Candy | Parsley, Sage and Sweet

Last Minute Candy – 30 Minutes or Less, 3 Ingredients! White Chocolate Butter Pecan Crunch Clusters

December 24, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Posted in Candy, Dessert, Holiday | 38 Comments
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This morning I swore I wasn’t going to put this post up because the photos turned out awful.  These babies do not mesh well with artificial light.  But then I thought ‘This candy is so darn good, why would I hold back over photos?’

These are normal thoughts if you have a food blog.. and completely justified since photos are the most important aspect of a food blog. You eat with your eyes online.  This is why I groan so much about not having natural light.  One more time...everyone has natural light, whyyy not meeee? :/

White Chocolate Butter Pecan Crunch Clusters - 3 Ingredients - 30 minutes or less!

Remember the filling for my Butter Pecan Thumbprint cookies?  Well, of course you do, since it was my last post…from like 5 days ago.

Continue Reading Last Minute Candy – 30 Minutes or Less, 3 Ingredients! White Chocolate Butter Pecan Crunch Clusters…

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Butter Pecan Thumbprint Cookies with White Chocolate Feuilletine, and a Way to Help the Sandy Hook School Families

December 19, 2012 at 8:27 am | Posted in Candy, Cookies, Dessert, Holiday | 34 Comments
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I know…weird, huh?  Three posts in less than two weeks.  Someone needs to take my temperature.  I have a feeling it would probably register anywhere from 350F to 375F.  So the holiday baking bug bit and it keeps biting..leaving ‘welts’ of butter, flour, sugar and eggs all over me.  How cheesy can I get?  Oh, believe me, there’s more cheese where that came from.

Butter Pecan White Chocolate Crunch Thumbprint Cookies

Before I get to these cookies, I need and want to touch on the Sandy Hook shootings.  I’ve had such pain in my heart since learning of it, and I can’ watch anything about it without choking up.  Little children are precious, flawless gems, untainted by the harsh realities of what can be a cruel world at times.  They show us the goodness of human beings. Killing them is killing human goodness.

Continue Reading Melt-In-Your-Mouth Butter Pecan Thumbprint Cookies with White Chocolate Feuilletine, and a Way to Help the Sandy Hook School Families…

Chocolate Marble Pumpkin Bark ‘Bars’ with Nutella Cookies and Salted Pepitas, for SRC

October 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Posted in Candy, Cookies, Holiday, SRC | 51 Comments
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I have never made any kind of chocolate bark.  No idea why..it’s one of simplest treats you can cobble together in no time, and the add-in possibilities are endless.  I’ve also never met or known a guy named Nigel who isn’t British, but that’s beside the point.  There have been a lot of  nevers in my life.  We all have a lot of nevers in our lives and some of them should stay nevers, but chocolate bark isn’t one of that should stay a never, for most.

Well..I just crossed the chocolate bark never off my list.  BUT, this did not come about until I made a no-bake cookie by my Secret Recipe Club blog assignment..Kim of Cravings of a Lunatic.  I love her blog..I loved all the goodies I could choose from..I loved her no-bake Nutella cookies, which I chose after mulling over many goodies.  There are these Caramel Coconut Bars and these luscious looking meatballs..not to mention her array of other no-bake treats, (I was feeling the no-bake this month) but the two former choices were guest posts, so even if she made their recipes, I figured I would stick with something that was 100% hers or something she adapted or decided on herself.


I also decided on this chocolate bark since it’s Fall..and Halloween is beckoning us with it’s witchy finger.  In other words..it’s candy time and time for me to get some pumpkin recipes up.  Her bark is a simple white and dark chocolate marble with pistachios, which sounds great..although the photos were gone, so I couldn’t see what it looked like.  However, I read something about her losing some photos via Google +, so I assume that’s why they were missing.

I took Kim’s bark recipe..doubled the white chocolate and added two more ounces of dark chocolate.  The best part was adding the pumpkin and spices to the white chocolate, along with salted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds).  BUT, the bestest part was adding chunks of her no-bake Nutella cookies to it as well.  This came to me at the spur of the moment as I looked at the still melted bark with a sprinkling of pepitas.  It just begged for something else.  It needed some bling.


