You may want to stop reading here*.
This toffee really is like crack.
Easy and addictive.
And you probably have all four ingredients in your kitchen.
Don’t blame the Accidental Locavore for this.
Makes one large sheet pan.
- 40 saltine crackers (or more to fill the pan)
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 cups chocolate chips
Pre-heat oven to 350°.
Spray a sheet pan with vegetable spray. Line with crackers.
Put the butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
Spread sugar and butter mixture evenly over the crackers.
Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Let cool slightly (mostly so you don’t burn yourself), then top with chocolate chips.
As chips melt, spread them out until the crackers are covered.
Let cool completely, break into pieces. Serve and enjoy!
Blame my cousin Ellen (and her friend Mollie). She gave me a bag for Christmas.
I should never have gotten the recipe. It’s amazingly good and stupidly easy.
Mine wasn’t as good as Ellen’s but we talked it out and I think it was the sugar.
Light or dark brown sugar or a mix will work, but don’t make my mistake and use a granular (organic) brown sugar. It doesn’t melt thoroughly and my batch came out a little grainy.
For a large sheet pan, it’s a little more than a sleeve of saltines. I put them all salty side up. Ellen has done it like that and mixed it up. She says it doesn’t matter and I believe her.
This is Ellen’s advice: “You can also sprinkle toasted sliced almonds on top of the chocolate, but Mollie does not use nuts and her toffee crack is perfect.”
*But the inauguration is tomorrow so you might just need a double batch.
Christmas pudding is like fruitcake—same candied fruit, (more) booze, and a limited number of fans (mainly U.K. residents and expats).
And, like fruitcake, someone must be eating it or it wouldn’t show up on store shelves.
However, that’s been changing and not only has the audience diminished, so have the places where you can buy it.
Since the Accidental Locavore’s mother and twin sister are both huge fans, I decided to give it a go.
It’s pretty easy, but you need plenty of time for it to age.
The longer the better and remember, the fruit mix needs to marinate for four days.
This makes about 4 medium bowls.
Christmas Pudding Recipe
Fruit Mixture (To be made 4 days ahead)
- 1 pound seedless raisins
- 1 pound sultana (golden) raisins
- 1/2 pound currants
- 1 cup citron (thinly sliced or chopped)
- 1 cup chopped candied peel
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon mace
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound finely ground beef suet
- 1 1/4 cups cognac
- 1 1/4 pounds fresh bread crumbs (about 1 loaf of Wonderbread)
- 1 cup very hot milk
- 1 cup sherry or port
- 12 large eggs, well beaten
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Butter for greasing the bowls
In a very large bowl, add the raisins, sultanas, currants, citron, peel, spices and suet. Toss to combine.
Add 1/4 cup cognac, cover tightly and refrigerate for 4 days.
Sprinkle the mix with 1/4 cup cognac each day.
In a medium bowl, soak the bread crumbs in milk and sherry (or port).
Add the beaten eggs, sugar and salt.
Pour into the fruit and mix thoroughly.
Put the pudding in buttered bowls or tins and fill them about 2/3 full. Cover with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the bowl, then top with aluminum foil and tie it firmly.
Steam for 6-7 hours. A large roasting pan works well for this. If you want to do it in the oven, cover the roasting pan and bowls with aluminum foil and steam in a 275° oven.
Check occasionally and add more water as needed.
Uncover and bake in a 250°F. oven for 30 minutes.
Add a dash of cognac to each pudding, cover with parchment paper and foil and keep in a cool place. They will store for up to a year.
To use, steam again for 2-3 hours and unmold. If you’d like, add some gently heated cognac, ignite and bring to the table. Serve with hard sauce (softened, unsalted butter and confectioner’s sugar beaten together with a lot of brandy or cognac) and enjoy!
My verdict: Never a big fan, this could change my mind about Christmas pudding (which by the way has no resemblance to pudding, it’s just the British term for desserts). Even my husband who can’t stand the stuff actually liked it!
I would buy some deep inexpensive bowls to use for this. This time I used a set of three I bought (2.5 quarts and smaller) and an old large soup bowl, If you’re going to be aging the “pud,” just remember that the bowls will be out of service for a while. You’re also going to need some very large mixing bowls to hold the fruit mixture, breadcrumbs and eggs.
Because the fruit is acidic, it’s best to always have a piece of parchment (not waxed) paper covering the surface of the pudding. Then top with aluminum foil.
