Salted Praline Bars

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words.

Praline Bars

So… maybe I should just leave this picture here to speak for itself and be done with this blog post.  Just let you scroll down for the recipe.

Because, I mean, look at that.

That soft and buttery shortbread crust.

That rich, semi-sweet chocolate layer.

And that sweet, sweet candy praline coating on top.

IMG_0336

Not to mention the sea salt topping!  I hope you’re not like me… I hope you haven’t spent your whole life shying away from salted desserts because it sounded “weird”.

No, that salt MAKES these bars.  I mean, OK, honestly I’m sure that they would still be pretty darn fantastic without it, but truly, a generous sprinkling of healthy-sized sea salt granules really helps to bring out the sweetness and the flavor of these praline bars.  Do NOT forget the sea salt (like I almost did after I poured the praline layer on…what a moment of panic).

IMG_0360

Need I say more?

Salted Praline Bars
Author: 
 
Ingredients

  • Shortbread
  • 1½ cup unsalted butter (3 sticks, softened)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • Chocolate
  • 2 cups semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

  • Praline Layer
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups chopped toasted pecans
  • Sea salt to taste
Instructions

  1. Shortbread
  2. Preheat oven to 350F
  3. Cover a 13×9 baking pan with foil and lightly grease the foil with butter.
  4. In mixer, cream together butter and granulated sugar.
  5. Add egg yolks, one at a time, stirring after each addition.
  6. Add vanilla.
  7. Gradually (about ½ cup at a time) stir in flour. Stir in salt halfway through the addition of flour.
  8. Spread dough into 13×9 pan, pressing down with the back-end of a spoon to create a flat, even layer of shortbread.
  9. Bake in oven at 350F for 23-25 minutes (until edges just begin to turn golden brown).
  10. Allow bars to cool for just 1 minute and then sprinkle 2 cups of chocolate chips over the shortbread. Allow the chocolate chips to melt for about 3-4 minutes, and then spread evenly over the shortbread using a knife.

  11. Praline layer
  12. While the shortbread/chocolate cool, prepare your praline layer. Pralines are a type of candy, and making candy can be tricky so it is best to make sure you have everything prepared before beginning. Before you start, cut your ½ stick butter into quarter-inch sized cubes, chop your pecans (if they are not already chopped. I chopped mine into pieces each about the size of an M&M), and measure out your vanilla extract. Set these aside, you will need them easily accessible once your candy is ready.
  13. In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, and evaporated milk. Stir occasionally (do not leave the candy during this time, stir at least once a minute) until candy reaches 238F using a candy thermometer.
  14. Once candy reaches 238F, remove from heat and add in butter but DO NOT stir. Allow the butter to sit and melt in the praline mixture for about 1 minute and then add vanilla and pecans and stir continuously until mixture becomes lighter in color and a bit more stiff (you must also be cautious of over-mixing).
  15. Once the praline mixture is able to hold its shape (I usually test this by dropping a small amount on a piece of wax paper and assessing whether it spreads too much or holds its shape), immediately pour over the chocolate/shortbread.
  16. Immediately sprinkle sea salt all over the praline layer so that it sticks to the surface while it is hot.
  17. Allow bars to sit undisturbed for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

They say a picture's worth a thousand words. So... maybe I should just leave this picture here to speak for itself and be done with this blog post.  Just let you scroll down for the recipe. Because, I mean, look at that. That soft and buttery shortbread crust. That rich, semi-sweet chocolate layer. And that sweet, sweet candy […] Read More

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Orange Sweet Rolls

 

Orange Sweet Rolls _in pan

I’m not a very patient person.

I like instant gratification, especially when it comes to baking.

I definitely start sampling cookie doughs and cake batters long before they’ve made it into the oven to bake.  (Since we have our own chickens at my house and use fresh eggs in everything I tell myself that I’m far less likely to contract a nasty case of salmonella, with only a small basis for reasoning that claim.)

So baking with yeast isn’t something I dabble in too often.

If I find a bread recipe that I want to try and then I see the time it takes to rise my brain goes something like this: You mean I have to wait THREE HOURS before I can even put this in the oven!? Nothankyou, I could have eaten my way through three batches of chocolate chip cookies by then.

But sometimes it’s nice to create something that does take a little more patience.  Sometimes it’s nice to have a project that consumes you and does take time.

Orange Sweet Rolls on tray

I promise you: these are worth your time.

Buttery, soft Orange Sweet Rolls.  The name doesn’t lie, they are sweet, but that orange zest adds a light, refreshing touch and keeps them from being overbearingly so.

And yes, the combined amount of time they take to rise is three hours, so unless you yourself are an early riser they’ll make a much better brunch than breakfast.

