Amish Friendship Bread (Cinnamon Bread)

I’m not very good at predicting what people will eat (because it’s there) versus what people will love.

So, when I made this non-yeasted take on the Amish friendship bread, I wasn’t prepared for the number of recipe requests.

Cinnamony and satisfyingly rich, this quick bread evokes crisp fall mornings.  It is also so simple that I’d be willing to be money that you have all of the ingredients already on-hand.

I happened to have some cinnamon chips on hand and threw in a scant cup.

But you really don’t need them.

One of the very best parts of this bread is the sweet, crunchy crust that forms around the entire loaf–so, it’s best served the day it’s made.  However (and I tested this because I am a dedicated researcher), it’s still pretty stellar the next day.

Amish Cinnamon Bread

Cook’s Illustrated All-Time Best Baking

Ingredients

Cinnamon Sugar 

  • 1/2 C (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil (grape seed)

Bread

  • 3 3/4 C (18 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 3 C (21 ounces) sugar
  • 1 TBS ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 C milk
  • 1 1/3 C vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces cinnamon chips (optional)

Directions

  1. For the cinnamon sugar: combine sugar and cinnamon in bowl.  Brush two 8 1/2X 4 1/2 inch loaf pans evenly with oil.  Add 2 TBS cinnamon sugar mixture to each prepared pan and shake and tilt pans until bottoms and sides are evenly coated.  Set aside remaining 1/4 C cinnamon sugar mixture.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk milk, oil, eggs and vanilla.
  5. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture until. just combined.  Gently fold-in cinnamon chips if using.
  6. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans.  Sprinkle remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture on tops of each loaf.
  7. Bake until paring knife inserted in centers of loaves comes out clean (65-75 minutes).
  8. Let bread cool in pans on wire rack for 1 hour.  Run paring knife around edges of pans to thoroughly loosen loaves.  Tilt pan and gently remove bread.  Serve warm or at room temp.

I Was Drinking When I Made These

These are quite possibly the weirdest thing I’ve ever made.

I’m not even going to make you try to guess the odd ingredient (mostly because it looks so weird in the pictures that I don’t want your mind going creative places).

Olives.  And chocolate.  Yes, you read that right.

Does it help if I explain these are meant to be barely sweet and enjoyed with a nice glass of red (and maybe a sharp cheddar)?

I will say that I actually had to drink a couple of glasses of wine before I worked up the courage to bake these babies off.

And you know what?  They were delightful.  You don’t get olive so much as you get salt.  Which is nice with cocoa.  If you are looking for something a little unusual to add to a cheese board or maybe a unique addition to the traditional host gift of a bottle of wine, give these a try.

Chocolate Olive Cookies

from Dorie’s Cookies, Dorie Greenspan 

makes about 60 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 C (170g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 C (32g) cornstarch
  • 1/4 C (21g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 stick (8 TBS, 4 ounces, 113g) unsalted butter, at room temp and cut into chunks)
  • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 C (67g) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/3 C (50g) chopped, pitter oil-cured black olives (I used Kalmata because we have a giant Costco jar on hand at all times)

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cornstarch and cocoa powder.
  2. Working with a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or hand mixer), beat the butter and olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper on medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes).
  3. Add the yolk and beat for 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Turn off mixer, add dry ingredients and pulse to start blending.  Mix on low until ingredients are incorporated and you have moist curds.  Pull the bowl off the mixer and fold-in olives.
  5. Turn the dough out, kneed briefly to bring dough together.  Divide it in half.  Roll each half into a slender log 8-81/2 inches long.  Wrap the logs in plastic and refrigerate over night (or freeze).
  6. When you are ready to bake, position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat to 325 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  7. One log at a time, cut cold dough into 1/4 inch discs and place them on baking sheets, about an inch apart.
  8. Bake for 15-17 minutes rotating halfway through (done cookies will be firm to the touch).  Remove from oven and allow to cool on sheets for at least 3 minutes.  Carefully transfer to racks to cool completely.

