Sunday, December 5, 2010

Peasant Soup

This is one of those soups that was made for me in my childhood, but I have not had in a long time. It was also one of Emily's favorites - and it's nice to feel a little closer to her memory some days. While in the past, I've made vegetarian versions, this is the first time I've made it with the pork it calls for. I have to say, I'm pretty blown away. The perfect hearty soup for a cold, blustery wintry day.

Peasant Soup
from The Silver Palate

1 1/2 c beans (canned or cooked dry beans)
4 Tbs bacon fat (or butter)
1 c finely chopped yellow onions
3 leeks, white part only, thoroughly cleaned and thinly sliced
2 celery ribs, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 tsp dry thyme
1 bay leaf
8 c chicken stock
3 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 ham hock
1/2 small white cabbage, shredded
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1.2 c chopped Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Melt bacon fat in large heavy soup pot (our cast-iron dutch oven was great for this). Add onion, leeks, celery and carrots and cook, covered over low heat until the vegetables are tender and lightly colored, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the thyme bay leaf and a grinding of black pepper, and pour in the stock. Add parsnips and ham hock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 40 minutes.Remove ham hock and allow to cool slightly. Cut the meat off the bone into chunks and return meat to the pot.

Add cabbage, garlic and parsley and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Taste, correct seasoning and serve immediately.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Brussel Sprouts and Whole Grain Crostini

I don't recall ever being offered Brussels sprouts as a vegetable option as a kid. I'm not sure if my parents refused to even try to wage a PR campaign against the sadly maligned vegetable, or if they themselves were victims of poorly prepared Brussels sprouts. This ain't your momma's Brussels sprouts. Or if they were, I'd like to shake your mom's hand. I was introduced to the transformative power of bacon on Brussels sprouts at DC's Central restaurant where we and our friends thought the sprouts were so delicious, we literally ordered another serving. Here, Mr. P has called on Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" (a great cookbook to have on hand, by the way) to recreate some of that magic, and his attempt was a great success! Cut the sprouts as small as you are able without them disintegrating for maximum deliciousness. Someday, I'd like to try this roasted or braised with whole sprouts, but this makes for a tasty and surprisingly quick side of vege. Mr. P had the brilliant notion of toasting some whole grain baguette under the broiler with a bit of olive oil and salt to accompany this. So simple, so delicious!

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

3-5 slices of uncooked bacon, chopped
1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut into quarters
1/4 c of water
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the bacon in a large skillet until crisp over med-high heat. Add the sprouts and a 1/4 c of water to the skillet. Reduce heat and cook for about 5 minutes until sprouts soften. Raise heat, and cook off the remaining water - cooking for another 5-10 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and serve.

Whole Grain Crostini

1 whole grain baguette
Few Tbs of good-quality olive oil

Preheat Broiler. Slice baguette into thin slices. Brush with olive oil and dust with sea (or other) salt. Broil for 1-2 minutes (be sure to keep an eye on them as they burn quickly!) until they reach a nice golden brown. You can jazz this up with cheese, herbs or garlic also, if desired.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Green Tea with Mint

This is such a simple thing, but it's a fabulous treat on a hot day. All you need is your favorite green tea, hot water and some mint. And a little sweetener if you feel so inclined.

Green Tea with Mint
2 green tea bags

bunch of fresh mint, washed

4 c hot water
optional - sweetener of your choice, to taste

Place tea bags and mint in large heat-resistant bowl. Pour water (just under the boiling temp), over the tea and mint and allow to steep for a few minutes. Remove tea bags and allow to cool. When sufficiently cool, place in your favorite container and chill in the fridge. This is a great basic recipe to play with. Try this with lemongrass, lemon, pineapple, whatever your favorite flavor combination. are.

Hot time, summer and Tzadziki

It's been a particularly miserable summer in DC, and the kitchen has sadly, been very lightly used. There are, however, a few summer favorites I keep coming back to that require little if no time around anything hot. Tzadziki, a middle eastern salad (or spread) of yogurt and cucumber is one of my favorite no-heat summer dishes. Whip some up, spread it on your favorite pita and add your favorite protein (grilled chicken is the favorite here) and lettuce and you're good to go for one great summer meal.This is also a great way to use some summer garden bounty (container or otherwise) - like my wee cucumbers here. There is nothing wee about the amount of mint I have in the garden, so I like to use a heavy hand with it.

adapted from Deborah Madison's
Vegetarian Cooking

2 cups Greek yogurt (do 0% if you must, but it will taste so much better with 2% or whole)

2 c cucumber chopped (about 1 large or 2 small or 4 teeny tiny)

salt and white pepper to taste

2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp dried dill (if you have fresh, use 2 tsp, chopped)
1 tbs chopped mint leaves
2 tbs white wine vinegar

1 tbs olive oil

Seed and chop the cucumber. Place in a colander gently toss with a few pinches of salt. Let sit for 30 minutes (trust me, wait the 30 minutes. This will dry your cukes out so you don't get the dreaded slimy cucumbers or an overly-watery sauce). After the 30 min. have passed, wring the cukes out with a clean tea cloth or napkin. Place in bowl.

Crush garlic with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle and add to bowl. Add dill, mint, vinegar and additional salt or white pepper to taste. Mix together and drizzle olive oil on top right before serving.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Baked Salmon with Coconut Rice

I don't often prepare salmon at home as Mr. P has a rather strong aversion to the fish after having it poorly prepared most of the times he's had it. However, when I saw that there was fresh, wild-caught Coho salmon on sale at the grocery store, I couldn't help but get a pound, as it is one of my favorite fishes. Fortunately, I lucked out in finding a fabulous recipe that even the salmon-averse Mr. P enjoyed and suprisingly, brought him back for seconds. It was so in demand in fact, that there was nothing to photograph when all was said and done.

