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    Entries in cooking while intoxicated (5)

    Friday
    Mar302018

    Extra Special K Bars

    Growing up we had bars similar to these but they were made with Rice Krispies and they were called Scotcheroos. Well, a local bakery sells Special K bars, which, as the name implies, are made with Special K Cereal. Apparently, in some parts of the country, that’s how they’re always made. Who knew? Both varieties are basically a chewy, crispy, peanut butter bar, topped with chocolate, butterscotch topping. For me, that’s where they have always come up a bit short. Butterscotch chips have a very strong, artificial flavor and smell about them. So much so, that Hubby hates it when I buy one from the bakery because my whole kitchen will smell like them. Well, I have discovered a delicious alternative, and as usual, the homemade version beats out any I’ve had before.

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • 6 cups Special K Cereal
    • 1 cup peanut butter
    • 1 cup syrup
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 Tablespoons butter
    • ½ teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 ½ cups milk chocolate chips
    • 1 cup Ghirardelli Caramel chips 

    I realize the ingredient “syrup” sounds a bit vague. The thing is, I don’t use corn syrup. Ordinarily, I use brown rice syrup, but when I was at Target picking up ingredients, they didn’t have that, but did have Sugar in the Raw Cane Syrup. I’ve never seen that before, so I thought I’d give it a try. It worked wonderfully and tastes way better than corn syrup. That being said, if the only thing you can find is corn syrup, it will work.

    First up, measure your cereal into a really big bowl and set it aside. (keep in mind, you’ll need plenty of room for stirring)

    Next, put the sugar, syrup, and butter into a pan over medium low heat.

    Here’s the secret to bars that are deliciously soft and chewy... don’t overcook the syrup. When I was researching recipes, the most common question I came across was, “Why are my bars always hard?” I’ve seen some recipes that say to boil the mixture for 3-5 minutes… nope. That’s just asking for bars you’ll break your teeth on. Basically, you want the sugar to be dissolved, and it’s ok if it just barely starts to bubble. If you're having trouble getting all of the sugar to dissolve without it boiling, add 1-2 tablespoons of water. That way you can cook it longer and/or bring it to a boil without overcooking it. 

    Turn off the heat and add the peanut butter. Mine was a new bottle that hadn’t yet been refrigerated so it was of pouring consistency, which made for easy measuring, but not a very pretty picture.

    Add the vanilla and stir until everything is incorporated.

    Pour that over your waiting cereal.

    Stir to coat all of the cereal. Keeping it all in the bowl, rather than all over the bar and floor, will be the hardest part. Just be patient and eventually it will all cooperate.

    Glop it into a parchment lined 9x13 pan. Yes, glop is the appropriate term for that.

    Press it into the pan, slowly working it toward the edges. If it’s cool enough, you can use your hands. Otherwise, a spatula will work fine, it will just take a little longer.

    Now, onto the topping. Remember how I said I don’t care for butterscotch chips? Well, it turns out, Ghirardelli has started making caramel flavored chips, and they are delicious!

    Place 1 cup of those and 1 ½ cups of milk chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl.

    Nuke 30 seconds, stir, 30 seconds, stir, 30 seconds, stir… until it’s all melted and smooth.

    Pour that over the bars. (Is it just me, or is there something seriously delectable about flowing chocolate?)

    Spread that over the top, getting all the way to the corners. Then, another hard part, walk away and leave it to cool and set up. It will probably need a good 3 hours. You can speed it up by putting it in the fridge, but they’re better served at room temperature.

    When they’re ready, go ahead and cut them into whatever size bars you want. I recommend small because I guarantee you’ll be coming back for a second, regardless of the size. As you can see, cutting is not my strong suit. Having two different sizes was done purposely because I needed some big ones for pictures, but not having one straight line in the bunch, well, that’s just how my brain works. I guess I’ll have to blame it on cooking while intoxicated again.

    Regardless, they taste amazing! They are perfectly chewy, peanut buttery, and sweet, with a subtle underlying caramel flavor. And best of all, no artificial, butterscotch weirdness.

    What’s your favorite childhood treat?

     

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    Saturday
    Jul192014

    Chocolate Biscotti

    I don’t usually like really crunchy cookies. Why did I make biscotti then?

    Well, I’ve also been looking for cookie recipes that start with something other than “cream the butter and sugar then beat in the eggs and vanilla”.