French (Danger) Apple Cake

While TD and I have worked hard to tame Via Corona’s front and side yards, most of the remaining lot has been left to itself.  We aren’t negligent.  The geography of our neighborhood can best be described as canyony (technical term), so many homeowners in the area opt to allow their steeply sloping lots to grow wild.  With the exception of about a four-foot lip right at the house’s edge, our backyard is one giant slip and slide.

The picture above is from the actual real estate listing–before we got our hands on her.

It wasn’t until we closed escrow that we discovered some previous owner had long ago planted a couple of apple trees right off the deck.

In each of the three falls we’ve lived in Via Corona, the trees (more like bushes because of the slope) have born tons of apples.  The first couple of years we left the apples alone because I was afraid of what the construction run-off might have done to the fruit (I have no basis for this fear).

This year however, I got brave.  After several weeks of peering over the side of the deck, I picked my way down the slope and had my own little basic girl fall experience.

In less than 10 minutes, I picked about as many pounds of apples.  We have no idea what kind they are–though they resemble Granny Smith in taste and consistency.

Because of the slope and potential for wild animal encounters (we’re pretty sure the raccoons, skunks and opossums are running an Air BNB under the deck), we’re calling them danger apples.

What do you do with 10 pounds of apples?  I started with this fruit-dense custardy apple cake.

The recipe uses the very clever technique of briefly microwaving the cut apples and then allowing them to cool before folding them into the batter.  This helps move things along cooking wise and helps to keep the cheesecake-like interior..  

We took giant wedges of these with us to see Gary Clark Jr. at the Hollywood Bowl.  And now, I’m back to working up my courage to go in for another 10-20 pounds.

French (Danger) Apple Cake

Cook’s Illustrated All-Time Best Baking

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 8 wages and sliced 1/8 inch thick crosswise
  • 1 TBS Calvados (I used Tuaca because that’s what I had)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 C plus 2 TBS (5 2/3 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 C (7 ounces) plus 1 TBS granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 C grapeseed oil
  • 1 C whole milk
  • 1 large egg plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
  • Confectioner’s sugar

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat over to 325 degrees.
  2. Spray 9-inch springform pan with vegetable spray.  Place prepared pan on aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.
  3. Place cut apples in pie plate, cover and microwave until apples are pliable and slightly translucent (about 3 minutes).
  4. Toss apples with brandy and lemon juice and let cool for 15 minutes.
  5. Whisk 1 C flour, 1 C granulated sugar and salt together in a bowl.
  6. Whisk oil, milk, egg and vanilla into a second bowl until smooth.  Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
  7. Transfer 1 C batter to separate bowl and set aside.
  8. Add egg yolks to remaining batter and whisk to combine.  Gently fold-in apples with a spatula. Transfer batter to prepared pan.  Using an off-set spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges, gently pressing apples to create an even compact layer and smooth surface.
  9. Whisk remaining 2 TBS flour into reserved batter.  Pour over batter in pan, spread batter evenly over cake. Sprinkle remaining 1 TBS of sugar evenly over cake.
  10. Bake until center of cake is set, a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and the top is golden brown (about 1 hour, 15 minutes).  Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes. Run thin knife around pan to loosen cake, then let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours.  Remove sides of pan.  Dust cake lightly with confectioner’s sugar and cut into wedges.  Serve

Almond and Cardamom Loaf

While I’m generally a “you had me at almond” kind of girl, it was an unusual (at least to me) technique that drew me to this recipe.  Actually, two interesting techniques.

The first are the caramelized almonds that line the bottom of the pan (or in this iteration, pans).  As written, this cake is served upside-down with the topping on top.  However, since we’re making loaves, the sweet, crunchy almond topping becomes a sort of secret, surprise base.

The second component that drew me in was the emulsification of almond paste, sugar and butter.

In a food processor no less.  The almond paste and sugar are processed into a delicious sand and then the butter is added, one little cube at a time.  As a note on the almond paste.  The recipe asks for 1 cup, or 9 1/2 ounces of almond paste.   Rooting around on Amazon, I kept finding 8 ounces packages.  I took a chance with the smaller amount (I wasn’t going to open a second expensive package for 1 1/2 ounces of paste if I could help it) and the almond flavor came through perfectly.

