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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Brown Butter Strawberry Streusal Bars

Put the Windex away. Let the dust collect on the baseboards a bit longer. Take your rubber gloves and trade them in for an apron because the spring cleaning can wait. We have much more important things to do this spring then hunch over a mop and clean the floor. The only cleaning that we should be doing is cleaning out our pantry. 

It's time to some much needed spring baking. 

One of my favorite parts of spring (and summer) are the berries. It's berry-pickin' season and I can't think of anything better than buckets full of fresh berries that you pick yourself. Only a few things in life are more rewarding than picking your own berries and bringing them home to bake them into a beautiful pie, or in this case some delicious fruity bars. 

I used this recipe as my first attempt at baking with strawberries. I have always been hesitant to bake with them because I'm not a huge fan of the texture of baked strawberries. I'm not sure why I had this apathetic attitude towards strawberries, but this recipe has helped me give them another chance. My mind is changed now. I like baked strawberries. Who knew?! The brown butter comes through very strongly in these bars and its nutty flavor helps balance out the sweetness of the strawberries.

The best part of this recipe (besides the final product) was the strawberry syrup. After I took my first taste of it off the spatula (so sue me) I immediately started to think about what else I could do with it. It was sooo delicious! I would love to stir it into some greek yogurt. That would make me happy. 

So take a moment this spring to enjoy the seasonal fruits by making these bars!

Brown Butter Strawberry Streusel Bars
From: Une Gamine Dans La Cuisine
Recipe makes about 25-30 bars

Crust and crumb topping:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) + 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1 cup granulated sugar (divided into 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 3 cups + 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

Strawberry filling:- 3 heaping cups of fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into chunks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar (use more if needed)
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 3 teaspoons cornstarch (If you don't have any, a great substitute is flour. 3 tsp. flour = 1 tsp. cornstarch)

Begin by making the brown butter:
1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Increase the heat to medium and, stirring occasionally, cook the butter until it turns golden brown and develops a nutty aroma. 
2. Depending on the stove's heat, it can take 5-8 minutes for the butter to brown properly. 
3. During this process the butter will first become foamy before changing color, making it difficult to see what's going on. Just be sure to give it a good stir now and then so that the butter doesn't burn. 
4. Once it's brown and aromatic, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the butter to a heat-proof bowl. Cool to room temperature. 
5. There will be brown flakes at the bottom of pan, but don't worry. That is normal and they have a lot of flavor, so I like to keep them and not strain them out. 
{Note:You want to butter to be cool enough so that it won't scramble the eggs when they're added.}

Second, make the syrup:
1. In a large saucepan, combine the chunks of berries, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Stir to combine. 
2. Bring to a gentle boil over med-high heat. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid turns into a thick syrup (about 8-10 minutes). 
3. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. {Note: It will continue to thicken as it cools.} It will take about half an hour to 45 minutes to cool, but you can place it in fridge to speed up the process.

Thirdly, prepare the crust:
1. Line a 9x13-inch pan with foil, leaving a slight overhang along the edges. Lightly butter the entire foil-lined pan.
2. In a large bowl, combine the cooled brown butter, 3/4 cup of sugar, and salt. Stir till well blended. 
3. Add the yolks and the almond extract, whisk until smooth. 
4. Using a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the flour until you have a stiff dough.
5. Transfer about 2 cups of the dough to the foil-lined pan and press it evenly onto the bottom.
{Note: It doesn't have to be exactly two cups, just keep in mind that whatever dough is left over will be used as the crumb topping.} 
6. Refrigerate the pan for about 40 minutes.
7. Preheat to 325 F. Remove the pan from the refrigerator and prick the crust several times with a fork. {Note: Chilling and pricking the dough will keep it from puffing up too much in the oven.}
8. Bake for about 15 minutes, just until the crust begins to set. Don't worry if the center still looks doughy, it's better to under-bake it at this stage.
9. Remove the partially-baked crust from the oven and place it onto a cooling rack. 

Next, make topping:
1. Add the 1/4 cup of sugar to the remaining dough, and using your fingertips, work the sugar into the dough until becomes crumbly and sandy. Cover and set aside.

Last, assemble and bake bars!
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Once pre-baked crust has cooled slightly, Spread the berry mixture over the partially-baked crust.
2. Sprinkle the remaining dough mixture over the berries.
3. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until the crumb topping is light golden.
4. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack. 
5. Cool for at least 3 hours before removing the bars from the pan (use the foil overhang to lift them out of the pan). You can set them in the fridge to help them cool more quickly. Cut in to bars. 


