a reason to eat caramel, baking, caramel anything, homemade, homemade girl scout cookies, samoas

Why I Should Listen to the Missus


Naked Samoas

‘I want this
,’ is all her email said, followed by a link to a baking blog that had a homemade version of the Girl Scout Somoas Cookies–or, for those who are up on the name changes of GSA sold cookies, Caramel Delites.

I told her no and deleted the email. Truthfully, I’m not a huge fan of Girl Scout Cookies and never have been. Maybe it’s something residual because I wasn’t a Brownie or a Scout, though both of my sisters temporarily were(we have a problem with follow through in our family). Sure, there was always a box or two of Thin Mints hanging out in our freezer when I was growing up–the supply seemed to respawn itself whenever we were getting low–but I just wasn’t really smitten with them. Now, as an adult, I will only admit to having a wee bit of badge envy.

Aside from random cravings, I try not to bring preservative filled snacks into the house so we’ve been GSA Cookie free for the past 3-4 years. Every year I have to turn down a co-workers proposal that we just order ‘a box or two’ to help his daughter with sales. I work in sales, so don’t try the heartstrings tug on me because I’m pretty damn impervious to it(unless you’re trying to sell me a kitten or puppy and, for them, I will crumble). After two weeks of the sign up sheet being hung up out back, I resisted all temptation and made it through another year without buying over priced cookies. Hooray for me.

Then, Valentines Day came and the Missus bought me the most thoughtful and amazing present and I realized what a selfish ass I was for not getting her a box or two of her favorite(Samoa’s) and spent the better part of a week trying to find her original email to me, asking for some cookies. But, that email was long lost to the trash bin and a simple Google search retrieved this one, though I opted for the much easier to make bars.

Homemade Samoas Bars
Cookie Base:

1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

First, make the crust.
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan, or line with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter, until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. Working at a low speed, gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly, like wet sand. The dough does not need to come together. Pour crumbly dough into prepapred pan and press into an even layer.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until base is set and edges are lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack before topping.

Topping
3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12-oz good-quality chewy caramels
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
10 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are ok)

Preheat oven to 300. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

  1. Unwrap the caramels and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times to help the caramel melt. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula.
  2. Put dollops of the topping all over the shortbread base. Using the spatula, spread topping into an even layer. Let topping set until cooled.
  3. When cooled, cut into 30 bars with a large knife or a pizza cutter (it’s easy to get it through the topping).
  4. Once bars are cut, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45 second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. Dip the base of each bar into the chocolate and place on a clean piece of parchment or wax paper. Transfer all remaining chocolate (or melt a bit of additional chocolate, if necessary) into a piping bag or a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle bars with chocolate to finish.
  5. Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes 30 bar cookies.

Note: You can simply drizzle chocolate on top of the bars before slicing them up if you’re looking for yet an easier way to finish these off. You won’t need quite as much chocolate as noted above, and you won’t quite get the Samoas look, but the results will still be tasty.

I did opt to make my own caramel using this recipe and cutting the amounts in half, ignoring the set up for the pan for the caramel to set in and picked up the above topping recipe halfway through step #1 where you are asked to stir in the coconut.

1 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cups half-and-half cream, divided
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  • (Line a 13-in. x 9-in. pan with foil; butter the foil. Set aside.) In a Dutch oven, combine the sugar, corn syrup and 1 cup cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Slowly stir in remaining cream. Cook over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 250° (hard-ball stage), stirring frequently. Remove from the heat; stir in butter and vanilla until well mixed, about 5 minutes.
  • (Pour into prepared pan. Cool. Remove foil from pan; cut candy into 1-in. squares. Wrap individually in waxed paper; twist ends.) Yield: 1 pounds.

The caramel, because I opted to cut down the recipe, was barely deep enough to give a reading on my candy thermometer. And, because I didn’t want to repeat a bad caramel result, I used the old tried and true, though not very scientific, method of testing the caramel in a glass of cold water. If it held its shape, it was at the hard ball stage–if not, it was still on that side of too gooey. My caramel turned out a hair over the hard ball stage which made it hard to just bite into the bars without fear that a tooth would get cracked. However, the simple act of cutting the bars into quarters and storing them in a container, took away that fear.

But, in the end–for as self-critical as I am–the result brought a smile to the Missus’ face and that’s all that mattered.

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edible obsession, edible stats, random numbers, statistics

20,000 Peepers

In the past 9 months, and 4 since I last laid some numbers on you, 20,000 nosy, curious people found their way to this page.

