Alright we can’t stand it any longer. We’re jumping on the fall bandwagon. We know it’s technically still summer, but we’re showing up early to the fall party.
As soon as we saw all those little munchkins marching to school with their shiny new glue sticks, we knew we were doomed.
Those berries, peach crumbles, strawberry shortcakes and ice cream we were so enamored with weeks ago? Over it. Berries? What berries? Ice cream? What ice cream? Ok we remember the ice cream.
But still, we want fall! We want spices and sweaters and pumpkins and fall things! We want new glue sticks!
Although, we're not sure what we'd do with the glue sticks. Glue stuff we suppose, but that sounds less fun now that we've actually thought about it.
So how about a fall-inspired breakfast treat instead? Because you always need a tasty breakfast, you know, so that you'll be happy and full and you'll ace your spelling quiz!
And this being the official Blue-Eyed Bakers fall kickoff party and all, we're making caramel apple muffins. Because apple muffins say "fall", but caramel apple muffins say "gooey, crunchy, sweet glue sticks fall."
And we still kind of want new glue sticks.
Caramel Apple & Pecan Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
Adapted from Good Food
2 cups flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup sour cream
3 small apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 cup caramels (such as Kraft), chopped
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper liners.
Mix the flour, brown sugar, baking soda and baking powder together and set aside. Mix the butter, eggs, milk and sour cream together, then stir quickly into the dry ingredients. Add in the apples, pecans and caramel. Do not overmix, the batter will be lumpy.
Divide between the muffin liners and bake for 25 minutes until golden. Allow to cool completely.
Sometimes you just don't feel like making cookies or cupcakes or pies. Sometimes, after baking for a few months, you want to mix it up a wee bit. Sometimes, it feels like Fall and you think "I should be making something more Fall-ish."
We admit it, we talk to ourselves a lot.
We also sing very loudly in the shower, quote our own old home videos (because that's fun for other people to witness) and write ourselves post-it notes about buying more post-it notes.
Yup, we're craaaaazzzy like that.
Wait, where were we?
Oh, yes. So, we decided to try something a little different, chocolate bark.
We confess the main reason we wanted to make this specific recipe was so that we could line up all the ramekins pre-filled with the ingredients just like the professionals do on TV and stuff. It's the little things that make us happy.
Oh, and also, because when we saw the giant display of Valrhona chocolate at Whole Foods, it was just more than these blue-eyed gals could handle.
It's true. We are that easy.
Fancy Chocolate Bark
Makes 20 pieces
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics
1 cup whole salted cashews, roasted
6 to 7 ounces very good quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 to 7 ounces very good quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried crystallized ginger, diced
1/4 cup candied orange peel, drained well and diced
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup dried apricots, diced
1/4 cup golden raisins
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a pencil trace a 8.5- by 11-inch rectangle on a large piece of parchment paper placed on a sheet pan. Flip the parchment over so you can then see the outline but avoid getting pencil lead in your bark. Yuck.
Spread the cashews on a baking pan and toast for 8 minutes or until starting to brown. Set them aside to cool. You don't need the oven anymore so you can turn it off.
Place the semisweet chocolate and half of the chopped bittersweet chocolate into a glass bowl. Set the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes on high. Put the bowl in the microwave and watch very closely. You are going to stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula in 20-30 second intervals until when you take it out the chocolate is just melted. You absolutely need to pay close attention to this. You are going to be using expensive chocolate and once you burn it, it's all over. That would totally stink. And, be a waste of delicious chocolate!
Once the chocolate is just melted, stir in the remaining bittersweet chocolate. Allow the melted chocolate to sit at room temperature and keep stirring the mixture. You want it to be completely smooth. There will be enough residual heat in the chocolate to melt the added bittersweet chocolate pieces. Keep stirring. The chocolate will get smooth and glossy which is what we want. This whole process will take about 3-5 minutes.
Pour the melted chocolate into the outline of your rectangle and using a spatula, smooth the surface and spread evenly. Sprinkle the top evenly with the toppings in the following order: first the ginger, then the cashews, then the orange peel, then the cherries, apricots and raisins.
Set aside for at least 1 to 2 hours until cooled and firm. Cut or break the bark into 20 pieces and serve at room temperature or package for a perfect hostess gift.
Since one half of the blue-eyed baking squad is currently blogging from waaaay across the pond in London, we figured we'd bake you lovely duckies a British treat.
Millionaire's shortbread (ooooh aaaah).
Don't get too excited. There's no money in this crumbly deliciousness. But there is crumbly deliciousness which counts for something right?
So there's shortbread, which is rather tasty on its own, and v v British. And they sell it at the Duty Free shop in Heathrow. Can't get much British-er (er...) than that right?
Just go with it.
And THEN to transform it into Millionaire's Shortbread (ooooh ahhhh), you slather the aforementioned crumbly deliciousness in caramel and chocolate.