Orange Sweet Roll

Mmmm.  Time well spent.

This recipe uses a basic sweet roll recipe (thanks AllRecipes.com), while the filling and icing are my own creation.

5.0 from 1 reviews

Orange Sweet Rolls
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 19-20 rolls
 
Ingredients
  • Rolls (dough)
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 (1/4 oz) packet active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm water
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour

  • Base
  • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white sugar

  • Filling
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • Icing
  • 1 package (8oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups 10x sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • 2½ Tablespoons Orange Juice
Instructions
  1. Bread
  2. In a bowl combine sugar, yeast, and water. The water should be between 100-110 F, just run your tap water warm and you should be able to easily get water of this temperature. Stir the ingredients briefly, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  3. In saucepan, scald your milk by heating it over medium heat while stirring constantly until bubbles begin to form and steam begins to be produced. Remove from heat and add ¼ cup white sugar, butter and salt. Stir until butter is melted.
  4. In a large bowl (or stand mixer) combine yeast mixture, milk/butter mixture, eggs and 1½ cups of the flour. Stir until well combined and then add flour, about ½ cup at a time beating well after each addition (dough should be sticky, but clinging together).
  5. Turn dough out of bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
  6. Grease a large bowl with butter. Put your ball of dough in the bowl, rolling it around the sides so that the surface of the dough is covered with a thin layer of butter.
  7. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and allow dough to rise in a warm space for 2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare your filling.

  8. Filling
  9. Stir together softened butter, brown sugar, flour, vanilla and orange zest. The mixture will be much like a paste.
  10. Prepare 13×9 pan: melt ½ stick butter, add ¼ cup brown sugar and ¼ cup white sugar. Stir, and pour into the bottom of pan.
  11. Once the dough has finished its rise, roll it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle (about 20×16″, the shape is important and the rectangle should have distinct corners because this will affect the quality of the appearance of your rolls) about ¼ inch thick.
  12. Spread the filling over the rolled dough, avoiding about ½ inch on both of the longer edges. Starting from one of the longer ends, slowly roll up the dough, starting at one corner and slowly moving down the length of the dough to evenly roll. Start with a tight roll; after the first two turns it should roll easily.
  13. Gently, using serrated knife, cut roll into 1″ slices and place (swirl side down) into prepared pan. Cover the cinnamon rolls in the pan and allow them to rise again for 1 hour before baking.
  14. Once rolls have had 1 hour to rise, remove the towel and bake in 375 F oven for 20-25 minutes (tops will be slightly golden brown when done) and remove. While rolls are baking, prepare the icing.

  15. Icing
  16. In stand mixer, combine cream cheese and 1 cup sugar on low-speed
  17. Add orange zest and orange juice and gradually add the remaining sugar.
  18. Beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure that all ingredients are equally incorporated.
  19. Once the rolls have been removed from the oven, allow them to cool for about 5 minutes and then use an icing spatula to generously portion icing over the pan.

  I'm not a very patient person. I like instant gratification, especially when it comes to baking. I definitely start sampling cookie doughs and cake batters long before they've made it into the oven to bake.  (Since we have our own chickens at my house and use fresh eggs in everything I tell myself that […] Read More

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Chicken Corn Chowder

Healthy chicken-corn chowder

I am so excited to share this recipe with you today.

Not just because it is delicious, and the perfect warmer-upper for a cold, snowy (yes, we had snow here again this week) evening meal, but also because it is accidentally quite healthy.

I wasn’t looking to make a healthy soup, I was aiming for a hearty one that tasted good.

The healthy, low fat, high protein thing is just a bonus.

healthy chicken corn chowder 3

A really, really nice bonus.

It contains Greek Yogurt and plenty of roasted chicken, so yeah, lots of protein.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s so easy to make?

For me, today is the second and final day of chicken corn chowder leftovers for lunch.  I’m a little sad that it’s over… but not so sad to see the cold weather leave us.

healthy chicken-corn chowder 2

 

Chicken Corn Chowder
Author: 
Recipe type: Healthy soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2-3 cups shredded chicken (I used a pre-cooked, 2 lb rotisserie chicken and shredded the meat off of it)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup chopped scallions
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 cans creamed corn
  • 1 package frozen sweet corn
  • 1 4 oz can diced green chilis (drained)
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
Instructions
  1. Melt butter in large soup pot over medium heat.  Add scallions, cook for about 2 minutes, add garlic and continue to cook, stirring, until scallions become transluscent (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add
  3. can of creamed corn, all of the greek yogurt, and half of the chicken stock (2 cups).  Stir over heat until evenly mixed.
  4. Transfer contents of pot to blender and puree for about 1-2 minutes, and then return contents to the soup pot over medium heat.
  5. Add to the soup pot the remaining chicken stock, shredded chicken, second can of creamed corn, 2 cups frozen corn, chilis, black pepper, salt, and ground red pepper.  Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through (about 15 minutes, though the longer it stews, the better).
  6. If desired, top with greek yogurt and garnish with additional chopped scallions before serving.

