Thursday, January 31, 2013

New Orleans, Day 3 - Walking Tour and Cochon

So the "third" and last day of the official tour was an afternoon walking tour through the French Quarter where Elizabeth Pearce from Day 1 gave us an insulated lunch bag filled with bite-sized foods that we ate at certain points along the way.  I had originally planned to go into detail about these stops and what we ate except....I didn't really take notes and now can't remember half of it.  All I have are pictures because you know I always take pictures of my food. So I'm afraid this won't be the informative narrative of New Orleans and its cultural culinary traditions that the tour was.  Perhaps that's just as well because it's really best experienced for yourselves in person.  Hopefully the last few blog posts have inspired a few of you to put New Orleans on your destination list, especially if you're a foodie.

I do remember our first stop and that was for Gumbo at Antoine's, one of the oldest restaurants in the French Quarter.  The picture doesn't do it justice as the gumbo was quite good.  I might give the slight nod to Poppy's seafood gumbo the day before but regardless, I might have become a gumbo fan just from this trip alone.

Gumbo at Antoine's
A typical scene in the Quarter - Jazz musicians playing on the streets.  The streets were very clean as New Orleans prepares for the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras.

We were really fortunate to have a gorgeous day for our walking tour.

Part of our tour included visiting a private home in the French Quarter.  I took a lot of pictures but I hesitate to post so many pics of someone's home for privacy reasons (even though it was part of the tour) so I'll compromise with one picture.  This is one of the rooms in the back part of the house.  The front and back houses are separated by an enclosed patio which houses patio furniture and lushly growing plants.  The house itself is full of history and portraits of family ancestors and days gone by.

After the walking tour, we were taxi'd over to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum which showcases exactly what it says it does - the origins and representations of food and drinks from the South.  One of the staff gave us demos of several drinks, including Cafe Brulot where you set the alcohol in coffee on fire.  They really like to set things on fire here, lol.  It's an interesting place and if culinary history captures your imagination and interest, it's worth at least a quick visit.
The final stop of the tour included dinner at Cochon - a restaurant that specializes in traditional Southern Cajun cooking.  We sat in tables of 5 and 6 and ordered dishes to share.  Well, at least as much as any of us could eat since I wasn't the only one hitting my caloric limit.  Not that I didn't give it my all....
Appetizer: deep-fried sausage balls (I'm sure they had a more elegant name)
My entree was a fork-tender pot roast with horseradish potatoes.  I had expected the potatoes to be like chunky mashed potatoes but alas, they were more like cold potato salad.  I stuck to the beef.
And my Mac and Cheese side dish which was - wait for it - yummy!
Dessert was based on the waiter's recommendation of pineapple upside down cake with dulce de leche.  The cake was served warm and was nicely complemented by the ice cream and chunks of fresh pineapple.
Anne had the chocolate cake layered with ganache and I think that was toffee.  I was in a food coma by this point and my cognitive brain functions weren't processing much :).
Thus ends the culinary tour of Tasting New Orleans.  It was a fun, albeit brief, trip and I'm so glad I went.  Some of the best vacations are where you didn't get to do everything you wanted so that you have a reason to go back.  I definitely have many reasons to return to NOLA, not the least being I didn't have three stomachs to consume all that delicious food and try all the restaurants my friends swore I had to try.  Definitely next time.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Orleans, Day 3 - Stanleys and Santa's Quarter

Okay, we're finally on Day 3 and you can stop thinking, "OMG, she's still eating and it's still Tuesday."  Wednesday morning we had free time to ourselves as we didn't have to meet up with our tour group and guide until 1 pm that afternoon.  In anticipation of another eating-fest though, despite having spent an hour on the treadmill the night before, I broke out my 2nd set of workout clothes and went back to the gym.  Another hour on the treadmill later and drenched in sweat, I was cautiously optimistic I could eat again without rolling down the street,

As part of our tour package, we were given a $25 gift certificate to Stanleys, a place known for its brunch in the French Quarter.  Wednesday morning was pretty much the only time I had left to go to Stanleys as we were supposed to have a group dinner that night at Cochon, one of New Orleans' award-winning restaurants.  One of the ladies on the tour, Anne, and her husband Craig had gone to Stanleys earlier and Anne showed me a picture of the Bananas Foster French Toast she had ordered. (As an aside, I found a kindred spirit in Anne since we both liked taking pictures of our food, lol.)   Considering I almost drooled on her phone when I saw the picture, that clinched what I ordered when I got to Stanleys.  I love French toast, I love bananas, I love caramel and really, that scoop of vanilla ice cream on top just sends it into the stratosphere.  It was well worth all that running on the treadmill.  I don't think this would be hard to make either - you can caramelize bananas with butter and brown sugar, make the French toast separately, and tie it all together with the vanilla ice cream.  Although I would probably omit the nuts or use toasted pecans instead of walnuts.