Generally, instead of trying to fit a giant bowl in my fridge for four days (no way that’s going to happen), if it’s cold enough, I put in on my screen porch.
These ultimate chocolate cookies might distract you from things like election results.
And they taste amazing!
Might even put a smile on your face.
Pull out a cookie sheet and give it a try.
This makes about 12 cookies.
Ultimate Chocolate Cookies
- 2 ounces unsweetened (baking) chocolate
- 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup sifted flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons instant coffee (optional)
- 6 ounces chocolate chips
- 8 ounces walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together.
With an electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla and coffee on high speed. Reduce to low speed and add chocolate/butter mixture. Add sifted ingredients and mix just until smooth. By hand, stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop tablespoon-sized cookies on sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until top of cookies get a cracked look. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve and enjoy!
My verdict: This recipe came from an old friend and I had forgotten how good these cookies were! Frank tried them and loved them! They’re like a cookie version of a really good brownie, or molten chocolate cake. . I left the nuts out as I’ve had allergies, but they would be a great addition. I also left the coffee out as I like my chocolate unadulterated, but if you feel differently…While cookies aren’t a part of my normal repertoire, these are classics.
Update: I’ve made these at least four times recently, and they continue to be great! Recently, a friend said that he had melted the chocolate and butter in the microwave, so I tried it. About 90 seconds, but do it in 30 second increments.
The Accidental Locavore’s friend’s recipe has this at the bottom: DISCLAIMER: Not responsible for anyone’s actions after cookies have been consumed!!!
The idea of a fruit CSA had its appeal.
Apples and other fresh fruit, weekly when we picked up our regular CSA share at Poughkeepsie Farm Project.
Shared with friends since the Accidental Locavore knew 8 pounds of fruit was going to be too much.
Even 4 pounds is a lot of fruit, but this delicious apple cake will take six of them off your hands.
I’d seen this recipe on Smitten Kitchen and then my cousin called raving about this great apple cake she’d made. She was right!
Apple Cake Recipe
For the apples:
- 6 apples, McIntosh or whatever looks good
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 5 tablespoons white or light brown sugar
For the cake:
- 2 3/4 cups (360 grams) flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup vegetable oil (or mix of butter, olive oil etc.)
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
Heat oven to 350°. Butter a tube pan (angel food, bundt).
Peel, core and chop apples into 1-inch chunks. Toss with cinnamon and 5 tablespoons sugar and set aside.
Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar, vanilla and eggs.
Mix wet ingredients into dry ones; scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.
Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples (and their juices) over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top.
Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool completely before running knife between cake and pan, and unmolding onto a platter. Serve and enjoy!
My verdict: Great apple cake! After we devoured a couple of slices of it, I cut it in quarters and stuck most of it in the freezer. Two days later, most of it has already been pulled from the freezer (not to worry, got more apples from the CSA). Slightly warmed up, it makes a great breakfast too! Now I’ve made it twice and it still hasn’t lasted a week.
I used a combo of McIntosh and Macon’s which worked well, you probably want to avoid the mushier apples like Delicious. Since we’re not an orange juice drinking household, I just bought an orange and juiced half of it.
The recipe calls for a cup of vegetable oil and suggests that you can use olive or coconut oil and/or butter. Because butter makes everything better, I used one stick of butter, melted and topped it off with vegetable oil. Might try an olive oil-butter mix the next time.
Update: Because of the plethora of apples, I ended up making this about five times. Olive oil was the least successful batch so I went back to butter and vegetable oil. Everyone who has made this or tasted it loves it. Give it a shot.
Feeling guilty? Click here and get 34 science-backed health benefits of apples.
What to do with a plethora of plums?
And a plethora of plums that won’t stop coming.
Most of the time it’s zucchini or eggplant people complain about when they have a CSA.
We thought a fruit share sounded like a good idea, but knew eight pounds of fruit a week would be too much so decided to share it with friends.
But this one does.
Billed as the most requested recipe from the NY Times, they refer to it as a Plum Torte, but it’s more like a cake (IMHO).
Plum Cake Recipe
- ¾ to 1 cup sugar (depending on your sweetness tolerance and the sweetness of your plums)
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup unbleached flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt (optional)
- 2 eggs
- 24 halves pitted purple plums
- Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon, for topping
Heat oven to 350°.
In a mixer, cream the sugar and butter.
Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and beat well.
