Chewy Caramel Brownies

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Some day, I intend to do this recipe right, the way that Smitten Kitchen actually did it, with DIY caramel and unsweetened chocolate.  But this is not that day.

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I had a bag of caramels I’d purchased with the intention to do something else, and I felt obligated to use them.  Plus I doubled the recipe and thus ran out of  unsweetened chocolate.  So basically this recipe is all wrong.  But it’s still edible (read: extremely tasty) so whatever.

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First you’re going to need to unwrap and cut your caramels.  Start with about 10oz wrapped caramel candies.

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Unwrap them and cut them in half.

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When you double the recipe there are a million to do.

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But finally they were finished.  I recommend keeping this bowl cold because the caramels like to stick together otherwise. I discovered this by accident. There was swearing involved in solving this issue.

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Now you can preheat your oven to 350°F and butter an 8″ x 8″ baking dish.  Line it with parchment paper and butter that again.

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Take 3oz unsweetened chocolate and roughly chop that up.

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Because I doubled the recipe I ran out of unsweetened chocolate, so I chucked in this Cadbury hazelnut bar as well.

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Throw your chocolate into a heatproof bowl with 1/2 cup butter.

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Set the heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water and melt it until it’s almost all melted away.

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When you just have little bits left solid, remove it from the heat and stir it until it’s smooth.

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Whisk in 1 cup granulated sugar.  Then whisk in 2 eggs, one at a time.

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Sprinkle 1/8 teaspoon sea salt over top and stir that in, too.

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Then slowly stir in 2/3 cup flour.

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Finally, add in MOST of your caramels (like 4/5 of them).

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Spread your batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the remaining caramels on top.

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Bake that for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  In the meantime, feel free to lick the spoon.  I won’t tell your mother.  Just don’t tell my mother.  She’s always paranoid about salmonella.

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When your brownie is cooked, put it on a wire rack to cool completely.  Mine didn’t look anything like Smitten’s, alas.

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When it’s completely cool you can cut it into bits.  It’s easier if you wait until the caramel isn’t running around everywhere.

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Seal whatever you don’t eat in an airtight container.  Who am I kidding?  You’ll eat them all.

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Rusty’s Diamond Cake

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It was Rusty’s birthday on the 4th and we cooked up a plan for a really epic baseball-themed cake.  The cake recipe itself came from Delish, because I needed a three layer cake in order to have enough batter to fill my 16″ pan.  As it stands, the batter was so good that I’m keeping the page bookmarked so I can actually follow the recipe at another time.

First thing’s first: preheat your oven to 350°F and then butter your cake pan.  This is my 16″ round pan. I got it at a cake store when I made the Ivy Vanilla Wedding Cake.  Once you’ve buttered it, line the bottom with parchment paper and butter that, too.

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Now, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together 1 cup softened butter and 3 cups packed brown sugar until they’re as fluffy as humanly possible.

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In a separate bowl, whisk together 4 large eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

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Add the eggs to the butter and beat until it’s all incorporated.  Scrape the bowl down and give it a good beating for about a minute.

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In yet another bowl, sift together 3/4 cups cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon baking soda, and 3 cups flour.  Or you could whisk it with a fork, which is obviously what I did.  It’s all lies, what I tell you.  All of it.  LIES.

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Grab 1 1/2 cups sour cream and alternate adding that with the flour to the batter until they’re all gone.

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Finally, while mixing, slowly add in 1 1/2 cups hot water to the mix.

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Smooth your batter into your cake pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  For some reason I don’t understand, a giant cake takes just as long to bake as three little ones.  Let the cake cool almost all the way in the pan before tipping it out onto a cooling rack.

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While that’s doing its thing, you can whip up some icing.  Despite the ill-fated nature of Rusty’s birthday cake last year, we have found that the icing recipe for that thing is the best one out there.  Because of the size of this cake, I doubled it, and only had a little left over.

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So.  In a bowl, cream together 2 250g packages plain cream cheese (room temperature — very important) and 2 cups butter.