  • Total visitor numbers have nearly tripled–from 7,345 total in October to 20,000 today.
  • The average monthly view is 2,222.22 people
  • The daily view(with a 30 day average) is around 74.074.
  • Twice as many people were looking for Crack(pie) via search, for a total of 761 views and a NON review of Figa has been stumbled upon by just over 500 people. And then some nice words about Caiola’s were read by 255.
  • However, when it came to referral sites no one came near PFM at 1,944 visitors. Urbanspoon was a far second with 836.
  • And, even after making fun of them in the last post, 44 people misspelled the name of this blog and went looking for some type of “Ediable Obsessions.” 56 got it right and get a gold star. 5 people are looking for one singular ‘Obsession’ and no one has searched for pumpkin lube since November.
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burbur chacha, chinese new years, cooking fail, food memory, malaysian

Trying to Relive the Past

It’s been twelve years since I last stepped into Baba Malaysian restaurant in NYC. It was before 9/11, as it seems every thing that happened in the past twenty years is defined as a ‘pre’ or ‘post’ this date. It was my birthday in April of 2000 and my partner, who was from Long Island, took me down to celebrate at my favorite restaurant and attend an Astrea Foundation concert that featured Ani Difranco and Margaret Cho. It was a weekend of shopping, eating, music, and friends. It was also the birthday when I was approached by someone of the Twelve Tribes who assumed, probably based on my Pepto colored hair, that I was a lost soul and should join them on their bus for a spiritual awakening.

One of the best moments came when a car full of friends and I were driving 80+MPH on the L.I.E. and found an ice cream truck in the lane next to us. Through a game of charades and yelling, we convinced the driver to hand over some ice cream pops while we were driving. Luckily, it wasn’t rush hour and there were no troopers on that particular stretch of highway, because we were rewarded with a couple of chocolate dipped vanilla ice cream bars. I still laugh at the memory of my pink haired self stretching a third of the way out the window as this twentyish year old guy struggled to hand over the ice cream bars while driving with one hand on the wheel. I swear, those were some of the best ice cream bars any of us had ever had.

But, as easy as I remember something as crazy and idiotic as that, I still remember the meal.

Roti Cani

Beef Rendang
Mango Chicken

Coconut Rice

Burbur Chacha

Baba was my favorite restaurant in New York(this was when I was 23, still unversed in ethnic foods and just realizing that I had more than a fleeting passion for food) and getting down to eat there was always a treat. But, it’s not overly noteworthy that I can remember what I had twelve years ago because we ordered the same thing whether we were there or at Penang. Penang’s menu was much more extensive than Baba’s so there was the occasional change or addition in starter or entree but the desserts usually remained the same.

The dessert, with the funny sounding name of Burbur Chacha, made me fall in love with Malaysian food. It was sweet, gelatinous and warming. When Baba closed in late 2002, before I got to bid it a proper farewell with one last meal, I tried to find that dessert around Albany to no avail. Sticky rice in coconut milk with taro or black eyed peas were as close as I could find in the Asian supermarkets in the area. Theywerethisclose yet it still wasn’t the same.

Then this year, when there were quick plans being made to hop on the Concord bus to Boston for Chinese New Years(where the picture above comes from). I decided to try to track down a recipe, procure the items while in Chinatown and make a go for it at home. So, between laughing at the Missus’ cousin marvel at the Lions Parade

and having dim sum at Winsor Dim Sum Cafe

I dragged their asses from one side of Chinatown to the other looking for ingredients for the recipe:

11 ounces/ 300 grams purple yam, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
1lb/ 450 grams sweet potato, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
¼ cup dried tapioca pearls
2 cups/ 450 ml fresh or frozen coconut milk
¼ cup/ 200 ml water
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 pandan leaf, shredded into thin strips and knotted together

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped palm sugar

Steam the yam and sweet potato cubes for about 30 minutes or until tender. Leave aside to cool.

Prepare the tapioca pearls. Submerge the pearls in a bowl of cold water for about 15 minutes. Drain and transfer them to a saucepan filled with water. Boil the pearls, stirring constantly, until the pearls turn translucent. Drain the pearls in a fine-mesh sieve and pour cold water through the sieve. This helps to break the pearls up and prevent clumps from forming. Set aside.

In a large pot, combine ¾ cup/200 ml of coconut milk with the water, then add the palm sugar, granulated sugar, salt and pandan leaf, and bring to a boil. Add the rest of the coconut milk, the sweet potatoes and yam, and the tapioca pearls.

