Birthday Brûlée!

Birthday Brûlée

So the hubby’s birthday rolled around again this year…we have a week of celebrations in February, with my husband beginning the fun, my daughter in the middle and then Valentine’s Day.

Last year I made him this Coconut Custard Pie, so this year I was hoping to make him this Boston Cream Pie but time was not on my side, so I made a family favorite, Creme Brûlée!  It’s way easier than you think, trust me and you don’t have to have any fancy equipment, including the torch.

I followed a different recipe this time, Alton Brown’s recipe from the Food Network which was pretty good.  It’s interesting though, reading through the comments, as many people suggested the dish needed longer to cook.  I followed those suggestions and went a bit longer than he said.  You can carefully test the brûlées to be sure they are cooked through with your finger.  See directions below for what I mean…

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 The really, really important thing to keep in mind, when making Cream Brûlée is to use fresh whole Vanilla Bean, not just extract.  It’s a little more expensive, but it’s totally worth it!  Seriously, the bean is where it’s at!  Above are a couple of pictures of how to get those little jewels out of the bean itself…split the bean down the middle, use the back of a knife to scrape out the goodness!  Oh and don’t throw those beans out!!! Break them into little pieces and put them in your sugar caddy…your morning coffee will thank you! 🙂

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The recipe calls for cooking the heavy cream with the vanilla bean, but you want to really watch this step…do not let it boil, at all.  Remove it from the heat as soon as you see it started to stir a bit in the pan and then watch that it doesn’t get a “film” on the top while it cools slightly, stirring every so often.

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Look at this bright & sunny egg yolk!  I love how, in the dead of Winter, you can make something in the kitchen that actually helps to brighten your mood!

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Here’s the whole mixture in the ramekins waiting to head to the oven.  I bought these ramekins at Target in the Dollar Spot years ago and we use them for everything.  You might be thinking you don’t want to purchase yet another dish, but trust me…this size ramekin can be used for pudding, candies, taco bar night, crafty supplies…etc. etc.!  If you can’t find any at the store, use any tall (but not huge) bowl that can go into the oven.  Be very careful when placing the pan into the oven that you don’t slosh the hot water into the ramekins…not saying I ever did that…lol! 😉

So, when you want to test the Brûlée to see that it is done, dip your finger into a bit of butter or water, (this will help your finger to not stick to the top of the Brûlée) and touch the top of the Brûlée.  It should bounce back and be slightly firm.  Pop these little beauties into the fridge to chill out for a couple of hours or even a day if needed.

Now, the recipe says, to pull out your custards twenty minutes before you want to caramelize them.  I actually like my custard to be a little cold still, afterwards, so I don’t follow that step.  When you are ready to torch them, top (as the recipe dictates) with sugar, and evenly distribute.  Here’s my fun little video using my handy kitchen torch.  Video credit to my youngest 🙂

Fun, right?  I love the smell of burnt sugar!  If you don’t have a torch, you can always use the broiler option on your oven.  Raise the rack to the highest setting that will allow you to put the ramekins on a cookie sheet directly under it.  Watch them and turn the pan as needed.  You are trying to caramelize the sugar on the top, so that it creates a shell that when cracked, reveals the creamy goodness underneath!

Hope you’ll try this and let me know your thoughts or share a picture with me on my Facebook page!

Until next time, Happy Valentine’s Day!

OXOX, Shawn

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S’mores Brownies~

S'mores Brownies

What’s more synonymous with Summer than S’mores? It’s the simplest of things really; marshmallows…chocolate…graham crackers all gooed up together!  My kids would eat them everyday, if I let them 🙂  so they were super excited when I told them I was making these!

The bottom is a basic graham cracker crust, that you bake brownies on top of.  Now, I can see this going many different ways…chocolate chips in your brownie batter…caramel somewhere…but today, I am making it per the recipe, which I found on the Food Network website.  (Note: this recipe shows you how to make the Brownies from scratch, but if you have a favorite “shortcut” for your brownies, that should be ok)

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S’mores Brownies:

For the Crust:   6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted ~ 1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers ~ 2 tablespoons sugar ~ pinch of salt

For the Brownies:   8 tablespoons unsalted butter ~ 4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, chopped ~ 1 cup packed light brown sugar ~ 3/4 cup white sugar ~ 1 1/2 teaspoon fine salt ~ 4 large, cold eggs ~ 1 cup all-purpose flour

Topping:   4 cups large marshmallows

Begin by preheating your oven to 325 degrees.  Line a 8 x 8 inch (square) baking pan with foil so it hangs over the edges by about an inch.