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Then, bit by bit, and using a flour shield if you’ve got one, add in 6 cups icing sugar.

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Beat that until it’s all mixed and lovely.  Add more sugar if necessary.

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I scooped out a small amount of plain icing to use in drawing bases and baselines.

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Another chunk I dyed astroturf green with some gel food colouring (this stuff will give you the bright colours that are lacking with traditional liquid food colouring, which you can see in the background of the first photo).

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And then another hunk I coloured brown with some gel food colouring and a touch of red liquid stuff, to emulate the clay.

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Then I took a look at my cake.  I cut off two “corners” to form the shape traditionally associated with a baseball field.

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Then I traced a bit of a design with the back of a knife to indicate where the infield went, and crumb coated the sides of the cake with brown icing. Later on, when I had extra icing, I piped more brown around the edges to finish it off.

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I shoved the icing into Ziploc bags and cut off the corners to do my piping, because all my cake decorating stuff is still in storage.  Here is the initial layout of the clay infield.

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After smoothing it out (I “raked” it later with a fork), I started on the grass, which I wasn’t going to flatten.  I wanted it to look like it had been groomed.

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Continuing with the outfield.

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Then the infield and pitcher’s mound, which is raised (by dint of extra icing).

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Here I took a break to sample my wares.

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With the Pie’s instruction, I drew on the bases and base lines.  They’re not accurate (because I’m not good at listening and the Pie isn’t good at giving useful instructions), but it’s a cake.  Sue me.  This is the view from home plate.

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The Pie insisted on adding that plastic baseball.  Rusty loved (and ate) the whole thing.  Except the baseball. I hope.

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Parmesan Puff Pastry Twists

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I made these for the baby shower back in September but I think they would also serve as ideal morsels to tempt your guests to the Thanksgiving table.  These are so easy it feels like you’re cheating, and that’s why I love them the most.

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First thing you need to do is thaw a 17oz package of puff pastry in the fridge overnight.  I went with the one that comes in two pre-rolled sheets so that saved me even more time.  Preheat your oven to 400°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

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Lightly beat up 1 egg and grab yourself a brush.

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Grate up a helluva lot of parmesan cheese.  Like, 1 1/2 cups parmesan.  That took a WHILE.

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Lay the puff pastry out on a work surface (this one comes already wrapped in its own parchment so I just used that) and slice it into 12 strips (you’ll end up with 24 if you use the whole package).

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Brush the strips with egg and then sprinkle with 1 tablespoon poppy or sesame seeds.

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Dredge the strips with grated parmesan (make sure to save half for the other sheet).

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I did another batch with parmesan and Tex-Mex spices and it was goooooood.

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Pick up each strip and twist it before placing it on the parchment for baking.

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The Tex-Mex pastry got too warm and stretched too much so I doubled the twisted strips and that worked out fine.

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Bake your strips for 15 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.  Eat warm or let them cool, but they’re best eaten the day they’re made.

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Classic Sticky Buns

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This is a recipe that the very pregnant Atlas found in a magazine my mother picked up called Donna Hay (it’s Australian.  Hello, Australians!).  I figured I would master the basic sticky buns so that later she and I could do the more complicated, fancy variations (so stay tuned for that).  We’ve already made one version of lovely cinnamon buns on Ali Does It, but I’m not above trying new recipes to see which ones I like the best.  So here goes!

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Let’s start with the dough.

Take a small bowl and 2/3 cup milk and heat up the milk until it’s lukewarm.  Add to that 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast and give it a wee stir.

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Set that someplace warm for 5 minutes, until the yeast starts to bubble and foam up.

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Lightly beat up 2 eggs.  Just bruise them a little.  Rough ’em up but no broken bones.

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And melt 125g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter (I used salted butter and left out the 1/4 teaspoon sea salt I was supposed to add).

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Plop 3 cups flour and 1/4 cup sugar into the bowl of your electric mixer.

