Patty’s maple bacon brownies

Today, in a gesture of overwhelming self-sacrifice, I am making a dessert with bacon for Boyfriend. He doesn’t know it yet. I’m meeting him at a bar later to celebrate something, and I will be arriving with bacon brownies.

Why is this a gesture of self-sacrifice?

Well dear reader: I don’t like bacon.

Some people, when they find out, assume:

  1. I am allergic
  2. I have a religious restriction
  3. I am insane

But they are wrong. I just don’t like it. I love pulled pork and ham, but bacon does nothing for me. Boyfriend’s parents almost crashed the car when they found out.

“But how?” they gasped. “How can anybody dislike bacon?!”

Well, if you are curious why I don’t eat bacon you’ll have to make it to the end of this post.

Good to know before you start: I assume that regular bacon from the grocery store will work, but since we are celebrating a special occasion, I went to the butcher shop and got a pound of premium bacon.

I used Nova Scotia maple syrup from Maple Berry Farms in Fenwick. If you do not have real maple syrup, well…. I feel sorry for you. I picked up this bottle on my trip home in the spring.

Kitchen implements I used:

  • baking pan 8″ x 8″
  • 2 cookie trays

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb bacon
  • 2 TBSP real maple syrup
  • 1¼ C unsalted butter
  • 1¼ C granulated white sugar
  • 1 C cocoa powder
  • ¼ TSP salt
  • 2 TSP vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ C flour

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 177°C / 350°F. Line cookie trays and baking pan with tinfoil, do not grease.

2. Place bacon on tray and baste with maple syrup. Cook until it is a) not raw, and b) not burnt.

When you decide it’s done, place it on plates lined with paper towel and blot it well, on both sides. Meanwhile…

3. In microwave on High, melt the butter. This will take around 2 min, stirring every 30 seconds.

4. Stir in sugar, cocoa and salt. Microwave for another 30 seconds. Stir. Let the mixture sit 5 min.

5. Add the eggs one at a time.

6. Add vanilla.

7. When everything is combined add flour.

8. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan.

9. Layer in the bacon strips. I cut the bacon into small pieces so it will (hopefully) be easier to cut the brownies later.

10. Pour remaining batter on top. Bake 25 min.

11. Cool brownies completely in pan before slicing.

12. Enjoy?

Verdict: Yes, it must be love! I fully expect to be worshiped forever after making this. The flavour I can only describe as a brownie that tastes chocolatey yet smokey.

Boyfriend adored this. I did not.

Bacon, ugh. I just do not like it; it smells weird, it feels weird, it’s fatty and gross and just ugh – no thanks! That said, Boyfriend loves bacon with an intensity that borders on eroticism. I don’t understand.

Prior to making this I had no idea how to cook bacon. I figured this site would have a decent explanation, so I baked it in the oven. But 10 minutes wasn’t doing it, so I consulted my friend M and sent him pictures of the partially cooked bacon, and he guided me through to cooking it to completion. (Thanks buddy!)

I am guessing the size of this bacon was the problem? Oh well!

I brought the pan of brownies to the bar, and Boyfriend and K got to try them. They said it was great. J and E, however, almost vomited. It seems to be very taste-specific. I didn’t care for them.

I think it would have been different with small strips of bacon cooked to a crispy texture. I told Boyfriend if he would like to have this again, he can cook the bacon. I cooked 13 strips and only used 4.

Playlist: Cobra Starship – Good Girls Gone Bad

Rhubarb cobbler

When I was small, I lived beside an elderly man with a large vegetable garden. It was like having my own Mr. McGregor, and I was the rabbit unable to help myself from raiding his rhubarb.  Mmmm, pilfered produce! I am not sure why I ate so much of it, uncooked rhubarb can be quite sour, and I never did eat an entire stalk…

Tonight I made my first cobbler with the rhubarb I found in the market the other day. But will the fruits of labour be as sweet when the ingredients are purchased instead of purloined?

A cobbler is a layer of stewed fruit, covered by chunks of pastry, which are supposed to resemble a cobbled road after baking. This is a Better Homes & Gardens recipe.

I’m going to give a shout-out to Boyfriend’s mother for providing advice before I started. This whole “break topping / spoon topping” was confusing.

