Fudgy Almond Praline Brownies

Fudgy Almond Praline Brownies

Fudgy Almond Praline Brownies



I…am…soooo…tired. I’m sure many of you have heard of what my husband and I call “Wikipedia Syndrome”. It’s where you go to wiki for one article and from that one, see another to look at and then another 4 from that one and then you find yourself with 33 tabs open, all with articles you want to read, most of which have gone so far off topic from the original article that you couldn’t remember it if you tried. Well, I did something similar last night. I was laying awake, Russ snoring to wake the dead next to me and I decided to listen to a certain video. Next thing I knew, three hours had passed and I had Wikipedia syndromed myself into watching about 40,000 videos. I now know every crevice of John Legends face, have watched videos by Christina Perri that SHE has probably forgotten she made and have fallen in voice love with Christina Aguilera (she is far better than I ever gave her credit for). I also now need toothpicks to prop my eyelids open, but hey… John Legend. Music. It was worth it.

I think.

What is definitely worth it though is these brownies. (Didya see my neat little segue there? Did ya, did ya, did ya? Look ma, no hands! Watch me, mom!! Ok, I’ll stop now. Sorry.) These are some intense brownies. They are dense enough to be almost candy like and the topping, which I was afraid would be overly sweet, really isn’t. That’s not to say it isn’t sweet, it is, but it’s actually a nice foil for the brownies. The topping sets up to a firm candy like praline that crackles when you cut through it and the brownies will take of any chocolate craving you have; for the next year. Plus the toffee bits in the brownies themselves add their own nice textural contrast. Cut these babies small. I promise; you don’t need a large piece to be satisfied.

The brownie recipe is lightly adapted from one from King Arthur Flour and the topping also lightly adapted from good old Betty Crocker.

You know the drill….

Mrs. Cupcake… who needs more toothpicks for eye props.

Fudgy Almond Praline Brownies

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee powder or espresso powder (using this much DOES lend a slight mocha flavor to the brownies, which I wanted- decrease the amount if you don’t)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 8 ounce package Heath Toffee Bits
  • Topping-
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup sliced almond, lightly toasted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13×9 inch pan with foil and lightly butter or spray the foil.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the 4 eggs with the cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, instant coffee and vanilla extract until smooth. it will be very thick.
  3. In a small pot, combine the butter and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter is melted.Β  let cool for about 5 minutes, then stir it into the chocolate mixture.
  4. Add in the flour, stirring until smooth, then fold in the toffee bits.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out with just a few moist crumbs on it and the edges of the brownies should look set, with the middle still looking moist, but not uncooked. Let cool in the pan on a rack while you make the topping.
  6. For the topping, combine the butter and brown sugar in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute, then immediately remove from the heat. Stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla and stir well. Gently fold in the sliced almonds. Let the topping sit for five minutes, stirring every minute or so to distribute the almonds, then pour the mixture evenly over the brownies, smoothing it as needed.
  7. Let sit for an hour or two to set the topping. Your best bet is to set it in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to make sure the topping is completely set and doesn’t ooze when you slice the brownies.
  8. Slice into small squares and serve with plenty of hot black coffee…or tea..or, heck with it, a beer. I won’t judge.

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Fleur De Sel Caramels (Salted Caramels)

Fleur De Sel Caramels

Fleur De Sel Caramels

The fancy name sounds so purty, but it’s just salted caramels. I was about to say “just plain old salted caramels”, but that would have been an insult to these rich creamy pieces of goodness. There’s nothing plain about these. There’s also nothing difficult. Back when I first made my Homemade Caramel Sauce, I was one of those people that assumed that something that tasted so decadent had to be hard to make. Nope; flat out easy. Now don’t get me wrong. You walk away from this during the caramelizing of the sugar, you will end up with every smoke detector in a ten mile radius going off, an embarrassing fire department visit, a ruined pan that no amount of soaking will save and worst of all…. NO CARAMEL! And while this isn’t hard, it is not a put the pot on the stove during ANY step and go sit and watch The Real Housewives Of The Amazon Rainforest sort of thing to cook. You need to stick close by.