I looked over at the sheet pan of thick and hunky nutella cookies and it almost seemed as if one winked at me – a shiny, glint of chocolate cooing, ‘Come on, baby..give me a chance”.

It was a match made in heaven..and this bark, as well as the cookies, are heavenly!  It looks and sounds like it would be overly sweet, doesn’t it?  Well..it isn’t.  The pumpkin, spices and salted pepitas tone down the sweetness of the white chocolate, and the semisweet chocolate is well, semi sweet, so no major surge in blood sugar outside of the bits of cookie.

The addition of the no-bake nutella cookie chunks made the chocolate bark more like a cross between a cookie bar and chocolate bark, rather than a chocolate bark by itself.  Not a bad thing.

Speaking of cookie..I made some small changes to her No-Bake Nutella Cookies.  I used butter instead of shortening..increased the amount of nutella and added a bit of orange zest to cut the richness.   I also eliminated the coconut extract..toasted the coconut, and added vanilla extract.  You see, she has some vanilla components in there that she makes herself..like vanilla salt and I think vanilla oats.  I do have vanilla sugar on hand, since I use loads of vanilla beans in all kinds of sweet and savory preparations, but I just used granulated sugar because I felt the vanilla extract was enough.


OK, I need to fit in a few more photos so I need to find something to talk about.  Did I ever tell you I love cleaning squid?  Pulling out the quill, which looks like a piece of plastic, never ceases to amaze me.  Have I mentioned that every few years I get on a Friends kick and DVR every late-night showing of it? I’m glad I just finished the entire series run the past two months, since I was running out of space.

Did I ever tell you about the reader who sent me a scathing email implying I worshiped the devil because of THESE donuts?

With that being said, yes..my life is kind of boring.  It doesn’t take much to excite me.  Last night the Yankees won Game 1 of the ALDS….and that excites me.  We ate this bark while watching it, so technically, this is good luck bark.

OH, one more thing I forgot to mention – the pumpkin white chocolate remains slightly softer than the plain chocolate, so in retrospect – you can call it slightly gooey chocolate marble pumpkin bark..with no-bake nutella cookies and salted pepitas.

Man, I’m all ovah da place!

OK, I’m really grasping at straws here, so I’ll just ask you to pop on over to Cravings of a Lunatic.  She’s funny, she’s a great cook, and I have a feeling you just might become addicted to her blog!  A good addiction, even if your jeans go up one size.


No Bake Nutella Cookies
Adapted from Cravings of a Lunatic
Makes about 10 1/4 cup size cookies.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick – 4 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup Nutella
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 teaspoons orange zest (optional)
1 cup flaked/shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened, toasted
3 cups quick cooking oats or gluten-free oats

DIRECTIONS:
1. In a medium saucepan, combine milk, sugar and cocoa.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat and let he mixture boil for 2 minutes..then reduce heat to medium low and stir until sugar is dissolved, about another minute or 2.

2. Stir in the softened butter, Nutella, salt, orange zest (if using) and vanilla extract.  Stir until butter is completely melted, then stir in the oats and toasted coconut, coating both completely.

3.  Line a 12 x 17 baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat, then scoop your desired size of cookie onto the sheet..spacing them about 1 inch apart.  I made huge ones…about 1/4 cup a cookie which gave me 10 cookies, but of course you can make them much smaller for a larger yield.

4.  Let set, then enjoy!  Set aside one or two large cookies or several smaller cookies for bark.

Chocolate Marble Pumpkin Bark with Nutella Cookies and Salted Pepitas

12 ounces good quality white chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut for both chocolates)
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
8 ounces good quality dark chocolate (semisweet or buttersweet), chopped
A handful of salted pepitas..more or less, the amount depending on your preference.
Several of the No-Bake Nutella Cookies, recipe above

DIRECTIONS:
1.  For both chocolates, place a medium size glass bowl over a small pot filled with about an inch of water.  Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  You can make two double boilers and do both chocolates at once..checking and stirring each with separate wooden spoons or silicone spatulas.  I melted one chocolate at a time…easier and you need to wtach it diligently.  You can temper the dark chocolate, which I did, if you like.  The pumpkin added to tempered white chocolate might be a waste of temper.