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Add in the yeast mixture, the butter, and the eggs and mix on low for 1 minute until everything is combined.  You are supposed to use the dough hook attachment but I couldn’t find it so I went with ol’ reliable the paddle here.

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After a minute, turn the mixer to high and beat for another 5-8 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

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Scoop the dough out into a clean, lightly greased bowl, cover it with a damp tea towel, and set it somewhere warm to rise for an hour.

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Now the tops of these puppies are going to be covered in a sticky gooey maple glaze, which is actually going to go in the bottom of the pan and then when it’s all ready you’re going to flip it upside down.

For the glaze, take a small saucepan and dump in 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and 75g unsalted butter (or salted, if you’re daring like me — it’s roughly 1/3 cup for you imperials).

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Cook, stirring, over low heat until everything is melted and dissolved.  Raise the heat to medium and bring your sugar mix to a boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until smooth.

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Pour the glaze into the bottom of a lightly greased 20cm x 30cm baking pan (~9″ x 13″) and set aside.  Isn’t this pan nice?  It’s like the one in the magazine, and I said to my dad, “hey, if you were thinking of a Christmas present for me, this would be nice,” and he said, “we did.  It’s upstairs.”  TADA.  Early Christmas present.

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Once the spatula cooled off enough not to burn my face, I ate the toffee off it. It was lovely.

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Now we’re going to make a cinnamon butter to spread inside the rolls.  In the bowl of your electric mixer, dump 100g softened unsalted butter (I used salted, and eyeballed it to be somewhere between 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup — this isn’t an exact science), 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.

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Whip those silly for about 5 minutes, until all pale and fluffy and heavenly.  Set that aside.

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Now take your dough, which should have doubled in size, and slap it between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper.  Roll it out into a rectangle that is about 60cm x 25cm (2 feet by a little less than 1 foot).

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Spread your cinnamon butter all over the rectangle, leaving a 1cm border all around.

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Sprinkle that with 1 cup toasted pecans (I had no pecans, so used raisins instead. I like raisins).

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Take your dough by the long side and roll it up tightly into a happy tube.

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Trim the edges of the bun so everything is even and cut it into 12 equal disks.

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Place the pieces cut side up in the maple glazed baking tin, cover with another damp tea towel, and leave somewhere warm to rise for another 45-60 minutes or until they’re doubled again.

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I took advantage of a cold day to sit them in front of the fire. This is the proofing stage.

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Here they are all puffed up.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and place your baking tin on a baking sheet (to prevent burning sugar spillovers).  Bake for 20 minutes, cover with aluminum foil, then bake for another 15-20 minutes, until all golden and lovely and fully cooked.

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I erred on the side of caution and resisted the urge to continue to bake mine after 35 minutes. The dough around the sides was soft and pale and I wasn’t sure it was cooked but it totally was and made a nice moist bun.

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Let those stand in the pan for 2-3 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool (you might want to line your rack with some parchment to catch drips).  I think I may have cooked  my maple glaze a bit long because it hardened quite a bit.  It was still super good, but not as sticky as I thought it should have been.

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Final step: EAT THEM.

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Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams

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For some reason I still don’t understand, I volunteered to do some baking for prizes to give out at the Pie’s final video game tournament before we move.  Because the group is called Newfoundland Fighting Jam, the Pie and I thought it would be funny to make up some Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams.

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You may have heard of jam jams.  From what I understand, the general version is a round sugar cookie sandwich with jam in the middle, where the top cookie may or may not have a hole in it.  The Newfoundland version of this uses a softer molasses cookie.  If you don’t want to make your own you can order some from Newfoundland’s own Purity Factory.

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Of course, because we can’t leave well enough alone, we had to mess with the recipe a little bit, and we used our ninjabread cutters to make the cookies.  Keep in mind that below is a doubled recipe, so unless you want a million cookies, I suggest you cut it in half.

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Start with 1 cup butter and 1/2 cup shortening (both at room temperature).

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Cream those together in an electric mixer with 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar (the darker the sugar, the fluffier your cookie will be, due to the high concentration of molasses).  Beat the crap out of those ingredients until they’re super fluffy.