My slight twist adds the zest of a large orange because my taste buds kept telling me to.  Add it or don’t–whatever your tongue tells you to do.

This cake is delicious and exotic by flavor.  However, its the texture that really makes it special: delicate and crunchy at the edges but satisfyingly dense and moist in the middle.  It was definitely worth cleaning all those food processor pieces in the aftermath.

With the sweet crunchy almonds and gently spiced and almond crumb, the flavors are reminiscent of a bear claw or almond croissant.

Only this can be kept in the freezer and brought out on demand.

Almond and Cardamom Tea Cake

As written, the cake is made into a 9X2 round pan.  I used two 9X5 inch loaf pans with good success.

Ingredients

for the almond topping (or bottom if making loaves)

  • 4 TBS butter (2 ounces)
  • 3 TBS sugar
  • 1 scant C sliced almonds (3 ounces)
  • Pinch of kosher salt of flaky sea salt

for the cake(s)

  • 1 C (5 1/4 ounces) cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • chopped zest from 1 large orange
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 4 large eggs at room temp
  • 1 C (9 1/2 ounces) almond paste [as a note–the almond paste I found came in 8 ounces packages–so I went with 8 ounces and the almond taste was still nice and strong].
  • 1 C (7 ounces) sugar
  • 16 TBS (8 ounces or 2 stick) butter at room temp

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set rack in upper-third of the oven.  Butter and flour the pans then line with parchment.
  2. Make the almond topping (bottoming).  In a small saucepan set over medium heat, cook the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes, until the sugar dissolves completely and the butter bubbles and froths.  Remove from  heat and stir in the sliced almonds and salt.  Pour half into each of the pans and use a spatula to distribute evenly across the bottom of the pan.
  3. For the cake, sift the flour, baking powder and salt onto a piece of parchment paper to evenly combine and remove any lumps. Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk together the vanilla, cardamom, eggs and zest.  Set aside.
  5. Place the almond paste in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to break it up.  Add 1 C of sugar and process for 90 seconds, or until the mixture is as fine as sand.
  6. Add the butter and continue processing until the mixture is very light and fluffy, at least 2 minutes.  Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is being combined evenly.
  7. With the machine on, slowly begin adding the egg mixture, spoonful by spoonful as if making a mayonnaise (you are making an emulsion).  Let each addition of egg be absorbed and the mixture regains its smooth, silky look before adding more egg.  When all the eggs have been added, stop and scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula then continue to mix until well combined.  Scrape the batter into a large bowl.
  8. Pick up the parchment paper and use it to sprinkle the flour atop the batter in three batches.  Gently fold-in the flour in between additions until just incorporated.  Do not over mix!
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake for 55-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  The cake will just pull away from the sides of the pans.  Let the cakes cool on a wire rack.  Run a knife along the sides of the pans, then warm the bottom of the pan directly over the stove top for a few seconds to encourage it to release. and set on a cake plate until ready to serve.

TMH: I double wrapped and freezer bagged these and then froze them for a week and they defrosted really well.

The Good Chocolate Cake (just pretend you don’t see the mediocre icing)

This is a really, really, really good chocolate cake recipe.

I am generally of the belief that cake exists to keep people like me from embarrassing ourselves by eating frosting straight out of the bowl (or tub).  You know, the “cake is fine and all but it’s no frosting” camp.

This cake is the exception.  I’d eat it plain, alone, on its own.  And not think twice about frosting.

The second of three weeks of baking recipes from Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, this layer cake is deep, immensely chocolatey and just sweet enough.

Of course it is.  Ms. Nosrat describes it her holy grail of cake: moist yet flavorful.

The secret ingredient?  Oil is used as the fat.  I actually learned about this when I took a baking course a few years ago.  The liquid viscosity of oil allows it to surround the protein molecules, keeping water out and preventing the formation of gluten.  The result is a tender rather than chewy crumb.

As if we needed any more proof that a gentle huge can lead to love and tenderness.

The type of oil matters.  The recipe calls for a neutral tasting oil.  This means olive and peanut are out (though chocolate and peanut…hmmm).  I like grape seed oil though a fresh vegetable oil could also be used.