Spoon the batter into a 9” spring-form pan. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter.
Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit.
Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon.
Bake 1 hour, approximately. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream. Serve and enjoy!
My verdict: Moist and buttery – well there was a stick of butter…
Make sure to add the sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon to top it off. Just go easy on the cinnamon unless you’re a big fan (I’ve learned the hard way that a little cinnamon goes a long way!).
The plums give a nice tartness to what is a rich treat, but as the Times says, you can use almost anything; I’m going to do it with peaches and then maybe apples.
While it’s a great dessert, it’s also a pretty fine breakfast!
My only issue was that my (cheap)spring-form pan leaked and I ended up putting a parchment-lined baking sheet under it to catch the drips. Not sure you need a spring-form, just butter any sort of cake pan (or buy a better spring-form).
The paper of record says you can freeze it, and to serve a torte that was frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300°.
Do you have recipes that you’ve used a lot in the past and then somehow they get lost in the shuffle?
For the Accidental Locavore, it’s often a combo of the thrill of the new along with some old favorites that push the good-but-not-part-of-the-repertoire aside. This is one of them and serves 4:
- 4 large peaches, unpeeled
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
- Water as needed
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
Preheat the oven to 400°.
Cut the peaches in half and pit them, set aside.
In a large heavy-bottomed pan, add sugar, corn syrup and just enough water to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat.
Cook until sugar caramelizes and becomes a deep amber color. Keep an eye on it as it can go from good to burnt in an instant.
Add the chilled butter, a few small pieces at a time, whisking constantly until all the butter is emulsified into the caramel.
Place the peaches, cut side down, in one layer in the pot with the caramel. Cover pot with foil and roast for 20 minutes.
Remove foil and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest 5-10 minutes. Serve with your favorite ice cream and enjoy!
My verdict: I’d forgotten how good this was! As much as the Accidental Locavore loves biting into a perfect peach, there’s something about cooking them that’s equally wonderful.
While this is a great go-to recipe for less-than-perfect peaches, it works even better with ripe ones, and if you can get freestone peaches, it’s a huge help.
I did this as my version of peach shortcake with buttermilk biscuits and vanilla ice cream (homemade) but you really don’t need the biscuits, it’s wonderful just with ice cream.
I have an idea about putting the pot on the side of a hot grill instead of in the oven…for that touch of smoke and so I’m not heating up the kitchen, but haven’t tried it yet. What do you think?
These were the criteria: I needed a dessert for a dinner party, it needed to travel well and since the hostess is another foodie, the dessert needed to be pretty damn good. After spending a lot of time with Made in India, the Accidental Locavore decided to go back to another favorite, David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. Since he’s such a dessert guy, he had to have something that would impress 6 people:
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons salted butter, cubed
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 4 large eggs, separated
- ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt, preferably fleur de sel or Malden
Spread the sugar evenly over the bottom of a wide sauce pan. Heat the sugar over medium heat. As it begins to liquefy at the edges, with a heatproof spatula (thank you, GIR), very gently drag the liquefied sugar towards the center. Watch carefully as once the edges start to darken, the sugar is in danger of burning. Continue to cook, stirring gently until all the sugar is melted and begins to caramelize.
When the sugar is a deep amber color and starts to smoke, remove it from the heat and quickly whisk in the butter, stirring until it is melted. Gradually whisk in the cream and stir until the little bits of caramel are completely melted. I find it helps to warm the cream before you add it in.
Once smooth, add the chocolate, stirring gently until it’s melted and smooth. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl and let it cool to room temperature. Once it’s no longer warm, whisk in the egg yolks.
In a separate large bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff. Fold 1/3 of the mixture into the chocolate and sprinkle in the salt. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until no streaks of white remain.
Divide the mousse into serving glasses or a serving bowl and chill for at least 8 hours. Serve and enjoy!
My verdict: Who knew 6 ingredients could be so delicious? I had eaten these before when David was cooking at DeGustibus, but somehow (sorry David) these tasted better. Somewhere in the process, it occurred to me that they needed a little something crunchy (probably too much time spent in Nice eating chocolate desserts) so I made some tuiles to go with them and it was the perfect touch. That recipe will go up next week, so stay tuned. Be careful making the (any) caramel, it’s a mere moment in time between beautiful and burnt. Gently warming the cream makes it much easier as the caramel doesn’t harden and take forever to combine with the cream.
And the reaction at the dinner? One of the guests asked if he could lick his dish!
