab of butter melting into the crevices.  It’s delicious!

Bacon Cheddar Cornbread (recipe care of spicysouthernkitchen.com)

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INGREDIENTS:  8 slices bacon, 1 cup yellow cornmeal, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 large eggs (lightly beaten), 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, 2 tablespoons butter (melted), 1 cup frozen or canned corn (well-drained), 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice bacon into bite-sized pieces and cook in a 9-inch cast iron pan until crispy. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon and set aside. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat from pan. In a large bowl, stir together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter and stir until combined. Fold in corn, half of bacon and half of cheese. Pour batter into pan with bacon grease. Sprinkle remaining cheese and bacon on top. Bake for about 30 minutes or until feels firm when the top is pressed.

This is not a keeper.

Too sweet?  Is there such a thing?  Y’all know I love me some sweetness but, yes, I found a recipe that is just too sugary for me.  You know that sticky feeling you get on your lips when you’ve eaten a sugary syrup?  The feeling that you need to wash your entire face to wipe away the sugar?  I’m struggling with that right now.
There’s a restaurant up the street called Farmer Boy who serves the most amazing cinnamon roll I’ve ever had.  It’s enormous with just the right balance of icing to roll.  Whenever we go there, we share one and can’t finish it which is unusual for me.
I thought I’d try to find a recipe that could capture the brilliance of that delectable dish, but minus the yeast.  We all know I have a fear of working with yeast (I never get it right).  Anyway, this is such a simple recipe that I thought I nailed it.
But upon tasting it, it just had too much sugary icing.  The icing didn’t settle as nicely as it sounded like it should in the recipe.  Because the cake rose higher in the center than the edges, there was a thick layer of sweetness all around the perimeter of the cake.  Paul, being the very smart kitchen side-kick that he is, began to spoon the icing away from the edges and onto the rest of the cake.  That helped.  In retrospect, I would’ve used half the amount of icing that is called for in this recipe.  That’s unusual for me too.  I usually love icing.
Not sure about this one, but see what you think.  Give this a try and let me know.
Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake (recipe care of dinnerthendessert.com)
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INGREDIENTS:  3 cups flour, ½ tsp salt, 1 cup sugar, 4 tsp baking powder,  cup milk, 2 eggs, 4 teaspoons vanilla, 1 stick butter (melted), 1 cup brown sugar, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 3 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 1-2 tbsp water
DIRECTIONS:  Set oven to preheat at 350 degrees. Mix flour, salt, sugar, baking powder with a whisk. In a separate bowl mix the milk, eggs and vanilla. Mix the wet and dry together, then add in the melted butter. Mix until well combined. Use some baking spray to spray a rectangular cake pan, 9×13, then pour the batter evenly into the pan. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together and spread evenly on the cake. Use a knife or fork to swirl the sugar and cinnamon into the batter. Bake for 30 minutes, let cool completely. Mix the powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and water until it is a consistency like pancake syrup. Pour over the cake and it will set into a harder glaze. Enjoy with a fantastic cup of coffee.

Roots

Feeling a little nostalgic this morning.  My mom is very proudly Irish, and every St. Patrick’s Day she bakes soda bread.  So every March, I’ll come home to discover a half loaf of traditional Irish soda bread wrapped in a plastic bag with a twisty tie left on my front porch.  Very sophisticated (sarcasm implied).

In truth, I love and appreciate my mom’s Irish pride.  She instilled it in me… hence my four month stint at UCC and my adoration of the country and all that it has to offer.  We even danced a jig/reel to my mom’s favorite Irish tune, “The Butterfly,” at my wedding (well, my mom knew what she was doing and I clumsily faked it but had a blast the whole time).  So needless to say after four months of school and two amazing adventures to the Emerald Isle, I love me my Irish heritage.

I kind of stumbled across this walk-through-my-ancestry because I wanted a savory coffee cake.  That wasn’t presenting itself in my search for recipes, but when I looked for a rosemary dish this popped up.  In seeing the rosemary and parmesan I immediately thought of my beautiful Italian roommates in Cork, oh so long ago (seriously about 26 years ago).  Their families sent gorgeous care packages to their daughters to remind them of the culinary brilliance that is Italian cuisine.  Treasures that I had never seen before as a naive, young Cali girl from Santa Barbara.  I was the beneficiary of these shipments and my roommates’ love and respect of good food.

So I guess this is my shout out to Ireland and Italy.  What better way to combine the two?

Rosemary Parmesan Soda Bread (recipe care of bakefromscratch.com)

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INGREDIENTS:  4½ cup (563 grams) all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons (24 grams) granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (2.6 grams) chopped fresh rosemary, 2 teaspoons (6 grams) kosher salt, 1½ teaspoons (7.5 grams) baking soda, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, 1¼ cups (125 grams) grated Parmesan cheese, 1¾ cups (420 grams) whole buttermilk, ¼ cup (57 grams) unsalted butter (melted), 1 large egg (50 grams), 1½ teaspoons (9 grams) flaked sea salt

DIRECTIONS:  Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, rosemary, salt, baking soda, and pepper. Stir in cheese. In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, melted butter, and egg. Gradually add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Knead dough just until ingredients are combined. On a lightly floured surface, shape dough into a ball. Place on prepared pan, pressing to flatten dough into a 7-inch circle, 1½ inches thick. With a sharp knife, score a shallow “X” on top of dough. Sprinkle with flaked sea salt. Bake until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, loosely covering with foil to prevent excess browning, if necessary. Let cool on pan for 10 minutes.

