Salted Caramel Brownies

September 20th, 2012

While we were in Paris this Summer I fell in love with macarons.  Specifically, I fell in love with salted caramel macarons.  A trip to Laduree, the famous bakery on rue Royale, is a must for anyone visiting Paris.

Photo courtesy of LadyMacaron20ten

What was it about these salted caramel macarons that had me swooning?  I think it was the richness of the filling against the crunchy airiness of the cookies.  It was the combination of the sweetness of the caramel with the hint of flaked salt that startled the taste buds but made sense; a ying and yang that worked in the best possible way.  

While in the airport on my way home from Vermont recently, I picked up the latest issue of  Food Network Magazine.  It seems that Ina Garten has a new cookbook coming out at the end of October.  It is called The Barefoot Contessa Foolproof.

One of the recipes that was featured in the magazine was Ina’s Salted Caramel Brownies from her new cookbook.  I knew I had to try it.  Those salted caramel macarons were still fresh in my mind and to be honest with you, I haven’t worked up the courage to tackle them.  Brownies I can handle.

They did not disappoint.  The chocolate was rich with just a hint of coffee and the caramel tasted just right with the flakes of sea salt.  They are dangerously decadent and my love for the combination of caramel and  salt was satisfied.  Now I need to experiment with macarons.

SALTED CARAMEL BROWNIES (Barefoot Contessa Foolproof)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
8 ounces plus 6 ounces Hershey’s semisweet chocolate chips
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 extra-large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules, such as Nescafe
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 to 6 ounces good caramel sauce, such as Fran’s
2 to 3 teaspoons flaked sea salt, such as Maldon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour a 9x12x1 1/2-inch baking pan.

Melt the butter, 8 ounces of the chocolate chips and the unsweetened chocolate together in a medium bowl set over simmering water.  Allow to cool for 15 minutes.  In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee, vanilla and sugar.  Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.  (It is very important to allow the butter to cool before adding the chocolate chips, or the the chips will melt and ruin the brownies.)

In a medium bowl, sift together 1/2 cup of the flour, the baking powder and salt and add to the chocolate mixture.  Toss the remaining 6 ounces of chocolate chips and the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour in a medium bowl and add them to the chocolate mixture.  Spread evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Don’t overbake!

As soon as the brownies are out of the oven, place the jar of caramel sauce without the lid in a microwave and heat just until it’s pourable.  Stir until smooth.  Drizzle the caramel evenly over the hot brownies and sprinkle with the sea salt.  Cool completely and cut into 12 bars.

Printable recipe

French Yogurt Cake (Gateau au Yaourt)

May 6th, 2012

One of the first cakes that French children learn to make is this yogurt cake.  As a matter of fact variations of this cake are one of the few desserts that are made in home kitchens in France.  With the availability of patisseries in every village it is much easier to buy a luscious dessert than to make one.

It is simple to make.  There is no special equipment required.  It is just a matter of mixing the ingredients together.  The only unusual step in making it is how the lemon zest is treated.  The lemon zest is added to the sugar and then rubbed into it.  This releases the lemon oils and moistens the sugar

It is also a versatile cake.  Bake it in a round pan or a bread pan.  Glaze it with marmalade or jam.  Split it and fill it with strawberries and top with whipped cream.  Or eat it plain with a cafe au lait.  I think I will try it many ways this summer.  This recipe is courtesy of Bon Appetit.

FRENCH YOGURT CAKE  (GATEAU AU YAOURT)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
3/4 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a standard (8 1/2 x 4 1/4″) loaf pan with nonstick vegetable oil spray.  Dust with flour; tap out excess.

Whisk 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp. baking powder and the kosher salt in a medium bowl.

 Using your fingers, rub 1 cup sugar with the lemon zest in a large bowl until sugar is moist.  Add the yogurt, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla;   whisk to blend.  Fold in dry ingredients just to blend. 

Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top.  Bake until top of cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes.  Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Invert onto rack; let cool completely.

Printable recipe

Dinner with New Friends

April 26th, 2012

I don’t often mention it but we have a rental cottage on our property.  When we decided to add a second story to the cottage we knew that we would need a place to live for an extended period of time.  We first had our contractor build a garage for us with an apartment above it.  David and I lived there for two years while the cottage was reconstructed.   We now rent it out on a short term basis from April to the end of October.  I have a link for it on my side bar.

Last year we had a great couple from Iowa staying there for a week while they looked for a place of their own in the Lake Lure area.  They have found a piece of property and are building a log cabin.  You can imagine that supervising a construction from Iowa is not an easy task.  They are back staying in our guest cottage this week.

We have had a dilemma.  We will be on our trip to France for three weeks in June.  I hate to board our dog Daisy for that length of time.  Plus, who would look after our rentals?  Light Bulb Moment!  Tom and Diana need to be here as much as possible and they need a place to stay.  They have agreed to stay in our cottage, manage the guest cottage rentals, take care of our dog and supervise the construction of their own cabin.  They have a dog named Lucy.  Lucy and Daisy like each other.  Perfect solution.

We invited them to dinner Tuesday night to discuss the logistics.  We enjoy their company and look forward to them moving here when their cabin is finished.  But in the meantime, our minds are at ease about being gone for such a long time.

Dinner was Beef Bourguignon, mashed potatoes, Provencal green beans, yeast rolls and this Apple Crostata from Ina Garten.  You can almost never go wrong with one of the Barefoot Contessa’s recipes.  The recipe in Barefoot Contessa Parties!  calls for doubling the pastry amount so that you can tuck one in the freezer for a future crostata.  Guess you know what you are having for dessert Saturday night Penny and K.  Yes, my blogging buddy Penny of The Comforts of Home and hubby will be here for dinner then.

