Crazy Crunch

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A Pat & A Pinch - Crazy CrunchI love the holiday season! This is a Christmas tradition in our family.  It comes via my Aunt Robin who got it from her sister. It is an indulgence – there is absolutely nothing healthy about it but it is so delicious and incredibly difficult to resist. I only make it once a year, so that’s ok isn’t it?

It is best if you have two people to make it as the caramel begins to set almost immediately when removed from the heat, thus requiring fast action to get the popcorn coated. However, if you can’t find a helper it can be accomplished without assistance.  Rubber gloves are a good idea when working with the hot caramel and I wouldn’t make this without the benefit of a candy thermometer.

After years of making one batch with margarine and another with butter, the tasters always slightly favour the margarine batch. As a rule, I avoid margarine, but I make an exception for this recipe. Either is delicious and,if I’d never had the margarine version, I’d be perfectly content with the butter version.

The recipe also calls for a mix of almonds and pecans. I prefer all pecans, so I go with that.  It could also be made without nuts.

Crazy Crunch

2 quarts popped popcorn (not the microwave type!)

1/2 cup pecan halves

1/2 cup almonds

1 cup margarine (yes really) or butter

1 teaspoon light corn syrup (Karo syrup in the U.S.)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 piece of parchment paper, crumpled into a loose ball.

For a single batch without assistance:

Spread the popcorn across one or two large roasting pans or cookie sheets with sides keeping the corn close enough together to minimize gaps. If you have a pan large enough to accommodate the popped corn in a single layer, it is easier to work with than two pans. Sprinkle the nuts across the top. Place two wooden spoons or silicone spatulas and the crumpled piece of parchment beside the pan(s).

Melt the margarine or butter in a 1 1/2 quart saucepan. Add the syrup, vanilla and sugar stirring constantly and bringing to a boil. Continue boiling, stirring regularly for 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture reaches 285-290 degrees F on a candy thermometer, putting on the rubber gloves when the temperature reaches about 245 degrees F. Remove from the heat.

Quickly drizzle the caramel in a stream across the corn mixture. Toss the corn with the spatulas or wooden spoons to coat the corn mixture as thoroughly as possible. Use the parchment ball to flatten out the mixture.  Allow to cool. When cool, break into pieces storing in an air tight container.

A double batch when I have help:

When I have help, I make a double batch using a larger saucepan to make the caramel and a very large stainless steel bowl filled with the popped corn and nuts to mix in the hot caramel.  As I drizzle the hot caramel over the corn mixture, my assistant (wearing the rubber gloves) vigorously tosses the corn mixture and hot caramel, being careful to avoid any contact with the stream of hot caramel. The still hot coated mixture is then turned into two roasting pans, tossed a little more, and flattened with crumpled parchment before being allowed to cool.

A Pat & A Pinch - Crazy Crunch

 

Italian Polenta Cookies

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A Pat & A Pinch - Italian Polenta CookiesAs the season for baking ramps up, I’ve been thinking a lot about these cookies. They are quite different from most of the cookies I’ve tried.  If you’ve looked through my blog, you will have seen that I have a penchant for foods that can boast of lemon.  In this recipe the lemon is rounded out by the addition of orange.  The cornmeal gives a lovely crunch and texture to an otherwise very simple and rustic cookie.

The Italian name for these cookies is Crumiri, however, we shape them by hand in the form of Torchettini, the way my mother was taught some years ago.

If you decide to make these, plan to set aside a morning or afternoon to do so. The dough comes together in no time at all, but the rolling and shaping takes a good deal of time.  The dough is challenging but forgiving to work with, and in the end, with a little patience, you will have a lovely cookie that is fantastic with tea or coffee.

Italian Polenta Cookies

6 oz (3/4 cup) butter

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

zest of two oranges (approx 1 generous tbsp very finely grated or chopped)

zest of two lemons (approx 1 generous tbsp very finely grated or chopped)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups cornmeal

3 cups flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (325 if using dark coloured baking sheets). Line the baking sheets with parchment.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs.  Add the vanilla and zests mixing to incorporate.