 

Note:  I recommend using organic chicken stock if you can find it.  I only ever bought this for the first time because it was on sale, but a quick comparison of organic vs. non-organic (Wegmans brand, anyway) revealed that the organic has a much lower sodium content yet doesn’t sacrifice any flavor.

Note 2.0:  You could definitely substitute the Tablespoon of butter for olive oil if you’re reallyreally trying to be healthy (not my original goal when making this recipe, or I might’ve tried it), I haven’t tried it but I’m sure it would be fine.  I will say, though, that cooking the scallions and garlic in this small amount of butter went a long way and lent a fantastic flavor to this dish.

I am so excited to share this recipe with you today. Not just because it is delicious, and the perfect warmer-upper for a cold, snowy (yes, we had snow here again this week) evening meal, but also because it is accidentally quite healthy. I wasn't looking to make a healthy soup, I was aiming for a […] Read More

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Mint Chocolate Andes Brownies

Brownie on display-1

Happy (belated) St. Patrick’s Day!  One thing that I love about where I work now is that potlucks are a quite common occurrence… we are very, very good at finding excuses to bring in food.  Since I LOVE any excuse to bake, this works out pretty well for me.

St. Patrick’s Day is a fantastic excuse for a potluck, and so a holiday-themed potluck was planned for Monday.  One of my coworkers very generously prepared corned beef, cabbage and potatoes for everyone.

Zach’s birthday was on Saturday and we celebrated by taking a trip to Dogfishhead Brewery in Delaware (where some of his favorite beers are brewed).  We also made sure to celebrating the holiday in the bars of Rehoboth Beach (where he consumed a very unique jalapeno margarita… the smell alone made my eyes water).

At the beach-1

Because of this, I was away most of the weekend, but I still wanted to contribute something that wasn’t too time-consuming but would still fit the theme of the potluck and I finally decided on mint-chocolate brownies (mint, of course, for the green color).

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE Andes Candies and they met my color criteria (that thin pale green mint in the center is enough for me) and so I molded a dessert idea around them.

Brownie in hand-1

Yes, I know my nail polish is chipped, but that’s not the point .  The point is that these brownies are SO fudgy (especially if you’re patient enough to allow them to cool completely, which I wasn’t for the first few photos) and they have just the right amount of mint to them.  Not overwhelming, just… perfect.

Did you do (or make!) anything special to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Mint Chocolate Chip Brownie-1s

 

Mint Chocolate Chip Brownies
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • BROWNIES
  • 1¾ sticks unsalted butter (14 Tablespoons), softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2½ Tablespoons milk
  • 2 Large eggs
  • 2½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cups cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark Hot Fudge
  • CENTER
  • 28 Andes individually wrapped candies (1 box)
  • ¼ cups Hershey’s Special Dark Hot Fudge
  • ICING
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp butter (softened)
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ cup chopped Andes candies pieces to sprinkle on top (optional)
Instructions
  1. BROWNIES
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F
  3. Line 13×9 pan with non-stick foil (or regular foil and spray with non-stick spray)
  4. Cream together butter, sugar, and milk using electric mixer.
  5. Add in eggs and vanilla, stir.
  6. In separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
  7. Stir dry ingredients into wet ones until combined.
  8. Measure out your hot fudge sauce into a microwave-safe container and microwave about 15 seconds, or just long enough so that it is liquid enough to easily mix in to your brownie mix.  Add to brownie mix and stir.
  9. Dispense half of the brownie batter into 13×9 pan and spread even layer over bottom.  Unwrap Andes candies and break in half.  Layer the brownie batter in the pan with candies, spacing them about ¼ inch apart.
  10. Allow brownies to cool completely.
  11. TO PREPARE ICING:
  12. Cream together butter and milk.  Add vanilla.
  13. With mixer on low speed, add in powdered sugar and cocoa powder.  Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl to be sure that icing is well-mixed.  If icing is too dry, you can add more milk (1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached), while if it is too runny you can add more sugar (1 Tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached).
  14. Spread over brownies once they have cooled completely.  Sprinkle with chopped Andes candy pieces, if desired.

