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Archive for the category “desserts”

caramelitas

Caramel and chocolate!!  What can go wrong?  Nothing.   This is a quick easy and delicious combination of caramel, chocolate and of course . . . healthy oats.  I won’t mention the cream and butter if you don’t.  Since I have discovered these, melting caramel is a breeze.  No more painstaking task of unwrapping each caramel . . . and they melt so  quickly.   I found them at Target after an extensive search of the markets in Southern California.

You probably have all the ingredients in your pantry and can try this tonight.

  • 1 package of caramel bits
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup butter – melted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar – packed
  • 1  cup flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6-8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Prepare a 8″ square pan by placing non-stick foil in it with the sides overlapping about three inches.  This will ease the removal after baking.

Combine caramels and cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until completely smooth; set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, and baking soda.  Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 8×8″ pan.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crust.

 Pour caramel mixture over chocolate chips.

Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over caramel. Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned.

Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.

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caramel crunches

Caramel bits – my new favorite ingredient.  This was my second recipe (featured on the bag) in less than two weeks after receiving a shipment of 12 bags from Amazon, not to mention just snacking on them.  I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop and just keep making decadent desserts using the cute little BB sized caramel treasures.  They are the perfect size, taste delicious and melt  quickly and easily.  Now I know why many recipes require you to “unwrap 60 caramels”  – a good deterrent against making too many caramel desserts.  However, I really can’t resist the convenience and seem to always have them on hand for recipes like this,  which is easy and versatile.  You could probably use any type of nuts or chocolate; add coconut or dried fruit – I think the combinations are endless.  I apologize for the unfocused pictures – photography isn’t my strong suit.

•    4 ½ graham crackers
•    1 package (11 ounces) caramel bits
•    2 tablespoons milk
•    ½ cup roasted and salted peanuts
•    ½ cup mini marshmallows
•    ½ cup pretzels – coarsely chopped
•    1 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Line an 8 inch baking pan with foil, with the ends extending and grease the foil well.  Place graham crackers on bottom, cutting to fit.

Put caramel bits and milk into a small bowl and microwave for two minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted.  

Pour caramel over graham crackers and spread with an offset spatula to cover.

Top with marshmallows . . .

then peanuts. . .

then pretzels.

Melt chocolate chips in microwave or double boiler and drizzle on top. 

I think next time I will use semi-sweet chocolate (not chips) which will probably drizzle easier.

Refrigerate for at least one hour. 

Cut into squares

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pie crust for dummies. . . cindi!!!

Pie Crust has always been a challenge for me!!!  Just too much is involved and too much can go wrong!!!

Here is an excerpt from some a pie crust recipe:

Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready.

If the dough doesn’t hold together, add a little more water and pulse again. Note that too much water will make the crust tough.

Who wants tough dough?

and another…

If you want an extra flaky crust, shmoosh the dough mixture into the table top with the heel of the palm of your hand a few times.

This will help flatten the butter into layers between the flour which will help the resulting crust be flaky.

You can easily skip this step if you want.

So does that mean if you skip the step, you won’t have flaky crust?

and another…

How do you keep those butter pieces visible? You keep them cold.

If they get warm — even a little warm — they get soft, and if they get soft before they hit the oven, they have less of an ability to make the dough flaky.

Do everything in your power to keep them cold.

Cube the butter and re-refrigerate it, mix your flour and sugar and salt and refrigerate that bowl too.

If you’re rolling that dough out and it tears and sticks and you must start again?

Really?  “start again” – no thank you!!!

It’s just too daunting and intimidating.

I have tried over the years to make a good pie, especially since my husband loves pie, but never could.  Then my best friend came to the rescue.  She is a phenomenal baker and she knows my limitations with baking.  One year she gave me one of the best birthday presents ever.   A one on one class at my home with Penny from Penny’s Pies –  a life changing experience.  At first I thought it would be weird having someone come over to your house to teach you to make a pie, but whatever.  So one evening, while my husband and son were at the MLB All Star Game and I knew they would be gone for a very long time, I reluctantly scheduled Penny to came over to teach me how to make crust.   So very glad I did – it was incredible — she actually had a non-intimidating way to make a perfect crust every time, without using cold butter!!!  Now, crimping is a different story, but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of that with practice.  We had such a fun evening.  We made a quiche (which we ate), a blueberry pie (which my husband and I ate the next day) and a blind pie shell (which I used to make a cream pie).  I now can make pie crust whenever I want with no problem.  When you peruse the ingredients, you will get to peanut oil and shudder.  Don’t!!!  It works!!!  I don’t know how or why, but it makes an incredibly easy pie crust that is incredibly tender and flaky WITHOUT having to keep the butter cold!!!  It is a miracle!!!

