Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Recipe #103: Christmas Chocolate Bars...aka, Shortbread with a Filling of Cream Cheese, Chocolate, Almond Extract & Walnuts

I have had this recipe for 28 years, and it was given to me by my boss's daughter, who had just come on board with United Airlines back in 1987.   At the time, I was working in San Francisco at our maintenance base.  The recipe is not really holiday specific...I have made this at all times of the year.  It is a great cookie to bring to a pot luck, to a cookie exchange, to someone's house for dessert.  The filling is very rich...but rich, too me, is relative.   You can slice these as small, or as large, as you want to...they cut beautifully.  I have cut bars 3x4 inches and wrapped them in foil with a ribbon to give as gifts.  Except for making the filling, this is a one mixer bowl recipe...very easy, and very rewarding...you will really enjoy it...now, let's bake...

2 cups chocolate chips                                         1 cup sugar
8 oz cream cheese                                                1 tsp baking powder
1 small can evaporated milk                                2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup chopped walnuts                                        2 eggs
2 tsp pure almond extract                                    3 cups flour 

Combine the chocolate chips, cream cheese and evaporated milk and cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in the walnuts and almond extract.  Combine rest of ingredients in large mixer bowl.  Blend until coarse crumbs.  Be careful with this...you don't want a dough...coarse crumbs the size of peas..give or take.  Press 1/2 mixture into a 9x13 pan (you don't need to grease it).  Spread with chocolate mixture.  Sprinkle rest of crumbs over filling.  Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes, or until crumbs are just turning brown.  Bon appetit!  

this has gone almost too far for crumbs, but I can break up with my fingers...

first layer gets pat in with half the dough...pour the chocolate mixer and spread over whole pan next...crumble layer on top with other half of dough...no matter that it doesn't fill in everywhere...


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Recipe #102: Butternut Snowballs

Who doesn't like these cookies?  Well, I guess those who don't like nuts. This recipe came from a cookbook my mom had back in the early 60's, and I have made these cookies a zillion times.  The only expense is the pecans, as the recipe takes two cups, and not two cups of halves, but two cups after pulverizing them.  You can make the dough, flatten it on a piece of plastic, secure in a freezer Ziploc and throw in the freezer.  And, if you bake them and keep them in a container, they will keep at least a week.  They are a delicate cookie, and were a favorite of my late husband.   Now, let's bake...

2 sticks butter                                                      2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar                                                       1/2 tsp salt
2 cups finely chopped pecans                           2 tsp vanilla
powdered sugar

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy.  Sift flour with the salt and add to the creamed mixture, blending thoroughly.  Add pecans and mix well.  For better results, place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, shape into a square and refrigerate a few hours.  Shape into 1" balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake in a slow oven...325, for about 20 minutes, or until JUST starting to brown.  Cool, then roll in powdered sugar.  If you would like to make the snowballs chocolate, add 1/4 cup cocoa to the dough and bake as directed.   Bon appetit!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Recipe #101: Toasted Cashew and Bacon Brittle...Totally Sublime!

I love cashews...have all my life.  I love bacon...have all my life.  This brittle recipe joins all the hype of putting bacon on everything.   It's addictive, that's for sure, and once you start, you won't be able to stop....

1 cup raw cashews                                                    8-9 pieces of bacon
2 cups sugar                                                              3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Heat oven to 400.  While oven is heating, place cashews on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, stirring once or twice, until deep brown, about 10-12 minutes.  Cool slightly on a cutting board, then coarsely chop and set aside.  When oven is ready, place bacon on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until deep brown and well done, about 15 minutes.  You can also brown the bacon the old fashioned way using a fry pan.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate to cool.  Crumble.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.   Set aside.  Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan over high heat and stir until sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes.  Cook, swirling the pan occasionally (do not stir) until mixture is deep amber and registers 350 on a candy thermometer, about 10-15 minutes.  Immediately remove the pan from the heat.  Carefully add cashews, bacon and salt to the caramel and stir to combine.  Immediately pour mixture onto the center of the prepared baking sheet.  Let sit at room temperature until hardened, about 20 minutes.  Let cool completely, then break into shards.   Bon appetit!

Toast the cashews in the oven...

Cook the bacon on a large rimmed heavy cookie sheet...

No splatters from a pan...

OMG...This is great!