Coffee Brittle

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I’ve ventured into the world of even healthier eating and let me tell you, it can be a scary, judgmental, exhausting place.  Suddenly everything gives you cancer and you’re a horrible person if you buy non organic.  I’ve found that I’m somewhere in the middle of people who don’t know or care anything about nutrition and people who are fucking obsessed with it and want the whole world to know about it.

So we have the health jerk nuts…

“Did you make sure this was organic?  Don’t you want to help the environment?  Do you even know how toxic pesticides are to the body?  Where is your tote?” 

I’m poor and I just wanted a pepper.  I promise when I’m a bajillionaire I’ll buy an organic farm and pay everyone double their average wage.  And I’m sorry I don’t carry my fucking tote everywhere I go.  Jeebus.

“You’re actually going to buy those crackers?  They don’t have a “non-GMO” label on them.  Here buy these, they cost three times as much but you’ll feel so much better about it.” 

And on the other side, non health nuts group you in with these health freaks and turn you into one of them.

“Oh they’re selling vegan, gluten free, sugar free cookies.  You’re skinny, I bet you would just love those.” 

I’ve never heard of a more depressing cookie.

“Why don’t you eat meat?  Humans are meant to eat meat you know.  You need a steak, you look a little peaked.”  

I’m sorry is there a sign above my head that says, “I’m trying to make a political statement”?

I’m just having an experience with this non fat Greek yogurt.

Guys I honestly forgot what the point of that first section was.  Oh yes, now I remember it veered tremendously.  But it took a long time so I’m keeping it.  The point of that intro was sugar, I know it was never brought up.  That’s my bad.  See those people talking in the intro, those aren’t people that I know, even though I’m sure they exist.  They’re the two nutritional sides of myself, well that last one is probably more my dad but whatever.

It’s like I’ve got my “id’ side wondering why I’m bothering with all this healthy eating crap, just wanting to eat whatever tastes good.  Paired with my douchey, judgemental “superego” making me second guess every food decision I make.  Meanwhile my “ego,” who apparently identifies as a young male, is caught in the middle wondering what the hell to do.

So that brings me to sugar and this post.  I used to make something similar to this coffee brittle concoction in high school before I became crazy health conscious.  It had been years since I made it and I all of a sudden got the urge for it.  But that judgmental side of me didn’t hesitate for a second.

“You’re going to make what? Candy!? Do you know how much refined sugar is going to be in that?  I guess you could make it sugar free, but that would mean artificial sweeteners and those are supposed to be even worse!”

Finally I got sick of myself for making myself feel guilty for wanting to consume sugar.  It doesn’t make me a bad person and it’s not going to be what kills me.

You know what’s going to kill me?  Stressing about every possible thing that could potentially kill me.

So here’s my coffee brittle recipe.  Yes it has sugar, yes it has calories, and yes I’m deciding it’s guilt-free.  And super yes to the question of how crazy I am.

Recipe:

1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup strong coffee
pinch of salt (no more than 1/8 tsp)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp crushed coffee beans (ground are fine)
1 tbsp butter

Prep your butter, crushed beans, baking soda, and salt.  Also have a baking sheet covered in parchment or wax paper ready.

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Add your sugar and coffee in a pot over medium low heat and stir until dissolved.

After the sugar has dissolved increase the heat to medium high and stir continuously until it reaches 300°.  Try not to splash too much on the sides of the pot, but if you do you can use a wet pastry brush to wash down the sugar granules.  Depending on how high you have your heat it should take about 5 minutes.

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As soon as it reaches 300° remove from heat.

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If you don’t have a thermometer don’t worry.  Get a class of water and periodically drop some of the mixture into the water.  If it hardens immediately and you hear a cracking sound, you’re good to go.  You should be able to pull it out and feel that it’s crunchy.

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Immediately add your beans/soda/salt and butter.  Stir until combined.

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As soon as everything is combined pour it out onto your covered sheet.  It should spread out pretty much on its own but you can help it out with your spoon if you need.

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Allow to harden.  I forgot to time the cooling 30-60 minutes should be fine.  If it doesn’t harden after that then you didn’t cook it high enough.  You can try and put it back on the stove and recook it, but there’s no guarantees with that.

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Break apart and store in an airtight container.

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Chocolate Zucchini Bread

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The base for this recipe is very similar to my banana breads.  So if you make it and wind up liking it you can check those out in the BREAKFAST section.  That being said this is even less sugary than my banana bread recipes.  I’m getting even more off the sugar wagon, not that I was ever really on it.  I guess I looked at it a little too hard sometimes, I don’t know.

