Classic Peanut Brittle

Peanut brittle is one of those old-fashioned candies that no one really thinks about these days– but it’s actually very tasty, and easy to make. It sticks to your molars like crazy and probably causes cavities if you’re not careful, but it’s still good!

My daughter asked me what it was the other day, and rather than just tell her I decided to make some! The basic recipe is the same everywhere– sugar, corn syrup, and peanuts, then add baking soda and butter at the end. It’s a good idea to have your mise en place all set up, since you don’t want your sugar to burn while you’re measuring everything out. The finished candy is crunchy, sticky, and nicely salted, and the batch is just big enough to share without feeling like you’re missing out.

I think boxes of peanut brittle might make nice holiday hostess gifts– or maybe I’ll try it with almonds and a drizzle of dark chocolate, or macadamia nuts, or pecans… so many options!

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Nori Biscuits

Recently I was preparing dinner when I thought it might be nice to have some extra nibbles to snack on beforehand– nothing complicated, just something savory and quick to throw together. I thought about cheesy biscuits, but that seemed boring– going through my pantry, I spotted a jar of furikake seasoning– a combination of roasted seaweed, sesame seeds, and (in this case) bonito flakes– and was struck with the idea of a savory seaweed biscuit!

Since I was short on time I decided to go with the easiest and quickest biscuit recipe ever– one where you add heavy cream to flour with a little leavening, and that’s it. No grated/cubed butter, no buttermilk (or milk with vinegar), just three ingredients (four if you count salt) that are mixed up by hand in minutes. The resulting biscuits are always tender and surprisingly buttery in flavor despite the complete absence of actual butter.

I decided to add some pulverized bits of regular nori– the roasted seaweed sheets you wrap sushi in– for additional umami flavor, and it really added a nice savoriness and depth to the biscuits. Overall, the hot biscuits were a perfect addition to my evening meal, particular when smeared with a homemade scallion cream cheese that freshened them up just a tiny bit.

I will say that for me, furikake and nori are pantry staples, but even if you don’t ordinarily use them in your cooking I would highly recommend getting them– not only for this recipe, which I will totally be adding to my recipe box, but for sprinkling on other things. Omelettes, rice, and pasta are all great with furikake seasoning– give it a try!

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Canelés de Bordeaux

So, in my pastry adventures I’d often heard of canelés de Bourdeaux, little French pastries that are custardy on the inside, deeply caramelized on the outside, and which (sadly) require a lot of time and some specialty equipment to make. Given the apparent complexity of the process I’d decided against trying to make them myself, until I actually tried one and got hooked.

These things are really delicious– the outside has a nice, toasty flavor from the caramelization and a crisp-chewy texture, presumably from the beeswax/butter coating, while the inside is soft and squidgy, with a nice hit of rum at the end. They’re kind of like creme brulee in pastry form– I had to try making my own.

The problem, of course, is that traditional canelés are made with individual copper molds that run for $15-40 *each* online, and obviously you’d need a set of at least 8 to make the recipe worth baking. There had to be another way. Some internet research indicated that most of the silicone options weren’t sufficiently conductive to get real caramelization on the outside, so I went for a heavy-duty metal pan— nonstick, but that was only a side benefit since I would definitely be using the wax/butter coating for a more authentic result.

I found a very helpful post by Taste of Artisan, giving not only the recipe but very clear instructions on the baking process. I highly recommend that you check it out, though I had to adapt things a bit to account for my use of non-traditional molds.

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Mexican Street Corn Nachos

These are amazing. Best nachos ever. Really, truly incredible. If you like Mexican Street Corn (also known as elotes), you need to make these as soon as possible. I made them one night for a last-minute dinner gathering and by the next morning I was already plotting when to make them again, calories be damned.

These nachos combine charred corn with a creamy cheese sauce, poured over toasty tortilla chips to form a rich, satisfying base, which is then perked up with tangy tomatoes, pickled onions, lime juice, and basically all of the fixings of your favorite tacos. There’s just something about the luxuriousness of the gooey cheese being poured over the tray of chips, layered with topping after topping… I think if I could sit out on my deck with friends, a 6-pack of Coronas, and these nachos, I would have my ideal late summer evening. (or you could, you know, stay indoors in the fall and just devour them anyway)

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Soy-Marinated Eggs

Lately one of my favorite lunches has been a simplified variation on this egg and rice bowl from Smitten Kitchen— I love the refreshing combination of rice with lightly pickled vegetables and punchy vinaigrette, but I often don’t have the patience to crisp the rice or freshly fry an egg. Enter the soy sauce egg– I discovered it one day and had to try it, and once I did, it earned a permanent place in my lunch rotation.

