Cook’s Corner

Bon Appetit bar cookies a sweet, salty, crunchy treat

 

Sleuth’s Corner

Q. My mother made a leg of lamb for Christmas Eve in which she baked the lamb inside a brown grocery bag. Once the lamb was in the bag she squeezed fresh lemons and oregano all over it. I am sure there is more to it than that, but that’s all my 75-year-old mind can remember. My mother was a Greek immigrant and I’m sure she brought the technique with her to the U.S. I’m hoping one of your readers of Greek descent can tell me how to re-create this.

R. T.


Candy

Easy Nougat

4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup marshmallow creme

1/2 cup dry milk powder

1 pound bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces (or coating chocolate)

Combine all ingredients except chocolate in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium and beat until a dough forms. Turn out dough, shape into disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. (May be refrigerated for up to a week. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.)

Melt the chocolate. Roll dough into small balls and dip in chocolate. Play on a parchment-lined tray to set. Makes about 36.

Per piece: 126 calories (40 percent from fat), 6 g fat (3.6 g saturated, 1.8 g monounsaturated), 4 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 21 mg sodium.


Breakfast

Overnight Peaches and Cream French Toast

1 (8-ounce) loaf French bread, sliced

8 eggs

2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 (15-ounce) cans sliced peaches in juice

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup heavy cream

Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange bread on bottom in a tight layer. Whisk eggs with milk, sugar and vanilla. Pour over bread. Arrange peaches on top and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Cover tightly and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Boil cream until reduced by half. Drizzle over peaches. Bake, uncovered, 45 to 55 minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 355 calories (32 percent from fat), 13 g fat (6.3 g saturated, 4 g monounsaturated), 213 mg cholesterol, 11.8 g protein, 48 g carbohydrates, 1.7 g fiber, 260 mg sodium.


Cookie

Bon Appetit’s Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel

Blondie base:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

2 cups light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:

4 cups roasted unsalted peanuts

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups 1 1/2"-wide pretzel twists, coarsely crushed

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on long sides of pan. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Melt butter, stirring, in skillet over medium heat until browned bits form at bottom of pan, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, add brown sugar and beat with electric mixer until mixture resembles wet sand, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth; batter will be thick. Spread in prepared pan.

Bake until edges pull away from sides of pan and a tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 20 to 25 minutes. Set pan on wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, with oven still at 350 degrees, spread peanuts on a rimmed, parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake, stirring often, until golden brown and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside. (Turn off oven.)

Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring, swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush from time t time, until caramel is deep amber, 12 to 15 minutes. Add honey. Return to a boil, stirring often, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in butter until melted. Whisk in cream (mixture will bubble vigorously) until smooth. Stir in peanuts and pretzels. Pour over cooled blondie.

When topping is completely cooled, run a knife around short sides of pan to release blondie. Using parchment overhangs, lift from pan. Cut into 4 rows lengthwise and 10 rows crosswise. Makes 40 bars.

Per bar: 248 calories (45 percent from fat), 13 g fat (4 g saturated fat, 5 g monounsaturated fat), 25 mg cholesterol, 5 g protein, 31 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 10 mg sodium.


LindaCiceroCooks@aol.com

Lydia asked for reader help finding a recipe for “a bar cookie I tasted recently that was out of this world.” She said it had a light brownie base, and was topped with caramel, pretzels and peanuts so it was “sweet but slightly salty, crunchy but also tender.”

“How serendipitous,” Dafne Gregorisch of Pembroke Pines replied. “This Saturday I had downloaded all recipes from your column, including the intriguing request from Lydia. The next day, in hopes of getting a jump start in planning my yearly cookie trays, I decided to search all of my Christmas recipe clippings and came across exactly what Lydia described!”

Rita Rolter and Laurie Hauptli also sent the recipe, from the December 2011 Bon Appetit magazine. Rolter says you can add a sprinkle of chocolate chips to the topping if you want to be even more decadent.

Corner Angles

Marion D’Laurenti asked for a fruitcake cookie recipe. A good source for all kinds of recipes for candied fruit is the Plant City-based producer of all things candied, from fruit to ginger, Paradise, at paradisefruitco.com. This is a good time to stock up on the candied mix, which can be hard to find at Easter for hot cross buns and in fall to start those fruitcakes mellowing.

Cookbook Corner

Here are two giftable cookbooks:

• Perfect for introducing children or grandchildren to the joys of cooking is The Unofficial Narnia Cookbook (Sourcebooks, $19.99). Dina Bucholz does for C.S. Lewis’ series what she did for Harry Potter, translating the food of fiction into recipes suitable for young cooks. Breakfast with Trumpkin the dwarf, tea with Tumnus and snack with the White Witch. There is plum pudding and biscuits from Father Christmas to celebrate the season, along with the easy nougat recipe here.

• For busy home cooks on a budget, try Delicious on a Dime (Oxmoor House, $12.95). There are more than 150 simple, money-saving recipes from the editors of All You magazine, with a cost-per-serving estimate and many complete meals for less than $10. The cost estimate for the French toast recipe here is $1.21.

Tried and new

• Thai Kitchen has added color to its line of rice noodles. There’s one made with red rice that would make a festive change to stir-fries and noodle casseroles, and another made with purple corn. I made a pad Thai with the red noodles and lots of green cilantro and scallions that was a hit. The noodles are gluten free and vegan. Available at larger supermarkets or at thaikitchen.com for about $4.89.

• Pampered Chef has a new line of “skinny” cocktail mixes in flavors including Cosmopolitan, Appletini, Mojito and Margarita ($8.50). Each 4.9-ounce mix makes 16 (4-ounce) servings. The Cosmo, for example, comes in at just 94 calories with vodka.

Send questions and responses to LindaCiceroCooks@aol.com or Food, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132. Personal replies are not possible.

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