Home In Disarray

October 25, 2010

New pack member

New pack member
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This is the newest member of our pack. Craig and Boris and I drove down to Kent to meet him, and ended up bringing him home with us.

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The name the rescue group gave him is Manitok, but we’re still trying to figure out a more manageable name to call him. He’s about an inch taller than Boris at the shoulders and 5lbs heavier, but is so furry that he looks enormous compared to our pooch.

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They’re still working out who’s dominant, but it looks like it’s going to be Boris. They both got bathed and now they’re wrestling and running around the house like old pals. We definitely have to do some obedience training with the new guy, all he knows is “sit” and only if I have a treat in my hand. The whistle means come, but he’s not so keen on actually doing so with any degree of rapidity.

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So far we both kinda like Gaius and Starbuck, but Gaius sounds a lot like “Boris” and we’re afraid people will think we’re naming him after the coffee company if we call him Starbuck. Any name suggestions?

Posted in: Dogs
October 24, 2010

Salted chocolate caramel cookie bars

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookie Bars
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Or as I have been casually been referring to them as of late, “OMFG these things are amazing.”

I’ll give credit where credit is due, I didn’t come up with these on my own, I found this blog while browsing tastespotting, and almost died when I saw the makeup, like a fancy twix bar!

I was all ready to make them, so I began gathering my ingredients and tools together, and found this dark corn syrup in my cabinet. It must have come from my mother when she moved to Australia, and for the life of me, I have NO idea how it survived nearly 25 years. Remember that the best by date is a few years off from when the product is purchased. My mollasses, bought last year, has a best by date of 2013, so it’s probably 4-5 years off from date of manufacture. It’s quite possible that this corn syrup is older than I am. I find that strangely comforting now that I’m just a week away from becoming a quarter century old. Anyway….

 

really old dark corn syrup

I used it. Just keepin’ it real.

Here’s the biscuit portion. It would have been much more attractive, but I have this silly tendency to “make sure” things are going to come out of the pan. That resulted in the cookie fracturing because it doesn’t have caramel and chocolate to reinforce it. After reassembling it to the best of my ability, I moved on to make the caramel layer.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookie Bars

It was easy enough, but a strange method. Very few caramel recipes call for adding butter before cooking. All of the “real” candymaking ones that I’ve run across call for adding the butter AFTER the sugar mixture has been cooked to temperature. I happened to get some dark spots in the caramel sauce, and I’m unsure whether it’s because of the milk solids from the butter browning in the high temperatures, or the 25 year old corn syrup. I’ll blame it on the butter.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookie Bars

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookie Bars

I couldn’t get enough of smelling the caramel cooking, so I got a small dipping sauce bowl and sprayed it with cooking spray and when I poured the caramel onto the cookie portion, I saved a little and poured it into my bowl to cool. It was magical. I recommend doing the same if you make this recipe.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookie Bars

Then it’s just a matter of adding your chocolate layer. I forgot to add vanilla to my caramel so I scraped the guts from a vanilla bean and added it to my melted chocolate.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookie Bars

The chocolate is just semisweet chocolate chips that I melted in the microwave in 15-30 second intervals and mixed between each. Then poured it over the caramel and spread it as evenly as was easily possible without getting an offset spatula dirty. Then I sprinkled with fleur de sel. I love salt, but the amount that I used was maybe a little overkill. Just a little. Add a tiny bit less than I did. 😉 Fleur de sel was good to use because the granules have many different sizes and textures. Some are crunchy, some are flaky, some are tiny, and some are large and hard. It gives you some great variation, and it doesn’t melt down into the chocolate. If I had used Kosher, I’m pretty sure the salt wouldn’t be very visible, and certainly less interesting.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookie Bars

Chocolate Caramel Slice
(from Bon Appetit)
makes 16-20

crust:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tbs ice water
1 egg yolk

toppings:
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
6 tbs unsalted butter, diced
2 tbs dark corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tbs Maldon sea salt

