Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sweet and Salty Chocolate-Peanut Butter Caramel Corn

Cracker Jack was always one of my favorite treats, and it wasn’t because of the surprise inside, which was usually something like an aluminum engagement ring (remember Breakfast at Tiffany’s?) or a plastic elephant or a tiny comic book. For me, it was all about that 

crunchy sweet and salty caramel-coated popcorn. I also loved the peanuts, which, sadly, were never plentiful enough for me. To compensate for the deficit of peanuts in all those boxes of Cracker Jack that I consumed as a child, I came up with my own adult 

version of the sweet, making it all about the peanuts. To achieve this, I flavored the caramel mixture with some creamy peanut butter and added lots of salty-sweet honey-roasted peanuts. The kicker is the addition of bits of chopped chocolate-covered pretzels that are 

folded in at the end. The chocolate melts a bit and ends of coating some of the popcorn, which you don’t notice until you’re actually eating a cluster. It’s a little surprise, and way better than a miniature plastic giraffe, don’t you agree?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Blood Orange Mousse with Ginger-Orange Shortbread Triangles

It’s orange season and my dear mother who lives in Naples, Florida recently sent me half a bushel of juice oranges to keep me healthy through the New York winter (which has ironically turned out to be one of the mildest in history). They were actually not oranges, to be 

technical, but Honeybell Tangelos, which yield the sweetest, most delicious nectar I’ve ever tasted. Unfortunately, their season is a short one, so I’ll have to wait till for next year’s crop to enjoy them again. In the meantime, I’ve also been indulging in Moro blood 

oranges from my local supermarket. The Moro is a colorful orange, with a red blushed rind and a deep red flesh. The flavor is sweet, with subtle raspberry undertones. I love to use them in a variety of desserts, including this pretty mousse, which I paired with a Ginger-

Orange Shortbread. It’s basically an orange curd fortified with a bit of gelatin, cooled, and then blended with softly whipped cream. Topped off with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, it makes a fresh, delightful dessert that conjures up images of palm trees swaying against a backdrop of dazzling Florida sunshine. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

♥ Chocolate-Dipped Pistachio Shortbread Hearts ♥

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and aside from offering an opportunity to express romantic love, it’s also an ideal time to break out those heart-shaped cake pans and cookie molds that have been gathering dust throughout the year. There’s something about the heart shape 

that makes a sweet taste so much better, c’est pas vrai? This year I decided to make a simple, delicious pistachio shortbread cookie and, because chocolate is the favored flavor for Valentine’s Day, dipped them in a little tempered dark chocolate. The recipe for this 

cookie comes from my old friend Chris Broberg (old relating not to his age, to clarify, but the duration of our acquaintance), the super-talented pastry chef of the Four Seasons restaurant in NYC. It’s a classic shortbread cookie made with ground pistachios, but you can 

certainly substitute almonds or hazelnuts for the pistachios, if you like. The nice thing about this dough is that it doesn’t require chilling before you roll it out, so you can spring into action, rolling, cutting and baking, right after the dough comes together in the 

mixer. So you can show your love without spending all day on it. I know, I don’t sound very romantic, but I actually am – the proof is that I still cry at the end of Wuthering Heights, even though I’ve probably seen it 25 times. Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends! ♥♥♥

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Super-Fudgy Glazed Brownies

Weeks before the Superbowl, Americans across the country begin to obsess about their Superbowl menus. Buffalo chicken wings? Chili? Foot-long heros, perhaps? That old standby, guacamole and tortilla chips? Whatever the choice, the common denominator for

Superbowl food is that it should be down-home and distinctly American (albeit occasionally with a Mexican accent). Since I’m usually a guest, and not the host, at Superbowl celebrations, I tend to focus on what to bring for dessert. My top choice? Brownies. 

Super-fudgy ones. After all, what could be more American than that? Plus, they’re portable, chocolaty, and almost everyone loves them. And because I’m a kitchen-sink-girl, I like my brownies glazed, with a little drizzle for eye appeal. This recipe is an 

adaptation of my favorite, created by my friend Judith Sutton, from her book Sweet Gratitude. I changed the chocolate proportions a bit, and used Scharffen Berger baking chunks in the batter, a convenience product that I recently discovered, and added the 

glaze. These ultra-fudgy brownies are ideal Superbowl fare – when your team is winning, why not indulge in an super-rich, indulgent brownie? And, if you’re losing, calories be damned, might as well drown your sorrows in an excellent brownie. There’s always next year. Go Giants!