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Now beat in 3 eggs, one at a time, waiting for each one to be fully incorporated before you add in the next one.  If you want to halve this recipe, I would use one egg plus the yolk of another.

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Add in 1 cup molasses (fancy or whatever, whichever intensity of flavour you prefer) and 3 teaspoons vanilla extract.

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Look at that silky, creamy molassesy goodness.

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In a separate bowl, sift together 6 cups all-purpose flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons ground allspice, and 2 teaspoons ground ginger.

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Slowly add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients until you form a nice soft dough. And I mean really soft. Resist the urge to add more flour. The squishier your dough is now, the squishier your cookies will be.

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Split the dough into 4 parts (2 if you’re halving it) and chill it for at least an hour. Two is preferable. And you want to have all your working surfaces, tools, hands, etc., as cold as possible while you’re working with it.

When you’re ready to go, preheat your oven to 350°F, line some baking sheets with parchment paper, flour a work surface, and get your rolling pin handy. And you’re going to need a lot of flour. Like for the work surface, for your pin, for your hands, for the dough … It’s tacky stuff.

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Working with one part of your dough at a time, leaving the others in the refrigerator, roll it out to about 1/4″ thickness (or about half a centimetre, if you’re feeling metric), and cut it out with your cookie cutters.  If you’re doing a circular cookie, some jam jam aficionados like to cut a small hole in the top cookie for the jam to poke through, but that’s up to you, my friend.

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If you’re making something other than circles or symmetrical shapes, remember to flip your cutter over so you can make a top and bottom to your cookie.  Our ninja cutters had a duller edge on top, so it made it a little harder, but we persevered.

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Eventually we developed an easy system, but it took a bit of time. You will probably sort something out yourself.

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If your dough gets too soft, huck it back in the fridge for a bit to stiffen up.

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Bake your cookies, rotating the pans halfway through and keeping a close eye on them, for somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on the heat of your oven and the size of your cookie.  You want these babies to be nice and soft, so make sure to pull them out before they get too brown.  If they don’t look done yet, don’t worry — they will continue to cook on the baking sheet.

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Spot the corgi for bonus points!

Allow the cookies to cool completely, then take a wodge of your favourite jam (I used raspberry here, but you could go full-Newfie and use partridgeberry or bakeapple if you want to be truly authentic) and spread it thinly on the bottom of one of your cookies. These ones used about a teaspoon of jam per cookie.  Press that cookie’s pair on top of the jam and then heave the whole batch into a warm oven (like 250°F) for a few minutes to make the jam all cement-y.  This also warms up the cookies again and makes them soft so you can do a little bit of repair work if any of them got bent too out of shape.

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TADA.  Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams.  A mouthful to say.  A mouthful to eat.  A win-win situation for everyone!

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I made this up after doing a bit of research, and my main inspiration for ingredients came from these four down-home recipes, in addition to my own family recipe for Molasses Gems:

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Missing the Rock: Jam-Jams

Salt Junk: Jam Jams Cookies

Mmm…ade: Newfoundland Jam Jams

Rock Recipes: Soft Molasses Cookies or Giant Jam-Jams

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Orange Coconut Scones

Orange Coconut Scones

I had a bad experience making (read: burning) scones when I was a kid and haven’t tried them since.  But our receptionist at work made these for the Sweet Treats club (seriously, the best idea I have EVER had) two weeks ago and I thought I would share with you the awesomeness.  If you think something is awesome in Newfoundland, you say that it’s “best kind.”  Not THE best kind.  Just best kind.  And these are best kind.

Orange Coconut Scones

Preheat your oven to 400°F and line two baking sheets (or three, depending on the size of your scones) with parchment paper.

Orange Coconut Scones

Stir together 4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons baking powder, and the zest of 2 oranges in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Orange Coconut Scones

Dice up 3/4 cup cold butter and add that in, mixing on the lowest speed until the butter pieces are all pea-sized.