After brunch, there was plenty of time before I had to meet up with the rest of the group for our afternoon activities so I wandered aimlessly around the French Quarter, ending up on Decatur Street again, passing Cafe du Monde (alas, no room for a second round of beignets), exploring the French Market, then, as I was innocently walking down the street, I discovered Santa's Quarter, a shop devoted entirely to Christmas.  Christmas, did you say?  Ornaments? Food ornaments?
I will leave it to your imagination how long I spent in that store and what I bought but yes, I bought.  Considering I put up 2 full-size food trees nearly every Christmas, it's almost astonishing there are still food ornaments I don't have but it's true.  I did my best though to rectify that in this store.  The lady behind the cash register did a wonderful job wrapping each glass ornament in tissue paper then bubble wrap (you should never wrap ornaments with glitter directly in bubble wrap as the glitter will rub off because of the bubble wrap - use tissue first) before boxing them up.  I'm glad she did since these had to make it on the plane ride home with me the next day.  If anyone loves Christmas stuff, make sure you stop at Santa's Quarter on Decatur St, between the French Market and the original Cafe du Monde if you're ever in New Orleans.  Their business card says it's owned by a husband and wife team so I love it even more that it's a small business I can support.  I was also gratified to find an ornament of King Cake and even one of beignets and coffee.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Orleans, Day 2 - Beignets at Cafe du Monde

Day 2 in New Orleans didn't end with that 4-course meal for lunch.  After we had eaten, we were each gifted with Poppy's book, Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook, that she had personalized and signed for each of us.  If Poppy's recipes that she made at the New Orleans Cooking Experience are representative of the rest of the recipes in her cookbook, I'd recommend getting your own copy.  Seriously, the dishes she made us were yummy (there's that word again - can't use it often enough).  And she made everything look so easy to make.

We had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves and were back at the hotel by 3:30 pm or so.  After that kind of eating, I honestly couldn't picture eating dinner that night.  Instead I walked around the French Quarter for a little exploring and went down to Decatur Street.  Although hunger was the last thing I was feeling, I did have a mission and that was to check off the top item on my foodie bucket list: eat beignets at Cafe du Monde.  I probably didn't need to eat anymore deep-fried foods (or anything else) that day but in reviewing the itinerary for the rest of the trip, I knew this was my only chance.  I hadn't come all the way to New Orleans NOT to go to Cafe du Monde so away I went.  Part of our tour package included a voucher for an order of beignets and a drink (coffee, cafe au lait or hot chocolate).

There are a string of Cafe du Mondes in New Orleans due to their popularity.  I, however, went to the original one - no little offshoots for me.  Fortunately I went during an off-peak time, having already been forewarned by my "local, not native" New Orleans friend Jen not to go in the morning or during after-work hours.  It's very informal at Cafe du Monde.  You walk into the open-air seating area, take a table and one of the waitstaff comes to take your order.  In the meantime, for atmosphere, a musician or two is serenading the crowd with some jazz numbers.  You can't get much more New Orleans than that.

The beignets arrived under an avalanche of powdered sugar.  Not just a light sprinkling which is what I prefer but a veritable blanket worthy of winter in the Alps.  I pretty much had to tap them several times on the plate to get the excess sugar off.  Nice and hot, they were fresh and tasty.  I only wish I'd actually been hungry as I think I would've enjoyed them more.  They were good but let's face it, I was pretty stuffed already.  But still, they were beignets and I was at Cafe du Monde.  Life was good.

I walked around some more after that until it got dark then went back to the hotel.  Dinner was nowhere on my agenda (seriously, I couldn't eat anymore) so instead I hit the hotel gym and the treadmill for an hour to get some equilibrium back.  Tomorrow was another eating day after all.

