With our grandchildren visiting, I usually spend some time with each of them cooking – if they will, and I can keep them confined here in the kitchen long enough – instead of going to the beach, to visit their favorite Uncle Powell, Aunt Karen and cousin Vaughan, trips to Disneyland or out of our pool. Taylor will almost always cook with me. Logan? Well, not this time. He’s 15. Isn’t much interested in cooking anymore, I guess. He made breakfast for US several mornings – he just loves chorizo and scrambled eggs, and he’s become quite good at that. With fresh tortillas at hand and some grated Cheddar, good chorizo from Whole Foods, breakfast was exceptionally delicious. Good work, Logan.
Taylor, though, loves to bake. So I gave her a choice of what she’d like to make. She said peanut butter cookies. I said that’s what we made together the last time, Miss Tay. Could we do something different? Please? Well, okay Grandma. So she started looking through my cookbooks trying to find something else with peanuts or peanut butter in them. She found a couple of recipes, but one was way too complicated for an 11-year old to attempt. Finally she said how about these peanut butter brownies? I said okay. But I hadn’t actually examined the recipe very well. It’s not really brownies. Probably this wasn’t very suitable for an 11-year old either. But oh well, maybe I’d do the tough parts, I said to myself.
You’ll find these all over the internet because they’re a Dorie Greenspan recipe, from her cookbook Baking: From My Home to Yours. And awhile back the TWD (Tuesdays with Dorie) bakers made them.
First we prepared a shortbread kind of crust. Very easy; done in the food processor and just pressed into the 8-inch pan. Cinchy. The next step was a bit more difficult. Here’s Taylor (pictured left) standing on a stool (at a good distance away from the cooktop) stirring the caramel. Isn’t she cute in her adult-sized apron and the little soft towel hooked on her waist for wiping her hands (that’s what I do whenever I cook).
Just after I took this picture she got fearful of the hot sugar (well founded fear) and I took over. We did have a bit of trouble with it – the recipe said we’d be heating this to over 300 degrees. With a candy thermometer hung on the side of the pan, ours turned to dark brown and was nearly burned at 250. So either I didn’t have the tip of the candy thermometer down in the sugar (I thought I did) or . . . well, the recipe could be wrong? I don’t think so. Therefore, our candied peanuts were caramelized to a darker hue than any of the recipes I saw out there for these. And eaten on their own they tasted almost burned. Darn. I didn’t have enough peanuts to do a second batch of caramel, so we were out of luck there. Just had to make do.
Dulce de leche is a canned milky caramel. It’s nothing more than sweetened condensed milk that’s boiled to a golden brown goop, but our local grocery stores carry it, already prepared. Not much more expensive than doing it myself. We have very large Latino communities near us, so our markets often carry an ample selection of Mexican foodstuff. It was spread on top of the shortbread crust. Right out of the can it’s about the consistency of thick frosting, so it was relatively easy to spread. Half of the caramelized nuts were sprinkled on top, then she/we melted chocolate and butter and spread that on top of the nuts. The remaining caramelized nuts were chopped up fine and sprinkled on the top decoratively. Taylor kind of
mashed the nuts into the top a bit more than I would have, but she didn’t quite understand the difference between patting the nuts into the soft chocolate and mashing them in. Oh well. Will make no difference to the taste.
From other recipes I read about these, cutting them up was a bit challenging, so I chilled these longer than indicated. I cut them up since I knew Taylor would likely have a hard time with the huge butcher knife needed to do the cutting. But the taste? Oh my goodness yes! Absolutely delicious. Although these aren’t exactly quick, they’re really tasty. And now that I know the drill about the caramel, it would be easier next time. So thanks Miss Tay, for making these treats. Most of them are going to go home with you, I think. No eating them in the car, m‘kay?
Recipe: Dorie Greenspan, From My Home to Yours
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter — cut into small pieces and chilled
1 large egg yolk — lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups peanuts — salted
1 1/2 cups dulce de leche — canned
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate — coarsely chopped
1/2 stick unsalted butter — cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
1. CRUST: Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 8 inch square pan and put it on a baking sheet. Toss the flour, sugar, powdered sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Toss in the pieces of cold butter and pulse about 12 times, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Pour the yolk over the ingredients and pulse until the dough forms clumps and curds-stop before the dough comes together in a ball.
2. Turn the dough into the buttered pan and gently press it evenly across the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough with a fork and slide the sheet into the oven.
3. Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, or until it takes on just a little color around the edges. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.
4. FILLING: Have a parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheet at the ready, as well as a long-handled wooden spoon and a medium heavy bottomed saucepan.
5. Put the sugar and water in the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Keeping the heat fairly high, continue to cook the sugar, without stirring, until it just starts to color. Toss the peanuts and immediately start stirring. Keep stirring, to coat the peanuts with sugar. Within a few minutes, they will be covered with sugar and turn white-keep stirring until the sugar turns back into caramel. When the peanuts are coated with a nice deep amber caramel, remove the pan from the heat and turn the nuts out onto the baking sheet., using the wooden spoon to spread them out as best you can. Cool the nuts to room temperature.
6. When they are cool enough to handle, separate the nuts or break them into small pieces. Divide the nuts in half. Keep half of the nuts whole or in biggish pieces for the filling, and finely chop the other half for the topping.
7. Spread the dulce de leche over the shortbread base and sprinkle over the whole candied nuts.
8. TOPPING: Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove chocolate from the heat and gently stir in the butter, stirring until it is fully blended into the chocolate.
9. Pour the chocolate over the dulce de leche, smoothing it with a long metal icing spatula, then sprinkle over the rest of the peanuts. Slide the pan into the fridge to set the topping, about 20 minutes; if you’d like to serve the squares cold, keep them refrigerated for at least 3 hours before cutting.
Per Serving: 289 Calories; 19g Fat (57.0% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 34mg Cholesterol; 55mg Sodium.