2.  I started with the white chocolate so it would have time to cool a little before adding the pumpkin and spices.  Once the white chocolate has cooled down for about 10 minutes – whisk in the pumpkin and spices until smooth and uniform (pumpkin and spice white chocolate is SO GOOD)

3.  Now, depending on how thick you like your chocolate bark..either use an 13 x9, 11 x7 or 8 to 9-inch square pan to marble the chocolate.  For the 11 x7 or 13 x0 sheet pan..line with parchment paper.  For the 8 or 9-inch square baking pans..you also need to line them with parchment, but there is some cutting involved to make a smooth sheet on the bottom with handles on the side.  It should look something like THIS.

4.  Pour the pumpkin white chocolate onto or into the pan.. depending on whether it’s a sheet pan or square baking pan.  Pour dollops of the dark chocolate on top..then marble both together.  Alternatively, you can alternate the pouring of each chocolate, then marble them together.

5.  Sprinkle the pepitas all over the top..pressing some in, then stick cut up pieces of the cookies all around it..being careful to let some of the marbling show through.  Cover and chill in the fridge for about an hour.  When set..Break up bark on sheet pan, or lift out bark from square pan and then break it or cut it up.  It will keep well for about 2 week in the fridge…1 week at room temperature..but I doubt it will last that long!


If you have a moment, pease click on the blue frog below to see what my fellow Group A blogger’s chose to make from their blog assignments.  Warning – it will make you verrrrry hungry!

I’m submitting these to Roxana’s, from Roxana’s Home Baking, #chocolateparty theme for October- chocolate and pumpkin!



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Malted Pretzel Crunch for Super Bowl Sunday and Bad Boy First Love, Part Two.

February 3, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Posted in Appetizers, Candy | 40 Comments
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First I just want to say that this post was almost set to go Wednesday, and then my computer crashed.  It was fixed briefly, but then it crashed again.  Thankfully I didn’t lose anything, but went through two days of no computer hell!  You know how it is nowadays.  Can’t live without them, really can’t live without them.

Before I get to this amazing Super Bowl snack, I think I owe you all a Part Two to my Bad Boy First Love story.  If you’re just tuning in, Part One is HERE.

Last we left off..

We couldn’t stop staring at each other as my friend and hunky monkey man chatted away, shy, fleeting glances from my end – more direct, confident ones from his.

The animated chatter between my friend and hunky monkey man was in stark contrast to the deep, silent connection that was developing between me and this dreamboat of a guy.  Their voices seemed far away, Charlie Brown/Peanuts ‘adult’ echoes meshing with the loud music, shouts of barkers trying to get people to come play games they’d never win for less than $25.00, and video game bings, zips and throttles.

Apparently, they found an instant connection via classic rock;

“Van Halen is nothing without David Lee Roth – nothing.  I mean, I like one of the albums with Hagar..but you know, still not the same.”  Monkey said, resulting in my friend perking up on this topic so near and dear to her soul.

“I KNOW..OMG, you couldn’t replace David Lee Roth. Hagar was okay, but the Extreme guy made no sense.  They were never Van Halen without David Lee Roth!”

I couldn’t stop staring at him.  He looked even better under the bright lights of the arcade the carousel was in.  Like I said in part 1, he was exactly what I had envisioned when I dreamed about the perfect guy for me.  This was too uncanny, but in no way was I complaining.

Then, he spoke…in our own little world.

“You have beautiful eyes.”

Up until then, I don’t think I’d ever blushed in my entire life.  It was some weird missing gene anomaly, or so I thought.  I felt it start on my chest, crawl up my neck, and soon my face was on fire.  Damn, I was blushing.  I wanted to pull my jean jacket over my head.