Add the salt, cornmeal and flour. Mix to create a dough that pulls away from the side of the mixing bowl.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and take a lump of the dough (enough to make a 2 inch round lump) and knead it together in your hands to meld the dough into a more solid mass. Using your hands like a rolling pin, roll the dough on a wooden cutting board to create a long thin tube of dough.

Cut off a six inch piece of the tube and gently fold into a U shape using your fingers to support the curve of the U as you bend the dough.  (The dough has a tendency to crack and will crack during baking as well.  Don’t fret – these are rustic cookies.) Allow one end of the U to be a little longer than the other. Fold the longer end over the shorter end. The two ends should end up approximately even looking in length.

Repeat until all the dough is used.

Bake for 17-22 minutes watching carefully and removing at the first sign of browning. If they cook too long they will be tasty but hard.

Makes approximately 60 cookies.

A Pat & A Pinch - Italian Polenta Cookies

 

Mocha Cake with Sour Cherries

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Mocha Cake - A Pat & A Pinch

Last time I gave you a super simple recipe.  Today I am posting my longest recipe yet!

When I think of birthdays, this cake immediately springs to mind. It is a birthday tradition in my father’s family. It is made every birthday,  whether the celebrant is present or not. Even though it might seem like a cake for grown-ups, I loved it as a kid and my 7 year old son loves it too!

Making this cake is a project:  It’s not difficult to make, but it does take planning and time. Refrigerated, it lasts well, so even if it isn’t possible to eat it all in one sitting, you can be sure of having a delicious treat for several days.

A word of warning, sometimes the pitted cherries aren’t all pitted, so you may get a pit in your bite of cake.  In our family we consider getting a pit a prize and an indication of good luck to come.

Mocha Cake

CakeMocha Cake - A Pat & A Pinch

3 cups flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/2 c shortening

2 cups sugar

2 eggs, well beaten

2 cups buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla

Filling

1 1/2 pints whipping creamMocha Cake - A Pat & A Pinch

1/3 cup sugar

3 tbsps instant coffeeMocha Cake - A Pat & A Pinch

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 tsp vanilla

2 bottles sour cherries, drained (reserve the liquid if you want to make a cherry reduction to baste the cake layers for additional flavour and moistness – see below)

Oatmeal Crumbs

3/4 cup large flake oatmeal

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons butter

Optional, but recommended

Liqueur of your choice such as Kahlua, brandy, a cherry liqueur or a reduction of the juice from the drained cherries.

Cake

Heat oven to 350 F. Prepare three round cake pans. I use non-stick pans and line the bottoms with parchment rounds.

Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and then add to the shortening mixture alternating with the buttermilk.

Pour the batter into the three cake pans pushing the batter from the centre slightly up the sides of the pans.

Bake for 35-40 minutes.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes before turning out of the pans.  Remove the parchment. Allow to cool completely.

Filling

Combine the sugar, coffee and salt. Mix with the cream.

Chill for 3/4 hour in freezer, stirring occasionally.

Remove from freezer and beat until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla and beat until stiff. This is going to be the “icing” so it does need to be stiff.

Oatmeal crumbs

Combine ingredients in saucepan. Roast on a low-medium heat on the cooktop until brown stirring continuously. Be careful not to burn. Allow to cool before assembly.

Assembly

Slice the cake into 6 layers – you will only need 5. If the cakes are too domed, keep the dome on one of the halves, but even out the others. The filling will deal with any moderate unevenness so a perfectly flat layer is not required.  The domed layer will be the top (5th layer) of the cake.

Reserve the domed layer until the last. Begin with a flat layer taken from the bottom of one of the cakes. Sprinkle a little of the liquor of choice or reduced cherry juice across the cake. Spread a layer of the cream mixture across the cake. Sprinkle with about 1/3 of the drained cherries.(The cherries are added only to the lower layers of the cake to make it easier to cut). Add another cake layer, press it down into place firmly but gently and repeat.  Then add a third layer and repeat. Add the fourth layer repeating except with no cherries.  Add the top domed layer and ice the outside of the whole cake.