Is it worth it? You tell me. Your choice is this- go spend 5 bucks at Trader Joes for a container of caramels that, while good, gives you about 20 caramels for the price and STILL isn’t as good as homemade. Or you could go buy a bag of Kraft or Brachs caramels that are cheap but..well, you can tell they are cheap. Very little flavor, the mouth feel isn’t the same and you get what you pay for. OR… you can spend about 6 bucks and get a 9 inch pan of gloriously burnt sugar tasting, creamy rich “OMG, if I eat any more of these, I’m gonna weigh 500 pounds but they are so damn good!” caramels. So you choose. πŸ˜€

Also, if you prefer just regular caramels, just omit the salt in the caramel and on top. Regular caramels at your service. Fat girl pants optional.

P.S.- If you don’t have Fleur De Sel, you can use any coarse grained salt. Just don’t use table salt.

You know the drill….

Fleur De Sel Caramels (Salted Caramels)

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups heavy cream, warmed
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel

Make sure you have all your ingredients at hand. Have the cream measured and nearby and to save time, just grind your salt right into the cream as well as pour the vanilla in it and make sure your butter is unwrapped and at the ready. Then set it all aside right by the stove. Line a 9 inch square pan with foil (preferably the non stick kind.). Butter the foil, bottom and sides. Set aside near the stove.

  1. Get a nice deep heavy bottomed saucepot. At least a 4 quart one. Combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in the pot. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Swirl the pan a couple of times while cooking but do NOT stir it. If you stir caramel as it’s cooking, you stand a good chance of ending up with grainy, gritty caramel.
  2. Boil until the mixture has turned a nice dark golden brown color. Do NOT leave the stove during this step. When it is the right color, immediately move it to a cool burner. Pour in the cream mixture all at once and carefully drop in the butter. This is going to sputter like crazy so be prepared. Just pour and then give it a minute to settle down some.
  3. Set it back on the stove over medium high heat. Don’t stir. Just swirl the pot a few times carefully to combine the mixture. You can, very carefully, if you have to, use a wooden spoon and gently stir in the middle of the mixture, making sure to not touch the sides or bottom of the pan. But just the one time to get things combined.
  4. Keep the mixture over medium high heat and cook to 245 degrees. Use a candy thermometer or good instant read thermometer to get an accurate reading. This will take about ten minutes.
  5. When it gets to 245 degrees, take off the heat and immediately pour into the prepared pan without scraping the bottom of the pot. If there’s any left in the bottom, just let it cool and consider it the cooks treat. πŸ™‚
  6. Allow this to sit overnight or until firm. You can refrigerate it and it will get firmer much quicker but it also makes it a bit more difficult to cut, though not hard if you have a good knife. Cut into about 48 pieces, using a sharp knife.
  7. Sprinkle more fleur de sel on top of each piece and either wrap in plastic wrap or put in mini candy cups. These are perfect for Christmas gift giving!

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You Got Your Chocolate In My Peanut Butter!

Anybody else remember those extremely silly commercials from back in the day? You have one person walking somewhere with a jar of PB (like the person who posted the video asked, who walks around munching from a jar of peanut butter?) and another walking around with a chocolate bar. They crash, the foods collide and junk food magic is created, aka Reeses Cups.

 

 

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge peanut butter fan. I would go hungry before eating peanut butter cookies (I can’t even handle the smell of them cooking lol), I tend to omit the peanuts or PB in any recipes needing it and I eat a PB&J sandwich maybe twice a year. I DO however like Reeses Cups (and cinnamon raisin peanut butter but that’s a different post). They may be peanut butter but the taste is different. So when I saw the following recipe here on Big Red Kitchen , I knew I had to try it. Especially since I knew that in my family, it would be a hit. One of my sons is about like me when it comes to PB but the rest of them like it and my daughter in law would kill someone to swipe this from them Love you Tiffy!) πŸ˜› .