Time required: 1.5 hrs

Yields: 9 portions

Cost per portion: $4.00

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $36.00

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • flour sifter
  • 2 quart baking dish
  • cookie tray lined with tinfoil (to catch drippings)

Good to know before you start:

1. The leaves of the rhubarb plant are poisonous.

2. The stalks of the rhubarb plant are a natural laxative.

Topping ingredients:

  • 1 C flour
  • 2 TBSP granulated white sugar
  • ½ TSP baking powder
  • ½ TSP salt
  • ¼ C unsalted butter
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • ¼ C milk

Filling ingredients:

  • 1 C granulated white sugar
  • 2 TBSP cornstarch
  • ¼ TSP cinnamon
  • 1 TBSP water
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 4 C diced rhubarb stalks (about 6 stalks)

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 204°C / 400°F.

2. Wash rhubarb stalks and slice into one-inch pieces. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl sift together: 1 C flour, 2 TBSP sugar, baking powder, and salt.

4. Cut in butter until coarse crumbs form.

5. Slightly beat an egg and combine with milk.

6. Mix egg into crumbs until moistened. Set aside.

7. In a large pot, stir together: combine sugar, corn starch, cinnamon, water, and butter.

8. Add rhubarb, stirring until all pieces are coated.

9. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Let mixture bubble, stirring occasionally.

10. Pour hot fruit mixture into baking dish. The dish has been placed onto a foil-lined baking tray to catch any overflow.

11. Immediately spoon topping onto rhubarb. (Try to make small mounds of pastry, I ended up with a… decorative spiral.)

12. Bake 20 min.

13. After baking, cool on wire rack at least 20 min. Scoop and serve.

Verdict: Delicious! This is the first time I’ve cooked with rhubarb, but it won’t be the last.

I used a 1.5 quart baking dish instead of a 2 quart one, mostly because I am short and lazy and couldn’t reach the bigger dish. However, I’m glad I used that size, because I found there was not enough fruit. I would use 6-8 cups next time, maybe 10 stalks?

I was really happy with how this turned out.

You can make cobbler with lots of different fruits, what would you choose?

Playlist: Wizardry V soundtrack

Chocolate caramel cookie surprise!

How do you get the Caramilk Bar inside the cookie? Very, very carefully.

I spent today with my cousin J. She kindly provided a recipe for chocolate chip cookies, stuffed with Caramilk bar pieces. Intriguing!

It’s a cutout from a magazine and I’m not sure which magazine it’s from, and it turns out it was in a Longo’s flyer.

Tonight I made a beeline to the store to get Caramilk bars to try these out.

Good to know before you start: This dough is hard to handle.After the dough is prepared, but before the candy pieces are added, chill it in the fridge. I prepared an entire batch of dough but only baked 12 cookies tonight, and by the 9th cookie, as I was shaping it, it began to stick to my hands badly. I recommend baking them in small batches for this reason.

Time required: around 1 hr

Yields: around 36 cookies

Cost per cookies: $1.00

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $36.00

Kitchen implements I used:

  • large baking pan
  • parchment paper
  • mixer

Ingredients:

  • 1 C unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 C brown sugar, packed
  • ½ C granulated white sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temp
  • 1 TBSP vanilla
  • 3 C flour
  • ½ TSP baking powder
  • ½ TSP baking soda
  • ¼ TSP salt
  • 1 C milk chocolate chips
  • 4 Caramilk bars

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 177°C / 350°F, centre rack. Line baking tray with parchment paper.

2. In a mixer, beat butter until fluffy.

3. Add both sugars, beat until blended.

4. Beat in eggs, one at a time.

5. Add vanilla. Set mixture aside.

6. In a large bowl, whisk together: flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

7. Stir dry mixture into butter mixture, adding half at a time.

8. Stir in chocolate chips. Place mixture in the fridge for at least 10 min.

No pic for you!

9. Use knife to cut the Caramilk bars apart.

I will not eat the pieces, I will not eat the pieces. I will not, I will, I ... oops.

10. Scoop out dough with a table spoon, roll into a ball.  Make a small indent with your fingers, and place one square of Caramilk into the indentation. Pinch the dough up to cover the candy, and roll it through your hands again to smooth it out, then place on tray.

11. Bake 15 min. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack.

Cool on rack at least 2 min before eating.

Verdict: Stupendous! Loved this.

The dough is different from what I’m used to, it has a heavy, almost cake-like consistency, and the caramel centre is piping hot. And so good. They were much better than the cookies stuffed with Oreos.