Sprinkle the cake with the oatmeal crumbs.  To get them to adhere to the sides of the cake requires “throwing” them against the cake.Mocha Cake - A Pat & A Pinch

Winter Squash with Pepitas

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A Pat & A Pinch - Winter Squash with PepitasI like easy recipes and this is an easy recipe!  I’m not a huge squash fan, but I do like these. They are smokey and slightly sweet with a touch of spiciness. Acorn squash are pretty easy to find through the fall and winter, but if you can find Delicata squash I think it is even better. I’ve also seen a similar recipe with Butternut squash, so there are several alternatives. One of the great things about this recipe is that you don’t need to peel the squash.

It probably would have been better if I’d posted this before Thanksgiving as I think it is so much better than those sweet yam or sweet potato recipes that are so common, but perhaps you can make it for Christmas! I adapted the recipe from one I found in an article on the Food Network site which also offers 49 other recipes for vegetable side dishes.

Winter Squash with Pepitas

2  smaller acorn or 2 normal delicata squash

2-3 tablespoons melted butter, depending on the size of your squash

1 tbsp brown sugar

3/4 tsp smoked paprika

3/4 tsp kosher or medium coarse salt

3 tbsp pepitas (unsalted pumpkin seeds)

Heat oven to 425 degrees F.

Halve the 2 squash; slice into 1/2 – 3/4-inch-thick wedges.

Toss with melted butter,  brown sugar, smoked paprika and salt.

Roast at 425 degrees F, 40 minutes, tossing gently after 20 minutes.

Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons pepitas and roast 5 more minutes.

I have a one pan technique for this dish, using a cast iron skillet. (I love to use as few dishes as possible!)  I melt the butter in the skillet.  Then I lay down one layer of the squash slices and sprinkle about half of the smoked paprika, salt and brown sugar over it.  I repeat with a second layer which usually uses up the remaining slices.  With all the ingredients in the pan, I toss gently to coat the squash slices.  Then I slide it into the hot oven and finish as per the directions above.

A Pat & A Pinch - Winter Squash with Pepitas

Turkey and Andouille Gumbo

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A Pat & A Pinch - Turkey Andouille GumboI hope that you had a fantastic Thanksgiving or, for my friends south of the border, a lovely Columbus Day weekend. It’s been months since I last posted and it’s time for something new so I give you a recipe for something to do with that leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

My family has been making gumbo for as long as I can remember. Gumbo is a Cajun soup or stew like dish and there are two versions, one that relies on filé powder, the powdered leaves of the sassafras tree, and the other which relies on a roux. This recipe uses a roux. We usually make a chicken and andouille gumbo and this recipe is an adaptation of that.  Our family recipe is based on a Paul Prudhomme recipe.  The critical ingredient in a gumbo, imho, is the andouille sausage.  We are so lucky that in the Victoria area we can get a delicious and healthy andouille from Galloping Goose Sausage in Metchosin.

Gumbo is served with long grain white rice and I think that it is always better the second day.

Turkey and Andouille Gumbo

1 1/2 lbs leftover cooked turkey diced

1 lb andouille, sliced into 3/8 inch slices

3/4 cup vegetable oil such as canola (not olive oil)

1 cup flour

2 cups diced onions

2 cups dices green peppers

2 cups diced celery

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tsp cayenne

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dried mint

2 tsp salt

1 gallon chicken or turkey stock

1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped

Prep the vegetables and meats.  In particular the vegetables have to be chopped before you begin.

Heat the stock in a dutch oven or other large pot.

Place your prepared onions, peppers and celery beside your cooktop.

To make the roux, heat the oil on high in a large wok or other large pan where you can keep the mixture moving at all times.  Add the flour and begin to stir. The flour will begin to cook immediately. Stir with a wooden spoon making sure to keep the flour moving. Be very careful with this mixture – it will burn easily and it will burn you if you are splashed with it. It will turn golden and then begin to brown.  Keep stirring until the mixture turns a chocolate brown and immediately stir in your chopped vegetables.

Reduce the heat and cook the coated vegetables for 3 minutes, adding the chopped garlic and cooking for another 2 minutes. Stir in the cayenne, powdered garlic, mint and salt.