The Pandan leaves, very much like palm leaves, were the hardest to find, located in the back of the frozen area of the Chinatown C-Mart we finally tracked down. The scavanger hunt for these ingredients–as well as some ingredients for XO Sauce–kept us warm and out of restaurants where we would have sat and stuffed our faces.

After everything was found and I worked my way through some Eggs Benedict And Risotto, I finally got around to trying to recreate the dish.

My enthusiasm for the whole thing didn’t last long. In fact, right after I tied the leaves

I found that the tapioca, which actually eluded us for a while on our hunt, turned from this:

to this:

and completely turned to shit in the initial soaking.

*zen breathing*

Maybe it sheds or something, I thought to myself, as if it had some outer husk attached. But, it doesn’t, does it. No. I just managed to find the shittiest Tapioca Pearls in all of Boston’s Chinatown. The reality was obvious at this point: It was too late to turn back from all of this. The taro and sweet potato had been steamed, the pandan cut and tied and the coconut milk removed from it’s tin. I decided that it was best to just pack everything up for the day before I trashed my kitchen out of frustration and rage(we’ll blame the full moon for the grossly disproportionate reaction I was having).

Later the next day, I opened up my Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything in the World” and settled on making an uberstarchified version of his Kheer. The end results were ok, as the taro was undercooked, more palm sugar could have been used, the milk was too thin and I ate it cold. Yeah, it was basically a big bowl of disappointment in trying to recreate what I once had and I learned that I’m better off leaving that dish to the memory of what it was.

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consider bardwell farm, fighting the FDA, raw milk, saving raw milk, saving raw milk cheeses

Consider the Cheese

Angela Miller, from Consider Bardwell Farm, touches a bit on the topic of the FDA restricting raw milk cheeses further in the US.

At least 75% of our cheese-makers’ day is spent cleaning, washing with water above 120 degrees, scouring, rinsing with an acid, and sanitizing all floors and surfaces, all cheese making equipment, as well as door handles and anything else that normally comes in contact with people, milk, and ultimately cheese…

…Food-safety practices to protect the public health are the necessary goal of every cheese creamery in order to ensure the continued production of raw-milk cheeses.

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cheese, cheese pairings, first of the year, jasper hill farms, winnemere, winnimere

Edible Obsession: Winnimere from Jasper Hill Farms


My fingers smell like funk right now. I can smell honey, yeast and must. To be more specific, they smell like the rind of Jasper Hill Farm’s Winnimere cheese and the local honey I paired with it. Six months ago I said goodbye to this cheese as it’s season ended. Six months of hardly touching a gooey washed rind until now. Two weeks ago I saw on the Jasper Hill Facebook page that they were releasing the first batches and then I waited patiently.

Then, while shopping at Whole Foods today I noticed her there in the case. She was a perfectly untouched, deep copper toned round. Had I been $28 richer, I would have bought the whole wheel just to marvel at by myself in the privacy of my own home. It is one of my desert island foods, you see. But, upon looking at the piece that was cut for me, to see how quickly the cheese tried to rush out from it’s rind, I knew it was actually best to not get the whole wheel. Why? Because it’s perfect right f’ing now. In fact, it may be one of the best batches I’ve seen from them since their first release of this particular cheese. But, it shouldn’t surprise me at all because it seems like Jasper Hill is hitting it’s stride. Recent sampled batches of their Moses Sleeper, Constant Bliss, Clothbound Cheddar (done in conjunction with Cabot Creamery) and their Bayley Hazen Blue have been particularly delicious.

My first taste of this years Winnimere was a pleasant surprise. While it had the body of a near overly ripened cheese, it had a sweetness that was extremely reminiscent of a triple creme brie. The slight smokiness of a cured meat–something I absolutely love in this cheese–was more subtle than I remembered it, though the rind itself(washed with a lambic ale) was as yeasty as ever.

You can seek it out at Whole Foods, The Cheese Iron and K. Hortons(I think) for the next six months, as well as it’s appearances on many a cheese plate at local restaurants. Do yourself a favor and buy a small wedge of it. Let it come to room temperature, smear it on slices of your favorite crusty bread and share my obsession. I’ll need the shoulders of others to cry upon come July when she disappears once again.

