Sunday, August 26, 2012

Homemade Twix Bars

The pin from Tracey's Culinary Adventures caught my eye and my taste buds! The first time I made them, they were delicious but the chocolate was too soft (I added less butter to improve that) and her directions for the caramel were sparse. (I gave you more clear way to tell when it is done) This recipe makes a TON of bars so save this for a special gathering or simply give some away!

First bake the shortbread. It is a simple recipe and process. Combine 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a small bowl and set aside. In medium/large bowl cream together 2 sticks of softened butter and 1/2 cup of sugar. When well mixed, add in half of the flour mixture and mix well. Add in the second half of the flour mixture and mix well. The original recipe calls for lining the 9x13 pan with parchment paper. I used foil as it forms better to the sides of the pan and does not absorb buttery goodness that you want to keep in your cookie layer! The dough is much more doughy and scant compared to most cookie doughs. You will have to work to get an even layer... use your play-dough skills from your childhood. I pat and push mine at the same time to get it to move! Bake in 325 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.
 The shortbread should be light blonde (not brown or even tan) when cooked.
 The middle will not be squishy but the cookie is VERY soft. 
Allow cookie to cool completely before starting to make caramel.

 Combine 1 stick of butter chopped into about 8 pieces, 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons of corn syrup, and 1 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk in a small saucepan. On medium high, stir constantly until the butter is melted and the sugar is mostly dissolved. Keep heat at medium high but now you can give your hand a rest few a few seconds as you still need to stir but not constantly! When the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium to prevent scorching. Stir occasionally and cook until Butt Crack stage is reached! See the following images and messages about the process!

 When the mixture begins to boil it changes color and gets a little thicker. This is NOT done!

 Soon it will coat the spoon... this is also not done! Keep scraping the sides too!

 Your caramel will be done when it reaches this BUTT CRACK stage. The caramel gets so thick that when you drag your spoon through it, it keeps the line while you count up to "5-one-thousand"

 Pour over cooled shortbread and spread into a smooth layer. See image below! Let caramel cool completely. I put mine in the fridge for at least an hour.

In a double boiler (or medium bowl stuck on a small pan with 2 inches of water) combine 8oz of semi-sweet chocolate (chopped or chips), 1 teaspoon of corn syrup, and 1/2 a stick of butter. (The original recipe calls for 1/2cup which made the chocolate very soft even when ice cold.) When fully melted pour and spread over top of cold caramel layer. Give the pan a little shimmy and shake to smooth out any marks from spreading! After 10 minutes sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of coarse salt to the top. I used a kosher salt grinder on it's largest grind. If you add the salt too soon it will melt. If I were making this for kids, I would leave the salt off. It adds a bit of adult flavor to a candy! Place the pan in fridge until chocolate is no longer soft.

Using foil as handles remove whole product from pan. You will have to insert a knife in between cookie and pan along both ends if you foil was a little short like mine! Place foil and cookie on cutting board. Use a  long sharp knife to cut the long side of the bar into 5 small rectangles. Each should now measure 9x2.5 inches Now cut 1 inch thick slices from each rectangle. You will now have 45 smaller rectangles that measure 1x2.5 inches... like I said this makes a LOT of cookies! Keep in fridge. Take out 15 minutes before serving so the caramel can soften enough to be at its best!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

When my daughter first wanted me to make this recipe pinned from Betty Crocker for Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies I admit I thought NASTY! I don't know why, Mint Chip is my favorite ice cream! One thing that turned me off about this recipe was the bagged mix. I hate the fake, dry taste that comes from bagged cookie mixes. Plus I hate paying $2-4 for a bag of flour, sugar, and powdered vanilla flavoring! After reading some of the reviewers comments I decided to make a few changes before I even tried the original recipe. I used my own recipe for drop sugar cookies. I bought a 4 oz box of Andes Candies and  used the part of a 50% semi sweet chocolate bar that would equal 4oz. First try was a huge hit! These cookies are delicious! My version of this recipe made 2 dozen 3 inch cookies.

In a small bowl combine 1 1/3 cups flour, 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. 

In large bowl combine 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 c (1 stick) of softened butter. Beat with mixer until light and fluffy. 

Beat in one egg. 

Add in 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon of mint extract (NOT peppermint!), and 8 drops of green food color. Mix well.

Dump in 4 oz chopped Andes Candies and 4 oz of chopped semi sweet chocolate bar. If you can find semi-sweet chunks and Andes bits in your store... use that by all means. My store didn't have them in stock today. The candy and candy bar war cheaper than the already chopped stuff also!

The dough really looks like the mint chip ice cream!!!!` 

Drop tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheet at least 2 inches apart... these guys spread out! I only put 3 rows of 3 on each cookie sheet.

 Bake at 350 degrees F for 11-12 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet while still quite warm as they tend to stick while cooling!

Cherry Pie Cookies

This recipe caught my eye the first week I started pinning on Pinterest! I used to love the Hostess fruit pies when I was a kid! This looks just like a piece of my childhood in an adult size portion (AKA smaller!) However I hesitated to try this recipe, posted by the bakery at King Orchards, as it makes over 2 QUARTS of filling! Who needs that much? So I decided to brave it and just use canned filling. (gasp... horror... yes I do use short cuts sometimes!) This recipe makes about 12 "cookies"

Add 1 teaspoon of almond extract to the can of pie filling and still well. Why bother to get out a bowl? There is nothing else to mix!

 Allow the prepared pie crust to sit out for 5 minutes so it unrolls nicely. I buy the name brand product with 2 rolls per box; you could buy the store brand but I find their flavor a little flat. Cut as many rounds as you can with a 4 inch diameter cookie cutter.

Reroll the dough and cut again. Repeat this step until the dough is too small to reroll. Repeat these steps with the other crust from the box.