What is a soy sauce egg? It’s an egg that’s been boiled to medium-hard (with a soft, jammy center, not a runny or crumbly one) and then marinated in a sweet/salty sauce to give it extra flavor. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the veggie-heavy rice bowl and gives a little heft and protein to my lunch!

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Caramelized Apple Sausage Rolls

For some reason, for my annual historical picnic I always gravitate towards British-y foods, rather than “traditional” American fare. Tea sandwiches, mini pork pies, and now sausage rolls.

I’d never made sausage rolls before (pigs in blankets don’t count!), but I never do things halfway– so rather than just get some pre-made sausage at the store, I decided to make things interesting and try out a recipe I found from The Flavor Bender, which includes caramelized apples and onions for an extra layer of flavor and texture.

I really enjoyed these– they were perfectly sized for 2-3 bites and were nice and juicy while still remaining flaky on the outside. I did find them just a bit sweeter than I generally like my sausage to be, so I edited the recipe below to reduce the sugary ingredients for better balance. Hope you like them!

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Porg Rice Balls

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For May the Fourth I attended a Star Wars themed party, so of course I had to make something in-theme to contribute! I decided on these porg-shaped rice balls, which are rice balls rolled in crushed sesame, with nori accents and a chunk of cucumber in the middle for extra crunch. They turned out adorable, if I do say so myself, and were popular with party-goers, so I consider them a success!

While you can make these without any special tools, it’s a lot faster and easier to do if you have the right equipment. I used a nori punch for the facial features, and a rice-roll press to make my pieces evenly shaped and well-compressed. That being said, you can feel free to shape your rice by hand (wet hands make it easier) and to cut out eyes and mouths with scissors. I would definitely recommend using the parchment paper cutout to mask off the white parts of the rice during the sesame step, though!

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Pineapple-Coconut Muffins

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With the recent spate of wintry weather here at home, I decided to try to warm things up by invoking tropical flavors– pineapple and coconut! Since I make a batch of muffins roughly every two weeks and it was about time to make one, I started with my standard muffin recipe and loaded it up with crushed pineapple and coconut flakes, using the pineapple juice for good measure.

The finished muffins were light and tender, with nice bursts of flavor from the pineapple and a subtle coconut background. They’re not overly sweet, which I actually liked since coconut baked goods can often be too sugary. They also go well with tea, if you want to enjoy warm-weather flavors with a cold-weather beverage.

I will note that if I weren’t making these for my kid, I might have considered adding some rum to the batter, or making a rum/brown sugar glaze. Maybe you’d like to consider it if you try these yourself!

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Curried Butternut Pasties

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I was invited to a pumpkin-carving party recently, and wanted to bring some kind of snack to contribute. I usually bring desserts (last year I brought these pumpkin cheesecake bars) but everyone brings desserts to these things, so I decided to go in a savory direction this time.

Butternut squash seemed the perfect ingredient to focus on for a squash-theme party, so I started with that. I wanted to keep things handheld and relatively neat to eat, so I knew I’d be enclosing the filling in a pastry, and after that it was just a matter of adding flavors I thought would work. Best of all, the prep time was relatively low since the filling ingredients were roasted together on a sheet pan.

As for the outside, I revisited the hot water crust recipe I used to make Paul Hollywood’s pork pies, since I’d been struck at the time by its flakiness and great flavor. To cut down on leftover scraps I cut my pastry into squares, which were folded diagonally to make little turnover shapes– but I’m calling them pasties here because 1) they sound more savory than “turnovers,” which always evoke dessert to me, and 2) I’m kind of on a Harry Potter kick right now and these remind me of pumpkin pasties (which were probably intended to be sweet, but whatever).

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Spinach Cheese Puffs

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I think I may have mentioned before that I love appetizers and hors d’oeuvres. Just love them. My favorite kind of work event is one where they serve drinks and “heavy appetizers” or “passed hors d’oeuvres,” because I know that there’ll be something involving cheese, bacon, or some kind of pastry… sometimes all three. So naturally I like to have a few recipes for similar items in my repertoire for when I want to host my own delicious event.

This particular recipe was born out of the need to come up with something that I could make ahead of time and that would be able to survive for several hours in a hot car before being served at a casual barbecue. That meant most cheese- or meat-based items were out, and any fresh vegetables were similarly not going to work. I decided that the best option was something with puff pastry, and once I noticed the half-empty package of fresh baby spinach slowly wilting in my refrigerator, the decision was made!

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