“Thank you, so do you”  I said.  And he really did..steel, cerulean blue eyes that made my stomach do cartwheels, somersaults, and handsprings every time he looked at me.  10′s across the board.  I still couldn’t feel my legs.

Soon hunky monkey was playing a video game, my friend leaning on the side of it watching him with a look I knew very well, a look that meant she liked him.  He had set the game for two and soon was calling on dreamboat to take his turn, busting open the invisible bubble that had formed around us, blocking out the world.

“Nahh, why don’t you have her friend play you?” dreamboat said, not taking his eyes off of mine.  I felt faint.

I interjected – “It’s ok, go ahead..really!”  The truth was, I wanted to feel my legs again, not to mention I needed to breathe normally.  My heart had been beating like a Dave Grohl, during his Nirvana days, drum solo.  Was it possible to have a heart attack at 15 going on 16?

Plus, and most importantly, I  had to confer with my friend.

In my best Wicked Witch of the West voice..I leaned in close to her and chirped, “I’m melting..I’m melting.”  although I ended up sounding more like a munchkinland denizen because I was so excited and nervous, my voice was quivery.

“I’ve never seen you like this, you’re gonna marry this guy” my friend whispered

“I’d marry him right now if he asked me” I responded – and I meant it.

We both laughed and whispered about every moment of the whole 10 minutes we’d been there.  She really liked hunky monkey.  I knew I was falling in love.  It was the craziest feeling ever.  This was most definitely one of those love at first sight deals.

I felt a hand brush my arm, then heard that sexy, tough voice ask, in the softest, sweetest tone…

“What do you want to do?  Get something to eat, maybe?  Anyplace you want to go?”

*I want to kiss you.  I want to kiss you non-stop until we’re 90 years old.  I want you to kiss my lips off, even if it looks weird  and people turn away at the sight of me, even if I have to drink from a sippy cup for the rest of my life!*

“Umm..anything is fine, I’m flexible.” I answered weakly, weak from the powerful feelings overwhelming me.  With him, watching paint dry would be amazing.

Hunky monkey said there was a party still going on at the place he was staying at, complete with a few kegs, would we want to do that?

My friend and I exchanged what we called brain waves via eye contact.  We always knew what the other was thinking with just a look.

“Sure!” we both said in unison.

It’s amazing how agreeable you are when you want to marry a guy you just met two hours ago.  It’s also amazing when you already have a visual of your wedding dress picked out. He could kiss my lips off at a party – he could kiss my lips off in a sewage plant for all I cared.  Part of me wanted to be alone with him, though, and I could feel he wanted that too.  Look!  I was already having brain waves with him.  Yep, this was meant to be.

We started making our way down the boardwalk to a ramp leading off the boardwalk. He took my hand in his..our fingers entwining naturally, a perfect fit. His hand was strong, warm and ever so slightly calloused, not what you would find on the hands of any of the guys I grew up with.  In fact, a lot of their hands were softer than mine.  He squeezed my hand, breaking me from this very brief, and so not important, hand comparison. Oops, there went my legs again. I was walking on clouds or some fluffy substance that allowed me not to feel the asphalt below.

I could not believe this guy was holding my hand! I had to keep sneaking side glances to confirm it, because I kept expecting him to turn into this pimply guy with skinny legs I dated for one night at summer camp when I was 12.  We just held hands, but it was called a ‘date’ by the counselors, making us both blush.

This was all too surreal.

Soon we were at a parking lot.  Huh?  Why would we need to drive anywhere?  Then I recalled one thing he mentioned when we first met a few hours earlier.  His parents had a summer house in Toms River, across the bridge.  Of course he needed a car ..to drive to work.  There it sat, a lone navy blue Volkswagon Beetle from like 20 years ago.  What the..?  I didn’t know even used ones existed anymore, plus, I couldn’t imagine this dreamboat of a guy, so strong and tough, with a Volkswagon Beetle.  Hunky monkey’s voice interrupted my thoughts..