I’m not eating much processed sugar these days is what I’m saying, I JUST WANT YOU ALL TO BE AWARE.

I’m kidding.

Yesterday, Justin brought home some summer squashes from the farmer’s market.   Now, I had never had a summer squash before and I barely eat zucchini.  I knew zucchini bread was a thing but  I realized I didn’t know exactly what he had brought home.

After some googling it turns out he brought home 1 zucchini, 1, crookneck, and 1 straightneck.

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So what’s the difference?  It turns out not much of anything.  They’re used completely interchangeably in recipes and all that really differs is the color.  All are called summer squashes and they’re picked while still immature so their seeds and skins are still edible.  The only difference seems to be is yellows tend to have more seeds the larger they are, so look for small ones.

So short story shorter, don’t worry about what kind of summer squash you have, no one will be able to tell the difference anyway.

On to the recipe!

Recipe: (baking time: 1 hour) 

1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp instant espresso powder
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
2 cups summer squash (3 small ones)
1 tbsp chocolate chips

Preheat oven 350°

Sift or whisk together your flours, baking powder/soda, salt, and cocoa powder.

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In a large mixing bowl add your applesauce, sugars, espresso powder, and vanilla.

I usually use multiple kinds of sugar in my baking, I feel you get a better product that way.  Brown sugar makes it moist while white sugar gives it that firmer top at the end.  Granted we’re not adding that much but the idea is there.  If you want more of the effect add 1/4 cup of each, the rest of the recipe should be fine, you made need to add a tbsp or 2 of liquid at the end.

The instant espresso is optional, it just intensifies the chocolate flavor.

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Grate your squashes.

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Because these guys contain a lot of excess water you may want to strain them.  You don’t need them to be completely dry just squeeze the clump with your hand or something, just to get most of the liquid out.

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Add an egg to your sugar/applesauce mix and whisk until just combined.

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Now you’re going to add your flours and squash mix in chunks.

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You don’t need to stir thoroughly in between each addition.

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It’s kind of like a souffle mixing action.

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End with a squash addition.

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End result should be pour-able but not liquidy, thicker than a traditional cake batter.

Taste it!  If it’s not sugary enough for you consider sprinkling a tbsp or 2 of sugar after you put it in your pan.  I’m trying to lower my sugar desires and I found that was a good way to transition.

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Add a tbsp of chocolate chips if you want and bake in your 350° for 1 hour or until a tester comes out clean.

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Let it cool.  Give it at least 20 minutes or the poor thing with fall apart on you.

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Bread like this keeps for a day or two on the counter and up to a week in the fridge.

Enjoy!

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White Chocolate Bacon Biscotti

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Some bacon was getting close to its expiration date and there was a white chocolate Easter bunny starting to melt on my kitchen counter in my 90° non-air conditioned NYC apartment.  You know what that means, White Chocolate Bacon Biscotti time!  What else, right?  Heavens forbid we eat them separate, that would just be…inefficient.

Recipe:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
4 oz bacon (4 strips for me)
4 oz white chocolate (my bunny was only 3 oz but my original plan was 4, so just go with that)

Preheat oven 325°

What would one of my recipes be without starting with, make your bacon.  As usual, I’m using turkey because I enjoy the fact I’m the same size I was in high school and I decided ahead of time that I was going to be eating a lot of these.  Start your bacon in a cold pan over low heat.

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Whisk your salt, flour, and baking powder together in a mixing bowl.

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Keep an eye on your bacon.  If any recipe tells you bacon takes 5 minutes on the stove they’re lying and they should be ashamed.  Bacon making is a low and slow process.  You can do it in the oven if you want to avoid having to keep an eye on it as much but I like to make my cast iron happy.

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While your bacon is finishing up prepare your chocolate, or bunny.  Poor bastard never had a chance.

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Melt your chocolate in a pot over low heat or in a double boiler.  It was such a small amount of chocolate I couldn’t be bothered to use one.  If your chocolate is having some melting issues you can encourage it by adding the tiniest amount of shortening, we’re talking 1/2 tsp tops.  Just to lube it up a bit.

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After you’ve dried your bacon on some paper towels and chopped it, add the pieces to your melted chocolate.

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Pour out onto some parchment or wax paper and spread out evenly.  Place in your freezer for 5-10 minutes or until hardened.

