Oh Figs!

April 6, 2012

Tee-hee. Polite swearing is so cute.

*ahem*

Today we’re going to talk about the awesomeness known as figs. I LOVE figs. Fresh figs are floral and juicy, dried figs are sticky and sweet. As a kid I loved Fig Newtons, something we didn’t have much. So flipping through a cookbook, I wondered if we could make our own. Turns out…you can!

Start by cutting up two packages of figs. I diced ours, but after making a batch I’d be inclined to mince them. I’d also be inclined to increase the amount of figs for a thicker layer. Ours wound up kind of cakey.

So, take your figs, put them in a small saucepan with 1/3 cup honey and a teaspoon or so of lemon juice. Cook it gently over low heat for approximately ten minutes, or until the figs soften up. Stir occasionally.

While the figs are rehydrating, go ahead and make your “cookie” dough. We made it with 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup honey, 1 egg, 1/2t lemon zest, 1T lemon juice, 3 cups whole wheat flour, 1t baking powder, 1/2t baking soda, 1/4t salt.

Ours was a crumbly texture; however, similar to a graham cracker crust texture, when squeezed it held its shape.

We took the crumbs and pressed them in to the bottom of a sprayed 9×13 glass pan. In hindsight, I think our layer was a little thick.

By this time, the filling should be about set, so dump that in to the pan and spread it out. I left an edge of about a half inch so that we’d get a good cookie seal instead of being leaky.

Then place the remaining cookie crumb on top and press it down.

Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, or until starting to look toasty.

You can see that ours are slightly crumbly, but they tasted delicious. I’d add a touch more liquid, a little less crumb, and a little more filling. Best served warm!

Tis the season for cookies!

December 17, 2011

So everyone knows that the holidays are really just an extended excuse to bake and eat. Basically for a month, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, diets, as well as common sense is suspended in favor of childhood memories. We always make a LOT of cookies-mostly to give away, but there’s plenty of eating too. Two childhood favorites of mine are dipped pretzels and peanut butter cups. These recipes are both fast and easy, as long as you know how to turn on your stove, you can probably do both of these things, but they look fancy enough to give away.

To make the peanut butter cups, you start by melting together 9 oz white chocolate with 3/4 cup of peanut butter in a double boiler or mixing bowl over a pot with a little boiling water. While you’re waiting for that to heat up, chop a decent handful of roasted, salted peanuts. Once your peanut butter and white chocolate is melted and combined, fill the bottom half of mini cupcake papers in a cupcake pan. Then sprinkle with the chopped peanuts.

After that, combine 8 1/2 oz milk or dark chocolate with 3/4 cup peanut butter and melt together. I generally use the same bowl as I used to melt the first half. It doesn’t matter if there’s a little left over in the bowl since you’re going to be eating it together, and the darker color of the chocolate will cover the color of any white chocolate left. Once that round is melted together, fill the top half of the papers. Stick them in the fridge and let them set. If you can’t wait, try not to burn yourself.

In this picture, you can see the two layers, as well as one of the sprinkle of peanuts. Having the peanut layer in the middle gives you a little texture, and helps make these a step above other peanut butter cups. I also put a few holiday sprinkles on top just to make them look festive.

Dipped pretzels require the same skills as peanut butter cups. The candy coating goes by various names in the grocery store. Some times it’s called “bark” or “vanilla bark.” It also gets called just “candy coating” or “vanilla candy coating.” All of these products are basically the same thing. Break off a few squares, and melt them in your double boiler or mixing bowl. I generally use at least 3 squares to have enough melted candy to dip into, and not more than about 6 so I can fit it all in a bowl.

This is about 6 squares, just starting to warm up. Once you have your candy melted, you can turn down the heat a bit. This isn’t actually white chocolate so it’s not overly temperature sensitive, but you can make it too hot and cause it to seize. If everything seems to be going fine, and all of a sudden you start seeing lumps, turn your temperature down! Similarly, if the bark is starting to just run off or puddle, your bark is too hot.

Another trick I learned from Rachel is to place a skewer between the bowl and the pan to let steam out. It keeps the bowl from bumping around as the water boils, as well as to keep moisture from bubbling up the side.

