Crazy Crunch

A Pat & A Pinch - Crazy Crunch

I 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 sugar

1 cup margarine (yes really) or butter

1/2 cup 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

Bottom Crust Plum Crumble

Before plum season is upon us, I thought that I would share this tasty plum desert recipe that my family has been making for years. The dish is more like a tart than a crumble when completed, but relies on a crumble mixture in its composition.  I used frozen plum halves from last season, but fresh plums are easier to work with. If you choose to make it with frozen plums, they do work just as well as fresh ones in this recipe.  I recommend with frozen plums only slightly defrosting them before slicing – they are extremely hard to work with once fully defrosted.

If you have access to lots of plums and want to freeze some, cut them in half, remove the pits and lay separated on a baking sheet.  Place the baking sheet in your freezer. Once frozen, pop the frozen plum halves into a ziplock removing as much air as possible and return to the freezer.

Bottom Crust Plum Crumble - A Pat & A Pinch

1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoons white sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1 1/4 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 pounds (approximately 12) dark plums, pitted and cut into eighths (cut smaller plums into sixths)

Heavy cream for serving, whipped or unwhipped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine 1 cup of the sugar and the salt; cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Stir in the flour.

Set aside half the mixture. Add the cinnamon, baking power and 1 egg to the other half. Mix until well blended. The dough will be quite sticky. Layer the bottom of a 10 inch tart pan with the dough (just the bottom and not up the sides) by dropping teaspoons of the dough around the perimeter of the pan and then the centre, using a spatula to join and spread the dough evenly across the bottom. Bake until just starting to turn golden, approximately 10 minutes.

While the pastry is baking, whisk together 1/4 cup of the sugar, the remaining egg, the cream and the almond and vanilla extracts.

Remove the pastry from the oven, leaving the oven on, and spread the plum slices on top. I find it best to arrange the slices in circles beginning from the rim of the dish and working toward the centre. Pour the cream mixture over top and sprinkle with the reserved butter flour mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar and return to the oven baking until the topping is nicely browned, 20-30 minutes.

Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or unwhipped whipping cream, as preferred.

 

 

 

Opa’s BBQ Pork Ribs

My Opa (grandfather in German) is one of the most fascinating people I know. His skills range from welding to cooking to removing blackberry stains to growing the best tomatoes in his greenhouse (which as you can likely guess he built all by himself). He is a man of all trades but most of all, he is a family man who loves to be surrounded by good food and company. Back in the day, I honestly have no idea when a company, then called Western Natural Gas in Alberta, Canada, provided recipe suggestions to its customers.  This recipe, which has been lovingly modified and bulked up since, came from that company oddly enough.  It is one of my absolute favourite recipes to make as it is simple and a definite crowd pleaser.  Unless you are vegetarian, I guarantee this will be a hit!

Opa's BBQ Pork Ribs - A Pat & A Pinch

Opa’s BBQ’d Pork Back Ribs

2 pounds, preferably back rib rack

Sauce

1 1/12 cups ketchup

1 cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons liquid smoke

4 teaspoons celery seed, optional

4 tablespoons hot horseradish (preferably not creamed)

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Mix the sauce ingredients together.

Brown the ribs on the BBQ. Then place them in a disposable aluminum pan and cover with the sauce. Cover the pan with foil.

Cook on the BBQ on a low heat until the meat is tender, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from burning.  Back rib racks take approximately one and one-quarter hours, country style ribs take longer.

Opa's BBQ'd Pork Ribs - A Pat & A Pinch Opa's BBQ'd Pork Ribs - A Pat & A Pinch

Doreen’s Lemon Loaf

Doreen's Lemon Loaf - A Pat & A Pinch

It has been some time since I posted – law school is definitely time consuming.  Today, however, I needed a break from trying to understand the rule against perpetuities and wanted to make something simple and with good memories.  My grandmother’s lemon loaf was the perfect solution.  My grandmother, Doreen, wasn’t a great cook, but she made a few things that have definitely stuck around as favourites for me.  Two of them involved lemons, this cake and a lemon meringue pie that was to die for.  This is easy. The lemon meringue pie is more complicated.

Any type of lemons will work, but I had a bag of meyer lemons that I decided to use. The recipe calls for one lemon, I used 3 but they were small and not the juiciest.  As my dad says, you can’t have too much lemon.

Usually I spend a great deal of time on the photographs, but right now I don’t have the luxury of time, so I have gone to my point and shoot. I hope that the photo still entices you to give this simple and yummy recipe a try!