This is definitely one of my favorite ways to have salmon. Lightly flavored but satisfyingly filling with the slight sweet of the marinade and creaminess of the rice. Serve with steamed broccoli and cauliflower like we did, or incorporate your own favorite vege. Save a little of the marinade to pour overtop of your plate. If feeling particularly bold, you can even bake the salmon on a cedar plank as they did in the original recipe. Not willing to wait the 4 hours for the plank to soak, I prepared this without the plank to still delicious results.

Baked Salmon with Coconut Rice
adapted from Cookie via

1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 a large lemon
1 pound salmon fillet
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup canned coconut milk
1 cup jasmine rice
Salt to taste

1 oil baking dish
2 Preheat oven to 500°F.
3 In a bowl, combine the syrup, mustard, soy sauce, and lime juice. Add the fish; let it marinate for 10 minutes.
4 In a saucepan, bring the broth and coco­nut milk to a boil.
5 Stir in the rice. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, 20 minutes.
6 Lay the fish on the plank, skin side down. Sprinkle it with salt; drizzle it with marinade.
7 Bake until the thickest part is still springy, 12 to 15 minutes.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Asparagus Coins

I love learning new things about food and cooking. One of the ways we Pleasants go about learning about these things is through cookbooks. I have a rather long list of cookbooks in my library queue, and when we really fall in love with something, we'll buy it for ourselves. One of the best of these finds recently has been Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc.I was a great admirer of his French Laundry cookbook, but found the scale and technique rather daunting. More of a 'look but don't touch' feeling as far as I was concerned. However, like the restaurant of the same name Ad Hoc caters to family-style gatherings with approachable but impeccable food. The Mr. and I love how almost every recipe in this book teaches us something new about cooking, technique, particularly the 'light bulb moments' the book shares about simple, obvious, smack-your-forehead 'why didn't I think of that?' tidbits about cooking.

One of these was sharing a way to prepare the Asparagus coins pictured here. Not only did it suggest a method of preparing asparagus we had never tried before (coins?!?) but also, while fresh asparagus can be unwieldy and difficult or time consuming to cut individually, wrapping them up in a bundle with a rubber band and taking them as a group to a mandolin is a wonderfully easy and precise way to prepare these beauties. Duh!

Enjoy these on their own as a side dish or toss them into a salad like we did.

Asparagus Coins
adapted from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc
1 1/2 lbs thin asparagus, with ends snapped and 'coined' (technique above) plus tips
3 Tbs olive oil
a small handful of fresh chive
a small handful of fresh parsley
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Heat oil and herbs in frying pan over medium heat with the tips, swirling ingredients together for about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the coins and cook until the edges look cooked but the centers are still raw. Add 3 Tbs water and cook until the asparagus is tender, another 1 1/2 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and enjoy.

Chicken Milanese with Brown Butter Orzo and Spring Greens

I love pouring through cooking magazines, websites, blogs, books ...just about anything I can get my hands on. In so many magazines, they give you preset menu ideas, sometimes helpful sometimes limiting. I admit it's rare that I actually go through and make the entire collection of dishes they recommend for a meal (there are just so many other good ideas out there!) but I hadn't worked with orzo or made chicken palliards before, so I thought I'd give this a shot. The orzo especially was a revelation. You prepare it much like you would a risotto - which initially frightened me a bit. However, though you saute it a bit first like a risotto, it cooks up in just 15 minutes, which is fabulous! None of that tedious stirring either. Glad to have gotten over my fears and given this a try. It's definitely now a household favorite.

We also served this with our very own container-grown greens. It's the first time we've tried growing anything besides herbs and I must confess to being proud of our success. We'll see how the rest of our container 'garden' fares for the rest of the season, but it's definitely off to a good start!

Chicken Milanese with Brown Butter Orzo and Mixed Spring Greens

3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon minced shallots
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
Dash of sugar
2 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 cups packed spring mix salad greens
2 lemon wedges

1. Combine juice, vinegar, shallots, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and sugar; let stand 15 minutes.
2. Place chicken between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet.
3. Combine breadcrumbs and cheese in a shallow dish. Place flour in a shallow dish. Place egg white in a shallow dish. Sprinkle chicken with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Dredge chicken in flour; dip in egg white. Dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Place chicken on a wire rack; let stand 5 minutes.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick (I prefer to use cast iron) skillet over medium-high heat (or med-low heat for the cast iron - don't let the pan get too hot - you can see evidence of this wee mistake above on the 'well' browned chicken ;) Add chicken; cook 3 minutes. Turn chicken over; cook 2 minutes or until browned and done.
5. Add 2 teaspoons oil and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to shallot mixture; stir with a whisk. Add greens; toss gently. Place 1 chicken breast half and 1 cup salad on each of 2 plates. Serve with lemon wedges.

Banana "Soft Serve"

Hardly a new innovation of the innumerate creative and food-wise minds shaping the blogosphere, but one that I only just finally got around to trying. So simple, so refreshing, why hadn't I done this before? Thicker than a smoothie, looser than ice cream, this is much more like a deliciously refreshing and natural take on a frostie. Especially now that the mercury is practically boiling, it's a perfect way to end a hot summer day. Don't feel limited to the ingredients here, by the by. It's delicious with other frozen fruits mixed in too.