I baked 12 and put the rest of the dough in the fridge. Together with Boyfriend and V we enjoyed them with milk. (These also dunk well!)

Both agreed “These are really good.”

Playlist: 80’s

Patty’s peach flans

What do custard and Final Fantasy IV have in common? Flans!!

A flan – or crème caramel – is a custard dessert with a layer of soft caramel on top,with similiar characteristics to crème brûlée.

As all Square fans should know, one of the toughest enemies in old school FF games were the pudding class, and in IV (my favourite), the rarest creature of all was the “pink puff” or “princess flan”.

Looks can be deceiving! These pink monsters were immune to magical attacks, almost immune to physical attacks, and you had to whittle away at their high HP.

They could only be found in one tiny room in the entire game, where you had a 1 in 64 chance of finding them, and if you defeated them you had a 1 in 64 chance of earning the rarest item in the game. But I digress.

I had flans on my mind for some reason or another, and decided to give it a go.  Usually I wouldn’t preface a recipe with a warning, but you should read all the way to the end before trying this one.

Time required: 2.5 hr

Yields: 6 flans

Cost per flan: $6.30

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $38.00

Kitchen implements I used:

  • 6 ramequins
  • baking pan 9″ x 13″
  • sieve

Ingredients:

  • 6 peaches, peeled and diced
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped
  • 1 cinnamon stick, split
  • ⅓C granulated white sugar (for caramelization)
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • 1½C milk
  • ⅓C granulated white sugar sugar (for custard)
  • 1 TSP pure vanilla extract
  • 3 shakes of ground cinnamon, per custard

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 163°C / 325°F. Fill kettle and boil, then let water simmer.

2. Peel fruit and dice into thin pieces.

3. Melt butter in a pan. Add fruit, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean (pods and shell).

4. Bring to a boil, and simmer 15 min.

5. On Medium heat in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, caramelize 1/3 C sugar. Do not stir it, shake the pan gently until it starts melting. Once melted, reduce heat to Low. Cook for 5 min.

At this point all the sugar should be melted and it’s okay to stir.

6. Immediately pour this melted sugar into the ramequins, titling to coat evenly.

Let stand 10 minutes.

charred molasses WTF?

7. Meanwhile, combine eggs, milk, and the other 1/3 C sugar, and vanilla.

Beat until well combined but not foamy.

oops, is this foamy?

8. Place peaches in ramequins.

8. Divide custard mixture evenly amount ramequins.

9. Sprinkle with cinnamon (I have a glass shaker filled with ground cinnamon for this)

guessing this doesn't look normal

10. Place ramequins in baking dish and create bain marie.

11. Bake up to 45 min.

12. Immediately remove ramequins from bain marie and place on cooling rack for 10 min.

13. Before consuming, loosen edges of flan with knife, and place a plate over ramequin, and invert.

Verdict: Burnt, with a bitter liquer aftertaste, and  a consistency of hard-boiled egg. Not exactly what I was hoping for!

Where did it all go wrong?

The first problem was the peaches, they were under-ripe, and I overcooked them in my eagerness to include them. Alas, adding fruit to flans changes the consistency and cooking time considerably.

Second, a third of a cup of sugar was not enough to coat each ramequin – I ran out, made more, and burned it – and used it anyway. The sugar tasted like burnt brandy, bitter and horrible.

Third, flans should take no longer than 45 minutes to cook, and when they are done, a knife blade inserted will come out clean. I accidentally set the oven to the wrong temperature and didn’t realize until they were already in, so I adjusted the temperature and checked them at 20 minutes, then every 5 minutes. After 70 minutes they still had not set, the knife was covered in runny custard, but I took them out anyway, only to discover they had mysteriously cooked all the way through. WTF.

I think peach flans have potential. I’m going to retry this with plain flans first, to get the technique down, then I’ll try adding fruit. I will not cook the peaches again, just use ripe peaches, one or two slices per cup max. The butter that the peaches cooked in looked unsightly. I think I’d prefer smaller ramequins for this too.

What a waste of vanilla bean!

Playlist: Final Fantasy IV – Into the Darkness

Virtual recipe box & how-to

I made a recipe index and a how-to guide index today.

The links are on the menu at the top of the blog, and also on the right.