    Plus, apparently the rock hard biscotti that we typically find at coffee shops (that I find too hard to bother with) are a lot harder than they should be. One of the managers at work is an old world Italian dude and he said that these cookies, which are crunchy but still bite-able, are what biscotti are supposed to be. When you dip them in coffee they don’t fall apart, but you can also bite them without first having to soften them in espresso, or amaretto. Or espresso with amaretto in it.

     

    What you need

    **I made a double batch and used twice the amount of everything so the pics look a little different**

    • ½ cup pine nuts or slivered almonds or hazlenuts or maybe pistachios?
    • 1 ½  cups flour  (you can substitute up to 1 cup of flour with almond flour)
    • ¾ cups sugar
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • ¼  teaspoon salt
    • ¼  cup cocoa
    • 2 tbsp cold butter, cut into little pieces (don’t bother with butter if you use almond flour)
    • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 teaspoon Amaretto
    • 1 teaspoon Amaretto
    • ¾ cups chocolate chips

    What you gotta do

    I like toasty nuts. So, first thing I’m going to do is put the pine nuts in a dry pan over medium low.

    While those get toasty, start measuring the dry stuff into a big bowl. Don’t forget to shake the pan from time to time so that the nuts get toasty on all sides.

    Flour. Shake the pan. Sugar. Shake the pan. Baking powder and salt. Shake the pan.

    Sift the cocoa into the bowl to make sure all the little cocoa lumps get busted up.

    Shake the pan. Once the pine nuts are nice and golden toasty, set them aside to cool.

    Mix all the dry stuff together and then cut in the butter. Biscotti are traditionally made with ground almonds in there along with the flour, and no fat (butter, sweet, creamery butter), but since I’m not using the almonds, I need fat (butter, sweet, creamery butter).

    Cutting in the butter can be done with a pastry cutter, or forks, or knives. It’s the same thing you do when you’re making biscuits.

    In another bowl crack the eggs and add the Amaretto and the vanilla. And the Amaretto.

    Beat the eggs and Amaretto and vanilla and Amaretto together.

    Okay, so you know how when you make muffins, you toss the blueberries in a bit of flour to make sure they stick to the muffin batter? Along those lines… dump the chocolate chips and the cooled pine nuts into the egg mixture, and then pour it into the dry stuff.

    Wait. Preheat the oven now to 350.

    Since what we’re doing here is making a pastry type dough, we don’t want to mix it too much, since that makes gluten form and toughens the cookies. No one likes tough cookies. Mix just until things are starting to hold together and then dump it onto the counter in a big mess that’s half wet and sticky and half dry and crumbly. This is the same thing we did with the Welsh Cakes and you trusted me then, right? Right? Amaretto.

    Gently press the dry stuff into the sticky parts, and fold them over. Keep folding and pressing (while avoiding the urge to “knead” the dough) until it all comes together.

    Sorry about the perspective on those pics, but my hands were kinda messy.

    **I made a double recipe and cut my dough into 6. If you're just making a single, cut into 3.**

    Once the dough has come together, cut it into 6 wedges.

    Roll each wedge into a log about 8 or 9 inches long and press it into an oval that’s about 2 inches wide.

    If your dough is still really sticky (Amaretto), use cocoa, not flour on the counter.

    My dough was really sticky and I ended up with a lot of cocoa on the logs, so I brushed them with a bit of Amaretto. You could also brush them with beaten egg if you want a glossy look on the top.

    Bake the logs for 25 minutes, then set them on a rack to cool. My tiny one-room-sized air conditioner is in the bedroom. So I had the fan help them along with the whole cooling thing.

    Slice the logs into ½ to 1 inch thick slices on the diagonal. You should get a dozen or so from each log. And yes, you could stop here and just call these things cookies, but you couldn't call them "biscotti". Biscotti get their name from being twice baked (bi = two, cotte = cooked, that is your Latin lesson for the day).

    Now, you could evenly spread them out nicely so that air circulates around them, but fuck air space. I just got 6 dozen cookies on one baking sheet.

    I saw one site that suggested standing the slices up on edge but whoever wrote that obviously did not use Amaretto. Or bake them that way because seriously, wtf? Stand ½ inch thick slices of cookie on edge? Try it. Tell me if it works. Pics or it didn’t happen.

    Amaretto.

    Oh, and you know all of those little crumbly bits left on the cutting board?

    Whatever you do, don’t put them in a bowl, pour Amaretto over top and eat them like cereal. No pics. Didn’t happen.