Banana "Soft Serve"

2 frozen bananas
1 Tbs of cocoa powder
1 Tbs of peanut butter
splash of milk (or coconut milk or milk alternative)

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until creamy. Scoop out and enjoy!

Krepsua- Pannukakkua - Finnish Oven Pancake

This beloved breakfast dish goes by many names in our household. Growing up, my dad called it Pannukakkua, my grandmother called it Krepsua and when trying to describe this scandanavian favorite to the non-initiated, it becomes a "Finnish oven pancake". Mr. P has taken to calling it "thing in the pan". There is also disagreement about the best way to top this custardy breakfast confection. My grandmother loved hers with maple syrup (easily accessible in Northern Michigan), my father's (and my) favorite preparation is to add less than the original 1/2c of sugar called for (as I've listed the recipe here) to the pannukakkua itself and then top the completed dish with lemon and a sprinkle of granulated sugar. There are those, however, who prefer it with powdered sugar or even plain. By any name, and however you top it, this is a delicious way to start a day.

Pannukakkua aka 'thing in the pan'
3 eggs
1 1/4c flour
3 c milk
1 tsp salt
1 stick (1/4 lb) butter, melted and lukewarm
1/4 c sugar

Preheat oven to 450 F and grease a 9 x 13" pan.
In a mixing bowl, beat eggs with whisk. Add 1/2 c of the milk and whisk until combined. Add melted butter and sugar, whisking to combine. Add remaining milk. Slowly add flour, whisking until combined. Pour into pan and bake for 30 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown and the middle has set. It will un-puff as it cools, but do not fret, it's supposed to collapse. Serve warm with your choice of topping.

Whole Wheat Flax Bread

This bread has been one of my favorite additions to breakfast lately. It's a moist, dense, rich bread that toasted with your favorite butter is fabulously delicious and filling!

Whole Wheat Flax Bread

2 3/4 cups very warm water
1/3 cup olive oil [or whatever oil makes you happy]
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon salt [I used sea salt]
2 tablespoons dry active yeast
6-7 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. milled flaxseed

Place the oil, honey, and molasses in the bowl of your mixer. Add the salt, water and the yeast. Let it sit for a few minutes, until puffy and bubbly.

Add two cups of the flour and the milled flaxseed and mix until well combined.

With your mixer turned on to the lowest setting, gradually add more flour until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Don’t add too much – you want it to be fairly sticky. I usually add around 6 1/2 cups total [including the 2 cups added above]. The trick is to have your dough stand up with the least amount of flour so the bread will be fluffy. Don’t overmix it.

When your dough is holding together, leave it in the mixer, cover the bowl and let it rise for 30-60 minutes depending on the warmth of your kitchen. It doesn’t have to double, but you want it puffy.

Spray two bread pans with non-stick spray. [My pans are 9x5.]

Mix the dough again just enough to knock it down close to the original size. Just a few seconds on the lowest setting is all you need.

Drop the dough on a floured surface. Divide the dough in half and form each one into a loaf shape. Do not roll the dough out with a rolling pin – use your hands to make a ball and then turn the dough under itself over and over until you have a nice loaf shape – smooth top, smooth sides.

Place the loaves in your bread pans and let them rise until almost doubled.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for about 35 minutes, until the tops are golden and if you tap the bottom of the loaves, they sound hollow.

Remove from the pans and cool the loaves on a rack. In theory, you shouldn’t cut the bread until they are fully cooled because they still do a little cooking while cooling and if you cut it while cooling, it releases the heat. Yeah, right – go ahead and cut into that baby, slap some butter on and enjoy it hot.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Relearning to Taste

In another shameless bout of self-promotion, my second Better Bites piece is now up at Eating is Art! I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Vegan Chocolate Cake with Coconut Dream Frosting

Now, anytime you use the word 'vegan' to describe baked goods, most folks flee. In this combination, the cake is suprisingly moist and richly chocolately. It might lack that bit of mouth-feel richness butter can give but when paired with the coconut frosting, boy-oh-boy! This frosting rocked my socks off! This is the fluffy stuff of rainbows, unicorns and other puff-the-magic-dragon-like childhood dreams, but bursting with the coconut flavor your adult tastebuds rejoice in.

Chocolate Avocado Cake
adapted from the edible perspective
3 cups whole wheat pastry or all-purpose flour
8 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups sucanat or granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used cold-pressed canola oil)
1/2 cup soft avocado, well mashed, about 1 medium avocado
1 cup water

1 c almond milk
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 or 9-inch rounds or 1 9 x 13-inch pan. Sift together all of the dry ingredients except the sugar. Set that aside.

Mix all the wet ingredients together in a bowl, including the super mashed avocado.
Add sugar into the wet mix and stir.

Mix the wet with the dry all at once, and beat with a whisk (by hand) until smooth.
Pour batter into a greased cake tins. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let cakes cool in pan for 15 minutes, remove from pan and place on rack to cool completely before frosting.

Coconut Dream Frosting
1/3 c non-hydrogenated shortening or butter alternative like Earth Balance
1/4 c coconut butter*
1/3 c light coconut milk
2-3 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Cream shortening and coconut butter in ingredients in bowl of stand-mixer with whisk attachment (or in a bowl to blend by hand or with hand mixer). Slowly add powdered sugar as you mix at low speed. Add vanilla and coconut milk in a tablespoon or so at a time (you may not need the full amount), until frosting reaches the desired consistency. Frost cake once cool. Enjoy!