Orange Coconut Scones

Lightly beat 4 eggs and pour in 1 cup cold heavy cream.  Give that a stir then add it to the mixing bowl and mix until just blended.

Orange Coconut Scones

Combine 1 cup shredded coconut with 1/4 cup flour and add that in as well.  I found I had to stop the mixer at this point and manipulate it in with my cold hands, as it slowed the machine down quite a bit.

Orange Coconut Scones

Dump the dough onto a floured surface and knead it into a ball.

Orange Coconut Scones

Flour a rolling pin and flatten the stuff out until it’s about 3/4″ thick. Use a cutter or a knife to cut your scones from the dough.  When you run out of room, squish up the scraps and roll them out again.

Orange Coconut Scones

The scones will expand upwards while they cook, not sideways, so you can crowd them pretty close on the baking sheet.

Orange Coconut Scones

Bake the scones for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are baked all the way through.  They will be firm to the touch, not sticky.

Orange Coconut Scones

Let them cool for about fifteen minutes, and while they’re doing that, mix together 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar), 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice, and the zest of 1 orange.

Orange Coconut Scones

Drizzle the glaze over the still-warm scones.

Orange Coconut Scones

Serve right away, with honey and butter.  Or secretly leave half the batch on your neighbour’s doorstep.

Orange Coconut Scones

Poached Pears

Poached Pears

This is another recipe I borrowed from Caroline over at The Wanna be Country Girl, who in turn got it from David Leibovitz, one of my favourite chefs.  I may have borrowed a few of his recipes myself on a few occasions.

Poached Pears

Fall is the time for apples and pears, and delicate pears lend themselves well to a gentle poaching. So cut up 4 firm, ripe pears.  These are Bartletts, I think — I got them at Costco.  They could be Anjou. There was a big pile and they were all messed around, and I’m not that good at fruit identification. Quarter, core, and peel the pear pieces and plop them in a large saucepan.

Poached Pears

Slide in 1 sliced lemon, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar. Pour 1 quart (1 litre) water over the fruit.

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Cut a square of parchment paper, fold it into quarters, and cut a hole from the centre.

Poached Pears

So when it’s unfolded you have a hole in the middle.  This will let the steam out.

Poached Pears

Tuck the parchment paper into the saucepan and bring the fruit to a simmer for 25 minutes.

Poached Pears

Then I removed the fruit to cool slightly and turned up the heat on the remaining liquid to reduce it to a syrup.

Poached Pears

As we had clafoutis for dessert that night, we let the pears cool and had them for breakfast the next day, with their own syrup and a daub of whipped cream.

Poached Pears

Amazing on top of pancakes!  Try the pears in sandwiches and salads, too.

Poached Pears

Baked’s Sweet and Salty Cake

Sweet & Salty Cake
Not only do the Pie and il Principe share a birthday, but I’ll have you know that Cait’s birthday is only four days later.  And then Jiss’ birthday is only a scant five days after that.  Because we were heading back to Ottawa for a visit at the beginning of the month, we decided to postpone our birthday celebrations until we got there so that Cait  and Jiss could share in the fun.

So, for my husband on his birthday and my best friend on her birthday, and my husband’s friend’s spouse on HER birthday, I made them this fantastic confection, which comes out of our favourite cookbook of all time, Baked.
Sweet & Salty Cake
You can read the recipe online here, here, or here.  But you should really buy the book.  The pictures are glorious and the authors explain everything so well.

This recipe involves caramel, chocolate, and salt.  Yes, SALT.  I rarely use salt in baking but this one made it all worth it.  If you can get your hands on fleur de sel, all the better, but you can use sea salt as a substitute if necessary.  It’s also worth noting that this cake takes many steps, and you can save time by making things like the caramel the day before and putting it in the fridge.
Sweet & Salty Cake

For the Caramel:
Pour 1/4 cup water, 1 cup sugar, and 2 tablespoons light corn syrup into a medium saucepan and stir it around.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Plop a candy thermometer in the pot (making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom) and bring the mixture to a boil, cooking until the temperature reaches 350°F, which will take about 10 minutes.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Keep a close eye on it.  If you cook it any higher than the specified temperature it can burn super quickly.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup whipping cream and 1 teaspoon fleur de sel.  Bring that to a boil as well and cook until the salt is dissolved, about 5 minutes.  Remove that from the heat and set aside.

