Mar 19, 2013

Salted Chocolate Caramels


Makes about 64 candies
Active time:45 min
Start to finish:3 1/2 hr

December 2006                                      
It’s the sprinkle of sea salt that really takes these caramels over the top, teasing out the creamy richness of the buttery chocolate candies.
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 10 1/2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
  • 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt such as Maldon (see cooks' note)
  • Vegetable oil for greasing                                                                                    

Special equipment: parchment paper; a candy thermometer
Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch straight-sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment.
Bring cream just to a boil in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat, then reduce heat to low and add chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then stir until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat.
Bring sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt to a boil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, uncovered, without stirring but gently swirling pan occasionally, until sugar is deep golden, about 10 minutes. Tilt pan and carefully pour in chocolate mixture (mixture will bubble and steam vigorously). Continue to boil over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until mixture registers 255°F on thermometer, about 15 minutes. Add butter, stirring until completely melted, then immediately pour into lined baking pan (do not scrape any caramel clinging to bottom or side of saucepan). Let caramel stand 10 minutes, then sprinkle evenly with sea salt. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours.

Carefully invert caramel onto a clean, dry cutting board, then peel off parchment. Turn caramel salt side up. Lightly oil blade of a large heavy knife and cut into 1-inch squares.
Cooks’ notes:
If desired, additional sea salt can be pressed onto caramels after cutting.
Caramels keep, layered between sheets of parchment or wax paper, in an airtight container at cool room temperature 2 weeks.
Caramels can be wrapped in 4-inch squares of wax paper; twist ends to close.
Recipe by Lillian Chou
Photograph by Romulo Yanes

Sep 21, 2012

Chewy Chocolate Chunk Walnut Cookies


“One of the best things in life...warm chocolate chip cookies” 

Note: All ingredients should be room temperature before using. 
2 1/2 C All-Purpose Flour
1 C Butter - Unsalted
3/4 C Cane Sugar
3/4 C Packed Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 C Chopped Walnuts
2 C Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Cream together Butter, Sugars, Vanilla, Eggs, Baking Soda and Salt.
Add Flour, one cup at a time. Stir in Walnuts. Finally, fold in the Chocolate Chips.
Line cookie sheet with Parchment Paper, and scoop cookies onto sheet using a medium ice cream scoop. 
Bake for 8-12 minutes, and let cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
May 15 (05/15) is National Chocolate Chip Day!



Aug 20, 2012

Traditional Black Forest Cake

Did You Know? 

The Traditional Black Forest Cake (Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte) consists of several layers of chocolate cake brushed with Kirsh syrup, and whipped cream and cherries between each layer. Then the cake is decorated with additional whipped cream, cherries, and chocolate shavings. 

Historically - The Black Forest Cake name resembles the traditional clothing worn by women of the Black Forest: a black skirt and bodice (the chocolate) over a white blouse (the whipped cream), topped off with a wide flat hat covered with red pompoms (the cherries).


Chocolate chiffon cake (3/8 inch thick)
Kirschwasser Simple Syrup
Whipped Cream (Sweet)
Brandy Soaked tart Cherries
Chocolate curls (as needed)
Cherries (as needed)

Moisten each cake layer with syrup during assembly

Place first cake layer on 8-inch cake circle. Moisten, and then spread a 1/2 inch layer of whipped cream evenly over cake, dot with Brandy Soaked tart Cherries

Place second cake layer on Cherries and Whipped Cream; moisten and repeat with more Whipped Cream and Brandy Soaked tart Cherries

Place third cake layer on Cherries and Whipped Cream. Moisten and ice top and sides with more Whipped Cream.

Freeze torte for about 30 minutes, until firm

Smooth any defects. Pipe rosettes and shells decoratively on the top of the torte and garnish with Chocolate Curls and Cherries.

Jul 8, 2012

Cheesy Garlic Herb Butter Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup milk
1 cup cheddar cheese (cubed)
1 Teaspoon Garlic
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes (dried)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and seasonings.

Stir in butter and milk just until moistened, mixture will be slightly lumpy. Let rest for a few minutes to allow the liquids to be fully absorbed into the batter.  Fold in the Cheese.

Drop batter (about 2 tablespoons) on parchment paper lined sheet pan.

Bake in preheated oven until golden brown around the edges, about 12-15 minutes. Brush with melted butter. Serve warm.

Jul 1, 2012

Loca-What? Locavores!

Locavores are people who pay attention to where their food comes from and commit to eating local food as much as possible. The great thing about eating local is that it's not an all-or-nothing venture. Any small step you take helps the environment, protects your family's health and supports small farmers in your area. 

The first step to being a locavore is to determine what local means for you. This is an individual decision that should feel comfortable for you and your family. Many locavores start by trying to eat within a 100-mile radius from their homes and then adjust where necessary, sometimes encompassing an area as large as an entire state or region. The important thing is that by creating a boundary, no matter how large, you are becoming conscious of food's origin. 