*to make coconut butter at home, get some unsweetened dry, shredded coconut and put in a food processor until creamy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

(P)FAT on a whole new level!

In a completely self-promoting post, check out my guest blog post on Eating Is Art. It will be familar to regular Pleasant Eats readers, but it's the first in a monthly series called 'Better Bites' on eating well. Check it out!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Frozen Custard with Homemade Dark Chocolate Syrup

So many sweets lately, I know. It's hard to whip up enthusiasm for a meal you make out of the last wilting selections in your cupboards when special sweets are so much sexier. I promise, more proper meals to come in the near future, but right now, let me share with you one fabulous warmer-weather treat!

Custard has to be one of the most simple, fabulous and yet underrated foods of the world. Almost every culture has their own take on custards, sweet and savory. Bake it in a crust with some onion, bacon, spinach and cheese and you've got quiche. Add sugar, caramelize, set it and you've got flan. Add gelatin and you're rocking a pana cotta. Add mango and you're getting closer to one tasty pudding. The basic formula of egg + milk +cream yielded some pretty fabulous results.

Sometimes, these results come when you're not really expecting them. Like when I started making David Liebovitz's vanilla ice cream last night.It started out as a regular ice cream, but as I stirred the delicious combination of egg, vanilla, cream and milk over the stove I got a little wrapped up in the mouth-watering aroma and probably let the egg firm up a bit more than I should. More than I should if I were going for regular old (if fabulous) vanilla ice cream. However, it turns out, just about perfect for making frozen custard. That velvety, decadent custardy flavor you know from creme brulee, baked custards and creme anglaise...spiked with vanilla bean, cool and lovely, melting against your tongue. Oh, and the dark chocolate syrup didn't hurt either. Now, where did that spoon go...

Frozen Vanilla Custard
Adapted from David Liebovitz's The Perfect Scoop

1 c 2% milk
2 c heavy cream
5 egg yolks
3/4 c sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 vanilla bean
pinch of salt

Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the milk with the tip of a paring knife. Add the bean pod to the milk.

Stir together the egg yolks in a bowl and gradually add some of the warmed milk, stirring constantly as you pour. Pour the warmed yolks back into the saucepan.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula - or if you're really going for that frozen custard flavor, a little past this stage but before the mixture begins to curdle. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Rinse the vanilla bean and put it back into the custard and cream to continue steeping. Chill thoroughly, then remove the vanilla bean and freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup
Adapted from Kim O'Donnell

1 c unsweetened hershey's special dark cocoa powder
1 c granulated sugar
1 c cold water
¼ tsp salt
2-3 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, whisk cocoa and sugar until all the lumps of cocoa are gone. Add water and salt and mix well with whisk. Cook over medium heat, bringing it to a boil. Keep boiling until thick, stirring to keep from scalding.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. When cool, add vanilla. Pour into an airtight glass container or a squeeze bottle and keep refrigerated.

To make chocolate milk, use at least 1 tablespoon of syrup for every 8 ounces of milk, adding more to taste.

Makes about 1 3/4 cups.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


If you'll bear with me, dear readers, an aside from normal recipe fare for a note on nutritional research published in the last few months.

F.A.T. Those three little letters have been the bane of nutritionists and cardiologists throughout the US for the last three decades; And perhaps any chubby child on the playground and the menstruating woman (or her partner). Increasingly, however, research has been disproving fat as the ultimate enemy in America's war on obesity.

Why the turn-about in conventional nutritional knowledge? There is an informative summary here, published by Slate, of the studies published, but basically, researchers have determined that not LDL ("bad" cholesterol) is so bad after all. The researchers identified that consuming saturated fat, while increasing total LDL levels, only increased the levels of the benign LDL particles, not the ones that do indeed raise the risks of heart disease. Another study identified that women who ate the highest amounts of vegetable fat (from foods like olive oil and nuts) had lower risks of heart disease than women on low-fat diets.

Now, fat as an integral part of a healthy diet and is hardly new knowledge, but it has been so demonized in the last three decades that my head is still spinning a bit from this latest about-face in conventional nutritional knowledge. Real food advocates like Nina Planck, have long asserted that traditional saturated fats like lard, butter and coconut oil are not the health enemies they have been depicted to be. Publications like Nourishing Traditions have also advocated a return to real food - a book precipitated by the start of the 'war on fat' decades ago. While the positions these writers advocate may be a bit extreme for the average American, they clearly reflected a polarization of approaches to healthy eating with a rather inflexible national nutritional standard that went against generations of eating habits. Now, it seems, the position of conventional nutrition is moving somewhere more moderate in terms of dealing with fat. But I imagine it will still be quite some time before Americans can imagine welcoming fat to their tables.

So what DOES raise the levels of the really naughty LDL cholesterol? The kind that leads to an increased risk of heart disease? Highly processed carbohydrates - foods that spike blood sugar levels. Research suggests that highly processed carbs, particularly those with high fructose levels (like high fructose corn syrup) not only increase the risk for heart disease, but diabetes, gallbladder disease and breast cancer (for references to all of these findings, please see the Slate article). Keep in mind, this does not mean ALL carbs are bad - whole grains, fruits, vegetables are all still fiber and carbs and vital to a healthy diet. Trans-fats also are still perpetrators on this front as well. No change in policy there.

And what has America been reaching for when it cuts fat out if it's diet? Perhaps diet foods like Snackwells, Baked Lays and other low-fat products ring a bell? You know, the highly processed carbohydrates? Uh, what I spent a good part of my teens and early 20's indulging in thinking it was making a 'healthy' choice? Uggh.

