Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Mark Pfaff's Grandma's Stuff

This was a favorite of Carrie's in high school, made by her friend Mark Pfaff's grandma. Since it didn't really have a name, it simply became Mark Pfaff's grandma's stuff. Whatever you call it, though, it's really easy, really delicious, and really addictive. It sort of tastes like a Heath or Skor bar. It's great for office parties, groups of kids, etc.

Saltine crackers (about 48)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
12 oz. chocolate chips
Chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit.
Line a jelly roll pan (with sides) with foil.
Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray (important!).
Place a single layer of saltines on the foil (it takes about 48).
Boil together 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup butter for 2 minutes.
Spoon mixture evenly over the crackers.
Bake at 350 for about 5 minutes until top is bubbly.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with 12 oz. of chocolate chips.
When chips have melted, spread the chocolate carefully with a knife.
Sprinkle with chopped pecans (optional).
Break into pieces when cool. (You can speed the cooling in the refrigerator.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Ming Tsai's Jasmine Caramel Sauce

After watching an episode of Simply Ming, the PBS cooking show by local chef Ming Tsai, I decided to try making his delicious-looking Jasmine Caramel Sauce. The sauce itself came out great. It was nice and creamy, very rich, and the taste of the jasmine tea really came through. Unfortunately, my attempt to use the sauce to make Toasted Sesame Nougat Bark was not as successful. I think I didn't reduce the caramel sauce enough, so the resulting product was the consistency of honey, not bark. It tasted delicious, though, licked off a finger. :)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Cinnamon monkey bread

Several farm stands here in eastern Massachusetts carry "cinnamon monkey bread" from Karen's Bakery in Lynnfield. I've eyed it before, but I bought it for the first time yesterday. Yum! It's basically like a slightly breadier cinnamon roll without the frosting. Very moist, lots of cinnamon and sugar. It's also cool because it comes in a big ring with segments that tear off easily.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Montilio's German Chocolate Cake

Last night, our friends picked up a German Chocolate cake at Shaw's, made by Montilio's bakery. The cake itself was nice and moist, and the chocolate buttercream frosting around the outside was pretty decent. The topping was okay, but nothing special. Not quite enough coconut, perhaps.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Peach cobbler and cinnamon roll in Chicago

We were only in Chicago for a few days this past weekend, but of course, we were sure to sample a few desserts.

The ice cream we had was sub-par, so I'm not bothering to look up the name of the place where we got it.

The peach cobbler at Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop in Hyde Park, on the other hand, was pretty good. It had a little too much nutmeg for my taste, but the hefty serving of whipped cream served on the side made up for it.

I also sampled a cinnamon roll from Medici on 57th. I usually prefer cinnamon rolls with icing, but this lightly glazed, icing-free roll was a treat. Lots of cinnamon, nice buttery flavor, and just the right balance of flaky and chewy. Yum.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Homemade Apple Crisp

I enjoy almost any dessert containing apples, so long as it isn't too heavy on raisins or nutmeg. Because I went apple picking last week at Honey-Pot Hill Orchards, I figured I'd pull out one of my mom's simple but tasty recipes: apple crisp.

This is not a complex apple crisp with toasted oats, ground walnuts, or other ingredients in the topping. It is a simple, butter-flour-sugar topping sprinkled over fresh fruit and baked until golden brown. It won't win any prizes in a baking contest, but it tastes good and doesn't take very long to prepare. It can easily be adapted to use fresh peaches or other orchard fruits, as well. (Canned peaches can be used, too, but they must be very well drained and possibly even patted dry to avoid too much moisture bubbling up during cooking.)

Recipe for Simple Apple Crisp

6 apples, peeled and cored
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 pinch salt
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 tsp lemon juice
cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit.

Slice each apple into about 16 pieces. Place evenly in an ungreased 8-inch square pan. Sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent browning. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and salt.

Beat the egg in a small bowl until combined. Gradually pour egg into sugar-flour-salt mixture, mixing (with spoon or hands) to combine. Mix until flour and some of the sugar are combined and the texture is crumbly.

Spread the crumble mixture over the apples in the pan. Drizzle melted butter evenly over the top.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Ricotta Pie at Arthur's Pastry Shop

Here in Medford, Massachusetts, there is a large population of Italian-Americans. It should therefore be no surprise that Italian bakeries are easy to come by. One such place is Arthur's Pastry Shop. The ricotta pie, made fresh by Arthur himself, is so good that it's almost hard to describe. It has a slightly fruity or maybe almondy taste, plus the rich, creamy sweet ricotta taste that is usually found within cannolis. Like New York cheesecake, it's hard to eat a large amount at one sitting, as it's very rich. Bring it to a party, though, as I did the other day, and it makes a big hit. And, more importantly, you get to have just as much as you want without having leftovers calling to you from the refrigerator.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Triple Chocolate Brownies

A couple years ago, I discovered a recipe for Triple Chocolate Brownies. It came from America's Test Kitchen, the TV version of Cook's Illustrated magazine. Any brownie recipe from scratch takes a little more work than a mix, and when it requires three types of chocolate, two of which have to be melted down ahead of time, it's even a bit more work. But let me tell you that it's worth every minute of effort. The batch I made today was the best yet. I took them out before they got even the slightest bit overbaked, and they were absolutely perfect. Moist and fudgy and with a rich, dark chocolate flavor. Yum!

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Salt water taffy

Carrie and I were down in Seaside Heights last weekend. We went for a nice walk on the boardwalk in the morning, before most of the attractions were open. One place that was open was Berkeley Sweet Shop, where we picked up a few pieces of salt water taffy, a treat neither of us had had in a long time. My favorite flavor was root beer, but all of the others I tried (lemon, lime, banana, peanut butter) were good, too. If you've never had it, it's a chewy, creamy, stretchy candy infused with a variety of flavors. It comes in two shapes, a thick oval disk and a long, skinny tube. It's found in beach towns around the United States.

Curious about where salt water taffy comes from, I did a little searching and found this brief, somewhat incomplete history. Turns out, there's no salt water, and the name came along later than the food itself. Go figure!

Haagen-Dazs Pineapple Coconut Ice Cream

Haagen-Dazs Pineapple Coconut Ice Cream is one of my favorite packaged ice creams. Its smooth, creamy texture combines with the mild tropical taste to create a really refreshing dessert (or snack or breakfast...).