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookie Bars

preheat oven to 350 degrees F. grease a 8 1/2-inch square metal baking pan. blend flour, brown sugar, cornstarch and salt in a food processor. add butter and pulse until a coarse meal forms. add ice water and egg yolk and blend just until moist clumps form. press dough onto bottom of prepared pan evenly. pierce all over with a fork. bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. cool completely.
whisk together condensed milk, brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, butter melts and mixture comes to a boil. insert a candy thermometer and boil gently until caramel is thick and temperature reaches 225 degrees F. whisk constantly to prevent from burning. pour caramel evenly over cooled crust and let set 15 minutes. melt chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave at 15 second intervals, stirring occasionally. spread melted chocolate evenly over caramel layer. sprinkle with sea salt and refrigerate until set, at least one hour. can be made three days ahead if covered and refrigerated. cut into bars and enjoy!

Posted in: Baking, Candy
October 21, 2010

The face of a murderer.

The face of a murderer.
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For the second time in 1.5 weeks, Boris has caught a mouse in our back yard. They hang out around our vegetable beds.

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The problem is that he doesn’t know WHAT to do with it. He bites it once or twice, then stares at it with a great deal of interest as it squirms in pain. Then he bites it once or twice, and stares as it twitches. It’s his greatest triumph, but he has absolutely NO idea that he’s actually supposed to eat it.

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The scab in his left eyebrow is from the mouse that he got next to our fence last weekend. Both times I’ve had to decapitate the (large!!!) mouse with a shovel. Last time it was a quick dispatch, one stroke and the mouse’s head was totally separated from it’s body. This time, it was dark and I was operating by flashlight. It took 3 strokes with the shovel this time. And one of the mouses eyes was popped out of the socket. It was horrifying.

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Remember that when you’re cuddling with him. He’s a mouse murderer.

Posted in: Dogs
October 7, 2010

Making Limoncello

Making Limoncello
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I just decided to try my hand at making limoncello in time for the holidays and figured I’d chronicle my adventure. This is why – Craig wants a lemon tart for his birthday instead of a cake because he doesn’t love cakes. I was at the restaurant supply store buying flank steak and saw that they had a bag of like 30 lemons. The bag of like 30 lemons was approximately $6, about what you’d pay for a bag of something like 6 at the grocery store. I can’t pass up a deal, and since I already have a jar of preserving lemons, I figured I’d do the next best thing with my score, limoncello!

Ingredients:
11 lemons
2 750ml bottles of 151 proof vodka
1 quart glass jar or bottle
cheap vodka to fill
1 brita filter

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remove the zest from the lemons. I’d normally use a microplane for this step, but I read online that taking larger chunks off of the lemons makes it A LOT easier to filter. That makes sense. I started with a sharp veggie peeler, but that ended up including too much pith (the white stuff… you want to avoid that at all costs, it has a bitter flavor that ruins things) so I switched to a very sharp paring knife.

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This is not water in the brita.

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You want to filter your booze 4 times apparently. I’ve never filtered cheap vodka before, so I couldn’t tell you whether it makes much difference, but mythbusters did it and a vodka aficionado was able to discern between how many times vodka had been filtered, and since the internet guide that I loosely based this recipe off said to filter it 4 times, and I have a costco pack of brita filters hanging out, I figured I’d give it a try. I don’t really trust the quality of a $16 bottle of 151 anyway.

Anyway, put the lemon zest in the jar/bottle, then pour in your 151 booze, then filter enough vodka to fill the rest of the bottle/jar.

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The shitty jar that I bought at Cost Plus World Market apparently doesn’t seal very well against vodka, so I got a sheet of plastic wrap and folded it into quarters and put it between the lid and the rest of the jar to hopefully seal better. Anyway, put the jar away for about a month. In that time, the vodka should pull all of the essential oils from the lemon zest, and turn it into a freaky sad greyish/whitish color. The liquid should apparently turn yellow and bright and friendly. We’ll see.

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The next step after letting it age for about a month is to make a strong simple syrup, strain the zest and finings out through a few coffee filters, mix, and let age for another month or so.

Posted in: Cocktails, DIY