Bottom line? We KNOW how to eat for optimum health. We've known for centuries and it's all about eating real food. Food you grow, food you make from whole ingredients. Simple and delicious foods you don't need a PhD in Biochemical engineering to understand. Now, we (meaning I and many other Americans) just have to get over our fat phobias and relearn that yes, healthy fats - even saturated fats!- have a place in a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Walnut Shortbread

I have a great fondness for shortbread. I don't think I'd tasted anything close to real shortbread until I was in the 5th grade. Before that, about all I'd had were those tinned Danish butter cookies at post-church coffee hours and the Girl Scout Trefoil cookies I sold as a Brownie. That all changed once I recieved the topic allotted to me for my 5th grade pioneer day: food. Tasked with recreating some tastes of the history of American pioneer fare, I thought of the descriptions of food in A Little House on the Prairie, one of my favorite elementary school reads. We somehow extrapolated one of their recipes for shortbread - you know, the special treat in Mary and Laura's Christmas stockings? It may have been thanks to some behind-the-scenes parental digging getting our hands on a copy of The Little House on the Prairie Cookbook - but who knows? I was probably too busy licking the batter of my fingers to notice. Once the first taste of homemade shortbread melted on my tongue, I suddenly realized just how much I'd been missing with those tinned and boxed cookies. A nice little lesson in appreciating that even if the pioneers didn't have the marvels of modern technology and society, they had daggone delicious eats! Most of my classmates if I recall correctly, agreed with me. There certainly wasn't anything left to bring home. Though I have yet to get my hands on that recipe again (a task I am working on I assure you), I saw a delicious and slightly similar-sounding shortbread recipe in this month's MSL magazine. I tweaked it a bit to make it a bit more nutritious but it was certainly still absolutely melt-on-your-tongue tasty shortbread.

Walnut Shortbread
adapted from MSL March 2010
1/4 c walnuts toasted and chopped
1 c whole wheat pastry flour (the original used white flour)
1/2 c Sucanat or brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick of butter
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 F. Process walnuts in a food processor until ground fine. Add to a bowl with the flour and salt.
In a separate bowl or stand mixer, cream together butter, sugar and vanilla. Slowly add in flour mixture until just combined.
Press down into a 8" cake pan (a sheet of cellophane will be handy here to keep it from sticking to you), and cut the dough into 8 slices. Prick slices with fork a few times (I found concentric circles around the pan are rather pretty).
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the shortbread is golden brown and the middle is solid.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pleasant Eats PSA

If you haven't noticed already, check out the newly added recipe page! After 2 1/2 years (can you believe it!?!?) of delicious recipes, they are finally indexed for your browsing convenience. Enjoy!

Wheatberry Salad with Dates, Celery and Walnut

Wheat berries and the idea of the freedom of adulthood go hand and hand to me. Growing up, I went to church more or less every Sunday and I will confess, sometimes I went rather grudgingly. I would look with longing at the leisurely brunchers at Bread and Chocolate as we sped by on our way to church, wistfully hoping for the day when I was a grown up and could spend Sunday mornings as leisurely as I liked and over brunches if I so chose. Every great once and a while, I could convince my parents to stop for brunch on the way home from church. While the challah french toast at Bread and Chocolate was divine, they served a wheat berry salad - sweet, nutty, acerbic and delicious that somehow tasted like those grown-up dreams of mine. It was the first place I'd ever tasted wheat berries and it's still my favorite way to prepare them. Though Bread and Chocolate isn't there anymore, my memory of that wheat berry salad and all the promise it represented is still quite vivid. And this adaptation of Martha Stewart's version comes quite close to recreating that salad. To have as I choose on Sunday mornings or otherwise, of course ;)

Wheat Berry Salad
adapted from MSL March 2010

1 c wheat berries (soaked overnight or at least 4 hours, drained)
2 celery stalks, chopped
3/4 c pitted, chopped dates
zest of 1 orange
juice of 1 orange
2 tbs walnut oil
3 tbs sherry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Place wheat berries in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 35 minutes. Drain.
While cooking, prepare the vinaigrette. Whisk together orange zest and juice, walnut oil and sherry vinegar.
Once the wheat berries are done, in a bowl, combine wheat berries, walnuts, celery, dates and vinaigrette (give it a good whisk before you pour it in, making sure it emulsifies). Mix together and enjoy!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Roasted Carrots with Feta and Parsley

It's hard not to be a little disenchanted with root vegetables as the end of winter. This time of year, when the promise of fresh spring veggies is so close, yet you are still cycling through the same root vegetables that have been available for most of the season. Another root vegetable? Siiiigh. However, this month's MSL had a nice little pick-me-up for one ubiquitous root vegetable - the carrot. Roasted to a delicious intensity of flavor and lighted with feta cheese and parsley, this is a fabulous way to pep up veggies when you're pooped out of the same-old-same-old winter veggie selection.

Roasted Carrots with Feta and Parsley
adapted from MSL March 2010

1 1/2 lb carrots, peeled, sliced on the bias about 1" thick
1 Tbs olive oil
1/4 feta cheese
1-2 Tbs chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. Place carrots on sheet, drizzle with the olive oil and turn to coat. Roast carrots for 20-25 minutes until browned and tender. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste while warm. Once cooled, mix together in bowl with feta and parsley.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

(slightly) healthier chocolate chip cookies

Today kicks of the season of Lent for most Catholic and Protestant Christians, and whether you subscribe to those faiths or not, this time of year seems to be one of reflection and renewal. For some it may be a time of devotions, others perhaps closet reorganizing, starting at that long list of spring cleaning to-dos, garden planning and other outdoor chores and pursuits. It tends to be a time of introspection for me, a time to get back to the heart of what's really important to me and cut back on all that other extraneous stuff that get's in the way.