Sweet & Salty Cake

When the sugar has reached 350°F, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool for one minute.  See how it’s browned a little bit? That’s the caramelization of the sugar, but you don’t want it to get too dark.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Carefully (very carefully) add the hot cream to the sugar mixture.  It foams and fizzes quite a bit, so you don’t want that in your face.   Whisk that all up until it’s smooth.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Whisk in 1/4 cup sour cream and let the caramel cool.

Sweet & Salty Cake

For the Cake:
Preheat your oven to 325°F and butter three 8″ round cake pans.  Cut a circle out of parchment paper for the bottom of each one, butter it as well, and dust them all with flour.

Sweet & Salty Cake

You need two decent-sized bowls and the bowl of a mixer for this next part.  In one bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, 1 1/4 cups hot water, and 2/3 cup sour cream.  Set that aside and let it cool while you do the other things.

Sweet & Salty Cake

In the other non-mixer bowl, sift together 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and set that aside.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Now, in the mixer bowl, beat together 3/4 cup softened butter and 1/2 cup vegetable shortening.  Beat them until they are smooth and kind of stringy when the paddle is spinning around, about 7 minutes.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Beat in 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and 1 cup dark brown sugar until light and fluffy.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Add in 3 eggs, one at a time.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Add in 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat for a further 30 seconds or so.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Carefully add in a third of the flour mixture, then half your chocolate mixture, then a third of the flour, the rest of the chocolate, and the rest of the flour.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared pans and bake for 18-24 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of each cake comes out clean.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Allow to cool completely before removing from the pans and peeling off the parchment paper.

Sweet & Salty Cake

For the Caramel Ganache:
First, finely chop 1lb dark chocolate.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Also, cut up 1lb butter into tablespoon-sized pieces.  Make sure they’re soft but still cool.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Now we’re going to make some more caramel, but this time without the salt or the sour cream.
So, in one pot, combine 1/4 cup water, 1 cup sugar, and 2 tablespoons light corn syrup and stir it around.  Bring it to a boil over high heat until a candy thermometer reads 350°F, which will take about ten minutes.  Remember to watch closely.

Sweet & Salty Cake

In the other pot bring 1 1/2 cups heavy cream to a boil, then remove from heat and set aside.
When the caramel has reached 350°F, remove it from the heat and allow it to rest for a minute.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Carefully add the hot cream to the caramel and stir to combine, then let it cool for 5 minutes.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Plop your chopped chocolate in the bowl of a mixer and pour the caramel over the chocolate.  Let that sit for a minute, then stir the chocolate to dissolve it.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Shove your bowl into your mixer with a paddle attachment and mix the chocolate goo on low until the outside of the bowl feels cool to the touch.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Dump in your cut-up butter bits and mix on medium-high until it’s all well-combined and smooth and a little bit whipped, another 2 minutes or so.

Sweet & Salty Cake

To Put It All Together:
Now I followed the instructions up to this point to the letter, and ended up with a slippy-slide-y cake that ended up looking a bit like a giant pile of poop.  When I put my cake layers together, they kept sliding off on the caramel and the weight of the cake pushed all the lovely caramel goo out of its insides and it was altogether rather a disaster.  So I recommend cooling your ganache and your caramel slightly before you do this, just so they’re slightly colder than room temperature and a little easier to handle.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Slice the tops off your cakes to make them level and place one on your cake plate.

