Monday, August 31, 2009

Recipe: Crisp Toffee Bars

I've had this recipe for as long as I can remember, and have no idea where I got it. Haven't made it in years, but when I was flipping through my recipe box, I came across it and remembered how much I love these things.

Yield: one 11" x 17" jelly roll pan
Time: 10-15 minutes prep; 25 minutes baking at 350F

  • 1 c. (2 sticks) of butter
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. sifted flour
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts
  1. thoroughly cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla
  2. add flour, about half a cup at a time, and mix well between additions
  3. stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts
  4. press the dough into the jelly roll pan
  5. bake for 25 minutes until golden brown
  6. cut into bars while still warm, then let cool completely before removing from the pan
Note: if you use a smaller pan, the bars will be thicker, and you'll probably have to add a few minutes to the bake time.

Recipe: Hot Pepper Jelly

Last night, I made a small batch of blackberry jelly with the last of the harvest. Half a pint of blackberries, plus almost a cup of sugar, plus a little splash of water was enough, after a 10 minute boil to make it gel when it cooled without using any pectin. I got about a teacup's worth of jelly after running it through a fine strainer. Dee-lish on Sally Lunn or rye bread.

We have lots of peppers growing in our vegetable garden -- cayennes and sweet banana peppers -- so today I decided to try my hand at making hot pepper jelly. It worked out just fine.

Yield: 3 cups
Time: 10 minutes cooking; 10 minutes to can

  • 1/8 cup of finely minced fresh hot peppers (I used cayenne, but jalapeno or serrano would work as well)
  • 3/8 cup of finely minced fresh sweet pepper (I used banana, but bell is fine, too)
  • 3/4 cup of white or cider vinegar
  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 1 packet (1.75 oz.) of pectin
  • 1-2 drops of green food coloring
  1. sterilize your mason jars, and have at the ready ring tops (used or new) and unused lids
  2. mix all the ingredients in a pot and bring them to a boil
  3. whisk in the pectin and food coloring, let it go for another minute or so, then turn off the heat
  4. pour into your mason jars, place the lids on, and screw down the ring tops fairly loosely
  5. boil the jars, submerged, for 8-10 minutes, and remove them to cool (when the lids "pop," screw the ring tops down tightly)
Notes: The food coloring really is optional, and you could use red if you prefer. It's just that without it, it sort of looks like bits of pepper in light corn syrup. I used a mix of both red and green cayennes and yellow and orange banana peppers, simply because that's what I happened to have on hand. The minced pepper tends to float in the jars, so you may want to flip the mason jars upside down, then right side up, every 15 minutes or so as the jelly cools, just to get them distributed a bit better throughout the jars.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blackberry Syrup or Jam

Raspberry season is basically over, except for a few stragglers on some "everbearing" variety we just started this year, but blackberry season is still going.

The blackberries just grow wild along the wood margin out back. They don't keep very long, even in the fridge, so every time I get about a pint or so, I make it into syrup. Sometimes it sets into jam when it cools, hence the title of this blog entry.

Add 1/3 to 1/2 a cup of sugar to a pint of blackberries and simmer on medium-low for about 20 minutes after it comes to a slow boil. Strain out the pulp, and let it cool.

I don't have cheesecloth, so I just use a big strainer. Some of the seeds get through, but they float, and can be skimmed off the top, which I hadn't yet done with this still hot off the stove batch. This pint of blackberries yielded not quite a teacup full of syrup, or jam/jelly, if that's what it turns into when it cools.

If it stays syrup, it's great on pancakes, waffles, or vanilla ice cream. Might be good on chocolate ice cream too, inasmuch as chocolate goes well with raspberries. If it gels, then it's good on toast, for use in the center of "thumbprint" cookies, or even cooked further into hard candy.

Apple Bars

Yield: 4 dozen
Time: 20 minutes prep, 20 minutes bake at 350F, 30 minutes cooling before glazing

  • 1 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 small to medium sized apples, peeled and cut into approx. 1/4" dice
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
  • cinnamon glaze

  1. spray a 13" x 9" baking dish with non-stick spray, and heat the oven to 350F.
  2. mix the oil, egg, milk, and sugar
  3. stir in the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, and spices
  4. stir in the apples and nuts
  5. spread it out in the baking dish, and bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick or bamboo skewer comes out clean from the center
  6. let it cool for half an hour, in the pan, on a rack
  7. mix your glaze: 1 c. powdered (confectioner's) sugar, 1 tsp. of cinnamon, and 1-1/2 Tbs. of water
  8. drizzle the cinnamon glaze over the bars, while still in the baking dish
  9. let cool completely, then slice into bars

Notes: This recipe has a moist, but fairly light texture, like good gingerbread. If you don't use air conditioning in the summer, and it's humid, you may want to refrigerate them to get the glaze to set; otherwise, it stays a bit sticky.

Garden Update: Eggplant

My veggie garden has been yielding a lot of produce lately: tomatoes, squash, cayennes, banana peppers, and eggplant. The canteloupe and corn have sort of been a bust, and the cucumber vine died after it gave me two decent cucumbers.

Lately, the big producers have been the eggplant. I sent my other half in to the office today with three of them to give his business partner, who loves them. We do too, but after making stuffed baked eggplant (sort of my own twist on the recipe from the 1950s Fannie Farmer's cookbook, adding ground beef and cayenne), eggplant disk "pizzas," eggplant parmesan, and ratatouille, we can afford to give a few away. There are plenty more that could be picked any time within the next week, before they get so big that the skin becomes tough.

Oddly enough, I've always made ratatouille without consulting a recipe, but when out of curiosity, I checked Tyler Florence's recipe for it on the Food Network site, I was flabbergasted. My recipe is virtually identical to his, except that I don't use anchovy, and I don't sprinkle it with balsamic vinegar at the end. Heck, I even cook the veggie components in the same order he does! So . . . I've been doing it right all these years. Who knew?

I'm afraid I have no pictures of any of my eggplant dishes. One, it didn't occur to me to take any. Two, by the time eggplant gets cooked, it takes on a rather unappealing grayish-brown color, anyway.