It's also a time of year I seem to naturally want to eat more nourishing things. With spring just around the corner, the first veggies and other sweet tastes of that so-close-I-can-almost-taste-it-season will soon be upon us. That said, we're not out of this winter buisiness just yet. And sometimes, especially at the end of a long and tiring day, I still want a cookie. A really tasty cookie. But perhaps a more nourishing cookie than most. Enter Myra Kornfled and her Healthy Hedonist. Her chocolate chip cookie recipe sounded like a great place to start for something nourishing with whole grains and unrefined sugars, but was still satisfactorily indulgent.

Slightly Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from The Healthy Hedonist by Myra Kornfled

1/2 softened unsalted butter
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c sucanat or maple syrup
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour (whole wheat flour works too, just a slightly denser with a more earthy flavor)
1/2 tsp
1/4 kosher salt
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.
Using a mixer or wooden spoon and strong wrist, cream together butter, sugar and sucanat/syrup until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla until smooth.

In a separate bowl, mix the flower, baking soda and salt together. Slowly mix in the dry mixture into the butter mixture about 1/3 at a time until just combined (always best not to overmix cookies!). Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop walnut-sized cookies onto the prepared sheets 2" apart. Squash them flatish (but not too thin) with the palm of your hand or a glass or jar. Bake for 10-12 minutes for a cakey cookie and 15 for a crispy cookie.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cakelettes

I was a stranger to sticky toffee pudding until a visit to the UK for the holidays nearly a decade ago. I was in Bath, strolling the streets living out Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in my mind to my whimsical hearts' content. We stopped for dinner someplace the clerk at our hotel had recommended. It had columns out front - although in Bath, this really isn't much of a distinguishing characteristic. I'm sure dinner was lovely, but any memory of it was swiftly drop-kicked out of my mind by my first taste of sticky toffee pudding. Something I grieved over not having been in my life before then. Cakey, sticky toffee caramel sauce, whipped cream... nothing else I'd ever had before quite compared. It was almost my first traditional British 'pudding' expanding my global culinary experiences.

My whole family was smitten, and have since tried to replicate that decadence without great success. Though not quite the same as the original (can anything ever truly be?) this is one of my favorite approximations, and also comes quite close to the tasty way they make it a few blocks over at Commonwealth gastro pub. Also a plus for this version, it makes four individual servings as opposed to an entire bunt cake if you're cooking for a smaller crowd.

Sticky Toffee Cakelets

adapted from

Makes 4 single-serving cakes

For the cakes:

3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup pitted finely chopped dates

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 tablespoons packed brown sugar (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the sauce:

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1/3 cup evaporated milk or heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350° F. Use nonstick spray to coat custard cup or ramekin. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to blend. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the apricots and dates. Pour enough boiling water over the fruit to cover. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Drain the fruit and gently fold it into the mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared ramekins, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until puffed up high and a cake tested inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. The cakes will fall like a soufflĂ© when removed from oven. Allow cakes to cool slightly before turning out of their ramekins. Prepare the sauce:Combine sugar, butter, evaporated milk, and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir until butter is completely melted and the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, until the sauce darkens to a deep brown color. To serve, drizzle the warm sauce over the cakes, allowing the some sauced to pool in the center where the cakes have fallen, or under the cake to let it soak up from the bottom.

Bread and Blizzards or a Post in Pictures

In case you've been wondering what was up with all the posts lately, allow me to explain:

We've been getting just a wee bit of snow here. Here, Mr. Pleasant and I dug out to check out the nieghborhood on Sat. as the "snowpocolypse" was winding down. Wow! What a storm! Haven't seen this much snow in DC EVER! A bone-a-fied BLIZZARD!

Oh, ho! but WAIT! There's more!! "Snowverkill" was winding up...and this morning the view out a kitchen window looked like this:

and by noon, it looked like this:

Just to clarify, yes kids, the window is more than halfway blocked by snow and it ain't slowing down anytime real soon...

...and yes, your eyes to not decieve you, there is a rubber chicken hanging out on our windowsill. One of those ridiculous family traditions that is ridiculous and funny to no one but us...but doesn't it just make you chuckle anyways? Blizzard? Rubber chicken? Ha? No? Okay, moving on...

So what's a girl to do when snowed in? Why, bake bread of course! I started with a pumpernickle to go with some delicious lentil soup...

followed by some amazing cinnamon raisin bread...

and even turned out some homemade pita and hummus. A nice little taste of warmer mediterranian climes when it's feeling a lot like Antartctica here.

I'll post more about that pita soon - right after I have some chili and some of Millie's delicious cornbread.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Another addition to the collection of delicious, homemade versions of storebought pantry sweets. I had wanted to try Tricia's delicious-looking take, but didn't have any shortening on hand. Luckily, I did have the evaporated milk this recipe called for, so I was in business. These and a tall glass of cold milk? Belly-rubbin'-heaven.