Tastes Like Fall

Heck, it smells like fall too!  Our kitchen has been inundated with the crazy delicious, quintessential fall aroma of cinnamon and apples.  Paul’s comment, “It smells like a cinnamon roll in here.”

Most people know that fall doesn’t really exist in Santa Barbara.  We do experience those crisp mornings, leaves that change from kelly green to crimson red, that golden light that only shines on late autumn afternoons.  We get these beautiful gifts from nature, but not really until late November and only for a few weeks.

But occasionally we’re blessed with a chilly, breezy, sunny morning where it just feels like fall earlier than expected.  This is one of those mornings.  What better way to celebrate that with a cinnamon apple cake?

This is a throw out to my girl, Connie, who is one of the best para-educators I’ve ever worked with.  She discovered this recipe and posted it to her Facebook page which is where I found it.  Her birthday is coming up in about a week so Connie, this one is for you!

Recipe Notes:  This is a VERY simple recipe with VERY simple ingredients and because of that it is delicious and so easy to make!  The flavors are on point.  If you have a 9-inch spring form pan available, I would use that rather than a regular round cake pan.  It just makes it easier to keep the cake looking lovely and in tact when serving.  Also, my never-ending struggle in baking is to not overcook or undercook my baked goods.  Unfortunately, I undercooked this.  I used a toothpick to test the cake before pulling it out of the oven but I didn’t trust it.  Moral of the story, trust the toothpick and give this cake about 10-12 extra minutes of oven time.

Cinnamon Apple Cake (recipe care of 12tomatoes.com)

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INGREDIENTS:  2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 large apple (peeled and chopped), 1 cup vegetable oil, 1 cup dark brown sugar, 1/2 granulated white sugar, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 2 large eggs, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan.  In a medium bowl, mix together the eggs and oil.  Add the cinnamon, white and brown sugars, and vanilla extract and mix until combined.  Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, and mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Fold in the apples and the nuts and pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Let cool for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.  Enjoy.

Okay Not Baking, Not Sunday

Yes, I know it’s not Sunday and I also know that this does not involve a moment of baking (unless you count roasting vegetables) but this is worth sharing.

I was trying to find a healthy pasta recipe to make for dinner this week and stumbled upon this.  And damn, is it good!

Now, I’m not gonna lie.  Prepping all of the veggies is a tad bit tedious and I don’t look nearly as perfect as Giada cutting these up (but in truth, who does?) but again, it’s all worth it!

Oh, and just a side note… I added extra cheese (of course).

 

Pasta  Primavera (recipe care of Giada de Laurentiis)

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INGREDIENTS:  3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips, 2 medium zucchini or 1 large zucchini (cut into thin strips), 2 yellow squash (cut into thin strips), 1 onion (thinly sliced), 1 yellow bell pepper (cut into thin strips), 1 red bell pepper (cut into thin strips), 1/4 cup olive oil, Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs or herbes de Provence, 1 pound farfalle (bowtie pasta), 15 cherry tomatoes (halved), 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

DIRECTIONS:  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  On a large heavy baking sheet, toss all of the vegetables with the oil, salt, pepper, and dried herbs to coat. Transfer half of the vegetable mixture to another heavy large baking sheet and arrange evenly over the baking sheets. Bake until the carrots are tender and the vegetables begin to brown, stirring after the first 10 minutes, about 20 minutes total.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.  Toss the pasta with the vegetable mixtures in a large bowl to combine. Toss with the cherry tomatoes and enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve immediately.

What is that, velvet?

Oh holy hell!  These light pillows of sweet loveliness are all that is right in the world.

The title of today’s blog is a throw back to Seinfeld.  Remember that episode when George wore a velvet jumpsuit?  Yes, that’s right, I’m that old that I’m referencing Seinfeld.  It’s just a brilliant show all around!  Anyway I thought of the quote, “What is that, velvet?” because that is exactly what this batter is, velvet.  It is silky smooth, light, and velvety.  And oh so pretty.

Seriously, you have to make these!  The brown sugar glaze is more like a salted caramel syrup.  That saltiness mixed with the sweetness of the butterscotch is perfection.  Yes, you will gain weight just looking at them but every caloric filled morsel is worth it.

Notes:  The batter made 30 muffins rather than 24, and there is an overabundance of glaze (which will be a fabulous topping for vanilla ice cream later – yes, that’s how I roll).  Also, I baked these for a few minutes less than what was called for and I’m glad I did.  They cooked very quickly.

Oh and in all of the sweet recipes I make, I use far more vanilla than called for.  I believe vanilla is magical, and therefore I overuse it.

 

Butterscotch Muffins with Brown Sugar Glaze (recipe care of whatshouldimakefor.com)

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INGREDIENTS:

Butterscotch Muffins: 4 oz butter melted and cooled, 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup light brown sugar, 2 eggs, 3 cups all purpose flour, 1 Tbsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp kosher salt, 2 cups buttermilk, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1 package butterscotch chips 11 oz

Brown Sugar Glaze:  6 Tbsp unsalted butter, 2/3 cup light brown sugar, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 cup heavy cream

DIRECTIONS:
Butterscotch Muffins:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the melted butter, oil and sugars in a large mixing bowl and beat for 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and add one third to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until just combined. Add one cup buttermilk and mix until combined. Repeat alternating flour and buttermilk, ending with flour and mixing just until combined after each addition. Stir in vanilla and butterscotch chips. Divide batter into muffin tins lined with paper liners and bake about 25 mins or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove muffins and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Brown Sugar Glaze:  Melt butter over medium heat in a small saucepan and stir in brown sugar. Cook about 5 mins until sugar is completely dissolved. Add salt and heavy cream and cook about two more mins. Drizzle over cooled muffins.