The recipe index contains a link to each recipe I have posted, which is a condensed version of each blog post. They are sorted by dessert type; cakes, custards, et cet. Each recipe contains the ingredients and instructions, but the extra commentary and pictures have been removed so they are printer-friendly.

If you are like me and prefer step-by-step instructions, no worries! Each recipe has a link to the original blog post so you can still find that information, it’s just easier to locate now.

 

The how-to guides contain instructions for common baking dilemnas, how to make your own kitchen torches, create a water bath, or slice a cheesecake.

Over the weekend I plan to finish the rest of the guides, and if I’m feeling inspired, make something new.

(Edit: Sun Jun 19 – finished 2 more guides)

Playlist: MacGyver theme

Patty’s peach tarts

There is only one way to celebrate Labyrinth Day on June 13, and that is by watching the movie and eating peaches!! I wanted to make a peach pastry fit for a goblin king, delicious enough to make you forget everything. But when Boyfriend brings home the wrong ingredients and the whipped cream turns into butter, will he survive long enough to taste a tart?

If you are not aware, Labyrinth Day falls on June 13 because the movie was released in June 1986, and Jareth’s clock has 13 hours. The importance of peaches should be obvious!

The only person as mad for Labyrinth as I am is Best Friend, so she was the #1 choice to discuss my dessert plans. We looked at lots of recipes, and saw some really interesting peachy things, and in the end I decided to make tarts, topped with either fresh whipped cream, or vanilla frozen yogurt. I already had heavy cream, and made up a pie crust in the afternoon.

I asked Boyfriend to pick up 10 peaches and a container of frozen yogurt, and figured I could make up my mind between whipped cream and frozen yogurt later. He returned with ten pieces of fruit, which upon closer inspection, were not what I requested.

“These aren’t peaches,” I said.

“Yes they are.”

“The skins are smooth. These are nectarines.” I picked one up.

“No, they’re peaches! They were in the peach section.” he insisted.

“Being in the peach section doesn’t mean they are peaches, darling. Didn’t you notice they’re not fuzzy?”

“It doesn’t matter anyway.” he said. “These were the  last ten peaches they had so I got them all for you.”

I examined the fruit more closely.

“No. You got the last six peaches and four nectarines, is what you got.”

“Too late now.”

What to do? Six peaches wasn’t enough, and the store was closed. Peaches and nectarines have similar characteristics, and (I hoped) complimentary flavours, so I decided to use both.

Time required: 2.5 hours

Yields: 2 tarts

Cost per pastry: $15.00

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $30.00

Kitchen implements I used:

  • 2 shallow, fluted ramequins
  • 1 cookie sheet (to catch overflow)
  • deep skillet

Tart ingredients:

  • 6 peaches
  • 2 nectarines
  • 4 TBSP butter (half a stick)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ⅛ TSP cinnamon
  • smidgen of cloves
  • nip of nutmeg
  • ¼ C dark brown sugar, packed

Instructions:

Step 1 – Prepare a pie crust and refrigerate it. (I’ve mentioned this before but if you can’t make pie crust I can’t help you, I can barely help myself.)

Step 2 – Prepare the fruits: peel, core, and slice them. They will collapse during baking so don’t slice them too small.

Step 3 – In a large skillet, melt the butter and add the fruits. Once the butter has melted, increase heat until the fruit juice gets bubbly. Or you could be lazy like me and add the butter and fruits at the same time, bwahaha!

Step 4 – Once it’s bubbling, add: cinnamon stick, ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and brown sugar.  Once everything is mixed in and the sugar has melted, reduce heat, and simmer for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I have no shame in admitting that the sole reason I opted to include a smidgen and a nip was to show off my cute mini spoons! They measure: pinch, dash, smidgen, and nip.

Step 5 – Cut pastry to size and place into ramequins. Set ramequins on cookie tray. Save the remaining pastry for another use and refrigerate.

Step 6  – Discard cinnamon stick, and ladle fruit mixture into crust.

Step 7 – Bake 30 minutes, and cool on wire rack at least 20 min.

Top with whipped cream or frozen yogurt, or enjoy just the way they are.

Verdict:

Um, speaking of whipped cream… while the tarts were cooling, I made up whipped cream – except I got immersed in a book and walked away from the mixer. When I checked in on it later, my whipped cream had turned into butter.