1 c granulated sugar
2 1/2 c all purp. flour
1/2 c dutch-process cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chopped into in cubes
2 egg yolks
2 tsp bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips or chunks, melted and cooled (Although still liquid)
2 Tbs water
1 c confectioners sugar
1 Tbs corn syrup
1 1/2 Tbs evaporated milk
Process sugar for 30 seconds in food processor, then add the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa to combine. Can also do this in a regular bowl. Add butter and combine just until carse crumbs form. Blend in th egg yolks and vanilla. Scrape the melted chocolate into the batter an ix to combine. Add the water, 1 Tbs at a time until the dough comes together when squeezed in your hand. Note that he batter will be crumbly, but cohesive.
Preheat the oven to 400 F and grease 2 cookie sheets.
Gathere the dough together on top of a piece of parchement paper or wax apper with a scraper nearby. Divide teh dough in half and shape each piece into a flat square. Set one square aside and roll out the first square by covering it with a second sheet of parchemnt or wax paper and flattening itno a large rectangle about 13 x 15 inches and about 1/4 in thick.
Cut out as many cookies as you can using an inversted glass or cookie cutter. A scraper is a handy tool to get the dough off of your counter onto the cookie sheet.
Bake the first sheet 7-9 min or until edges are slightly dark. Let them cool on the baking sheet for 2 min. before transfering to a wire rack. Meanwhile, repeat the rolling and cutting with the remaining dough. If the dough gets too soft to work with, leave on parchemnt and chill for 20 min. in teh fridge or 5 min in the freezer. BAke cookies as above. Allow cookies to cool complteely or about 30 min.
To make the filling, combine the sugar, syrup and milk in a bowl untill they form a sticky mass. Spoon filling onto cookie with the flat side up or pipe through a pastry bag or ziplog bag with the corner nipped. Sandwich second cookie onto first. Each cookie combo should use about 1-2 tsp of filling. I found I needed to double the amount of filling to adequately fill all of the cookie combos. Allow to set for an hour to get ideal filling texture (if you're that patient - I wasn't).

Grahm Crackers for Seth

Nothing like a snowy weekend to hole-up in the kitchen and keep yourself warm by keeping delicious things on the stove and in the oven. In addition to some delicious homemade whole wheat bread, lentil soup and mayonaise (yes, that recipe will be coming to you soon), I got down to some baking. What kind of baking? Still in the I-can-make-it-better-than-store-bought frame of mind, I set out to tackle some pantry staples. Or perhaps, more accurately, pantry sweets. I first made the grahm crackers from this fabulous cookbook, but while I enjoyed them immensely they were very molassesy, which is not truly grahm-cracker like and Mr. Pleasant is not at all fond of strong molasses flavor. So, for my second attempt I turned here, which produced a fabulous traditional honey, cinnamony grahm cracker flavor but so, so much better than anything storebought. For a softer, flakier cracker, bake for only 10-15 minutes. For a nice crispy, bring-on-the-milk sort of cracker, bake for the full 25 minutes.

You can thank our family friend Seth and his visit from the Midwest for this prompt post. By his request, I've got on the ball and posted this sooner rather than later. Yes Seth, here's your shout-out. And the Grahm cracker recipe as promised.

Graham Crackers

adapted from

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen (or with a sturdy, sharp knife and loads of caution, cube frozen butter)

1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover

5 tablespoons whole milk (I found 2 additional Tbs. of milk were required, but this will depend on how dry the air is where you are - add any additional milk slowly and mix well, observing the consistency until it is sticky as described below)

2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

For the topping:

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.
To prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon, and set aside.
Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough. (If it is already cold in your kitchen, as it was in mine, I had no qualms about resting the baking sheet full of cut grahm crackers on the cold tile floor to "chill". I confess to not letting them chill the full 30 min -just as long as it took me to cut the second batch of crackers and I was happy with the results).

Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more flour and roll out the dough to get about two or three more crackers.

Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough. Using a toothpick or skewer, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line. Alternatively, cut the crackers out into rectangles (I found our ravioli cutter to be quite perfect for this) once rolled, poke with a fork as desired and sprinkle on sugar.

Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the tough, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Or, for the softer, flakier crackers, 10-15 minutes.

Yield: 10 large crackers or about 2 dozen smaller rectangles.

From Nancy Silverton's Pastries from the La Brea Bakery (Villard, 2000)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mango Pudding

Mango is a fabulous way to get your fruit fix in the depths of winter. Bright, sunny mango is delicious with a fabulous nutritional punch. Here's a light but flavorful way to end a meal. Not terribly sweet, but will be sweeter the riper your mangoes are.

Mango Pudding

1 envelopes envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup water
2 cups diced frozen mango, thawed (Trader Joes handy here)
7-ounce nonfat sweetened condensed milk (about half a 14 oz can - extra is fabulous for Thai iced tea and coffee)
2 tablespoons lime juice
Sprinkle gelatin over water in a small bowl; let stand until softened, about 1 minute. Microwave on High, uncovered, until the gelatin has completely dissolved but the liquid is not boiling, 10 to 20 seconds. Stir the mixture until smooth. Be cautious here in cold weather, gelatin will set quickly so don't do this until right before you add it to the rest of the mixture. Solidified anyway? Warm it in the microwave for 10 sec. until liquid again.
Place mango in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Push through a very fine sieve into a large measuring cup until you have 1 cups puree (or put through a foodmill on the finest setting). Whisk the mango puree, sweetened condensed milk and lime juice in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in the softened gelatin mixture until well combined.

Lightly coat eight 4- to 10-ounce ramekins with cooking spray. Divide the pudding among the ramekins. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.
To serve, run a knife around the inside of each ramekin to loosen the pudding. Dip the bottom of the ramekin in hot water for 30 to 40 seconds, then invert onto a serving plate, holding ramekin and plate tightly together.