 Place about a tablespoon of pie filling on half of the rounds.

Cover with the remaining half of the rounds.

Use a fork to seal the edges. I used a little too much pie filling so mine oozed out... try no to do that! 

Mix one egg and a tablespoon of water WELL to make an "egg wash"

Use a pastry brush to paint on the egg wash. You should not have globs of egg wash... just a nice thin coating.

Poke the tip of a knife into the pies to create vent holes. Sprinkle a bit of sugar over each pie. If you can find it, coarse sugar would be best! Bake at 400 for 12 minutes!

Boston Baked Beans

Congrats to World Food and Wine! This recipe is easy and produces fantastic baked beans! The 'Boston' part of baked beans means that molasses is used as a sweetener. Their recipe needs no tweaking, fiddling, or changing! Please see their website if you want to make these in your oven or with a pressure cooker. This recipe will serve 12 for a side or 8 for a main dish.

I bought lb of dry northern beans. I like them because they have no flavor of their own so all you taste is the sauce! I also like their small size and thin skins. Put your beans in a colander and rinse well. Put them in the largest bowl you own and cover with water until they are under at least 2 inches of water. Too little water will not allow the beans to expand. Soak 1 lb beans for 12 hours. I start mine at about 9PM. The beans in this photo have finished soaking.

The recipe calls for 1/2 lb of bacon or salt pork. I like salt pork as it is easier to trim off the extra fat and is not too smokey! My store sells it already sliced! But you can buy a chunk and cube it yourself. I found mine near the packaged ham next to the raw meats in the butcher area. Check through all the packages to pick out the one with the most pink  meat... some are almost all fat. If you wish vegetarian beans you can skip the meat!  

I use kitchen scissors to open the thick plastic and then a butcher's knife to chop off the layer of fat at the top of the salt pork. 

Turn the crockpot on low and place the salt pork in the bottom of the crockpot. The recipe also calls for adding in an onion cut in fourths right here but no one in my house eats onion so I skipped that step.

Also add in 1/4 c of brown sugar (light or dark no matter) 

1/4 c ketchup 

1/4 c molasses 

1 teaspoon of dried mustard... don't go buy dried mustard just for this recipe... you can add a tablespoon of your favorite brand that you have on hand (more wet mustard than dried as wet is diluted)

Doesn't look to tasty but it will be!!!! 

Drain your soaked beans, add them to the crockpot then add enough water to just cover the beans.

Stir to combine ingredients... still doesn't look tasty does it? But just cover and wait 10 hours! I am a little nutty and like to stir my beans once an hour but you don't have to!

After 10 hours on low these look fantastic! They taste even better! This recipe is the first one I have found that reheats well in the microwave! I like the slow cooker method best as it has fewer steps and makes fewer dishes!


I have been looking for years for a recipe that mimics the biscuits of my time in the south. They are cake-like but still flaky enough to split without a knife. If you have ever eaten at a Cracker Barrel, you know what I mean! This post is not a true test of as pinned idea... as NONE I tried gave the results I was looking for! After I had a lightening strike of brilliance, I decided to apply a cookie recipe trick to making biscuits. Using shortening or margarine creates soft, fluffy cookies. Using butter creates tasty, flaky cookies. If you use 50/50 butter/margarine in making cookies you get great flavor and soft, flaky texture. Guess what???? This works for biscuits too! This recipe makes 12 biscuits... Unless you are baking for 3 people make 2 batches! These freeze well, last 24 hours in airtight bag, and make banging breakfast sandwiches the next day as well!

 Cut up 1/4 c of butter flavored Crisco and 1/4 c of butter into half inch cubes. Smaller pieces like this work best as it takes less blending and therefore butter stays cold until it gets in the oven. Cold butter equals air pockets of goodness!

 Use this blade on food processor. You could use a pastry blender or even crisscross knives in a bowl but this way takes less than 45 seconds!

 Into the blender add.... 1 tablespoon of baking powder

 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 2 cups of all purpose flour

 Press the pulse button about 12 times holding for 1 second each time. Your mixture will look like the above photo!

 Dump one cup of milk on top of the blended mixture. Hit pulse again for about 12 times for 1 second each.

 Now your dough looks like this above picture!

Use wet of floured hands to wipe dough out onto a VERY well floured surface. The dough will be wet and STICKY. Knead 10-15 times until it looks like the ball below!

Now we will make the fluffy layers! Flatten the ball out with your hands. 

Fold in half.

Then flatten out again with your hands. 

Fold in half again and flatten out with your hands twice more. Each time the dough gets tighter and will flatten out less. It will look like the dough below.  Keep lifting the dough to be sure there is flour beneath it!

 Roll out with a rolling pin until 1 inch thick. You could make it thinner and get more biscuits but they will be short and tougher!

 TIP: use a sharp metal cutter! Press straight down and do not twist!  A dull cutter and twisting will ruin all the work you just did folding. Your biscuits will still be tasty but they won't rise evenly.

You should be able to cut 6 biscuits out of your first rollout. 

Squish the dough back together but mess with it as little as possible! 

Reroll the dough to the 1 inch thickness and cut more biscuits. You should be able to get 3 biscuits out of this rollout. Repeat this step to get 2 more out of this rollout. Repeat this step to get 1 more out of the last rollout.These last 3 will not be pretty but they will be tasty! Plus why waste dough!

 They do not spread out much so you can place 12 on one cookie sheet! Place in preheated 450 degree F oven.
Bake for 12 minutes until just beginning to turn tan in color.

I like mine best split in half and topped with soft salted butter and a drizzle of honey!

To make biscuits for strawberry shortcake, add 1 Tablespoon of sugar in with the flour before blending. Then before baking sprinkle a little sugar on top of each biscuit... the goodness never ends!