This recipe does have a singular flaw: it only makes two layers.  This is perfectly acceptable, but three would be better.  Luckily this can be overcome: make the recipe twice.  You’ll get a three layer cake and then have another super secret layer to squirrel away for your own purposes.

I think that’s called having your cake and eating it too.

A note on the frosting; it did not come from Samin Nosrat.  It was an Italian buttercream recipe I thought I’d made several times and liked.  Even with the addition of fresh cherries, it was flavorless, clammy and quite honestly an offense to the cake.  You are far better off with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar. Or, as Ms. Nosrat suggests, a fluffy blanket of fresh whipped cream.

Lori’s Chocolate Midnight Cake

from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat; Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking  by Samin Nosrat

makes two 8-inch cakes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 C (2 ounces) Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 C (10 1/2 ounces) caster sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  •  1 3/4 C (9 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C neutral tasting oil (TMH note: I prefer grape seed for baking)
  • 1 1/2 C freshly brewed strong coffee (okay, water is offered as an option in this recipe…but you don’t really want to do that)
  • 2 large eggs at room temp, lightly whisked

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease and line with parchment two 8-inch cake pans.  Grease parchment, sprinkle generously with cocoa (or flour), tap out excess and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, salt, flour and baking soda.  Sift into a large bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl (wipe out the one you just used to save some dishes), stir together the vanilla and oil.  Brew the coffee.  Then brew yourself a cup.  Add coffee to the oil and vanilla mixture.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients (flour mixture) and gradually whisk in the water-oil mixture until incorporated.  Gradually whisk in the eggs and stir until smooth.  The batter will be thin (like you’ll think you’ve done something wrong…but you haven’t).
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.  Drop each pan onto the counter from a couple of inches a couple of times to release any air bubbles (this is a supremely satisfying step).
  6. Bake bowl cakes in the upper-third of the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the cakes spring back from the touch and just pull away from the edges of the pan.
  7. Cool the cakes completely on a wire rack before turning them out.  Don’t forget to peel off the parchment paper.  Ice, frost as desired (or eat as is).
  8. These cakes will keep in the freezer (double wrap in plastic and then in freezer bags) for up to three months.

Some ideas for topping the cakes that are better than what’s in the pictures:

White Chocolate Buttercream

Marshmallow Frosting

Best Ganache Ever

 

Fresh ginger and molasses…wait a second…cupcakes

Samin Nosrat first bloomed into my little world on Friday, April 28, 2017 by way of episode 123 of the Milk Street podcast.  Her New York Times bestseller, James Beard award winning (!!!!!) book Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking had just been published a few days prior.  Her enthusiasm in the interview was buoying and my impression was that she was smart and humble.

Then I, along with most of America fell in awe of her across the four episodes of her documentary with the same title.  If you haven’t seen it, the series is beautifully shot, thought provoking and Ms. Nosrat is so incredibly human and achingly charming that you will want to go back to the beginning and start again when it’s over.

So, I was already smitten by the time I heard her on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert (Episode 107).  Over the course of two and a half commutes homebound down the 110 S, what was a celebrity chef flirtation turned into full-on fan-girl infatuation.  And it’s not just because she grew up in San Diego.

It’s also because she’s so immensely talented–in that way that gives you hope for humans as a species.

And because, as understated as she makes it out to be, Ms. Nosrat works incredibly hard.  While the highlights version of her story sound like a Hallmark movie, dig in a bit and you see resilience and lots of good old, un-fairytale like grit.

I like grit.  Unless it’s in ganache.

The next few weeks are an ode to Ms. Nosrat and her famous debut book starting with these ginger and molasses cupcakes.  The recipe calls for fresh ginger–lots of it.  The result is fragrant, warm and undeniably fall-like.  As written, the recipe is made a double layer cake.  However, I wanted to take them to work so I converted them to cupcakes and topped them with a zingy cream cheese icing.

If these ingredients sounds strangely familiar to you, it’s because this is effectively a brighter, more youthful gingerbread.  Enjoy with a strong cup of black tea or coffee while you dive into Salt Fat Acid Heat.