Ever since tasting Ebelskiver or Danish pancakes at Broder's in Portland, Mr. P and I could barely contain our enthusiasm for making some of our own. Luckily, Santa brought us a fabulous Ebelskiver pan for Christmas (thanks to the handy elf-work of my lovely MIL) and we finally got to try making our own. We hunted down a recipe that sounded good and were not disappointed. You can fill these little beauties with just about anything. We used homemade raspberry jam, but I imagine sweets like bananas, nutella, caramelized apples or savories like breakfast meats, cheese, green onions and more would all be fabulous fillings also. They are also fabulous plain with topping. Serve with syrup, lingonberries, powdered sugar, whipped cream or the Mr.'s favorite - lemon curd. Wondering what to do with that leftover buttermilk? This is one fabulous application. Makes enough for two hungry people with a bit leftover.

Basic Ebelskiver Batter

1 eggs, separated
1 cups buttermilk
1 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tbs. sugar
2 tbs. Melted butter
Separate eggs; beat egg whites until stiff. Mix all the other ingredients together at one time and beat until smooth. Fold in egg whites.
Heat pan on low to medium heat. Put 1/2 tsp. butter, oil or shortening in each cup. Pour in batter near top but not filling cup. If desired, put 1/2 tsp. of jam, a piece of pineapple, blueberries, raisins, etc., in batter. (If fruit is added, reduce the amount of batter initially placed in cup. Add fruit and cover with a small amount of batter.) When bubbly, turn ball with a fork or skewer. Continue cooking until toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm as desired.


That's right. Making butter. Rocket science you say? Hardly. If I had any idea just how simple it was to knock out a batch of butter, I would've been doing this years ago. It's hard to believe sometimes just how separated we are from our food sources, when an adult has a vague sense of how butter gets to her table, but is sure it involves a hyper-complicated process or hours and hours at one of those old-school churners that seem to be used almost exclusively as country decor tchatchkas, nick-knacks or occasionally, storage. I felt almost ashamed that it took Karen Solomon's lovely cookbook Jam It, Cure It, Pickle It, to make me realize just how simple making your own goodies like butter really are. No wonder each family used to make their own butter! So simple, you get beautiful, fresh buttermilk and fabulous butter all at once! How does the magic happen you ask? Shake. Shake. Shake. Or, for the weak-armed, Mix. That's right. Grab yourself some heavy whipping cream and let's get started.

from Jam It, Pickle It, Preserve it by Karen Solomon

1 c Heavy Whipping Cream
salt to taste

Place cream in a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid. Jar should be large enough for cream to only take up half of it. Shake. I imagine this would be an awesome game for kids - just beware of launching jars. Shake, dancing along with the shaking is even more fun. Shake while reading the paper. Shake for 3 minutes or so (depending on the temperature, warmer = faster), you'll have whipped cream. Another few minutes you'll have the beginnings of butter. Once you get a good amount of solidified mass and separated buttermilk, pour and reserve the buttermilk in a separate bowl (for ideas on how to use the buttermilk, see the next post!).

Once buttermilk is removed, pour just enough water to cover the nascent butter into the jar and shake some more. Once more solid, dump this water out (do not keep this liquid). Repeat once more. Once the butter consistency is to your liking, mix with your favorite salt or fresh herbs, garlic, whatever your little heart desires. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Also makes a great gift.

ALTERNATIVELY, if you just don't have the shake in you, place cream in stand mixer (or use hand-held mixer) and mix until the butter is mostly solidified and you have your buttermilk. Reserve buttermilk by pouring into separate bowl. Add water to butter, again mix until it's at the consistency you want, pour out water (no need to keep this water) and add in any of your favorite mixings as mentioned above.

Sea Salt Caramels

This Christmas, the Mr. and I managed to put together a whole bunch of homemade gifts. My favorite by far was a recipe for caramels I'd had my eye on since I noticed it at the apartment therapy blog in 2008. Caramel and candy making in general has always daunted me with it's talk of precise temperatures, "hard ball" stages and vivid memories from my childhood of the smell of burnt sugar from a particularly disastrous caramel-apple making session at a friends house. However, with one wee little candy thermometer (which you can pick up for less than $5), this recipe couldn't be simpler. I ended up making many batches of these babies and perfected the technique with each attempt, but honestly, each batch was delectable as was - even the first batch! Though it requires careful babysitting on the stove, this process is surprisingly simple and incredibly delicious.

Sea Salt Caramels
adapted from

1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

Line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper and lightly oil the paper.
Bring the cream, butter and sea salt to a boil in a small saucepan; remove from heat and set aside.
Boil the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan; then cook without stirring until the mixture reaches 248°F, the firm-ball stage. Carefully stir in the cream mixture—the mixture will bubble up. Simmer, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. The temperature should not go higher than 250°F. The mixture will slowly darken and turn golden brown. Once to the consistency you want (see candymaker tip below), pour the mixture into the baking pan and cool 2 hours.
Yield: About 40 caramels
CANDYMAKER TIP: To get the caramel consistency you want, test by dropping a spoonful of caramel into a bowl of cold water. It will form a ball, which you can test with your fingers. Stop cooking when the ball is the consistency that you want.
OPTIONAL: You can enrobe your caramels in tempered melted chocolate; sprinkle the top with some grains of sea salt (pretty salts make a difference); or press in some culinary lavender buds.* Cut into 1-inch pieces, then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, folding ends or twisting to close like taffy.*
ALTERNATIVE: Pour the caramel into individual candy cups.