ANNOUNCING: Change is part of life, and apparently, it's part of blogging, too. As of September 5, 2013, I'm merging The Virtual Goody Plate with Disco Mom Takes on the World and whatever else may henceforth spill from my fingertips (and kitchen), into one great new blog. I hope you'll join me there in exclaiming, "THIS IS AWESOMELAND."

Monday, February 27, 2012

Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel

 It was time for something sweet-salty and gooey.  I figured Bon Appétit had my number with this one.  But I was actually surprised that the final product was not quite the salty that I expected.  It's because they used unsalted nuts.  Don't know why, because salted would have been perfect (I noted it in my version below.)  Also they used honey in the caramel instead of the typical corn syrup.  In addition to being sweet, honey has kind of an extra-sweet flavor to it.  But I think salted nuts would balance it better. 

I feel like altering a Bon Appétit recipe tags me as "NOT SOPHISTICATED ENOUGH", but we all kind of knew that, didn't we?  I can't be what I'm not. But I can love my new camera.  And Butterscotch Blondies with Salted Peanut-Pretzel Caramel.

Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel (print recipe)
 Makes 40

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Peanut-Pretzel Caramel:
4 cups roasted lightly salted (or unsalted) peanuts
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup honey or light corn syrup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups 1 1/2"-wide thin twisted pretzels, coarsely crushed

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Line 13x9x2" metal baking pan with parchment paper, leaving 1" overhang on long sides of pan.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.  Stir butter in a medium skillet over medium heat until browned bits form at bottom of pan, 7-8 minutes.  Transfer to a medium bowl.  Add brown sugar.  Using an electric mixer, beat until well combined and mixture resembles wet sand, 2-3 minutes.  Add eggs and vanilla; beat until fluffy and well combined, about 2 minutes.  Add dry ingredients; beat until smooth (batter will be thick.)  Using an offset spatula, evenly spread batter in prepared pan.

2.  Bake blondie until golden brown, edges pull away from sides of pan, and a tester inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 20-25 minutes.  Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

3.  For the Peanut-Pretzel Caramel, preheat oven to 350.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spread peanuts over sheet in an even layer.  Bake, stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant, 5-7 minutes.  Set aside. 

4.  Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.  Increase heat; boil without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is deep amber, 12-15 minutes.  Add corn syrup or honey; return to a boil, stirring often, about 1 minute longer.  Add butter; stir until blended.  Add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously); whisk until smooth.  Stir in peanuts and pretzels.  Pour over cooled blondie.  Chill until cool, about 30 minutes. 

5.  Run a knife around short sides of pan to release blondie.  Using parchment-paper overhang, lift from pan.  Cut lengthwise into 4 strips.  Cut each strip crosswise into 10 bars. 

Recipe from Bon Appétit, December 2011

Friday, February 24, 2012

Genevieve's French Bread

I'm in this Dinner Swap group.  Maybe you've heard about it.  Every time it's my cooking day I wonder why I'm doing it.  Then the other three nights, when a hot dinner arrives in Gladware containers, I remember the many reasons.

Anyway.  There are eight of us in the group, making two groups of four, which rotate each month.  One month, when I was not in her group, I had two separate reports of the DIVINE French bread my friend Genevieve had made for dinner.  Well.  I gave her a call straight away to get the recipe.

She was at the doctor's office or something and said she'd have to email it to me later.  But that I would need one of these, which I ordered tout de suite.  Then within the hour I received a text from her - the recipe was so simple and easy she could remember it, and texted it to me on the spot.

Keep in mind, this was a family recipe that she got from her sister-in-law.  And as we know, family recipes are famous for leaving out crucial details.  So the first time I made it, I called Genevieve at least four times to find out things like, how long does it rise, what consistency should the dough be, how many slashes in the bread, etc.  Details.

This bread is so easy it's almost embarrassing.  Start to finish under 2 hours for sure, you could even do it between an hour and hour-and-a-half.  You just need the pan.  And my flushed-out recipe with all the proper instructions!
 Genevieve's French Bread (print recipe)
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 T active dry yeast
2 T sugar
2 tsp salt
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg white, lightly beaten

1.  Combine the water, yeast and a pinch of sugar.  Allow to proof for a few minutes.  In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast mixture, sugar, salt and flour and mix/knead for about 5 minutes until well combined.  Dough will be very wet & sticky.

2.  Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and allow to rise for 15 minutes (it rises quickly but this is flexible - if you don't get to it for 20-25 minutes it will still be OK.)

3.  Preheat oven to 450.

4.  Punch down dough and shape into two oblong loaves, about 13 inches long each.  You will need a lot of flour on your hands and work surface to do this.  Place loaves in perforated French bread pan.  Using sharp clean kitchen shears, snip about six diagonal slashes in the bread, about 1/2-inch deep.  Brush loaves with beaten egg white.  Cover lightly with a greased piece of plastic wrap and allow to rise for 15 minutes (this time is not so flexible - you don't want them to over-rise and spill out of the pan.)

5.  Bake at 450 for 15 minutes or until medium golden brown.  Remove and allow to cool.  Makes two AMAZING loaves!

Recipe from Genevieve's sister-in-law

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

Happy Pancake Day!  As you know Mardi Gras = National Pancake Day.  And the entire week before lent = Pancake Week.  Which is usually celebrated here with a pancake-a-day.  Reality is, I have the recipes to try, and I made some of them, but I just couldn't pull it off in time this year.  Sorry for the downer.

