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Archive for December, 2011

A crunchy crust, a gooey caramel layer and a ganache topping--the perfect toffee bar at last.

By Laurie A. Perry
I’ve been making toffee bars since I was nine years old–but not the same toffee bar. I’ve tried a dozen recipes by that name, and I started numbering the ones I liked enough to make twice. Toffee bar number one had coconut and brown sugar. Toffee bar number two had a brown sugar and butter crust and a topping of melted Hershey’s milk chocolate (milk chocolate–no wonder that one fell by the wayside). Number three, from an ancient Better Homes and Gardens cookie cookbook, calls for a sweetened condensed milk filling and a fudge frosting. I liked it–and Mel really liked it–but it never quite worked.

So I’ve been tinkering with the recipe, and I think the current version is pretty darn good. Try it; see what you think. I’m taking a batch to a New Year’s Day gathering. Because, you know, there just aren’t enough sweets this time of year.

GANACHE-TOPPED TOFFEE BARS

Crust
2 cups flour
1 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Filling
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Ganache topping
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup cream

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×11-inch baking pan with foil.*
Make the crust: stir together the dry ingredients. Melt the butter; add the vanilla to the butter, and mix both into the dry ingredients. Pat the mixture into the prepared pan; it will be soft and easy to spread out. Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned.
While the crust is baking, make the filling. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a medium saucepan, add the butter and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about five minutes, stirring to keep it from burning. The mixture will thicken. Add the vanilla.

Pour the filling over the baked crust, making sure to cover all of the crust. Bake for another 20 minutes. It will bubble and turn a lovely golden brown (toffee-colored, in fact).
Remove from the oven and let cool for about half an hour. Make the ganache: break up the bittersweet chocolate and place in a heavy-bottomed saucepan; pour in the cream, and put the pan over low heat. Melt the chocolate, stirring. When the mixture is nice and smooth and glossy, it’s ready to pour gently over the first two layers. Once again, go for coverage–you want the ganache to cover the entire surface.

Chill. Remove the confection from the pan, using the overhanging foil as a handle. Cut into bars. These are rich, so don’t make the pieces too large.

*Maida Heatter’s fool-proof method for lining a pan with aluminum foil: Turn the pan upside down. Tear off a large piece of foil and press it over the pan, so you have the basic shape. Then press the foil into the pan, using a dish towel to keep the foil from tearing.

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Today we have a guest post from our nephew Ryan Moore, who came up with this yummy quinoa dish. It’s a nice change from all of the rich foods of the winter holidays, and it’s very pretty too.

By Ryan Moore
Quinoa is a wonderful, soft, light, fluffy, grainlike seed that can easily be tossed into salads or serve as a replacement for other grains. It’s so easy to prepare too. My mother, in her explorations of healthy gluten-free alternatives to wheat, introduced me to quinoa, and it quickly became a favorite.

The ingredients for a simple, delicious and healthy salad.


I started out thinking I would create something like tabouleh with it, but the homogeneous nature of traditional tabouleh doesn’t suit fluffy quinoa, so I broke it into two parts: the warm nutty quinoa and a delicious seasonal mixture of pomegranate and cucumber. I liked that combination a lot, but I thought it needed something just a little richer and sweeter than the traditional olive oil and lemon juice as a dressing, so I came up with a yogurt-honey dressing.

Quinoa Cucumber-Pomegranate Salad

Quinoa:
•1 cup dry quinoa
•1tbs butter or ghee
•1/2tsp ground cumin (whole Cumin can also be used)
•2 pods black cardamom, ground
•1 clove garlic, pressed
•2 cups water
•Salt to taste

Pomegranate-Cucumber salad:
•1 pomegranate
•½ English cucumber, or 2-3 Persian cucumbers, diced
•½ red onion, quartered and finely sliced
•flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
•1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
•juice from 1 lemon, plus some of the lemon zest
•1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste

Yogurt-Honey dressing:
•Greek yogurt
•Mint, chiffonade or finely chop
•Honey to taste

Preparation: Heat butter/ghee (I like to use ghee because it tolerates high) in a pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add the cardamom, cumin and salt. Stir or swirl that together; it should become fragrant almost immediately–just make sure it doesn’t burn. Add the pressed garlic and when you can smell the garlic, pour in the dry quinoa. Stir that around for 30-60 seconds. Add water, cover, bring to a boil and then simmer until done.
While the quinoa is cooking, mix together the yogurt, mint and honey; set aside. You’ll notice there are no amounts given–that’s because your taste buds must be the guideline. Start with a cup of yogurt and a dollop of honey, plus a tablespoon of mint chiffonade. Add more of any single ingredient until you have a flavor you love.
Separate out the pomegranate kernels. If you’ve never done this before, it’s easiest to completely submerge the pomegranate in water, split or cut it in half, and then liberate the kernels (yes, I do mean liberate; they are delicate). The pith will float to the surface and the kernels will fall to the bottom. Combine the pomegranate kernels and the remaining ingredients in a bowl and toss them together gently.
As far as presentation goes, the only important guideline is the separation of the three components. For single servings, simply place a serving spoon’s worth of quinoa into a bowl or onto a plate, top with a generous dollop of mint yogurt and top with the pomegranate-cucumber mixture.
These great colors and flavors make a fabulous presentation
Hazel served it at her holiday party in a large shallow bowl, mounding the quinoa in the bowl and then creating a well in the center for the yogurt sauce, with a festive wreath of the pomegranate-cucumber salad circling it.

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