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While your chocolate is freezing start mixing your eggs and sugar.  Yes there are supposed to be 3 eggs in there, I got a little eager with my camera.  Beat the eggs until they’re a pale yellow, should take a couple minutes.

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While your eggs are beating your chocolate should be good to go.  If it’s not, you didn’t listen to me about adding in too much shortening.  If it is, congratulations you just made a bacon chocolate bar, now go to your local farmer’s market and sell it for $10 a pop.

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Chop it up.

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Now your eggs are ready.  They’ll be a little darker because we used brown sugar but because I took a picture it should be pretty easy for you to figure out what they should look like.

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Now add your vanilla and dry mixture and beat until just blended.

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Add your bacon chocolate.

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And mix.  If you wanted to you could just add bacon pieces and chocolate pieces separately.  But this way when the biscotti bakes, the bacon gets a white chocolate infused flavor which I think is nice.

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Pour your dough out on a parchment lined baking sheet and separate into two equal chunks.

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With wet hands shape your dough into logs that are about 4 inches apart.  Mine were about 8 x 2.5 inches.  You should probably go closer to 10 inches long but it was brutally hot in my kitchen and my dough was getting sticky.

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Bake your dough in your preheated 325° for 35 minutes or until very lightly browned and the tops are firm.

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Remove from oven and allow to cool.  When cool cut with a serrated knife.  I cut mine a tad thick, the heat was getting to me.  Go for about 3/4 inch.

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Lay back onto baking sheet and bake for another 25 minutes, I flipped halfway through.

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They should have a nice light golden color to them and will continue to harden as they cool.

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Move to cooling rack.  Because they have brown sugar in them these biscotti have a little insurance from becoming too hard like other recipes.  But you still need to be mindful and keep a close eye on them during their second round of baking.

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Enjoy!

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Raspberry Jam Heartbreakers

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Justin named these.  He was really proud of it and didn’t want me to call them anything else.  So that’s where the name came from.

But where did the recipe come from?  Well, like every Valentine’s Day I get the idea in my brain that I like Conversation Hearts.  I start to crave them.  Every time I look at those festive boxes, I want them.  I don’t know why, I don’t even like sugar that much.  Looking back on it, it must be the color.  Those boxes are just so damn cheery.

So like every year, my resolve broke and I bought some Conversation Hearts.  But I didn’t just buy a little box like you used to give to your middle school sweetheart.  Oh, no.  I bought a pound.  Because it said “DAZZLED” on it in big glittery letters and sometimes I am a 5-year old princess and standing under florescent lighting for too long causes me to make weird decisions.

And then after eating three I came to the yearly conclusion that I don’t so much like Conversation Hearts and am now stuck with a pound of them.  So I said screw it, we’re putting them in a recipe.  A sugar cookie sounds good.  But then I realized how much butter goes into a sugar cookie and that idea died quickly.  It’s not so much I hate all things fatty, it’s just butter is frickin’ expensive and I kind of enjoy that Justin and I can share a wardrobe.  So no sugar cookies.

I’m not going to lie, these cookies are weird.  I tried to make them “light” so they’re not a sugar cookie, because a truly light sugar cookie doesn’t exist.  They have a cakey texture and a tang from the jam which is highlighted by the tartness of the Conversation Heart topping (I used tart Conversation Hearts).  Consider them inspiration to do weird things with random candies you find yourself buying and then immediately regret.  Candy corn comes to mind.  I just use that as decoration and cat toys though.

Recipe:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup raspberry jam (no sugar added – or whatever you have)
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp applesauce (no sugar added)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 oz conversation hearts (crushed, mine were tart)

Baking time: 8-10 minutes

Preheat oven 350°

Mix your jam, applesauce, butter (softened), vanilla, and sugar.

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Sift in your flour, baking powder/soda, and salt.

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Mix and then refrigerate until you can roll the dough in your hands without it sticking.  About 30 minutes.

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While your dough is chilling, break your hearts.  Food processor, blender, bashing them in a bag with a marble rolling pin.  Whatever your style is.

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Roll your dough into balls about 1 inch diameter in size and place on lightly greased baking sheet.

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Take a glass and dip the bottom in flour then press the dough balls flat.  It’s like we’re making sugar cookies, but I assure you they will taste nothing like them.

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Sprinkle with your heart crumbles.

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Or you can roll the dough balls in your crumbles and then press.  Or just sprinkle with sugar if you didn’t make a silly candy purchase.

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Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes.  Or until lightly golden.  Mine are a darker color already because I use unbleached flour.