As for those I know in the blogger community, Erin ,
Peabody and Lindsey , this is for you ladies who if I remember correctly are peanut butter fans. I know I am remembering correctly that Peabody shares my love for a certain brands cinnamon raisin peanut butter πŸ™‚

The rest of you, if you like peanut butter or Reeses Cups, give this a try. It tastes amazingly similar to a pb cup yet is more fun somehow with the big chunks (ok, that’s just cause I’m a pig) and homey look of it. This is exceedingly simple to make…and way too easy to eat. πŸ˜› The only thing I really changed from the original recipe was to use chocolate chips instead of candy coating because I don’t care for the somewhat fake flavor of coating.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark

  • 2 1/2 pounds candy coating (or chocolate chips. (I used half milk chocolate, half semi sweet.
  • 1 pound peanut butterΒ  (I used a full 18 ounce jar. I was NOT about to try and measure out a pound. I just used it all.)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Melt half the chocolate according to package directions.
  2. Spread it out to about 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly greased baking pan. The original called for parchment paper lined but over time (over 30 years of cooking. OMG, I’m freaking OLD!), I’ve learned what can go w/out the called for parchment and IΒ  knew that since the chocolate would harden in the fridge and be able to be lifted off, it wouldn’t be needed.
  3. Set aside in the fridge.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla. Beat well. The mixture will be thick.
  5. Crumble this over the top of the first chocolate layer.
  6. Melt the remaining chocolate and pour it over the peanut butter layer. Spread it out making cutesy little swirls πŸ˜›
  7. Refrigerate this for at least a few hours or overnight until totally hardened.
  8. Break up in pieces.
  9. Store in the fridge.

Barking Up The RIGHT Tree

I have a bone to pick with a few of you. Why you ask? Because if I get fat, it’s your fault. Yep; YOU and YOU and
YOU and
Even YOU .

All. Your. Fault.

You got me craving bark of some sort… any sort. If I could put the word bark in it, I’ve been craving it. Ok, maybe not tree bark. Or liver bark. Or a bark that’s worse than it’s bite. I don’t want anything that has the word worse in it. I’ll pass on all of those.

So what did I do today? I made two different kinds of bark. Chances are I will not be able to resist them because they are so damn good and I will need to get more fat girl pants.

And it’s your fault.

Aren’t you ashamed?

So, since I know you’re horribly ashamed of yourself, you need to make one or both of these and get fat with me. Then we can go out shopping together for fat girl pants and maybe stop and get some mall food. We all know how healthy THAT is.

Lemon Vanilla Bean Bark

I made this one because I absolutely LOVE anything lemon. My kids will be lucky to get any of this kind.

  • 2 bags (11 to 12 ounces) white chocolate chips
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 bag Brachs Lemon Drops, crushed (put them in a ziploc bag and go at them with a meat tenderizer or a hammer)
  • 1 tablespoon solid shortening
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract or 1/4 teaspoon lemon oil
  1. Slice your vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds (don’t throw out the bean. Put it in your sugar bowl and in a few days, you’ll have delicious vanilla sugar) and put them in a large bowl with the white chocolate chips.
  2. Melt the chips and the shortening in the microwave. Use one minute increments, stirring after each one, until the chocolate is melted and liquidy. Don’t over cook it or you’ll end up with a hard lump. Believe me; I’ve done that many times in the past. It’s extremely annoying to put it mildly.
  3. Working quickly, stir the crushed lemon drops and the lemon extract into the chocolate
  4. Plop the mixture onto a foil lined, parchment lined or VERY lightly greased baking sheet and spread it out.
  5. Put in a cold place (I put mine on my front porch) until it is hard. Break it into pieces and eat enough to need fat girl pants. If there is any left, store it in a cool place (front porches work great) in a ziploc type bag.