Monday, January 28, 2013

New Orleans, Day 2 - Frozen Creole Cream Cheese and Calas

Yes, I'm still writing up that 4-course meal at the New Orleans Cooking School.  This is the last course and needs its own post to acknowledge properly.  At the Crescent City Farmer's Market that morning, Poppy bought several tubs of Creole Cream Cheese and told us the story of how it was "brought back" after it almost went into extinction since people had stopped making it for awhile.  She focuses on bringing foods back from extinction and one of her sayings is "Eat it to save it".  So true - foods go extinct if no one's eating them so if you want to "save" your favorite foods, keep eating them.
The Creole cream cheese "custard" before going into the freezer

Frozen Creole Cream Cheese
2 pints Creole Cream Cheese
1/2 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients together until smooth in food processor or by pressing through a sieve.  Freeze in ice cream freezer or in stainless steel bowl in freezer, stirring occasionally until mixture reaches soft serve consistency.

Note: Does not keep well in the freezer so eat it all :).  Or, before re-serving, allow to thaw slightly and mix to restore soft serve consistency.

We'd had such good food for lunch that I feel almost guilty admitting cream cheese still isn't my thing, Creole or otherwise.  The bite or the tang still doesn't go well with my sweet tooth.  However, the calas that were served with them?  To die for.
The Calas mixture
Poppy shaping the calas with two spoons before dropping into the hot oil
This was another food on the verge of extinction before she revived it and I'm so glad she did.  Calas are deep-fried rice cakes, reminiscent of zeppoles to me and just as good.  It also looked really easy to make so I'm making these next time I have people over so I don't down the whole batch by myself.  The outside is crunchy and the inside is fluffy and cake-like, not what you might expect with something made with cooked rice.  The culinary history accompanying the calas-making was the street vendors sold these in the French Quarter.  Many of them were slaves and by Louisiana law, they had Sundays off.  On those Sundays, enterprising slaves who had brought calas and rice growing knowledge with them from Africa, sold calas outside the churches.  At that time, New Orleans was predominantly Catholic and it was the Catholic tradition to fast before mass so by the time they emerged from church, they were hungry.  I imagine the calas sold very well.  Many slaves bought their freedom by saving up their proceeds from selling calas and other delicacies.
Frozen Creole Cream Cheese with Calas
A close up of the inside of a calas
Traditional Sweet Calas, recipe from New Orleans Cooking School

2 cups cooked rice
6 tablespoons flour
3 heaping tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
powdered sugar for dusting

Mix the rice and dry ingredients together thoroughly.  Add the eggs and when thoroughly mixed, drop by spoonfuls into hot deep fat (oil), at 360 degrees.  Fry until brown.  Drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve hot.

Note: Keep rice mixture cool (below 70 degrees) or it might not hold together when frying.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

New Orleans, Day 2 - Seafood Gumbo & Chicken Creole

Gumbo Crabs
During the cooking demo, Poppy spent a fair amount of time teaching us how to make roux properly.  I don't cook much and I always considered roux to be flour and melted butter whisked together as a thickening agent for soups and stews.  In New Orleans, roux is flour added to hot oil and stirred with a wooden spoon, not a whisk, over medium to high heat until it's the brown color of milk chocolate (for the gumbo, dark chocolate for the chicken creole).  According to Poppy, brown means flavor.  Then you add chopped onions first to soften and add flavor before adding chopped bell pepper and celery.  She stressed the importance of adding the onions first before the other seasoning vegetables.  Many other cookbooks and chefs add them all in at once but her way was to add the onions first.  Considering how delicious her seafood gumbo was, I'm advocating her method.  Don't mess with what works.
A proper roux
Poppy breaking apart the crabs to add to the gumbo
The seafood gumbo was amazing.  There's something so appealing about knowing the seafood was purchased just that morning and it was probably pretty fresh when it went up for sale as well.  And I'm a sucker for shrimp so I was set to favor it anyway.  Poppy also showed us the simplicity of making shrimp stock from all the pairings of the seasoning vegetables, shrimp heads, tails and shells and water.  It was one of those so-simple-even-I-could-make-it type of things.  Next time I make anything with shrimp, I'm saving the shrimp parts to make my own shrimp stock.  Oh and I also learned you want to cook the okra separately before you put it in the gumbo or else your gumbo will have a slimy texture.  Good to know.
The picture does not do justice to the seafood gumbo