Doreen's Lemon Loaf - A Pat & A Pinch

Doreen’s Lemon Loaf

6 tablespoons butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 lemon, zested and juiced

½ cup milk

1 ½ cups flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup sugar (for glaze)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 8.5×4.5″ loaf pan or two smaller loaf pans with parchment paper.  I prefer to use two small pans and reduce the baking time.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl.  Add the beaten eggs, lemon zest, and milk to the creamed mixture.  Sift together the dry ingredients (excluding the sugar for the glaze).  Mix the dry ingredients into the liquid ingredients.  Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for one hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. I sometime find that it helps to lay a piece of parchment over the pan after the loaf begins to brown, to prevent over-browning. Remove the loaf from the oven.

Mix together the lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar.  Carefully loosen and remove the still-warm loaf from the pan discarding the parchment paper. Return the loaf to the pan, pouring the lemon sugar glaze over it.  Allow the loaf to cool and absorb the liquid.  Remove the loaf from the pan when the liquid is absorbed. Cut, serve and enjoy with a cup of tea.

Suzanne’s Flourless Chocolate Cake

I’ve been bad.  I know I haven’t posted in ages and I sincerely apologize.  The fact is, my life has been a whirlwind and will continue to be through early december.  So because I’ve had this post waiting since Canadian Thanksgiving for you and I will be in a conference for the majority of next weekend, I’m making time to share.

A Pat & A Pinch - Suzanne's Flourless Chocolate Cake

This cake is rich.  Chocolate lovers, pre-heat your ovens.  This recipe ended up in my family, forgotten by all (except me) until about three years ago.  I’m not sure where it came from, most likely my brilliant mother, but nevertheless, I am naming it for our chocolate-loving, beloved family friend, Suzanne, because she is always in my heart when I make it.

7 oz. bittersweet chocolate (the good kind – 90% cacao bars and NOT baker’s chocolate)

14 tbsp. unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks if you’re lucky enough to have portioned butter)

5 large eggs, separated

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

¾ c. granulated sugar

1 pinch salt

2 tbsp. unsweetened cacao powder

Optional

¼ c. chopped pecans

2 tbsp. booze (I recommend triple sec or cointreau but jack daniels worked well last time so this is flexible)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and sugar a 10 inch springform pan.

In the top of a double boiler, combine the chocolate and butter.  Heat until melted and smooth.  Transfer to a medium sized bowl and whisk in the egg yolks and vanilla.  Sift in sugar, salt and cacao while continuing to whisk. Lastly, mix in the booze and pecans.

With a mixer, whip the egg whites to soft peaks and fold one third into the chocolate batter.  Repeat with the remaining whites.  Pour this mixture into the springform and bake on for 25 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven.

Remove the cake from the oven and immediately loosen the springform collar.  Allow the cake to cool before serving.

If you’d like to festively decorate your cake as I enjoy doing, just use a sieve to sprinkle the cake with confectioner’s sugar.  By simply placing a leaf or cut out paper first, you can get nearly any desired design.

Bon appétit!

Cranberry Streusel Coffee Cake

This cake is a tasty balance of sweet streusel and sour fruit.  It makes quite a large treat and so is typically only served around here when company is expected.  My 4-year-old was severely disappointed (read: threw a not-so-charming tantrum) upon discovering that there were no chocolate chips involved, but I think this recipe is perfect nevertheless.

Streusel

¾ c. lightly packed brown sugar

            ½ c. unbleached flour

            1 tsp. cinnamon

            ¼ c. butter

Cake

½ c. soft butter

            1 c. granulated sugar

            2 eggs

            1 tsp. vanilla

            2 c. flour

            1 tsp. baking powder

            1 tsp. baking soda

            ½ tsp. salt

            1 c. sour cream

            4 c. fresh cranberries (allow to thaw if using frozen)

Cream soft butter and granulated sugar.  Beat in eggs followed by vanilla.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream.

Make streusel by cutting the ingredients together (or using fingers to blend the ingredients).

Spread half of batter in a greased and floured 10” springform pan by dropping dessert spoons of batter evenly across the bottom and joining them with a spoon or spatula to make a continuous surface.  Sprinkle with half of the streusel mixture, then half of the cranberries.  Spread the remaining batter, using the spoon drop technique, then finish with remaining cranberries and then streusel.

Bake at 350F for 1 hour.