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Crust:  Lightly butter the foil, (including up the sides) with some of the melted butter, using a pastry brush if you have one, or fingers work great too!  Mix together the crushed graham cracker crumbs, sugar, pinch of salt and melted butter.  Attempt NOT to eat this immediately. 🙂  Press the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan, and place in the preheated oven.  Bake about 20 minutes, or at least golden brown all over.  (more so than when you started…as the crumbs are already golden brown!)

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Brownie:  Place butter and chocolate in a medium microwave safe bowl and melt on 75% power for two minutes.  Stir and repeat, until melted.  You can also make yourself a double boiler and melt the chocolate that way.  Continue by stirring together the brown and white sugars and vanilla into the melted chocolate.  Add the salt…then the eggs and beat vigorously to make a thick and glossy batter.  Add the flour and stir until just incorporated.  Pour batter over the graham cracker crust and bake until top is crispy and a toothpick, inserted in the middle, comes out mostly clean.  Will be approximately 40-45 minutes total.  Place brownie pan on a surface that won’t burn.

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Move your oven rack up to the highest level, that will keep the Brownies a safe distance from the burners (six inches is good) and preheat the broiler to the low setting.  Line the marshmallows across the top of the brownies, in a fashion you like best.  Place the pan under the broiler and DO NOT LEAVE.  Keep a constant eye on those little babies, and rotate the pan as you like, for even browning.  After about two minutes, or as browned as you like them, remove from oven and let cool on a rack, gently removing brownies from pan by lifting up using the foil liner.  Pull the foil liner down from the marshmallow, to keep from sticking as it cools.  Once cool, cut & enjoy!

fireSee you soon!

Cheers, Shawn

Orange Brownies…

I always like to find recipes that take something you’ve tried many times before, in this case, chocolate brownies, and switch it up a bit.  One of my favorite holiday cookie recipes does this same thing; taking a traditional sugar cookie and kicking it up with Chai spices…but more on that in a future post!

So, this recipe came from Paula Deen.  I’ve made a few of her recipes over time, that I have enjoyed.  I know, some of you may disapprove of that…but the original recipe wasn’t hers at all!  This is what Paula wrote in a note accompanying the recipe, you can find on the Food Network website here.

“I’ve had the opportunity to make so many new friends in the restaurant. Robin Wilson from Altamonte Springs, Florida, is one of those. Robin recently was one of a hundred finalists in the 39th Pillsbury Bake-off, where she won a side-by-side refrigerator and a trip to San Francisco. As she and her husband were enjoying lunch at The Lady and Sons, she mentioned her Orange Brownies, and she was happy to share the recipe. Thanks, Robin, and good luck to ya in your next bake-off! Get that gold, girl!” ~Paula Deen

The other thing I love about this recipe, is that you can use lemons instead of oranges.  Or even lime!  Imagine a “Margarita” brownie…and you can experiment with different extract flavorings too, like Almond, Cherry, etc.  It’s a great base bar recipe.  So let’s get baking!

Orange Brownies:

1 and 1/2 half cup of all-purpose flour

2 cups of sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (two sticks) butter, softened

4 eggs

2 teaspoons pure orange extract

2 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 cup of confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons of orange juice

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  Grease up a 13 by 9 inch pan, set aside.

Clean & dry your orange.  Carefully zest the orange; be sure not to get any of the white skin, as that will add a bitterness into the brownies.  I zested the entire orange, even though it was more than the recipe calls for.

Mix together the flour, sugar and salt.  In another bowl, add the butter, eggs, and 1 teaspoon of the orange extract; beat until well blended using a hand mixer or with your stand mixer.  Once wet items have been mixed, slowly add in the dry ingredients.  (batter will be thicker than normal Brownie batter…) Spoon batter into the pan and spread evenly across pan.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until light golden brown and the batter has “set”.

To make the glaze, mix the confectioners’ sugar, orange juice & remaining zest together until smooth.

You’ll then gently pierce the entire pan of brownies with a fork.  Pour the glaze over the brownies and cool cake.

These bars are great to take with you to a Barbecue or Picnic.  Because they are so bright & fresh looking, they would even be fun at a baby or wedding shower!  You can also make them Gluten free by changing up the flour.  I should have done it that way…but was hoping most of them would get eaten by my family!

I hope you enjoy a wonderful, relaxing Memorial Day weekend!  I am thankful to my Dad, for his years of service to our country and all the others who did the same, that we remember this weekend!

If you make these, let me know how they were!  Enjoy!

Shawn