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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Caramel Swirl Brownies

The other night I made homemade soft caramel candies for the first time.  It was a first for me in that I've never made the candy form of caramel - I've done caramel sauce, frosting, and icings before but never candies - and they were very much a success!  But I was far too lazy to wrap all of those little candies up in wax paper squares.  So what to do with the rest of this delicious stuff?  I cut half of the caramel block, wrapped it in wax paper and vacuum sealed it for storage in the freezer until I think of something genius to do with it.  But with about 1/8 of the recipe, I decided to melt it back down with about 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream, and then swirl it on top of brownie batter before baking.  Good decision.  I'm already dreaming of what this would be like on top of blondies...

Caramel Swirl Brownies

4 (1) oz squares of unsweetened chocolate

3 oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup unsalted butter

5 eggs

2 3/4 cups sugar

1 tbsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp sea salt

Grease one 9 x 13 pan. Line the bottom with parchment and lightly grease the parchment.
In a small saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate squares, chips, cocoa powder, and butter. Set aside after it has melted and combined.
Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla at high speed for 10 minutes. Put the guard on your stand mixer bowl - this gets splashy! Add the melted chocolate mixture, salt and flour and mix until just blended. Let the batter sit on the counter for 20 minutes before pouring into the greased pan (half way through this would be a good time to preheat the oven to 375). Let air bubbles escape by dropping the pan on to a counter a few times.

For Caramel Swirl:
Combine approximately 1/8th recipe of Soft Candy Caramels (from Baked Explorations, found here) or around 25 store-bought caramel candies unwrapped with 2 tablespoons heavy cream.  Stir to combine over medium heavy until pourable consistency.  Pour over pan of brownie batter and swirl with a knife.  

Bake for 30 minutes and test with a toothpick. If it comes out clean with only a few crumbs, remove to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before cutting.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Club: BAKED - Soft Candy Caramels

I've made caramel sauces, caramel frostings, salted caramel icings, and more, but never made an actual soft candy caramel.  Now that it was the recipe this week in Club Baked I finally got a chance to make them.  The process was actually quite easy.  Most of the length of time it took to make them was waiting for it to reach the correct temperature.  

The most tedious part was probably cutting and individually wrapping the little caramels.  And to be honest, I gave up half way through and just wrapped the remaining hunk of caramel in one piece of parchment, vacuum sealed it and froze it for use later.  Also... I could help myself and with about 1/8 or 1/10th of the recipe, I decided to make caramel brownies.  Here's a sneak preview...

These caramels were delicious.  I loved the little taste of salt you get at the end from the sea salt.  They really are quite soft, too - much softer than any store-bought caramel candy.  And surprisingly they don't get stuck in your teeth.

Thanks for hosting, Teri!  Head on over to The Freshman Cook for the recipe, and be sure to visit the list of this week's participating bakers!  and Stay tuned for my Caramel Swirl Brownie recipe soon...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Funfetti Cake Mix Cookies

I am normally not one for cake mixes.  With only a little bit of extra effort to make a cake from scratch, the results are ten times better.  However, I do love cookies.  And since I had the majority of a box of Funfetti cake mix left over after making Birthday Cake Rice Krispie Treats I thought I might as well use it, right?  I found this ridiculously simple recipe for Funfetti Cookies from Pillsbury and within maybe 5 minutes, the dough was on the cookie sheets ready to go in the oven.  If you have a soft, vanilla cookie craving and needs cookies fast, these are the best way to go.  I have to admit, though we're not cake mix fans, these cookies disappeared from the cookie jar embarrassingly fast.  I skipped adding the frosting on top of the cookies because I thought they'd be sweet enough without them.  I'm glad I did because these were perfect.

Funfetti Cake Mix Cookies from
1 (18.9 oz) box of Pillsbury Funfetti cake mix
1/3 cup canola oil
2 large eggs, room temperature

Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, combine cake mix, oil and eggs; mix until thoroughly moistened. Scoop with a 1 1/2 Tablespoon cookie scoop onto parchment lined cookie sheets.  Using the palm of your hand, slightly flatten the dough balls.  Bake at 375°F. for 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Speculaas Cookies

Over the summer on a Delta flight to California, I tasted my first biscoff cookie.  How is it that I had never tried one of these things before?  I became (not so) mildly obsessed and briefly debated buying them in absurd quantities from their website.  Fortunately, I controlled myself and just dreamed about the little cookies instead.  Then on a trip to NY to visit family, I was wandering around a specialty grocery store and came across Biscoff Spread.  Are you kidding me?!  Ground up cookies spread on whatever I want just like nutella?  After tasting the spread (and immediately buying a jar of the delicious stuff) I became curious what these little cookies were.  After some research I found this description on their website: "Europe's favorite Cookie with Coffee Biscoff is the name given to the traditional Speculoos biscuits in North America".   Soon after I saw that "Speculaas" was on our list of things to bake for Club Baked, I was so excited!  I get to make my own biscoff!

Apparently there is a bit of a difference between Speculaas and Speculoos.  According to one Flemish company that makes them with "the old method," "the Dutch speculaas is a thicker, spiced gingerbread. The Belgian speculoos, or caramelised biscuit, is thinner and has a more refined taste" (Vermeiren Speculoos).  The "Baked Explorations" recipe is called "Speculaas" so I was expecting them to be different from my beloved Biscoff.  I baked according to the recipe making no changes besides using light brown instead of dark brown sugar and omitting the orange zest (because I didn't have either of those things).  I also let the dough sit in the fridge overnight because I had read on one website somewhere that this allows the flavors in speculaas dough to give the spices time to develop and add extra flavor.    

I may have taken them out of the oven too soon because mine were not dry and crispy, they were soft and chewy.  But that was a good thing for us since Daniel is 100% a chewy cookie person.  Normally he does not like spiced cookies but these mysteriously disappeared from our cookie jar very quickly.  "Spiced gingerbread" is a good description for this cookie recipe, they were quite different from those Biscoff cookies.      

My one complaint about this recipe is that it was too sticky and nearly impossible to use cookie cutters.  Instead, I wound up using a pizza wheel and cutting it into squares.  Admittedly, the stickiness was probably my own fault though due to my laziness since I really didn't flour my surface very well.  When I got really lazy, at the end I just started rolling balls of dough with my hand and rolling them in turbinado sugar.  Those ones came out nice and thick, and with a caramelized sugar bottom - quite perfect for our tastes. 

You can find the recipe here at Baked Sunday Mornings. And make sure to read through the Bakers Links to Speculaas to see how this recipe worked out for other (less lazy) bakers.


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