“Would you believe this guy bought this car for twenty-five bucks from a junkyard, completely dead, and restored it back into working order all by himself?”

My friend and I ‘wowed’ and made the appropriate ‘impressed’ noises.  None of it was feigned, we really were impressed!

I started to melt again, could he be any more perfect?

When we got to the party it was good to see that there were some local girls there that we had met and hung out with the previous few days.  He brought me a beer, which I sipped slowly, wishing it was one of those lemonades with all the crushed ice and lemon halves, because I had major nervous cotton mouth and  beer wouldn’t cut it.  I told him this jokingly to offset my distaste of beer, and before I knew it, he was offering to go back to the boardwalk and get me one before they closed.  Of course I asked if I could come along.

“I was hoping you would ask.” He said with that sexy smile that now owned me.  OMG, I could die right now, I thought, but not until he kissed me at least once.

I still couldn’t believe this guy liked me.

That’s it..10 minutes at this party and we were out of there.  I told my friend, who I knew would be safe with the local girls there.  She was having her own little moments with the hunky monkey and they were getting along famously – laughing and chatting away.  All was cool in the land of love, puppy love, and pure, unblemished, teenage puppy lust, or whatever you want to call it. The local girls and hunky monkey would walk her home if we weren’t back by the time she wanted to leave.

Once he got the lemonade for me, he said he knew a really pretty place we could go to talk (ha ha, talk…I’ll scream if you don’t kiss me).  Of course I smiled and nodded yes.  Remember, I was flexible – for him.

We ended up at this beautiful lookout on Barnegat Bay.  He turned off the ignition, but kept the radio on..classic rock, the same station he was playing at work.  My hand was numb from the ice cold, giant lemonade I was holding on my right knee, as I stared at his silhouette in the moonlight. I couldn’t let go of the cup to dissolve the numbness because I needed to grip something tightly to ease the trembling.

Soon, my eyes adjusted to the dark, and I could see him clearly, those blue eyes shooting lasers through every pore in my skin.  His lips, his arms, and his sweet smelling light brown/dirty blonde hair grazing the collar of his work shirt..absolute perfection.  I was off the charts intoxicated being this close to him.  This was a really old Volkswagon Beetle, so we were close before we could even get close.

Frankly, I don’t remember what we even talked about, not a clue.  My eyes were focused on his lips and eyes, alternating every few seconds.  As we talked, we got closer, and then he brushed a few hairs away from my face and smiled.  I remember Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven started at that very moment.

“My heart is racing.” He whispered as he moved in closer.

OMG, his heart was racing for me?  Goofy me?  Goofy me, the girl who sometimes bites her toenails when alone?  The former chubster who used to devour whole bags of doritos while devouring book after book on weekend nights?

There’s a lady who’s sure, all that glit-ters is gold
Oh my gahh, those blue eyes, those sexy lips, and he smells so good
and she’s buyyying the staaaiiirway to heeeaaven
I can’t believe this gorgeous guy is going to kiss me, his lips are really close now!
When she gets there she knows if the stores are all closed..with a word she can get what she came for
Houston, we made contact. OKAY, I can die now.

I will never forget how soft his lips were and how perfect our lips felt together.  His breath was awesome (I’m a huge breath fiend..I’m never without gum, tic-tacs, altoids, sprays, drops, you name it).  Too bad this wasn’t taking place in 1752 when Ben Franklin was still with us. He wouldn’t have needed a kite and key to get some serious electricity.

Quick digression – I’m trying really hard to keep you all from gagging or hurling from all the lovey-dovey, gushy, mushy stuff, but it’s proving to be pretty impossible.  If you feel the need to do any of the above, skip the next paragraph.  Thank you.

The world no longer existed outside of this kiss.  As it got more passionate, his hands combing through my hair..caressing my face, my left hand entangled in his silky hair, (Okay, cliche coming up) it felt like we were one person.  We were definitely kissing until we were 90 because this could never end.  In between the passion, a few baby kisses, then a little break where he kissed each cheek, my eyelids, and my nose, and then smiled – holy cow, nothing, and I mean nothing existed outside of this moment.