Monday, January 27, 2014

Black-Bottom Oat Pie

Life. It gets in the way sometimes. And you know how I deal with life and the many adventures it has for me? I eat pie. Lots of pie. And cake(s), cookies, brownies, and ice cream, though mostly pie. I eat it so fast that I forget to share it on a blog that I might have...oops. So take this as an apology. A pie apology. Better yet, a pie topped with ice cream apology. I think this should help things between us.
I'm glad I captured some pictures of this pie because I really want to share it with you. It's like a pecan pie without the pecans. Don't get worried though. You still get all the wonderful gooey, sugary goodness that comes with a pecan pie. Instead of pecans though, this pie has a plethora of toasted oats baked into that gooey, sugary goodness. And don't tell the pecan pie this, but I think I like this oat pie better. That's blasphemy here in Alabama, but it's true. The oats won me over, especially since they are a whole lot cheaper than pecans. 
Oh and to finish it off right, we plopped some infamous Shirey Ice Cream salted caramel ice cream right on top. That put this pie over the edge. It is like a sweet, sweet pie and ice cream symphony that unfolds in your mouth. You'll be singing its praises for days on end. 
Black-Bottom Oat Pie

Makes dough for one single-crust 9- to 10-inch pie or tart
- 1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup ice

- 1 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70%), chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
- 3/4 cups cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup dark corn syrup
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. cider vinegar
- 4 large eggs

*A couple things I observed about this recipe after making it. The first being that I think that the "black bottom" (aka a chocolate ganache layer) didn't have enough heavy cream. This made the chocolate layer harder once the pie cooled. I might suggest putting more like 1/3 of a cup instead of 1/4. The next thing is that despite baking this pie for longer than was suggested, it still came out runny. My fix for now, and what I'll try next time I make it, is to cut down a bit on the corn syrup and raise the temperature while baking it. Probably up to 350F. Although these were minor problems for me when I baked it, the pie still turned out to be ah-maze-ing. I would suggest trying out the recipe as is first and seeing for yourself if adjustments need to be made.  

For Crust:
1. Stir the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl.
2. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a bench scraper, forks, or hands.
3. With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend).
4. Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl.
5. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fully incorporated.
6. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, using the bench scraper or your hands (or both) to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining.
7. Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine.
8. Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow.
9. If making the double-crust version, divide the dough in half before shaping each portion into flat discs.
10. Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month

For Filling: 
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F.
2. Spread the oats on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.Let cool.
3. Reduce the oven temperature to 325° F.4. To make the black-bottom ganache layer, place chopped chocolate in a bowl. Set aside.
5. Bring the heavy cream just to a boil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Don't forget that the cream is on the stove like I did for about 15 minutes. You only want to let it reach a boil, but not let it boil for 15 minutes. If you did forget that you put cream on the stove, dump it out and try again. It's OK. I had to. 
6. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate pieces. Let sit for 5 minutes.
7.Whisk gently until smooth. Scrape the ganache into the cooled pie shell and spread evenly over the bottom.
8.Place the shell in the freezer to set the ganache while making the filling.
9.In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, ginger, salt, and melted butter.
10.Add the corn syrup, vanilla, and cider vinegar and whisk to combine.
11.Add the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition.
12.Stir in the cooled oats.
13.Place the ganache-coated pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet and pour in the filling.
14.Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 55 minutes, rotating 180° when the edges start to set, 30 to 35 minutes through baking.
15.The pie is finished when the edges are set and puffed slightly and the center is slightly firm to the touch but still has some give (like gelatin).
16.Allow to cool completely on a wire rack at room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. Let cool at room temperature and not in refrigerator as that can make the crust really hard.
17. Serve warm or cold. Our favorite was cold. Cold pie and COLD ice cream. Somehow works. 
18. The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

When the days get longer and the weather gets hotter, my time in the kitchen also gets longer and my oven gets hotter. Unlike most people who go outside and enjoy the summer sun, I like to stay out of it. The last thing my hair needs is to be outside in Alabama humidity. So, I heat up my own summers in the kitchen. 
Shortbread is simple to make and has a smaller amount of sugar compared to other cookies. The low sugar content means that there is a high butter to sugar ratio, which results in soft and and buttery cookie with a moist inside and crispy edges. It's almost like a sugar cookie but much less sweeter. 
Stay cool, stay inside, and eat some cookies. Preferably with a tall, cold glass of milk. 
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 ounces mini chocolate chips

1. Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer with paddle attachment on medium speed. Beat for 5 minutes or until mixture has become glossy. 
2. Reduce speed and add vanilla. On low speed, add flour to mixer a half of a cup at a time. Beating in each addition before adding the next. Do not over mix the dough. 
3. Stir in chocolate chips. Dough should be sticky but not that wet. 
4. Transfer dough into a gallon size ziplock bag and put bag on flat surface. With the bag still open, roll out the dough in the bag in a 9 x 10 1/ inch rectangle. Zip up the bag and put in refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days. 
5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 
6. Slit open bag and turn cookie dough onto a floured countertop. Cut cookies into 1 1/2 inch squares and place on baking sheet. 
7. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. The cookies will be brown on the edges but not that dark in the middle. 
8. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.