We know. British baking is hard.
It's ok, just go slow, eat some melted chocolate along the way to keep your strength up, and you'll do just fine.
And then, you can have as many pieces of the crumbly deliciousness slathered in the caramel and the chocolate as you want.
We totally hit the jackpot.
For the shortbread:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
For the caramel:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
For the chocolate:
1 1/4 cups semi sweet chocolate, chopped
First, make the shortbread. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously grease a 9 x 9 baking pan with butter. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, salt, and sugar and whip on medium speed until the butter becomes fluffy and white - about 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to low and add the flour and cornstarch. Mix to incorporate. Pat the dough evenly into the pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the edges just begin to darken. The shortbread will remain white. Set aside to cool.
Next, make the caramel. In a 2 quart saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue stirring and allow mixture to boil for another 5 minutes. Remove caramel from heat and stir vigorously for a few minutes. Pour over shortbread and allow to set up at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
For the chocolate, simply place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 45 seconds, then stir and continue to heat and stir at 20 second intervals until chocolate is completely melted. Pour chocolate over the caramel layer and spread evenly to cover. Chill to set the chocolate - about 30 minutes.
When we first read the recipe for these bars we were all "Aw, man, multiple steps. Boo."
It seems our island idleness was rubbing off on our mainland minds.
But don't worry, we snapped out of it. Sometimes you just can't microwave dessert. And, other times, who really wants to? Baking is fun!
And, really, don't things taste better with some added elbow grease?
Um, side note, isn't it totally weird how desserts also taste better when they are really messy? Like gooey and sticky and all over your hands and mouth and who really cares because holy honey, Batman, this stuff is goooooooood?
So that is these bars. A wee bit of a baking workout and completely melty and totally AMAZING.
Like, who knew we would love a dessert so much that didn't have (1) chocolate or (2) peanut butter? Who knew we'd like a dessert so much that is basically a glorified granola bar with fruit and nuts?
Neither did we.
But, now you know and you have to make these and you're going to love them.
Fruit n' Nut Bars
Makes 24 bars
Adapted from Baked
For the Tart Dough:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the Fruit n' Nut Filling:
3/4 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
1/3 cup diced candied orange peel (homemade or store-bought)
2 tablespoons cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
Shot of bourbon or whiskey
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups sliced almonds, toasted
To make the sweet tart dough, in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until whipped. (PS- we made two so we doubled the above amounts which only make one tart dough.)
In a small bowl, whisk together the cream, egg yolk and vanilla. Add this to the butter and sugar mix and blend until just incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and then add the flour and salt until just combined. Do not over mix.
On a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough and roll/form into a rough oval shape. Wrap tightly and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes. We made the dough the day before and kept it in the fridge overnight. We just let it rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before rolling it out.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9- by 13-inch baking pan.
Roll out the dough into a large rectangle shape to fit into the pan. The dough will break apart but do not fret, you are just going to press it into the brownie pan like any tart crust. Do not press the dough up the sides, but press the rectangle just into the bottom of the pan. Cover the dough with parchment paper and using pie weights or uncooked, dry beans, place them in the middle of the pan to keep the dough from bubbling while cooking. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove the parchment and pie weights and continue cooking the crust for another 5-7 minutes or until the top is barely golden brown. Remove from oven and allow the crust to cool while you make the filling. Ooo, and keep the oven on.
For the fruit and nut filling, in a medium bowl toss together the almonds, cherries and candied orange peel (see the recipe below for a homemade version), cake flour and salt. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, over medium heat, stir together the sugar, cream, honey and butter. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and bring the mixture to the soft ball stage, about 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't stir the gooey blend during this stage.
When the mixture has reached the soft ball stage, remove from the heat and stir in the shot of bourbon or brandy. We used brandy. Add the almond extract.
Then, fold the dry fruit and nut mixture into the sugar-honey mix. Spread it out into the cooled crust and smooth the top.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the bars are golden and evenly bubbling on top, all over the bars..
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting. We placed the pan into the fridge once cooled and before cutting to ensure that we kept the bars as neat as possible...which only sort of worked.
These bars can be stored at room temperature for 4 days, covered and sealed tightly.
Candied Orange Peel
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
Wash the oranges really well. Then, peel each orange with a vegetable peeler into large strips. Make sure you are only getting the outer layer of peel, not the white pith. Using a paring knife you can scrape off any pith on the rinds that you might have peeled.
Place the peel a medium, heavy-bottomed pot and cover with 1 cup of cold water. Bring the peels to a boil, then strain and repeat. Do this 3 times.
Finally, place the peel back in the pot with 4 cups of water, sugar and corn syrup. Simmer the mixture for 20 minutes or until the mixture forms a thick syrup. Allow the mixture to cool and then transfer the peel to an airtight container and cover with syrup. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.