How did I get so lucky?  I wondered.  I must have been a Mother Theresa like figure in another life, or Lassie, saving kids stuck in wells.

We kept kissing, and I was now changed for life.  I wonder what color my bridesmaids dresses should be?  Oh, I know..cerulean blue, like his eyes.  He’d look so hot in a tux.

“WHOA!”  He exclaimed as he broke our kiss. He pulled away from me violently, his eyes wide, mouth agape, a look that could be disgust.

OH NO, he hated the way I kissed!  He could sense I was 15!  He knew about my toenail biting!

I just remembered, there’s two twists.  Keep checking back for Bad Boy Love Part Three coming soon, most probably February 6th – honest!.

Now I have an awesome Super Bowl munchie to present to you.  I’m a Giants fan, so naturally this is a special Super Bowl Sunday for me, which deserves a special and unique snack. It was created by Christina Tossi of Momofuku Milk Bar fame, but I made a few subtle changes, one of them reducing the milk powder so I could double the malt powder, and the other, doubling the recipe, because you’re going to need a lot of it.  In fact, I would triple it, quadruple it!  It goes very fast.  *By the way, my bad boy was/is a Giant’s fan, not that it matters or anything*.

Let’s Go Giants!!

Malted Pretzel Crunch
Recipe created by Christina Tossi, via Epicurious, with my revisions
4 cups salted mini pretzels – about 1/2 of a 16-ounce bag
1/2 cup tightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons milk powder
1/3 cup malted milk powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
14 tablespoons butter (1 stick, plus 6 tablespoons), melted

DIRECTIONS: (my blurbs in parenthesis)
1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

2. Pour the pretzels in a large bowl and crush them with your hands (I threw them in a ziplock bag and hammered them with a mallet – easier, in my opinion) to one-quarter of their original size. Add the milk powder, malt powder, sugar, and salt, toss to mix. Add the butter and toss to coat. As you toss, the butter will act as glue, binding the dry ingredients to the pretzels and creating small clusters. (I did not get small clusters, but once baked, it formed a sheet of pretzel crunch that I broke into pieces).

3. Spread the clusters on a parchment- or silpat-lined sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes, until it looks toasted, smells buttery, and crunches gently when cooled slightly and chewed.

4. Cool the pretzel crunch completely before storing or using in a recipe. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, the crunch will keep fresh for 1 week; in the fridge or freezer, it will keep for 1 month. (I think these would be fantastic in cookies with chocolate chunks OR pour or drizzle melted chocolate over the top of the sheet of pretzel crunch, let set, then break into pieces – like you would toffee.

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Salted Caramel Apple Sourdough Challah

December 27, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Posted in BBD, Breads, Candy, Daring Bakers, Fruit, Holiday, Yeastspotting | 45 Comments
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Remember back in ’09 I told you all about Herbie, my then almost 2-year old sourdough starter made using Nancy Silverton’s grape starter method?

Remember how I told you I was going to introduce ‘him’ to all of you once my knee was better and I could start standing to knead some really amazing sourdough breads?

Well, that day never came, because I was a bad mama.  Once my knee healed and I was out and about on two legs, no cane, I kind of forgot about him in the back of the refrigerator.  When I remembered, it was probably three months since his last feeding.  I tried to revive him, but there was mold, and the small amounts I took out, minus the mold, and fed, – eagerly awaiting his bubbles of life, had already been given last rites.  It just wasn’t going to happen – it didn’t smell the way it wass supposed to, it was rank.  The smell was clearly sourdough starter rigor mortis.  I bid Herbie a sad adieu as I poured his thick liquid soul into the trash can.

Of course I later found out that he could have been saved by taking a tablespoon of him from the very center (his *sniff* heart), and giving him mad defibrillation with flour, sugar and water.  Just one tablespoon, and Herbie would still be here.