Once the candy is melted, take a handful of pretzels, and dip them in. We typically use stick pretzels, and dip them about halfway. This is easiest, because you’re not trying to fish around and make sure you got all of the pretzels out of the candy. Also, the sticks break less then the twists, so you’re not digging around for nice looking pretzels. Once they’re dipped, lay them out on a wax- or parchment-paper lined cookie sheet.  I put holiday sprinkles on these while they’re warm too, because why not? Pop your cookie sheet into the fridge for a few minutes, until they’re set.

So pretty! We also have a few other kinds of cookies in the works, but in a vain attempt at holiday rationality, we’re trying to limit ourselves to two kinds a day!

A Rose By Any Other Name

December 12, 2011

So first, a quick note of business.

What do YOU, dear readers, want to see more of on BurbEx? Refinishing projects? Embroidery and sewing? Food?  What turns you on and keeps you reading. What can we teach you, or ourselves? We’d love to get some feedback.

Until then, we’ll keep plugging away.

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Yesterday Katie and I attended a cookie party. Yes, it is just as awesome as it sounds. Everyone brought or made cookies to share. We, of course, had to be different. I went back to my roots and decided to try something I hadn’t done in a long, long time.

Rosettes.

The idea of deep-frying can be a little daunting. We’re not super sophisticated at it either, so getting the oil stable at the right temperature took a little finesse.

So down to rosettes. These are basically a fried dough, made on a set of shaped, hot irons. Think a fancy funnel cake. The irons come in several designs, and usually look about like this:

These irons are what the dough is dispersed on, so that it cooks in the shape of the iron. Some of them make cups, some are Christmas themed. These are the original 1970s version, found at Goodwill for $0.69. Yep. Under a buck.

Heat your oil to about 365 degrees. We used our candy thermometer because it goes up to deep fry. It’s important to monitor your oil temperature closely, because it impacts how the dough cooks. If it’s too cool, the dough will absorb the oil and become spongy and laden. Too hot and they will become too crispy and burn. It took about 15 to 20 minutes for our oil to heat up to the right temperature, then a little fiddling around with it to get it stable.

Then…the frying commenced.

First, make your batter:

1 cup flour

2 Tbsp sugar

salt

2 eggs lightly beaten

vanilla

1 cup milk

Mix the dry ingredients, combine the egg, vanilla, and milk, then combine it all until smooth. Ours was lumpy at first but smoothed out. This recipe makes about 60 rosettes. Prepare a tray or rack with paper towel, and place your batter in a shallow dish for dipping.

When the oil reaches the magic temperature, dip your irons in to the oil for a few seconds – 10 to 20 or so, to allow the irons to heat up. The oil also coats the irons so the batter doesn’t stick once it’s fried. Dip the irons in to the batter, being careful NOT to cover the top of the irons. Getting batter on the top makes it hard to remove the rosettes nicely after cooking.

If your oil is appropriately hot, the rosettes will immediately bubble a lot. Don’t be scared, just let them do their thing. It will take them about a minute or so to cook. Take them out when the dough is nice and chicken-brown.

Give them a moment to drip the oil off, then zoom them over to your landing zone – paper towels on a tray or rack. This will allow the excess oil to drain away. The rosette should pop off easily with a fork. After making several, I found that a couple things happened. First, our oil began to cool off because we placed cold batter in it. Monitor your oil temperature and allow it to come back up to temperature when it cools off. Also, not all of our rosettes turned out. It’s okay! Just try again. We did find that once our irons were nice and screaming hot, they would cook the batter immediately, which would then fall off in to our pie plate.  Let your irons cool off a bit if that’s the case.

As you can see, our rosette is nice and brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and enjoy. They’re best served hot. They’ll hold for about a day, or three days in the fridge, or frozen up to about three months. However, I think they’re best for immediate consumption. It’s a good party trick to impress your friends.

For about a buck and a half, we had a great dessert to share with our friends. Deep frying can be as simple as that!

xo-

Rach

 

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Update! Upon reflection, I really should have included something about fire safety. I don’t use a lot of things that have only one use, but a fire extinguisher is one of them. When deepfrying, there is the possibility of a grease fire. NEVER put water on a grease fire as it will spread the fire over a large surface. Instead, find something like a pot lid to smother the flames, or use a fire extinguisher. Please be safe.