Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tís the Season for baking; Two new recipes from Bon Appétit


I decided to mix it up this year and try some new cookie recipes.   Much to my delight the December issue of Bon Appétit was filled with cookie recipes.    I chose two and dove right in.  
FYI - When I cook, I tend to use recipes as a guide, but when it comes to baking it is best to follow the recipe closely.     

Here are the two recipes I tried......

Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel


Adding pretzels to the caramel gives these over-the-top bars a crunchy texture and salty-sweet finish.

Makes: 40

 

INGREDIENTS

Blondie

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

Peanut-Pretzel caramel

  • 4 cups roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 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

·         Special equipment

A 13x9x2" metal baking pan

 

PREPARATION

Blondie

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking pane with parchment paper, leaving a 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 or regular spatula, evenly spread batter in prepared pan.
  • 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.

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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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. DO AHEAD: Chill for up to 1 week in an airtight container. Bring to room temperature before serving.

My notes: 
  • Be careful to really watch the caramel; once sugar heats up it can burn quickly.   Mine was “deep amber” at 7 minutes and I probably should’ve taken it off the heat at 6 minutes.   
  • I would recommend cutting the bars into small bite-size pieces rather than brownie-size squares.

Verdict:  I thought these bars were really good, but they were really rich and filling.  This can be good and bad – I was able to refrain from eating a whole bunch of them, which is good for my waistline; but on the other hand I like having little snacky cookies laying around that I can snack on for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (hey, it’s the holidays which makes cookies for breakfast okay).   I’m undecided if I would make these again or not.    I will say they were a big hit with the various friends that I gave them to, so this is definitely a good one to make and share.  

Almond-Oat Lace Cookies

When quickly cooked on the stove-top and then spooned onto baking sheets, this simple batter bakes into delicate lacy crisps.

Makes: about 24

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup whole natural unsalted almonds with skins
  • 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

 

PREPARATION

  • Arrange racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 350°. Line 2 rimless baking sheets with parchment paper. Pulse almonds and oats in a food processor until coarse meal forms. Set aside.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add both sugars and honey; whisk until blended and sugar dissolves, 1–2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add nut mixture, flour, and salt; stir until well blended.
  • Spoon batter by 2-teaspoon portions onto baking sheets, spacing 2 1/2" apart. Using your fingertips, pat cookies down to 1/4"-high rounds; push in any jagged edges to form smooth circles. Bake, rotating sheets after 6 minutes, until dark golden brown and cookies spread out into a thin layer, 10-–12 minutes. Slide cookies on parchment onto a wire rack and let cool.
  • Using a pastry brush, brush half of each cookie with melted chocolate. Let stand until the chocolate is set, about 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight in between sheets of parchment or waxed paper.
My Notes: 
  • Be careful when pulsing the almonds in a food processor as mine ended up too fine.   I would just pulse the almonds and oatmeal slightly so the cookies have more texture.  
  • Start keeping an eye on the cookies after about 8-9 minutes.  Mine ended up a little more done that I would’ve liked.
  • Make sure you space the cookies far enough apart on the cookie sheet before baking as they really like to spread out. 

My verdict:  I have made these in the past without the oatmeal and with sliced almonds and I think I liked those better.   These seemed a little greasy, like there was too much butter.    I thought they were just okay and probably won’t make them again.   

What are your favorite holiday cookies?    And how many do you bake?   Some people go all out with 5-10 different kinds and I'm curious what your cookie tradition is? 

I'm off to go make chocolate-covered pretzels and peanut brittle, which are my husband's two favorites.

Cheers! 

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