Stir the roux/vegetable mixture into the hot stock scoop by scoop.  Add the sliced andouille and worcestershire sauce. Cook for 2 hours.

Add the turkey, half of the parsley and most of the chopped green onions.  Cook for an additional half hour.  Season to taste.  Serve with white rice, garnishing with the remaining parsley and green onions as desired.

Indian Spiced Salmon Cakes

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Indian Spiced Salmon Cakes - A Pat & A Pinch Being fortunate to live on the west coast, we eat a lot of pacific salmon. We also benefit from the wisdom of chef Vikram Vij who seems to present an endless supply of innovative ideas for local products. This is his recipe with some very minor modifications. I love my mother’s Pan Fried Salmon Cakes with Dill Sauce that I posted some time ago, but these are equally as good and are easier to make, once you have the ingredients on hand. I make them with garam masala, rather than the cumin alternative, as the spice mixture imparts a more complex flavor profile, but either would be good. If you don’t have or can’t find ajwain seeds, you can substitute a little oregano for a somewhat similar flavour.

I usually serve them on fresh greens with a light dressing and some mango chutney, but small sized ones also make an excellent appy that can be made ahead and reheated in the oven on a cookie sheet. Indian Spiced Salmon Cakes - A Pat & A Pinch 1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 egg

1 pound fresh wild salmon

1/2 pound boiled and mashed russet potato or a little more (I like it coarsely mashed to provide a little more texture to the cake)

1/4 pound boiled or microwaved then coarsely mashed yam

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/3 cup finely sliced spring onions or chopped onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh jalapeno peppers

1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala or 1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ajwain seeds

1 tablespoon salt (or less to taste)

1/2 cup canola oil for pan frying

Mango chutney to garnish

Lightly pound coriander seeds in a mortar or on a plate with a heavy spoon. (You just want to break the seeds in half.) Set aside.

Beat the egg in a small bowl. If you are using fresh salmon, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Immerse salmon and cook for five minutes. Remove from the heat, drain and allow the salmon to cool. Peel off the skin.

Thoroughly combine all ingredients except the oil in a large mixing bowl. With your hands, form round cakes about two and a half inches in diameter and three-quarters to one inch thick. Set them on a baking tray.

Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a shallow nonstick frying pan on high heat. Once the oil is hot, reduce the heat to medium so the cakes don’t stick to the bottom of the pan or burn. Place two cakes in the pan and cook for two to three minutes. Turn the cakes over and cook for another two to three minutes. The cakes should be brown and crispy on both sides. Repeat, using one tablespoon of the oil for each two cakes, until all the cakes are cooked.

Serve the cakes as they are done, or keep warm on a plate in the oven. Serves 6

Mocha Balls

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This recipe is a personal favorite of mine.  As a child, my Omi would always sneak me a “bedtime snack” after dinner, dessert, and even brushing my teeth.  To this day, I find these little cookies irresistible.

In order to create an ‘About Me‘ for this blog, I invited my good friend and photographer Joshua Lawrence over to get some shots of me in the kitchen (and of course to munch on cookies).

Mocha Balls - A Pat & A Pinch

Mocha Balls

1 c. soft butter

1/2 c. sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

2 tsp. instant coffee

1 tbsp. hot water

1 3/4 c. flour

1/4 c. cocoa

1/2 tsp. salt

2 c. pecans, finely chopped

icing sugar

Beat butter, sugar, and vanilla together until fluffy.  Dissolve coffee in hot water and stir into butter mixture.  Sift dry ingredients into mixture.  Add chopped pecans and stir to blend well.  Shape into 1″ balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 325F for 15 minutes or until set.  Roll balls in icing sugar while still slightly warm.

Mocha Balls - A Pat & A Pinch

Mocha Balls - A Pat & A Pinch

Sea Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

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My son loves chocolate chip cookies, so I am perpetually in search of the perfect chocolate chip cookie. He likes these cookies, but I love them. The touch of salt is a perfect foil to the plentiful chocolate. This wonderful recipe is from Savory Sweet Life.