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canadian bacon, charcutepalooza, charcuterie, making bacon, ruhlman, salt curing

Charcutepalooza: 2 Beasts, 1 Week–Pt. 2 The Salt Cures

Go ahead and twist my arm. Tell me I have to make my own bacon(or other dry cured options) and I won’t fight you on it. It’s actually the natural progression of things as we first buried a duck breast in salt, before we hung them, to make our own prosciutto. So, we would continue our collective educations on salt and move up to larger cuts of meat. When this challenge first started, I still was without the RuhlmanCharcuterie” book and drew from his website for a general idea of what was needed. After that, there was only the choosing of what cut of pork(or other appropriate animal) I would use. There really wasn’t much of a choice as it was either belly–which I currently have 9lbs of locally obtained belly in my freezer at the moment–or loin, for something of the Canadian style. But, damned if I didn’t try to get some jowl for this challenge to forgo bacon altogether in favor of some guanciale. Maybe I’ll be able to wrangle some up in the coming weeks and give it a go.

While I could have played around with different meats, though the lamb belly fell into my possession after the curing had begun and goats belly was no where to be found , I opted for the Canadian variety. Finding a recipe on line was easy as was some naturally raised, though not local, loin. It didn’t hit me until after I finally received the book that Ruhlman doesn’t have Canadian bacon in the dry cure category, but puts it later in the book under the ‘smoked meats’ chapter. So, this whole task may be a bit of a cheat but I’ll claim ignorance and an inability to hook up with the UPS guy to obtain the book before I started on my way.
Ruhlman’s dry cure is simple:

Basic Dry Cure
1 pound/450 grams kosher salt (2 cups Morton’s coarse kosher salt)

8 ounces/225 grams sugar (about 1 cup)

2 ounces/50 grams pink salt (10 teaspoons)

Combine and mix till pink salt is uniformly distributed. Store indefinitely in air-tight container.

That, dredged over, around and in this:

It lived in a gallon sized Ziploc bag in our refrigerator for a week. I thought it was more interesting to don some gloves and start this challenge than it was to watch The Black Eyed Peas during the Superbowl Halftime. My Chicago Bears weren’t playing and I lost my cheese bet, so what did I have invested? This was more engaging to say the least.

I added only an eighth of a cup of dark brown sugar to the dry cure as an added seasoning. Good bacon should be relatively unchanged–ie, I don’t need it to be curry or candy cane flavored to be appealing–so that’s how I treated it. The first thing I did, every day when I came home from work and took off my coat, was to check the pork loin and redistribute the moisture that was collecting in the bag. This, I learned, would help the cure penetrate and preserve the meat. Makes sense.

So, for a week I watched this experiment in my kitchen grow slightly pinker and firmer with each passing day(I’m sorry, but I can’t find the words to not make that sound perverted in any way). While the duck breast relied on the environment to reach it’s perfect state, this would require a little more work and coaxing. It also, as I found out when it was finally time slow roast it, would take twice as much time as the recipe for using a belly. Something to consider as I spent four hours roasting this after returning home that evening from the Lion Dance parade in Chinatown.

But, though I was tired and near tears because I just wanted the damn thing to come to 140ish degrees, the final product was better than I could have hoped for.

It was, as the book promised, “beautifully roasted” and the salt was perfect in it. While I’m not a huge fan of nitrates in my bacon, I’m willing to acknowledge that a little dose of them for curing purposes are ok(and much more appealing than not using any or trying celery juice or beet juice for the coloring).

But, there is still a meal to be made with this and, for that, I turned to the obvious choice of Eggs Benedict. Hollandaise sauce and I have a history going back to culinary school where, out of all of the assignments, my attempt to make it failed horribly. First, I drizzled clarified butter on the burner and managed to start a small fire and then curdled my egg yolks and had to have the chef teach me a quick fix for the sauce breaking. Since then, I haven’t had the balls to pull myself away from the blender hollandaise. Until now,that was, as I opted to try a still gentler approach via Martha Stewart.

I placed my yolks and water in a double boiler

and whisked for four straight minutes until it was time to slowly add the melted butter and whisk some more until it was thickened

But, I had missed a few steps. I added the lemon juice AFTER it had been thickened when I was suppose to add it before. I was also suppose to remove the bowl from the heat and didn’t. So, just soon after admiring the velvety texture and feeling so proud of my victory… the sauce broke. My shoulders fell instantly and I took the bowl over to the sink, ready to toss the whole bit. But, I couldn’t bring myself to do so. I couldn’t fall victim to a hollandaise sauce again. So, I turned back to the stove, poured in a bit of water and started stirring again. Like magic, it came back together and all was not lost.
While all of this was going on I was browning some of my gorgeous bacon,

toasting an english muffin and scrambling an egg(no time to attempt my first poached egg today). And, while I felt like a circus clown juggling so much and crying a bit on the inside, I did end up with a beautiful weekday brunch

that lasted only moments on the plate.

Next month we brine!

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