Fresh Ginger and Molasses Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

from Samin Nosrat in Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking

make two 9-inch cakes or about 24 cupcakes

For the Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 C (4 ounces) peeled, thinly sliced fresh ginger (about 5 ounces unpeeled)
  • 1 C (7 ounces) sugar
  • 1 C neutral-tasting oil (TMH: grape seed)
  • 1 C molasses
  • 12 C (12 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 C boiling water
  • 2 large eggs at room temp

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Set rack to the upper third of the oven.  Grease two 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment, grease again and then sprinkle with flour and tap out extra.  If making cupcakes, line two-dozen cupcake wells with double liners.
  2. Puree the fresh ginger and sugar together in a good processor or blender until completely smooth, about 4 minutes.  Pour the mixture into a medium bowl and add the oil and molasses. Whisk to combine and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper, salt and baking soda then sift into a large bowl.  Set aside.
  4. Whisk the boiling water into the sugar-oil mixture until evenly combined.
  5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and gradually whisk in the water-and-oil mixture until incorporated.  Gradually whisk-in the eggs and stir until smooth.  The batter will be thin.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans or cupcake tins.  Drop the pans from a couple of inches high onto the counter a couple of times to remove any air bubbles.
  7. Bake in the upper-third of the oven for 20-25 minutes for cupcakes or 38-40 for cakes, until they spring back from the touch.  An inserted toothpick should come out clean.
  8. Cool the cakes (cupcake or regular) before turning out and/or frosting.

For the frosting

Ingredients

  • Zest from one large orange, chopped
  • 1/2 C (4 ounces) butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 C confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract.

Directions

  1. Beat butter and cream cheese until well blended.
  2. Add-in powdered sugar, vanilla and zest, beat until combined.
  3. Top cakes or cupcakes as desired.

 

Ringer pie crust

My first inclination was to begin this post with the reminder that we are officially in pie season.

But really, isn’t it always pie season?

I mean, have you ever heard someone turn down the offer of pie because it was “out of season?”  Me neither.

I heard about adding sour cream to pie dough a couple of years ago on the Milk Street podcast.  I listened enthusiastically and then mentally stowed the idea away for a later time.

Two years later.  Because that’s how my brain works.  Adding sour cream is supposed to help with shrinkage in blind baking.  To test this, I made a couple of double crust pies that didn’t involve blind baking.

Because that makes so much sense.

I promise to try it with a Quiche Lorraine and report back at some point.

Yes, this is a different pie.  Same dough though.

What I can confirm is that from a taste and texture perspective, this dough is spot-on.  If you don’t have a go-to pie dough, or if you are like me and have a wandering dough-eye, this is a great bet for all of your pie needs.  In season or otherwise.

Sour Cream Dough (with an apple pie recipe if you need it)

For the dough

Ingredients:

  • 2 C (250 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsps sugar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 12 TBS (170g) or 1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces about the size of almonds
  • ½ C (120g) sour cream

Directions

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt.  Pulse to combined.
  2. Sprinkle the butter pieces over the mixture and pulse again until you get course crumbs and a sandy texture
  3. Add the sour cream and pulse until the dough starts to come together.
  4. Dump the clumpy dough onto a slightly floured surface and form the dough together.  Then divide in half, form each half into a disc and then wrap each in plastic.  Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (or you can freeze, just remember to allow to sit on counter once removed).