Rum Raisin Bark

I made THIS one because my favorite candy bar is one I can not find ANYWHERE *sobs*. It is a German one that I got addicted to when I lived in Germany. Many of you probably know of Ritter Sport bars. They can be found at a lot of large grocery stores. The problem is that they don’t seem to ever have the Rum, Trauben, Nuss one and I love it. It is a rum raisin chocolate with nuts. I omitted the nuts because I just wasn’t in the mood but you could probably add about 1/2 cup of chopped hazelnuts to this.

  • 1 12 ounce bag milk chocolate chips
  • 1 12 ounce bag semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons solid shortening
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons rum extract
  1. In a large bowl, melt your chips and shortening in the microwave. Melt at one minute increments, stirring after each minute, until the chocolate is melted.
  2. Working quickly stir in the raisins and the rum extract.
  3. Spread on a foil lined, parchment lined or lightly greased baking sheet.
  4. Put in a cool place to harden then break into pieces.
  5. Eat a lot. Go get those fat girl pants. Sob. Eat more for comfort and get involved in a vicious cycle that only a woman could do.

Caramel- Butterscotch’s Little Sister

Or maybe little brother… or cousin… or third cousin four times removed. Or who knows; maybe it’s a step child. That wicked red headed one. But I know that for me caramel has never ranked as high on the family list of sweets. Mind you, that doesn’t mean I don’t like it. Ahem… hello, you DO recall whose blog you’re on don’t you?Β  Janet… liver hating, sweet loving, the richer and creamier the better silly kinda needs massive therapy blog writer. Yep, that’s me!

I love caramel. Just not as much as I love butterscotch. But please… don’t tell either of them where I rank them. I don’t want to be responsible for gooey hurt feelings. There is a time and a place for both. Butterscotch gets my love on sundaes and in schnapps (Oh.My.God. Is that stuff awesome or what?! Liquid “I’m gonna get you tipsy” butterscotch candy) and as a great add in to coffee. Yes, I know; caramel is the normal add in flavor for coffee but if you’ve never tried butterscotch in coffee, you have to try it. Or just buy some, decide you don’t like it and then send it to me. Caramel is for the guts of candy bars that you freeze and then nibble off layer by layer. It’s also for Dulce De leche which is meant to be eaten by the spoonful. Really; it is. It’s the law. Would I lie to you? It’s also for the following recipe. Along with the dulce de leche. I am currently browsing through the Southern Living 1001 Ways To Cook Southern cookbook and among the 3 million four hundred thousand pages I have folded down, one kept saying “try me… NOW. Do NOT wait, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars” (if anyone wants to send me that two hundred dollars, I’m not gonna argue πŸ˜› ). So I listened. Cause I’m cool like that. When books talk to me, I listen. After I stop cowering in the closet cause a book just talked to me.

So try this. Caramel… more caramel. All tucked into a thick brown sugary square… or circle. Or an octagon if that’s what makes you happy.

Death By Caramel Squares

  • 3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, softened (yes, 2 cups)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract (optional; my addition)
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup regular uncooked oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 regular sized Snickers bars, chopped
  • 1 14 ounce can dulce de leche
  1. Preheat your oven to 325. Line a 13×9 inch pan with foil (I used the non stick kind) and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well.
  3. In another bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the butter mixture, stirring just until blended. Fold in the chopped candy.
  4. Spread batter in the lined pan. It’s quite thick so you will probably have to pat it down some. I used the tips of my dampened fingers so that I didn’t get covered in goop.
  5. Spoon dollops of the dulce de leche onto the top of the batter. Use a knife to swirl it into the batter. Eat some because again… it’s the law. I swear it is!
  6. Bake for an hour and 20 minutes. The recipe said an hour and five minutes but in my oven, it was still very jiggly in the center. Your oven may vary so check after an hour.
  7. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. This is gonna take a while cause these bad boys are thick! Use the foil to lift the brownies out and cut into squares. Or you could do that octagon thingΒ  again. Just sayin’.
  8. These are very chewy which I liked and very thick; also liked. But next time I think I will add something to it… maybe a little maple flavor. It just needs that little something extra.