Batter like sourdough starter aka Herbie II

Oh, well..no use crying over trashed sourdough starter.  He gave me the best breads of his wild yeasted life.  Besides, I could reincarnate him someday.  That day has come, and may I introduce you to Herbie II? About 1 month ago, I just decided to do it, once again using Nancy Silverton’s grape starter method.  There was no way any commercial yeast will ever step granule or cake in any sourdough starter I make.  Capturing wild yeast from everything around us, the air, atmosphere, our kitchens, etc…is the most amazing thing to watch develop – like gestating a baby, although not as wonderous and exciting of course, because this baby is not one you can cuddle and love and well, be human with - just one you can watch grow stronger and stronger, giving you the most complex, wonderful tasting breads, all with a lovely crumb and crust.

Firm sourdough starter

My weird intuition struck again…

Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create sourdough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with sourdough recipes from Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley as well as delicious recipes to use our sourdough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen: Great British Food!

So, I had already started gestating Herbie II, and one week later, it’s announced as the Daring Bakers challenge.  Although I loved that the challenge recipe for starter was all about capturing wild yeast, I’d already fermented enough grapes to capture Herbie’s wild yeast.  There was no sense in making another one.  I’m not a multi-startet type baker – one is enough, and from that one, I can make all kinds of starters for a variety of breads, and whatever is leftover from those, is given away or used to the last drop.  You will never see half-filled jars all over my kitchen or in my fridge labeled rye starter, oat starter, potato starter etc.  I think it’s cool that people do that, but if I could kill one starter with neglect, could you imagine the massacre of one plus?

I needed to bake a bunch of challah braids for Hanukkah.  I wanted to try Maggie Glazer’s recipe for sourdough challah for a long time, so I figured this would be a great time to do it.  I had already planned on filling one of the challahs with a homemade salted caramel with apples, which I haven’t been able to get out of my mind for months now, so why not sourdough and salted caramel apples?  Tangy, sweet, salty – God, YES.

Maggie Glazer’s dough calls for a firm starter to produce another firm starter for the challah.  Fortunately, Maggie has directions on how to convert a batter like starter into a firm starter.  I needed to take a tablespoon of Herbie and mix it with some water (I only use bottled) and bread flour until I had a dough that could be kneaded.  I surveyed Herbie’s young, unused, not yet powerful, baby bubbles and hoped for the best.  The next morning, as you can see in the above ‘firm starter’ photo, I had a risen mass of thick, bubbly, ‘cracked window’, dough.  Success!  Looks like the original Herbie’s super strength had been passed on to his younger replacement.  I proceeded on with the recipe,letting one more starter go to town – ending up with a lovely, silky dough.  It smelled wonderful too, like most wild yeast doughs.

I had to stop sniffing from above and let it rise..

While the dough was doing it’s thing, I made the salted caramel, chopped up some apples, added some spice, then stirred the apples into the hot caramel.  I think I will always keep a jar of this on hand.  I’m in love..I desperately wanted to start eating it right out of the jar I put it in for not only storage, but for the photo above.

If you don’t want to make sourdough challah, traditional challah, or any doughy vessel to place some of these glorious salted caramel apples in, I beg you to just make the salted caramel apples.  I’ve already had it over ice cream and well, straight out of the jar, but no double dipping, honest!  It’s..it’s…just amazing..I can’t even put it into words.

SO, like my Unique Twist on Challah back in ’09. in which I made a 6-strand braid challah, each strand filled with chocolate raisins and cinnamon sugar, I set out to reproduce something similar with the salted caramel apple filling.  This time I was only doing a 4-strand braid because I wanted thick ribbons and pockets of the caramel.  This is where I made my first mistake. This filling is wet…a small amount should be used for each strand to prevent any seepage and trouble braiding.  I used 1/4 cup full for each strand.  Bad idea,  I couldn’t roll the sealed strands to the 16 to 18-inches in length I wanted it to be for braiding, and the braiding was difficult, heavy, and there were several tears in between.  I ended up with a very sloppy, lopsided, wide braid.  Normally, this wouldn’t bother me, but I was presenting it to guests.