This is for a nine inch deep dish pie plate (Emile Henry)
•    2 ½ (11 ½ oz) unbleached All-Purpose flour
•    2 tablespoons (½ oz) cake flour
•    pinch of salt

completely whisk the above ingredients together before adding liquids

•    2/3 cup peanut oil
•    1/3 cup whole milk

•    2 -3 tablespoons heaving cream – to brush on dough for glaze

Use a small stainless steel mixing bowl (1.5 quarts with tall sides).

Measure out the flours and salt into the bowl (best way is to weigh the dry ingredients).

Whisk the dry ingredients. Pour on the oil and the milk in that order.

Cut the ingredients together with an ordinary dinner knife, making “X’s” across the center and

turning the flour up from underneath by scraping the sides of the bowl as you turn.

This may take about 10 strokes.  DO NOT OVER MIX.  Dough should resemble coarse oatmeal.

Place one piece of wax paper, about 14 inches long, on working surface.

Turn the dough out onto the center of the wax paper and scrape the bowl clean.

Using your fingers, gently roll the dough around so that the liquid absorbs any pockets of dry flour.

Do not knead or over-work the dough, the dough should just hold its form.

Push the dough into a loaf-shaped mound.

Turn loaf over on wax paper. If there is dry flour remaining, simply fold it in.

Using the knife, divide the dough in half and shape two balls.

Place one ball, wrapped in wax paper back in bowl (or wrap and freeze for later use if you don’t need it).

Place the other ball in the center of the wax paper, flatten the dough slightly so you have a level top surface and cover with another piece of was paper.

Roll out the dough into a circle, about 2 inches beyond the edge of the pie dish – approximately 13″.

Always roll dough out with a rolling pin starting from the center of the circle, changing direction as needed – not back and forth.

Peel off the top layer of paper.

Grasp the edge of the wax paper with both hands and left it straight up and place evenly, dough side down, either in your pie dish (if you are making a pie) or over your filling.

.

 Carefully peel off the wax paper Cover filling with top crust using the same method as above.

Trim the edges about ½ inch from the edge of the pie dish.

Cut vent slots and brush on heavy cream to glaze, but do not brush the cream on the fluted edges.

Bake according to directions of your pie.  Check to see if edges are too well done and wrap the edges so they don’t burn.

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pear and apple crisp

What to do?   What to Do?  Apparently my pears and apples have multiplied like rabbits in the crisper.   Again, thanks to my produce delivery Farm Fresh to You, I get the most beautiful produce imaginable.  Both my husband and I love pears, but having over a dozen in the crisper is just too much.  Since I love any type of crisp, crostata, cobbler, etc., I figured a great to combine my pears and Jazz apples (our favorite) into a wonderfully scented and sweet melange with a perfectly crisp topping.   Crisps used to be hit or miss with me – sometimes too crisp – sometimes not crisp enough.  Well after several tries, I think I have come across the perfect topping which could be used for any fruit base.  With a crisp topping, less is more.  If you use too much topping, it will be tasty, but not “crisp.”   Such dilemmas.  But I do take my “crisps” seriously and it has to be the perfect consistency or I am disappointed.  This is a keeper and you can pretty much use any combination of fruit that is in season!!

• 4-6 pears – peeled, cored and sliced

• 4-6 apples – peeled, cored and sliced

• 3/4 cup white sugar

• 1 tablespoon flour

• 1 teaspoon cinnamon

• zest from 1 lemon and orange

• ½ cup juice from lemon and orange

Crisp Topping

• 1 cup quick-cooking oats

• 1 cup flour

• 1 cup packed brown sugar

• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

• ½ cup unsalted butter – melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Place pears and apples in a 9×13 inch pan.

Combine sugar, lemon and orange zest, 1 tablespoon flour and cinnamon together and sprinkle over pears/apples.

Pour lemon and orange juice evenly over apples.

In a bowl, combine, oats, 1 cup flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder and melted butter.

Sprinkle evenly over pear/apple mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Let set for 5-10 minutes before serving.

You can serve it with ice cream or whipped cream,

but it’s pretty tasty all by itself!!