For the Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe pie dough
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 1/3 C packed brown sugar (golden or dark)
  • 3 TBS all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 8 cups thinly sliced apples (I use a combo just to make it interesting and also buy what is on sale.  People have all kinds of preferences when it comes to apples—use what you prefer)
  • 1 TBS lemon juice
  • 1 TBS butter
  • 1 egg
  • Additional sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Pull the dough from the fridge.  Roll-out the bottom crust for a 9ish inch pie pan (I think the one I brought in was 10 inches and it worked just fine).  Carefully fit into the pan with extra hanging over the side.  Let rest in the fridge while you are making the pie filling.
  3. In a medium bowl, combined the sugar and spices.
  4. Peel and thinly sliced the apples into a large bowl.
  5. Add the spices, toss to mix.  Toss-in lemon juice.
  6. Roll-out top crust of pie.
  7. Fill chilled pie tin with apples.  Arrange them as desired (I like to mound them a little bit and make sure everything is laying flat—no rouge apple edges sticking up). Dot with butter.
  8. Top with crust.  You will have overhang from both the top and bottom crusts.  Trim so that you have about ½ inch hanging over the sides of the pie tin.  Here you can either tuck the overhang back between the pie and the edge of the pan (like a fold under) or you can seal the top and bottom together and flute the extra etc.
  9. Cut four cents in the top with a sharp knife.
  10. Beat the egg and brush over the crust.  Top with sugar.
  11. Bake for 50-60 minutes until pie is golden brown.  I always bake pies with a cookie sheet on the lower rack to catch any bubbling juices.
  12. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

Meta

When it comes down to it, is there anything better than a crispy rice treat?

The archetype is so simple and so satisfying.  Yet the variations are endless.

While it’s probably obvious to you all, it took me a minute to consider adding my new favorite caramelized crispy rice to a rice crispy treat recipe.

I’m very, very glad my slow brain finally showed up to the party.  At first I was worried that it would make for an entirely too sweet situation.  However, a little extra salt balances the who affair out nicely.

I happen to like my crispy rice treats dense and tightly stuck together.  For this reason, I prefer to use corn syrup as the glue for my treats instead of marshmallows.  A long time ago I learned that while this made for my preferred treat structure, you can’t have a crispy rice treat without the marshmallows.  So, I add them in (mini of course) as their own ingredient.

Brown Butter Caramel Crispy Treats

Ingredients

  • 1ish batch Caramelized Crispy Rice
  • 1 C light corn syrup
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 4 TBS brown butter (it’s easy to brown a pound, keep it in the fridge or freezer and use as needed)
  • 1 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • 1 1/2 C mini marshmallows (more or less to taste)
  • 6 C puffed rice cereal

Directions

  1. Line a 9X13 inch baking pan with parchment and oil lightly.
  2. Add 5 C (note, you’ll still have a cup) of cereal to a large bowl, set aside.
  3. In a medium, heavy bottomed sauce pan, add sugar and corn syrup and heat over medium heat, mixing to combine.  Stir continuously until the mixture begins to bubble.  Allow to boil while stirring for a couple of minutes (don’t bother with a thermometer).
  4. Pull mixture from heat and stir-in butter and salt.
  5. Add liquid sugar mixture to bowl of cereal and mix to combine, adding in marshmallows and caramelized crispy rice.  You can also use that last cup of cereal to if the mixture isn’t holding together tightly.
  6. Add cereal mixture to prepared pan.  Press into pan until even.  Allow to cool before cutting.

 

Why can’t you just be normal?

Sometimes TD will wander into the kitchen when I’m baking, survey the land of often strange ingredients and ask with a sigh, “why can’t you just make chocolate chip cookies?”

He’s basically asking me why I can’t be normal.  We’ve been together for 19 years.  You’d think he would have stopped asking by now.

But. I am sympathetic to his plight.  He’s just looking for a tasty treat while I’m attempting world baking domination with dried hibiscus and tahini.

Earlier this summer, I offered up a peace flag in chocolate chip cookie form.  Recognizable enough that TD wouldn’t have to guess the mystery ingredient but just extra enough to keep with my own baking agenda: brown butter caramel crispy chocolate chip cookies.

I told you I am fixated on these nearly-burned but not quite caramel crispies.  Add in some brown butter and lots of chocolate and you’ve got an impressive Z score.

Because normal is boring.

Brown Butter Caramel Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Note–you could make the dough and bake in the same day.  I happen to like to let my dough marinate over night (or a month in the freezer after I scoop into balls).  I’ve written the recipe for an overnight–but do what you want.