Dark circles under the eyes?  Concealer.  Lopsided, fat, lumpy challah braid?  Sesame seeds.

Next time I will be using only 2 tablespoons of the filling per strand..IF it’s for guests.  If not, who cares about lopsided, lumpy braids?  It was delicious, and thanks to the wonderful ‘new’ Herbie, it rose like Mary Poppin’s umbrella with a turbo engine in each spoke - not to mention the beautiful oven spring, and just look at that crumb!  I love how the gooey part of the salted caramel melts into it’s bready pocket, while the spiced apples kind of hang out, dropping into your hand occasionally when you tear off pieces.

You love challah french toast?  Wait until you try salted caramel apple challah french toast (hopefully, a photo coming soon – if the few slices left are not eaten before this can happen).  The sourdough has kept this bread silky soft and moist for 2 days now!

If you get a chance, please check out my fellow Daring Baker’s sourdough starters and creations by clicking on the links to their blogs HERE.  For the challenge sourdough starter recipe, and some great breads to make with it, click HERE.

I’m submitting my Salted Caramel Apple Sourdough Challah to Yeastspotting, a weekly bread baking showcase hosted by the incredibly talented Susan of Wild Yeast.

I’m also submitting it to Bread Baking Day #45, hosted by Cindy of Cindystar.

The GIVEAWAY winner of the six jars of Bonne Maman preserves and the $25.00 gift certificate to use at OhNuts.com is Katrina of Baking with Boys, who was #38!  Congrats Katrina!  Will send you an email to get your info ASAP.

My recipe for salted caramel apples will be posted soon.  I’ve been a bit lazy when it comes to typing it out LOL

Maggie Glazer’s Sourdough Challah Recipe (you can use any challah recipe you like, it doesn’t have to be sourdough)

Basic Sourdough Starter capturing Wild Yeast

Salted Caramel Apple Filling
1 cup sugar
1/2  cup water
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
3 medium apples, peeled, cored and cubed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
!/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon flour
Squeeze of lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:
1. In a bowl, Combine the chopped apples with the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, lemon juice and flour. Set aside.

2. Pour the water around and over the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves (I prefer this over the brushing the sugar off the sides with a wet pastry brush).

3. When the sugar dissolves, turn to high heat, and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a medium brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Watch it carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly. Stand back to avoid splattering, and gradually add the cream and the butter – it will bubble vigorously. Simmer and stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the sea salt.

4. Take pot off heat, let sit about 3 minutes, then stir in the chopped, spiced apples while caramel is still very hot.  Let cool to room temperature.  If not using immediately, refrigerate in an airtight jar or container.

5. You will not use all of the salted caramel apples for the challah or challahs (if making two), so enjoy it over ice cream, pound cake – use as a cake filling etc.  The ideas are endless!

ASSEMBLE CHALLAH:
1, Divide dough into 4 equal pieces.  I used a scale for this.  Take one piece (covering the other three pieces with plastic wrap) and roll into a flat, oblong 12-inch disk.  Spoon two tablespoons of the salted caramel apple filling down the length of the disk, as shown in photos above.

2. Cover filling with both sides of dough, pimching to seal and making sure none of the filling gets into your seal..it won’t seal if that happens.  Gently roll and taper the ends, to about 16 to 18-inches in length.  Cover and repeat with remaining three pieces of dough.  Once you have all 4 filled strands, pinch them together at the top and braid using this 4-strand weaving method.  In a bowl or cup, beat one egg until uniform – this will be your egg wash.

3.  Place loaf on a parchment lined pan and brush with egg wash (I don’t use all of the white in the egg.  I let some spill out into a cup so my egg wash is more yolk than white – this gives it that nice burnished look)).  Brush loaf all over and let rise until doubled in size – about an hour.  Preheat oven to 350 F.

4. Once risen, brush again with remaining egg wash, getting into all the crevices that opened during the rise.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, or nothing at all – your choice. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 35-45 minutes. Let cool a few minutes, then carefully lift off of pan, and place on a wire rack to cool fully.

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