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Dreamy Creamy Lemon Squares

Dreamy Creamy Lemon Squares

Adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks

I know I am in the minority, but sometimes I find traditional Lemon Bars a bit too rich.  I love lemons.  I love crust.    I love butter.  I love sugar and all the other  ingredients that go into making them.   They always look terrific.  I want to love them.  I’ve tried to love them.  I just don’t.  It’s almost embarrassing when you don’t love something that so many people adore.  So I figured I should find a substitute so I too, can enjoy Lemon Bars.  I found this recipe on Pioneer Woman Cooks and since I am such a fan of an oat crust, I thought I’d give it a spin.  They are definitely yummy and not too rich.   They are extremely easy to make and once again, you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry.

  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 stick (1/2) cup butter  – softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cups lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 8 x 11 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Sift flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.

Combine butter and brown sugar in large bowl and with mixer, mix until well combined.

Add oats and flour mixture to butter/sugar mixture and combine.  I used my hands at this point.

In separate bowl mix, condensed milk, lemon juice and zest until well combined.

Press half of crumb mixture into baking dish.

Spread lemon/milk mixture on evenly on top of crumb mixture.

Top with remaining crumb mixture evenly but do not press down.

Bake 25 minutes until golden brown.

Let cool on counter for at last 30 minutes.  Cut into squares and refrigerate a couple of hours.  Serve cool

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Graham Cracker Chewy Bars

Graham Cracker Chewy Bars

Adapted from Celebrating with Jullienne

Oh my goodness!!!  You have to make these bars NOW!!!  I made them last night and  brought them into work today and felt I was the Queen of Baking.  And if you know me, I am more like the “Joker” of Baking.   But, I am learning and getting better — I submit into evidence these Graham Cracker Chewy Bars from Top 10 Recipes of 2009 in the Los Angeles Times.   When reading some of the description . . . “– rich toffee, chewy center and a crunchy bottom – make everyone smile,”  I thought who cares about the other 9 recipes!!!  Actually, I may try the Potato Gratin with Caramelized Onions and Prosciutto.   Now back to the bars — they looked easy to make (first criteria for my baking attempts) and you probably have all the ingredients on hand!!  I used cinnamon graham crackers which gave them an extra hint of flavor and everyone tasted the cinnamon.  Spoiler Alert – Spoiler Alert – I warn you, do not try to cut them before they are completely cooled — no matter how incredible they smell, no matter how incredible they look, no matter how incredible the crumbs taste!!!  They are very very gooey and sticky even when they are completely cooled.   I cut most about 2 hours after cooling, but left the rest for the next morning and it was much easier.  Now if you compare the picture to the one in the LA Times article, you would think I made a completely different bar, but I assure you, they are the same bar, and the bottom line, they taste terrific!!!

Crust

  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used cinnamon)
  • 3/4 cups butter – room temperature (1 1/2 stick)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour

Topping

  • 2 1/2 cups brown sugar – firmly packed
  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 2/3 cups graham cracker crumbs (again, cinnamon)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup pecans – chopped
  • powdered sugar (optional)

Heat oven to 350.  Lightly grease a 13X9 inch baking dish.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugar and flour until moist and well blended. 

Press the mixture firmly and evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

While baking, whisk brown sugar and eggsuntil well blended.

Whisk in graham cracker crumbs, vanilla, salt and baking powder until …

combined and smooth.

Stir in pecans.

Spread evenly over baked crust.  Return to oven and bake 20-25 minutes or. . .

until the top is slightly golden. 

Place on rack and cool completely before cutting  The bars are very gooey and sticky and it is best to wait until they are completely cooled or even the next morning!!

Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired, but you really don’t need it any sweeter!!

Cut into desired size and enjoy!!!!

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Blondies Have More Fun

Blondies

Adapted from How To Cook Everything

I like chocolate and brownies, but I absolutely love the taste of vanilla, caramel, butterscotch so I love blondies.  This is an incredibly versatile recipe choosing your own additions, like nuts or dried cherries or butterscotch chips.  Of course, if you have to have your chocolate, you can even add chocolate chips to satisfy the craving.  These blondies are incredibly delicious and you only need one bowl and a hand held mixer.  This is such an easy recipe that I doubled it and did half with nuts and half without.

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter – melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • Optional ingredients – chocolate chips, toasted nuts, dried cherries, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Grease a 8×8 baking dish

Beat butter and sugar until smooth.

Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well combined

Stir in flour and salt and mix well

Add optional ingredients

I doubled the recipe and added 1/2 cup each of  white chocolate chips and  bittersweet chips to the entire  batch

I then put half of the batter in one prepared pan

I added 1/2 cup toasted pecans to the remaining batter and put into the other prepared pan

Bake for 20-25 minutes

Cool and cut into squares

Some like nuts. . .

some don’t

 

Berry Crumble Bars

Berry Crumble Bars

Adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking

So I make these delicious little snack bars —  a filling of raspberry jam mixed with dried sour cherries nestled between a perfect oat crust, and the first thing out of my husband’s mouth . . . “Hmmm they remind me of something . . . . Pop Tarts!”  Geez, you mean I could have popped two Pop Tarts in the toaster and he would have been satisfied?    He of course back-peddled a bit to let me know it was the consistency of the filling that reminded him of Pop Tarts.   I didn’t really get it, but I really wasn’t too offended, because some of my closest friends love Pop Tarts.  I haven’t had one since I was 12, and I am not one to quibble over something so subjective.  I prefer this simple healthier (2 sticks of butter?)  preservative free snack bar with the crispy oat crust/topping and fruity filling.  It’s the perfect balance of richness, sweetness and tartness, however it does require a bit more effort  than Pop Tarts.

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 cups old fashioned oats (not instant)
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks cold, unsalted butter – cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 16 ounce jar of good quality seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 cup dried sour cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 9×13 inch with foil across the bottom and up the two long sides, then lightly coat with melted butter or oil.

Place flour, oats, brown sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on low speed until well combined.

Add the cold butter and mix on low speed until . . .

mixture looks like wet sand and starts to form clumps.

Divide the dough in half and pat one half into an even layer in the prepared pan. Set the other half aside.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and crisp.  Transfer to a rack and cool for 20 minutes.

Place jam in medium bowl and stir until smooth to break up lumps.

Stir in cherries.

When crust has cooled, spread the jam mixture evenly on top, spreading all the way to the edges.

Sprinkle the remaining dough evenly over the jam.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

Transfer to rack and cool completely for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Lift the bars by the foil and place on cutting surface to cut into bars.

Keep in airtight container for 4 days at room temperature.

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Blueberry Pudding Cake

Blueberry Pudding Cake

Adapted from southernfood.com

In my mission to use my last two cups of blueberries, this recipe came to mind.  My friend at work told me about this recipe since we both love bluberries.  It is very easy to make (I made it after work one night and it only takes a few minutes to put together).  It can be rather sweet, so you could cut down on the sugar a bit, but why?  I know – I know pour a cup of boiling water on top and bake?  Seems strange, but trust me, it works.  After about 50 minutes, it magically transforms into layers of saucy blueberries, pudding type cake and a crispy sweet topping.  I actually think this is even better from the fridge the next day.

  • 2 cups (or more) blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup boiling water

Put blueberries in 8 x 8 baking dish (or similar). Stir in lemon juice

In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and 3/4 cup sugar.

Thoroughly blend egg, melted butter, vanilla and milk and whisk into flour mixture.

Pour/spread on top of blueberries.

Mix sugar and cornstarch and . . .

sprinkle over batter.

Pour boiling water evenly over the top.

Trust me, it may look weird but it works.

and bake 45-50 minutes.

Serve warm or room temperature.

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Cinnamon-Sugar Blueberry Cake

Cinnamon-Sugar Blueberry Cake

Adapted from Cooks Country

Last week I had a lemon surplus, and this week a plethora of blueberries.  I had been wanting to try this cake for awhile.  It won second place in the 1954 Pillsbury Bake-Off baked by a 15 year old girl who called it Blueberry Boy Bait because of the magical and captivating powers it had on teenage boys!!!  Well, it pretty much has the same effect on both genders.  This is really easy to make and you can use frozen blueberries – just don’t thaw them.  I increased the blueberries from the original recipe and also increased the topping.  The batter is pretty thick and I used an offset spatula to get it spread evenly in the pan. It’s a perfect snack cake with a cup of coffee or tea in the afternoon, or a nice addition to your brunch table.  Even though the recipe says it keeps for 3 days, it was perfect on day 1 and the topping had a nice crunch, but after the first day, the topping does not stay crunchy, however it is still tasty.

Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour plus 1 teaspoon
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter – softened
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup blueberries (if you use frozen, do not defrost)

Topping

  • 3/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat heat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together.

With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy,

about two minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl

Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated.

Beat in half of milk.

Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture.

Toss blueberries with remaining one teaspoon flour.

Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries.

Spread batter into prepared pan.

Scatter blueberries over top of batter.

Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and . . .

sprinkle over batter.

Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.

Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and place on serving platter (topping side up).

Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.

(I think this cake is better eaten the day it’s baked, although you store it in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)

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