Nobody Knows The Truffles I’ve Seen

The Truffle Towers? Maybe The Leaning Tower Of Truffles? πŸ˜€

*Watches in horror as all my readers groan and block my site*

Uh oh. I’m in truffle now! πŸ˜›

Ok, ok, I’m done. But if you’ve been reading me for a while, you know it won’t last. I’m always causing truffle. Hehehe. I’m glad I amuse myself because I can see all the eye rolling going on even through the internet. πŸ˜€

I’ve never understood why the candy truffle is named after the ultra expensive fungus Truffle. Beyond the fact that both tend to be outrageously expensive (I paid $14.00 for a small bottle of Truffle oil. Fourteen dollars! I keep waiting for that stuff to spew out recipes using it, cook them and then clean the kitchen for that price!) I don’t care what anyone says, they look nothing alike.

Here are Black Truffles.-

Here are dark chocolate candy truffles-

Nope, nope nope, not the same. The first I might use to make an elegant Risotto. The second I would hide in a box marked with the words “Old Underwear”. It would go under my bed and only be brought out late at night when all the males in my household were snoring.

Since we haven’t won the lottery yet, I have had to learn how to make homemade truffles (the candy, not the fungus though if I had the fungus nearby, I could sell it and buy the candy πŸ˜› ). For the most part, they are far simpler to make than people realize. They can a bit more complex if you go to the trouble of dipping them into a liquid chocolate coating but for “let’s make these bad boys quickly because I want to eat them NOW” pleasure, rolling them in cocoa does the trick. I made one change from the typical though. I don’t care for the taste of unsweetened cocoa on its own, so I mix my cocoa with some powdered sugar to cut the bitterness.

People tend to think of making truffles only around the holidays to add to gift baskets or cookie trays but in all seriousness, they are a perfect sweet to make any old time. They are so easy, can be made with so many variations to fit what you’re craving at any given moment and last a long time if wrapped tightly and kept in the fridge. Not that they WILL last because you’ll be sneaking them every five minutes, but the potential for long term storage is there. πŸ™‚

This recipe makes a LOT, so feel free to cut it in half. I make a lot because I tend to give some away and this way, I can placate my teen boys if they walk in while I’m making them by putting some in the fridge for them…. and hiding the bulk of them. Yes, yes, I’m evil that way.

One tip- make sure your truffle mixture stays COLD. When it starts to warm up, any shaping you try to do is going to end up all over your hands and while that can be tasty, it IS messy. So work fast and put it back in the fridge as needed to get cold again. I made Chocolate Raspberry truffles because that is one of my favorite flavor combos, but you could sub any flavor of jam you prefer or even leave it out altogether. If you leave it out though, add an extra 2 tablespoons of cream to prevent your mixture from being too stiff to work with.

CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY TRUFFLES

These aren’t the prettiest candies in the world, but I promise you; you won’t care.

  • 1/2 cup Heavy cream
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (you can also use bittersweet or milk or a mix of types. I used an equal mix of semi sweet and milk)
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut into bits and softened
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam, preferably seedless
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry liquor or 1/2 teaspoon raspberry extract (optional)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  1. In a medium saucepan bring to the cream just to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Remove from heat.
  3. Add chocolate, stirring until smooth.
  4. Let cool slightly and add butter, bit by bit, stirring until smooth.
  5. Stir in jam, Chambord and a pinch of salt and transfer to a bowl.
  6. Chill, covered, for 4 hours, or until firm.
  7. Form mixture by heaping teaspoons into balls and roll in cocoa powder. A melon baller works wonderfully for this step. If the mixture has softened up too much to roll easily by the time you finish scooping it, chill the balls for about an hour, then continue with the rolling them in cocoa step.
  8. Chill on a baking sheet lined with wax paper for 1 hour, or until firm.
  9. Keep in an airtight container, chilled, for up to 2 weeks. Or that container marked Liver that I’ve talked about before works well too. πŸ˜€ You HAVE made your “Secret Stash Liver Container” haven’t you? Right? Right?