 

Happy (belated) St. Patrick's Day!  One thing that I love about where I work now is that potlucks are a quite common occurrence... we are very, very good at finding excuses to bring in food.  Since I LOVE any excuse to bake, this works out pretty well for me. St. Patrick's Day is a fantastic excuse […] Read More

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Raspberry Lemon Scones

On tray.2

Well, with temperatures up near 70 degrees in northern Maryland yesterday I thought that winter had finally loosened its (unreasonably firm) grasp on us.  Then, when temperatures dipped right back down to 20 degrees overnight I realized that Mother Nature is actually just a cruel mistress that enjoys toying with my emotions… dangling springtime weather in front of me like a cupcake in front of a hungry toddler (a perfect vanilla cupcake, at that, too).

We’re supposed to have warm weather here again over the weekend… only for  winter to creep back and threaten snow on Monday.  What!?  Snow!?  Ugh, I’m so over it.

I need sunshine, warm weather and bright colors.  Green grass (not the wilted, dead and soggy stuff that’s been buried under inches of snow and ice for what feels like the past 6 years) and fresh seasonal fruit.  And if Mother Nature denies me these things, well then, I’m just going to seek out springtime in whatever form I can…

Enter these Raspberry-Lemon Scones:

Close up 2.2

Mmm… sunny flecks of yellow lemon zest in bright, pillowy-soft scones.  And let’s not forget about the raspberries–those juicy, bright, beautiful raspberries (though of course…these raspberries were frozen, just like Mother Nature’s heart).

Made with heavy cream, these scones are so soft and light inside and make the perfect springtime breakfast partner.  Or… would, anyway, if winter would ever just move on…. but I digress.  Let’s get back to the scones.

Close up.2

That’s more like it.  Springtime in pastry form.

Here’s what you do:

(Inspired by my favorite Taste of Home scone recipe)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Combine 4 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar,  4 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl.  Using a pastry cutter (or just a fork and knife, as I did for years before obtaining a pastry cutter) cut in 3/4 cups cold butter and combine until your mixture resembles coarse crumbles (there will be small pieces of butter throughout, but the dough will not cling together at this point).  You will want to use cold butter and not softened in this recipe because cold butter will yield lighter, flakier scones.

In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 large eggs, 3/4 cups heavy cream, the zest of one lemon (this came to about 2-3 Tablespoons for me) and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but a very good option).

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones until just mixed.  As with most baked goods, you do not want to over mix or you will end up with a too-tough end product.

Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half.  Using your hands, fold in 1/2 cup of raspberries into each half of the dough.  You can use either fresh or frozen raspberries, though you need to be a bit more careful with fresh (juice everywhere).  I used frozen since (as I mentioned) raspberries aren’t in season right now.

The first few times I made these scones I folded the fruit in very carefully to try to avoid untidy swirls.  Now, I’ve decided that I really like the colorful swirls and think they gives the scones a more rustic look.  Plus, it’s easier that way.

Shape each half of the dough into a circle, like so, and cut each into 8 wedges:

Pre-cooked dough

Transfer wedges to parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Using remaining heavy cream brush tops of wedges and then sprinkle with granulated sugar (I used raw turbinado sugar, which is why the sugar looks almost brown in the photos).

pre-cooked on pan

Bake on 375F for 18 minutes.  Allow scones to sit for about ten minutes (until cool, or at least not so hot that they burn the inside of your mouth.  That might have happened to me, I have no patience when it comes to these things) before eating.

Lemon-Raspberry Scones
Author: 
Recipe type: Scones
Serves: 16 scones
 
Ingredients
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 4½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cups
  • cold
  • butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cups +2 Tablespoons heavy cream,
  • divided
  • Zest of 1 lemon (2-3 Tablespoons)
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • 1 cup raspberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl.  Cut in cold butter and combine until mixture resembles coarse crumbles.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, ¾ cups of the heavy cream, lemon zest, and almond extract.
  4. Add wet ingredients into dry and combine until dough is just moist.
  5. Transfer dough to clean, lightly floured surface and divide in half.  Add ½ cup raspberries to each half and fold in berries by hand.  Mold each half of the dough into about an 8-inch wide circle and cut each into 8 wedges.
  6. Transfer wedges to parchment paper-lined baking sheet and brush with the reserved 2 Tablespoons of cream.  Sprinkle tops with granulated sugar.
  7. Bake at 375F for 18 minutes.  Allow scones to cool on baking sheet before eating.
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Well, with temperatures up near 70 degrees in northern Maryland yesterday I thought that winter had finally loosened its (unreasonably firm) grasp on us.  Then, when temperatures dipped right back down to 20 degrees overnight I realized that Mother Nature is actually just a cruel mistress that enjoys toying with my emotions... dangling springtime weather […] Read More

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