10 Ways to Become a Locavore

1) Visit a farmers' market. Farmers' markets keep small farms in business through direct sales. Rather than going through a middleman, the farmer takes home nearly all of the money that you hand him or her for a delectable apple or a wonderful bunch of grapes. Need to find a market in your area? Try the USDA's farmers' market guide.

2) Lobby your supermarket. Ask your supermarket manager where your meat, produce and dairy is coming from. Remember that market managers are trained to realize that for each person actually asking the question, several others want to know the same answer. Let the market managers know what's important to you! Your show of interest is crucial to help the supermarket change its purchasing practices.

3) Choose 5 foods in your house that you can buy locally. Rather than trying to source everything locally all at once, try swapping out just 5 local foods. Fruits and vegetables that can be grown throughout the continental U.S. include apples, root vegetables, lettuce, herbs and greens. In most areas, it's also possible to find meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and cheese - all grown, harvested and produced close to your home.

4) Find a local CSA and sign-up! Through a CSA—Community Supported Agriculture—program you invest in a local farm in exchange for a weekly box of assorted vegetables and other farm products. Most CSA programs provide a discount if you pre-pay for your share on a quarterly or yearly basis because a pre-payment allows the farm to use the cash in the springtime when money is needed for farm equipment or investment in the farm. CSA programs take the work out of buying local food, as the farmer does the worrying for you.

5) Preserve a local food for the winter. There's still time! Though we are headed into winter, many areas still have preservable fruits and vegetables available. Try your hand at making applesauce, apple butter and quince paste. To learn about safe preserving techniques, go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

6) Find out what restaurants in your area support local farmers. You can do this by asking the restaurants about their ingredients directly, or by asking your favorite farmers what restaurant accounts they have. Frequent the businesses that support your farmers.

7) Host a local Thanksgiving. Participate in the 100-mile Thanksgiving project by making a dish or an entire meal from local foods.

8) Buy from local vendors. Can't find locally grown? How about locally produced? Many areas have locally produced jams, jellies and breads as well as locally roasted coffee and locally created confections. While these businesses may not always use strictly local ingredients in their products, by purchasing them you are supporting the local economy.

9) Ask about origins. Not locally grown? Then where is it from? Call the producer of your favorite foods to see where the ingredients are from. You'll be amazed how many large processed food companies are unable to tell you where your food came from. By continuing to ask the questions we are sending a message to the companies that consumers want to know the origin of ingredients.

10) Visit a farm. Find a farm in your area and call to make an appointment to see the farm. When time allows, the farmers are usually happy to show a family or a group around the farm. When you visit, ask the farmers what challenges they have had and why they choose to grow what they are growing. Be sure to take the kids along on this journey! Children need to know where their food is coming from in order to feel a sense of connection to their dinner.

Want to know more about why locavores choose to eat local? Check out 10 Reasons to Eat Local Food.

Article Courtesy of PBS

Jun 30, 2012

10 Reasons to Eat Local Food

Eating local means more for the local economy.  According to a study by the New Economics Foundation in London, a dollar spent locally generates twice as much income for the local economy.  When businesses are not owned locally, money leaves the community at every transaction.  (reference)

Locally grown produce is fresher.  While produce that is purchased in the supermarket or a big-box store has been in transit or cold-stored for days or weeks, produce that you purchase at your local farmer's market has often been picked within 24 hours of your purchase.  This freshness not only affects the taste of your food, but the nutritional value which declines with time.

Local food just plain tastes better.  Ever tried a tomato that was picked within 24 hours?  'Nuff said.

Locally grown fruits and vegetables have longer to ripen. Because the produce will be handled less, locally grown fruit does not have to be "rugged" or to stand up to the rigors of shipping.  This means that you are going to be getting peaches so ripe that they fall apart as you eat them, figs that would have been smashed to bits if they were sold using traditional methods, and melons that were allowed to ripen until the last possible minute on the vine.

Eating local is better for air quality and pollution than eating organic. In a March 2005 study by the journal Food Policy, it was found that the miles that organic food often travels to our plate creates environmental damage that outweighs the benefit of buying organic. (reference)

Buying local food keeps us in touch with the seasons.  By eating with the seasons, we are eating foods when they are at their peak taste, are the most abundant, and the least expensive.

Buying locally grown food is fodder for a wonderful story. Whether it's the farmer who brings local apples to market or the baker who makes local bread, knowing part of the story about your food is such a powerful part of enjoying a meal. 

Eating local protects us from bio-terrorism.  Food with less distance to travel from farm to plate has less susceptibility to harmful contamination. (reference)

Local food translates to more variety.  When a farmer is producing food that will not travel a long distance, will have a shorter shelf life, and does not have a high-yield demand, the farmer is free to try small crops of various fruits and vegetables that would probably never make it to a large supermarket.  Supermarkets are interested in selling "Name brand" fruit: Romaine Lettuce, Red Delicious Apples, Russet Potatoes.  Local producers often play with their crops from year to year, trying out Little Gem Lettuce, Senshu Apples, and Chieftain Potatoes.

Supporting local providers supports responsible land development. When you buy local, you give those with local open space - farms and pastures - an economic reason to stay open and undeveloped.

Originally published by Life Begins at 30