The first time you try this recipe, it is important to watch the cookies carefully as they bake – they are so much better if you can get them out of the oven before they brown too much.  Don’t be distressed when their appearance changes while they cool. They will crackle more as they fall slightly and will look a touch gooey at first.

Try not to eat all of them in one sitting and do share!

Sea Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies - A Pat & A Pinch

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened

½ cup sugar

1½ cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2¾ cups (12 oz) all-purpose flour (If possible, weigh the flour)

¾ tsp. smallish-medium coarse sea salt (do not substitute with table salt)

1 tsp. baking soda

1½ tsp. baking powder (make sure it is fresh)

2¼ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 360 degrees.

Mix the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour in a bowl.

Cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar in a mixer until it is fluffy (approx. 3 minutes on medium-high speed). Add the eggs and vanilla and beat for an additional 2 minutes until the colour lightens and the texture becomes almost icing like.

Add the flour mixture beating until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Finally add chocolate chips until well distributed. The cookie batter should be somewhat thick. Chill the batter for at least 30 minutes.

Drop about 2 tablespoons of dough or use a medium cookie scoop and plop the batter onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12-14 minutes until the edges are nice and golden brown. Remove from heat and allow the cookies to stay on the cookie sheet for an additional 2 minutes. Pick up the parchment paper with the cookies still on top and transfer to a cool non-porous surface. Allow the cookies to cool on the paper for at least 3 minutes before serving.

Nancy’s Apple Torte

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Nancy's Apple Torte - A Pat & A Pinch

This recipe comes via my New York based Aunt who, in turn, got it from her sister Nancy. The torte comes together quite easily and is perfect for a dinner party.

Having just read J. Kenji López-Alt’s thoughtful study and discussion of the best apples for apple pie on Serious Eats, I chose to use Golden Delicious apples rather than the McIntosh apples suggested in the original recipe. I was really pleased with the texture and consistency of the apples when the pie had baked.  I have also seen a similar recipe that suggested Granny Smith apples.  I think there is quite a bit of flexibility in your apple choice.

The recipe doesn’t specify whether to use sliced blanched almonds or unblanched almonds. I chose the latter as I wanted the extra colour. I was glad I did.  The torte would look rather pallid in the absence of the touch of colour that the glimpses of almond skin contribute.

Nancy's Apple Torte - A Pat & A Pinch

Crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sliced almonds

2 Tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 Tablespoons cold butter, cut in small pieces

1 large egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling:

1 large egg

8 oz. cream cheese

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:

4 cups peeled and sliced Golden Delicious apples

1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 400 F.  To prepare crust, pulse flour, almonds, sugar and salt in a food processor, using about 10 one-second pulses, until combined.  With the motor running, add butter, a few pieces at a time.  Add egg yolk and vanilla and process until evenly combined (Mixture will look like wet sand).   Pat the crust into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and about 1-inch up the sides.

To prepare filling, wipe out the food processor.  Add egg, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla; process until smooth.  Spread into the crust.

To prepare topping, toss apples, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and combine.  Spoon over the filling, pressing gently.  Top with almonds.

Bake the torte for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 F.  Continue baking until set around the edges, and just a bit jiggly in the center, 20 to 25 minutes more.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove the pan sides and let cool completely, about 1 hour.  Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours, before serving.  Serves 10.

Beetroot Mutabal

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The first time I made kibbeh bil saniyeh for one of my best friends, he told me it was only missing “beet sauce”.  Try as I might, I had no idea what this mysterious sauce was called or how to make it.  I decided to try a recipe I found online for a beetroot mutabal which I adapted only by adding more lemon juice.  I am relieved to say that I have since been told it is exactly what my kibbeh was missing.  It is also the most excitingly coloured condiment I have ever produced!

Beetroot Mutabal - A Pat & A Pinch

Beetroot Mutabal

250 g. cooked beets (approx. 3 medium or 2 large)
2 tbsp. tahini
2 tbsp. plain yogurt
2 lemons, juiced
salt

Blend the beets, tahini, and yogurt in a food processor.  Add the lemon juice and salt to taste.

Beetroot Mutabal - A Pat & A Pinch