Ingredients

  • 1 C (8 ounces) brown butter at room temp (need the recipe? brown butter)
  • 1 C packed golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2  1/8 C all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 12 ounces (regular sized package) chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 C (or to taste) caramelized crisps (link for recipe)

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, sift together flour and baking soda.  Whisk in salt and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, add butter.  Cream for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add both sugars, cream for another couple of minutes, scraping down the bowl as you go.
  4. Beat-in egg and egg yolk one-at-a-time.  Beat-in vanilla.
  5. Pull bowl from standing mixer and gently fold-in flour mixture until nearly combined.
  6. Fold-in chocolate chips and caramelized rice.
  7. Using a scoop of desired size (I like a #40 or just under 2 TBS scooper) scoop dough into domes.  Line domes onto a baking sheet (separate layers with two parchment sheets), wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.  Once the cookie domes are cold, you can easily transfer them to a freezer ziplock bag and store for one-off baking for up to a month.  Just add a couple of minutes to the cook time.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line backing sheets with parchment.
  9. Please dough domes on baking sheets leaving a couple of inches between each for spread.
  10. Bake in oven two-sheets at a time, rotating halfway through.  In my ovens, these usually cook in about 10 minutes.

 

 

 

A Swing and a Hit: Home Run Bars

A couple of months ago, I came across a recipe for carmelized crispy rice cereal (I think rice Krispy is trademarked) in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi and it’s like a door opened to a crunchy, sweet but so browned it’s almost bitter land.  The possibilities were so inspiring that the next three weeks of recipes feature this versatile ingredient.

One of the beauties of caramelizing anything is that you get to control how deep you go.  I’ve tried several versions and prefer mine darker but not yet burned.  Think Cracker Jacks.

In fact, Cracker Jacks are what inspired this picnic and BBQ ready dessert bar.

How do you feel about a peanut buttery blondie base polished with a layer of chocolate and topped with crunchy caramelized crispy rice?

Homerun you say?

Exactly!

Homerun Bars

For the Caramelized Crispy Rice

Ingredients

  • 2 C crispy rice cereal (have had good results with both regular and brown rice versions)
  • 3 TBS water
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. In a medium heavy-bottomed sauce pan add sugar.  Then add water and mix until sugar dissolves.  This is the last time you are going to want to touch the mixture until you take it off the heat the first time.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil (don’t stir) and allow to simmer until the syrup just starts to brown.
  4. Remove from heat and mix in cereal (I find a rubber spatula works the best). Gently mix cereal until ever last piece is covered in syrup.  By the time you there, everything will have dried and look like its dusted in snow (and now we know how they make Frosted Flakes).
  5. Return to heat over a medium burned and fold constantly.  The sugar will start to melt and caramelize.  Keep folding until you reach desired depth of caramelization.  I know the version I like is done when the sugar starts to smoke.
  6. Spread cereal on parchment lined baking sheet and allow to cool completely.
  7. From here you can store in an airtight container in big hunks.

For Homerun Bars

Ingredients

  • 1 C peanut butter (crunchy or smooth–I use smooth because I like to add-on whole peanuts)
  • 1/2 C butter, softened
  • 2 C golden brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 TBS vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 1 C peanuts (I like slightly salted)
  • 1 TBS vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces chocolate (chips will do fine)
  • 1 batch caramelized crispy rice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, line a 9X13 pan with parchment.
  2. In bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and peanut butter until smooth.
  3. Beat brown sugar into butter mixture in three stages, allowing the mixer to run for a couple of minutes after all of the sugar has been added.
  4. Beat-in eggs one-at-a-time, combining completely after each egg.  Beat in vanilla.
  5. Turn off mixer.  Add flour and mix on lowest speed until just combined.  Fold in peanuts by hand.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan using a spatula to level it out.
  7. Bake until a skewer inserted into the center of the dough comes out with small crumbs (about 35 minutes).
  8. Remove from over and allow to cool completely.
  9. Melt chocolate in microwave (30 seconds at a time at 50% heat until all chips melt with mixed).  Stir in oil.
  10. Using an off-set spatula, “frost” cooled blondies with chocolate.
  11. Slightly press caramelized rice into still warm chocolate.
  12. Allow chocolate to set-up.  Cut and enjoy.
  13. Store in an airtight container for up to three days.