Usually the Accidental Locavore likes chocolate straight up – with no additions of coffee or chipotle or whatever getting in the way of pure chocolate happiness. However, when I saw this recipe from David Lebovitz (and happened to have all the ingredients) and needed to bring brownies to dinner with friends, it was time to break out of my pure chocolate comfort zone.
For the brownies:
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
For the cheesecake topping:
- 8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Line an 8 or 9-inch square pan with foil, making sure it goes up all four sides. Use two sheets if necessary. Mist with non-stick spray or grease lightly.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To make the brownie batter, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, in a medium saucepan (not non-stick) stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and beat in the 2/3 cup sugar, then the eggs.
Mix in the flour, cocoa powder and salt, then the vanilla and chocolate chips. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
For the cheesecake topping, in a separate bowl, beat together the cream cheese, the yolk, 5 tablespoons of sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
Distribute the cream cheese mixture in eight dollops across the top of the brownie mixture, then take a dull knife or spatula and swirl the cream cheese mixture with the chocolate batter. Rap the pan on a countertop a few times to let the batter and swirl settle together.
Bake until the batter in the center of the pan feels just set, 35 to 40 minutes.
Let cool, then lift the brownies out holding the foil and peel it away. Cut the brownies into squares. Serve and enjoy!
My verdict: If you only made the brownie part, you’d still have a great brownie! Adding the cheesecake topping just took them to a whole other level. While I wouldn’t want these every day, they were a delicious change from the ongoing brownie mix competition we’ve been having with our friends. Don’t let the cheesecake part scare you away from making these, it comes together easily and getting the swirl part is half the fun. I’m not sure how necessary lining the pan with foil is, since I’ve been using a silicon brownie pan, which because of its flexibility, makes popping the contents out really easy. Next time, I’m going sans foil.
Figuring you might be looking for an easy dessert for the holidays, the Accidental Locavore would like to propose this old favorite. It’s a really easy, incredibly good, molten chocolate cake recipe. I originally saw it done on Martha Stewart years ago, and have been making it ever since to rave reviews. I usually make them before guests come, and keep them in a cool place until ready to bake. Make sure you use the best chocolate you can find. The other secret is to use small metal brioche tins (and if you can find the non-stick ones even better!), they cook much quicker than ceramic ramekins. Makes 4 individual cakes (but the recipe can easily be doubled). It’s great served with good vanilla ice cream and fresh raspberries. This is adapted from Martha Stewart, and John Georges Vongerichten.
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for molds
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting molds
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona
- 2 large whole eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup sugar
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together eggs, yolks, and sugar until light and thick. Add melted chocolate mixture, and beat to combine. Quickly beat in flour until just combined. Divide batter evenly among the molds. If you’re making these ahead of time, set aside in a cool place until ready to cook (usually right after you’ve cleared the table).
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place filled molds on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until the sides have set but the centers remain soft, 6 to 7 minutes.
Invert each mold onto a plate, and let rest 10 seconds. Unmold by lifting up one corner of the mold; the cake will fall out onto the plate. Serve immediately and enjoy!
- 2-3 bags of peppermint candies (depending on the size you want)
- Any kind of cake pan or muffin tins
- Parchment paper
Preheat the oven to 350°. I don’t know how convection would work for this, so if you can, use the regular setting. Cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of your pan. Unwrap the candies and place in the pan, leaving about ¼” space between them.
Carefully put in the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes, until they are melted together and have formed a flat surface. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve and enjoy!
My verdict: This was so simple and really cool-looking – don’t you think? Surprisingly, the hardest part was tracking down the candy. We got lucky because the ones we used didn’t have the traditional twisted wrappers, so we could just cut them which made the whole process so much faster. The original recipe called for using a springform pan to make a big platter. I used two 6” cake pans to see what individual ones might look like. The reason you don’t see the second one in the photos was because I tried to get creative and drape it over a bowl (for obvious reasons), but it was too hot and along with almost burning myself, it stuck to everything except the bowl. I still think if you could get them at just the right temperature you could mold them. The other idea we had was to twist a piece of parchment into a rope and use it around the edge to maybe make it more bowl-like. It’s a fun idea for a dessert plate for anything (like ice cream, brownies, etc.) that would benefit from a little peppermint crunch. I think it would also work with other hard candies and even lifesavers, but then I’m not so sure what I would serve with it. Any ideas?