Sweet & Salty Cake

If you are concerned about making a mess with your icing (though considering how goopy mine was it didn’t matter anyway) you can place four strips of parchment paper on your cake plate under the cake to catch the excess, and then pull them away later, leaving a nice clean plate.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Take about 1/4 cup of the caramel and spread a thin layer on the cake, allowing it to soak into the cake a bit (which will only happen if your cake or your caramel is warm, and will just make everything quite slippery).

Sweet & Salty Cake

Layer on top of that about 1 cup of the caramel ganache (also, at room temperature, incredibly slippery).

Sweet & Salty Cake

Add another layer of cake.  See what I mean about gravity really being annoying here?

Sweet & Salty Cake

Repeat your caramel and ganache steps and top with your final cake layer.  This is where I tried to remove some of the excess and failed.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Use the remaining ganache (easy to do if it’s cold, if it’s room temperature you’ll use wayyy less) to cover the surface of the cake.  At this point the whole thing started to slide slowly and rather unnervingly to one side.  It was like watching a mudslide in slow motion.  There was much yelling.

Sweet & Salty Cake

Sprinkle the top with fleur de sel and chill for an hour or so before serving, to set the ganache.

Sweet & Salty Cake
At least it tasted good.
Sweet & Salty Cake

Espresso Cookies

Miss Awesome and P-with-an-E served these to us with tea after one of those long Sunday lunches that you don’t think about leaving until it’s nearly dark and you have to figure out how you’re going to eat dinner.

Yes, I know, we’ve done the whole espresso deal with our espresso brownies, but who says you can’t make a cookie out of everything?  I had to modify the recipe a bit as it involved using a pre-mixed chocolate chip cookie dough as a base, but I think the result is quite good.  And I will pass on Miss Awesome’s warning: DO NOT EAT AT BEDTIME!

Preheat your oven to 375°F and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk together in a medium-sized bowl:

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons instant espresso powder

1 tablespoon ground coffee

What I like about mixing dark powders with light powders is that I can easily see how well I’ve mixed the coffee in, so the logic is that if the coffee is well blended then so is the stuff I can’t see, like the baking soda.  Of course, if you shoot it in macro, you can see EVERYTHING.

In a large bowl, cream together

1/2 cup butter, softened (That divot is because I stuck my finger in it to check if it was soft.  It was.)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Crack in and blend well

1 large egg

Stir into that

1/4 cup Kahlua

Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture and blend well.

Add in

3/4 cup chopped pecans

1 cup chocolate chips

And because we need a chocolate chip extreme closeup:

Use a tablespoon to plop your dough onto the baking sheet.  Space them out as best you can because they will spread quite a bit.

Bake the cookies for 9-12 minutes and leave them on the pan for another five minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.Then you can eat them.  Or just look at them.  Or whatever.

Walnut Cheesecake Squares

These were another creation for a research participant, and I like them because they’re not too sweet.  And because the base is the same as the topping the whole thing is incredibly easy.  This recipe is from Esther Brody’s 250 Best Brownies, Bars & Squares.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Butter a 9×13″ pan and line it with parchment paper — then butter the parchment paper as well.

Mix together in a bowl 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2/3 cup packed brown sugar, and 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

You’re looking for crumbs here, so if you have walnut pieces, pop them in the food processor (slightly more than the cup measure as it will settle) for a spell.

Using a pastry blender:

Or two knives:

Cut in 2/3 cup cold cubed butter until the mixture is entirely coarse crumbs.

This may take a while, so be patient.  Too large pieces of butter will result in holes in your base.

Pour half the mixture into your prepared pan and press it to the bottom.  Set the other half aside.  

Bake the mixture in the pan for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool slightly.

In another bowl, beat 1lb (500g) softened cream cheese and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until smooth.

Beat in 2 eggs and 1/4 cup milk, then add in 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Pour the cream cheese mixture evenly over that nice warm base.

Sprinkle the reserved base stuff evenly over the top.

Bake the whole shebang for 20-25 minutes more, or until everything is just set, and then remove the pan to a rack and let it cool completely.

Use the parchment paper to lift the cooled squares out of the pan and cut them into squares.

If you have any left, store them covered in your refrigerator.