Things were still okay because I knew we had frozen yogurt in the freezer as back-up and the tarts smelled really good. My jovial mood lasted until I opened the freezer, and then I got pissed.

“Oh darling! What’s this?”

“It’s vanilla frozen yogurt.”

“Really? Because the label says ‘vanilla with chocolate chunks and caramel’.”

“It was in the vanilla section!” he protested.

“Do you even read labels?”

In the end, I had a lack of peaches, ruined whipped cream, and the wrong flavour of frozen yogurt. Not a great start! We both glowered at each other. But it was a stupid thing to be angry over, so I told Boyfriend to eat his tart. And actually… they were really good!

Not quite what I planned, but still very tasty.  I’d make two small changes next time; halve the butter, and double the fruit.

This morning while I was writing up this post, Boyfriend – armed with Wikipedia – lectured me on the nature of peaches and nectarines.

“A nectarine is a peach. It’s a mutated peach, but it’s a peach!” he says smugly.

“Great, mutated fruit! That still doesn’t change the fact that I asked for peaches and you brought home nectarines and the wrong frozen yogurt.”

“It’s not a big deal. It’s nothing.” he said.

“Nothing? Nothing? Nothing tra-la-la!?!”

Playlist: Phantasy Star III soundtrack

Patty’s peach-apple crisp

A golden blend of succulent fruit, crunchy oats, and sugar. But after a month of kitchen failures, can I possibly succeed?

I purchased a bag of apples recently, and left them on the kitchen counter as bait.  I was hoping to lure Boyfriend into the kitchen, and expected that once he saw those lovely apples, he would be overcome with the urge to make me an apple crisp. He hasn’t made one in forever, and I think I am overdue to receive one!

Alas it was not to be.  The apples ended up in the living room somehow, and I only just discovered them yesterday, and it was time to face the cold hard truth; if I wanted an apple crisp, I would have to make it myself.

I’ve never made my own apple crisp before, but I helped Boyfriend make one, two years ago. And by “helped” I mean I peeled the apples. Here goes!

Good to know before you start:

Apples collapse quite a bit during baking, so make sure they pile up nice and high above the edge of the dish or you’ll have a sunken crisp.

Adding water to a crisp will result in a softer topping. I prefer it to be crunchy as possible so I didn’t add water.

Preparing fruit for baking always takes forever.  The sugar and heat will brown the fruit any way so no need to add lemon juice.

Time required: 2 hours

Yields: 12 portions

Cost per serving: $2.58

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $31.00

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • glass baking dish, 8″ x 11.5″
  • cookie tray (to catch the overflow)
  • apple peeler & apple corer
  • pastry blender

Ingredients:

  • 8 apples
  • 4 peaches
  • 1/2 C granulated white sugar
  • 1 TBSP flour
  • 1 TSP ground cinnamon
  • 1 C quick rolled oats
  • 1 C flour
  • 1 C dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 TSP: ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground cloves
  • 8 TBSP butter (one stick)

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 191°C / 375°F.  (I waited until the fruit was sliced to do this.)

2. Peel and core fruit. Cut each apple slice in half, cut peaches to similar size. Place in baking dish for now.

3. In a large bowl combine: white sugar, flour, and cinnamon.  Add fruit to bowl, and toss until thoroughly coated, then transfer back to baking dish.

4. In a medium bowl, combine: oats, flour, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I may have mentioned this before but I REALLY LOVE BROWN SUGAR.

5. Cut in butter until coarse crumbs form.

6. Place baking dish onto cookie tray, and sprinkle crumbly mixture over fruit.

Yes. It's impossible to take a picture of your own thumb without looking like dweeb making obscene gestures.

7. Bake 40 min.

In which I discover the hard way that the oven mitts have a hole in them and almost dropped the dish on the floor. Owch.

8. Cool 1 hour and serve.

Verdict:

“Hmm. Pretty good,” I said around my spoon.

Boyfriend shook his head. “Not pretty good. Damn good!”

I read several recipes and saw that they all have pretty standard ingredients, so I just added another fruit and picked a sugar and spice ratio that seemed appealing to me. You could probably cut down the sugar, especially if you’re not going to use tart apples. I was really happy with this.

I chose peaches because I just re-watched Labyrinth for the millionth time and have them on the brain. Jareth, you can give me a peach any day.

You can use lots of different fruit in a crisp. What would you use?

Playlist: Labyrinth soundtrack