APPLE CROSTATA

FOR THE PASTRY  (2 Tarts)

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound very cold unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup ice water

FOR THE FILLING ( 1 Tart )

1 1/2 pounds McIntosh, Macoun, or Empire apples
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1/2 stick), diced

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Add the butter and toss quickly with your fingers to coat each cube of butter with the flour.  Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas.  With the motor running, add the 1/4 cup of ice water all at once through the feed tube.  Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough comes together.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and form into 2 disks.  Wrap with plastic and refrigerate one of the disks for at least an hour.  Freeze the rest of the pastry.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Transfer it to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

For the filling, peel., core and quarter the apples.  Cut each quarter into 3 chunks.  Toss the chunks with the orange zest.  Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly.  Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together.  Sprinkle evenly on the apples.  Gently fold the border over the apples, pleating it to make a circle.

Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the apples are tender.  Let the tart cool for 5 minutes, then use 2 large spatulas to transfer it to a wire rack.

Printable recipe

Orange and Olive Oil Cake

January 10th, 2012

I have a list of Pins on Pinterest that I would love to get through this year.  If you haven’t been to that website you really should give it a look.  The whole idea is that you can create pin boards of images that you have seen on the web and go back to your pin boards anytime that you would like.  I have pin boards for home design ideas, Holiday ideas and of course Recipes to Try.  This recipe appeared on Pinterest not too long ago and the idea of a refreshing orange studded cake (or sweet bread) really appealed to me.  The use of olive oil instead of butter sounded like a healthy alternative also.

The original recipe came from Smitten Kitchen.  Deb used blood oranges in the recipe.  The recipe that appeared on Pinterest came from Small Kitchen College started by the gals at Big Girls Small Kitchen fame.  I adapted the recipe from their recipe.  But the concept is simple and delicious.  The batter is flavored with orange zest, orange juice and orange chunks.  The fat is olive oil instead of butter.  I was lucky enough to have some leftover O Olive Oil Blood Orange oil to use from the contest I was in recently.  By the way, I did not win in case you are wondering.  The recipe calls for 2/3 cups of olive oil.  I had about 1/3 cup of the flavored oil and used 1/3 cup of regular olive oil.

The cake was moist and delicious with an appealing orange flavor.  You can serve it as is for breakfast or topped with fruit and whipped cream for dessert.  I had it mixed up and in the oven before I walked the dog this morning  What a treat is was to come home to the lovely smells emanating from my oven.

One Pin off of my list!  I would do better if I didn’t keep finding more pins to add. 

ORANGE AND OLIVE OIL CAKE

Butter for greasing pan
2 oranges
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plain yogurt ( I used sour cream )
3 large eggs
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and grease a loaf pan.

In a large bowl, add the zest of 2 oranges, sugar, eggs, yogurt or sour cream and olive oil.  Squeeze in the juice of 1 orange.  Cut another peeled orange into 1/4 inch cubes and add to the bowl.  Mix well.  In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add the wet and dry ingredients together and stir well.  Pour the batter into the greased pan.  Bake for approx. 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Printable recipe

Harvest Apple Cake with Caramel Frosting

October 25th, 2010

I am not a great cake baker.  There is something in my nature that rebels against following a recipe to a tee.  I am too haphazard in my approach to baking.  It makes me nervous to level flour and fill teaspoons just so. So when faced with baking a cake for David’s birthday,  I was a bit trepidatious.  We had some wonderful apple crisp type apples and the allure of cinnamon and other spices were calling me so I made a cake combining several recipes that included these ingredients.  The only frosting that would work this time of year was a caramel frosting to mirror the idea of taffy apples.

We also had company this past weekend and I decided, because of my klutzy ways with cake decorating,  I wanted no one present when I attempted to frost the cake.  The kids, their friends and all of the children went for a hike on Chimney Rock.  Of course David was here and had to suffer through my expletives over “his special cake”.  I’m sure by the time I was finished he was wishing that he had never had a birthday.

The cake had turned out moist and beautiful just as the recipe had promised.  I had made it two days ahead of time and put the layers in the fridge.  The frosting was another story and it was all my fault.  For some reason, I decided that it was too runny in the pan after following the exact directions so I dumped in more confectioner’s sugar.  Big mistake.  The frosting seized up and became very dry, so spreading it was “an expletive deleted” nightmare.  But the cute pumpkin candies covered up my mistakes.  So if you decide to make this cake, please follow the directions.  Happy Birthday David.  Actually the cake was delicious in spite of myself.

HARVEST APPLE CAKE WITH CARAMEL FROSTING

1 1/2 cups oil
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamnon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
2 1/2 cups flour
3 cups grated apples

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put oil, sugar and eggs into the bowl of a mixer.  Beat until creamy on low speed.  Sift flour and other dry ingredients together.  With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in three additions and blending until incoporated each time.  Remove bowl from mixer and fold in the grated apples.

Grease and flour 2 8″ or 9″ inch cake pans.  Pour batter in the pans.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until knife inserted in center of cake comes out clean.  Cool in pans for about 10 minutes and then invert onto rack to cool.  Wrap layers and cool in fridge if not ready to frost.

CARAMEL FROSTING

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 box confectioners’ sugar

Cook butter and sugar together until well blended.  Add 1/4 cup milk and 1 box confectioners’ sugar.  Mix and add just enough milk to spread.

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.