But the good news is, I have one for today, and it's so awesome.  One of those many recipes that make me smack my forehead wondering why I never thought of it before.  If you're only going to make one pancake today, or this week, this is an awfully good one to go with!

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes (print recipe)
(Makes 8 to 10 pancakes)


2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 T canola oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Cinnamon Filling:
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 T ground cinnamon

Cream Cheese Glaze:
4 T butter
2 oz. cream cheese
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1.  Prepare pancake batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk in the buttermilk, oil, and eggs, just until batter is moistened (a few small lumps are fine.)

2.  For the filling, in a medium bowl, mix butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Pour filling into a pastry bag with a small tip or a squeeze bottle with a small tip.  Set aside.  This should be about the consistency of toothpaste.

3.  For the glaze, in a medium, microwave-safe bowl, heat butter and cream cheese until melted.  Whisk together until smooth; whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla; set aside. 

4.  Heat griddle or large skillet over medium-low heat.  Spray with nonstick cooking spray if necessary.  Scoop about 3/4 cup batter onto the skillet.  When pancake has started to cook a little, swirl on the cinnamon filling. 
 When bubbles begin to appear on the surface, flip carefully with a thin spatula, and cook until browned on the underside.  Transfer to a baking sheet to keep warm in the oven.  When ready to serve, spoon warmed glaze onto the top of each pancake. 

*Save extra filling for next time.

Recipe adapted from The Baker Chick

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Red Hot Cinnamon Bread

 Hey, friends.  Happy Valentine's Day.  I've got some love for you.

You remembered to stock up on red hots, right?  If not, run out and hunt some down - in some places, this is the only time of year you can find them! 

Why do I need them, you ask?  Well, for starters, there's Cinnamon Candy Cider and Red Hot Red Velvet Whoopie Pies.  They also make great sugar cookie decorations, pancake add-ins, or soak them in hot water to make Cinnamon Tea for a tea party, hello.

And, natch, there's this bread.  I just love fun bread.  Because once you eat your fill warm from the oven, you can always use what's left for toast, French toast, or bread pudding.  You cannot go wrong with great bread.  This one is studded with fabulously red Red Hot candies, which melt into cinnamon gooey goodness while it cooks.  Amazing!
 Red Hot Cinnamon Bread (print recipe)
Makes 1 loaf or 9 buns (I have two loaves because I doubled it)
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup softened butter
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 cups King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup cinnamon Red Hot candies

1.  Combine all dough ingredients except candies and mix and knead together - by hand, mixer or bread machine - until you have a soft, pliable dough.

2.  Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 45 minutes to one hour or until full and round.  To test, poke dough with index finger approximately 1/2 inch deep.  If the impression remains, the dough has sufficiently risen.

3.  Gently deflate the dough, and pat into a 8" x 10" rectangle.  Knead in the cinnamon candies in 3 stages, using about 1/3 of the candies each time.

4.  Shape the dough into a loaf and place in a greased or parchment lined 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan.  Tent the pan loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap.  Allow to rise for 40 to 50 minutes.  Dough should just crest the top of the pan.

5.  If making buns, divide the dough evenly into 9 pieces and shape into smooth, round balls.  Place buns in greased 9x9" square pan.  Tent the pan loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap.  Allow to
rise for 30 to 40 minutes.  Buns will be full, puffy and barely touching one another.

6.  Bake bread (or buns) in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes (20-25 for buns).  If bread browns too quickly on top, tent loosely with aluminum foil.  Place pan over parchment or foil lined cookie sheet to catch any drips of hot candy.  Bread is done when internal temperature reads 190 degrees on an instant thermometer.

7.  Remove bread from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Place rack over a piece of parchment to catch any drips of hot candy.  Candy will set as bread cools.
Recipe from King Arthur Flour

Don't feel like cinnamon for Valentine's Day?  You could also try:
French Toast Baked in Honey-Pecan Sauce (from my sexiest cookbook!) 
Strawberry Flip Cookies
Red Velvet Cookies

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pumpkin Biscuits

I know this recipe seems out of season, and it is.  But I post 'em as I make 'em.  And I made these for Dinner Swap a few weeks ago, so I thought I'd post them.

Speaking of Dinner Swap, I think it's partially responsible for my decrease in frequency here.  I just haven't been baking much since November, and maybe even a gradual decline since September.  It's baffled me, but I think part of it is that cooking day is so long, intense, and tiring that on the other days I'm just not drawn to the kitchen like I used to be.  I can't figure out another reason.  I don't think I'm any more busy than before, but it seems like there is less time to bake these days.  Or maybe less reason.  But I will still post when I do, never fear!  I hope it's just a phase.

I made these biscuits to go with a really good sausage & lentil soup - they are a great bread-ish side dish when you need something a little different, or a barely sweet-and-spicy flavor profile (we get a lot of cornbread and white bread and rolls in the Swap.)  My kids loved them, and as a bonus, we ate the rest for breakfast!

Pumpkin Biscuits
Makes 16 to 18
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 T packed brown sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into thin slices or grated
1 (15 oz.) can unsweetened pumpkin

1.  Preheat oven to 425.  Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment.

2.  In a large bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices.  With a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture looks like cornmeal.  Stir in the pumpkin and mix until you form a soft dough.

3.  On a well-floured surface, and with well-floured hands, pat out the dough to 1/2-inch thick.  Using a floured, sharp knife or floured round biscuit cutter, cut into 2-inch squares or rounds.  Place on cookie sheet and cook in the center of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

Recipe from my sister Tona
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