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And done.

The Conversation Heart topping stays crunchy until you store them.  They’re still good when it gets soft, just different.

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Now you can walk the after holiday discounted candy aisle with hope knowing that you too can take unwanted stale candies and shove them in cookies where they probably don’t belong.  At least they look pretty.  🙂

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Lemon Curd

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This lemon curd recipe is adjusted slightly from a chow.com Mini Eclair recipe.  The eclairs were amazing but the lemon curd was crazy amazing AND easy.   People seem to have problems making lemon curd, be patient with the curd.  It will reward you.

Lemon curd was one of those things I had always attributed to fancy schmancy people.  You know, people who brunch and get manicures and have doormen.  That type of schmancy.  I imagine them sitting all pretty in those bright white brunch cafes with their morning manicured hands, drinking mimosas, making vague plans to “do lunch” later while half-heartedly picking the fruit off those beautiful lemon curd tarts.  They don’t even appreciate the curd, that’s the saddest thing of all.  For such a long time I went wanting.  I assumed that lemon curd world was a world I was just not privy to.  Then I actually looked at the ingredients one day and was like, “Look how cheap this crap is!”  True story.  Why it’s so expensive at the store is beyond me.

Recipe:

1 lemon (juice should give about 1/4 cup, zest)
1/4 cup sugar
4 tbsp butter (unsalted)
1/8 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 egg yolk

Add your 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk to a bowl and whisk until blended.

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Add your butter, sugar, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice to your pan.  I recommend using a skillet or saucier so you don’t get any curd stuck in the corners.  Or you can do the double boiler method if you’re really paranoid about cooking your eggs.  I have a weird aversion to double boilers so I don’t use them.  Heat over very very low heat until the butter is just melted.

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Turn off the heat and pour half of your melted butter mixture into your eggs while continuously whisking.  If you’re not the most coordinated of individuals you can spoon it in or have your friend or significant other pour the butter in while you whisk and then yell at them for pouring too fast.

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Yay, you tempered your eggs.  Now if you did this right you will have no cooked egg in your egg mixture, but if you do, don’t worry about it.  Just add it in your butter mixture and we’ll deal with it later.  Some people say to strain your eggs now if you have cooked pieces in there, but if you screwed up the tempering part chances are you’re going to screw up the cooking part so why bother straining twice?

Now add your tempered eggs to the rest of the butter mixture and mix.  Turn the heat back on to very very low.

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Stir continuously, this will take time.  If you were in a hurry you shouldn’t have decided to make lemon curd.

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“I cooked it for 10 minutes in the double boiler and it coated the back of a spoon but it never got beyond the soupy stage. Had to throw it out!”

Just a review of a perfectly fine lemon curd recipe from someone who was not patient with the curd.  Yeah the curd is going to coat the back of your spoon pretty much immediately, it’s made up of mostly fat and sugar.  If it’s still soupy after 10 minutes the logical solution would seem to be to cook it longer.  Apparently to this person 10 minutes=forever, she’s obviously aware of some sort of space-time continuum that the rest of us are not.  Don’t be this person.

If it’s starting to look like this, congratulations you didn’t screw it up.  Now you just have to be patient and cook it longer.

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There we go.

It should have the consistency of sour cream, that’s the best I can think to describe it.  Now this can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes, maybe even 25 depending on how low you have your heat, what vessel you’re using, and how you’re mixing.  Lemon curd is a funny thing that way, for some people it sets in 5, others 25.  I’m of the theory the slower you cook it the creamier it tastes, but I have no scientific testing to back that theory, just by brain and my taste buds.

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Now this is where your safety net comes in.  Strain your mixture into a bowl.  If you curdled your eggs while you were adding the butter mixture or you were overzealous and cooked your curd too fast or didn’t stir consistently enough this will catch any of your mistakes.  If you’re awesome like me and you didn’t make any mistakes you should still strain your mixture because the strainer will catch the lemon zest making your curd even creamier.

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This is all set to go in the fridge where it will set up even more.  Lay saran wrap over the curd so it’s touching the top to prevent a film from forming.

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But if you would like it creamier, try adding some heavy cream until it reaches the creaminess you desire.  I only added a tsp or two.  Or 20!  No, I’m joking.  It’s heavy cream, go easy on it.  We’re not Paula Deen-ing it over here.  We very much so like not having the diabetes.

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Justin and I eat this with toasted bread mostly, but our favorite use is turning it into a pancake “syrup” for Blueberry Pancakes.

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