Seafood Gumbo, recipe from New Orleans Cooking Experience

1/2 cup oil
1 cup flour
4 gumbo crabs
2 pounds shrimp
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 pounds okra, sliced 1/4"
oil for frying okra
1 1-lb can crushed tomatoes
1 gallon shrimp stock
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons thyme
1 bay leaf
1 bunch green onions
  1. Peel shrimp and combine peels, onion skin and tops in a stock pot.  Cover with water and boil for 20 minutes.  Strain and reserve (this is the shrimp stock).
  2. Fry okra is very hot oil until lightly browned.
  3. Make a dark roux with the flour and oil, cooking to the color of milk chocolate brown.  Add onions, stirring together until the roux darkens to a bittersweet chocolate brown.  Add celery and bell pepper.  Saute for 5 minutes, then add the gumbo crabs, tomatoes, okra, herbs and the shrimp stock.  Add garlic and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer 45 minutes or longer.  
  4. Towards the end of the simmering time, Poppy also skimmed the oil off the top of the gumbo.
  5. Ten minutes before serving, add shrimp and green onions.  Serve on top of cooked rice.
Browning the chicken for the Chicken Creole
The Chicken Creole was also quite tasty and started off with a roux.  What was most surprising to me is I had expected it to be spicy but it wasn't.  Poppy made a point of debunking the myth that all Southern Louisiana, Cajun and Creole cooking was spicy.  It isn't or doesn't have to be and it can still be tasty.  She proved it with the Chicken Creole.  It reminded me of a similar dish from the Philippines and was just a really good stew.
Seriously good Chicken Creole

Chicken Creole, recipe from New Orleans Cooking Experience

8 chicken quarters on the bone
kosher salt
all-purpose flour for dusting
bacon drippings
1/4 cup bacon drippings
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
1 celery heart or three stalks with leaves, chopped (1 cup)
1 12-ounce can or bottle of beer, optional
1 cup chicken stock (add another 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock if not using beer)
1 small can whole Italian Plum tomatoes
2 large bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme
4 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 small bunch green onions and tops, thinly sliced
salt, cayenne pepper and Crystal hot sauce to taste
  1. Season chicken with kosher salt and pepper; dredge with flour.  Shake off excess flour and brown chicken in hot bacon drippings (or flavorless oil).  Remove chicken when well-browned (doesn't have to be completely cooked, just browned).  In the same pan, add the 1/4 cup bacon drippings or flavorless oil and turn up the heat to high.  Add 1/4 cup flour all at once and stir constantly to make a dark-chocolate-colored roux, about 15 minutes.  Immediately add onions to the pan and stir well; cook for about 3 minutes.  Add bell pepper and celery.  Cook 3 minutes more.
  2. Slowly stir in the beef and chicken stock along with the whole tomatoes that you crush between your fingers into the pan.  Cook about 3 minutes.  Stir in the thyme, bay leaves and parsley.  Return chicken to the pan; stir well to cover with the sauce.  Cover pan and simmer on medium low heat until meat is tender and chicken is cooked through.  Season to taste.  Add kosher salt, cayenne pepper and hot sauce as desired.
  3. Serve over hot steamed rice and top with a sprinkling of thinly sliced green onions.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

New Orleans, Day 2 - Farmers Market & Shrimp Remoulade

Day 2 of the trip started off with a morning excusion to the Crescent City Farmers Market where locals sell fresh produce grown on their farms, freshly caught seafood (fish, shrimp, crabs, etc), homemade jams and jellies, baked goods, popcorn and kettle corn, popsicles, citrus fruits, locally grown strawberries and other fresh, local foods.  We had our own personal tour guide in Poppy Tooker, a culinary icon in New Orleans who hosts Louisana Eats! on the Louisiana NPR affiliate station, brought the Slow Food movement to New Orleans, and was recognized by the International Association of Cooking Professionals with their first Community Service Award for her efforts during Katrina.  And if that wasn't enough, she also won a Throwdown with Bobby Flay for her seafood gumbo (more on that later - you won't want to miss that one).  Poppy's cookbook, Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook features many of these vendors and it was great to meet some of them in person before reading their stories in her cookbook. 
Can you believe this is cauliflower?
It was a good year for really big cabbages
Poppy introduced us to many of the vendors at the farmers market (while also buying fresh ingredients for our lunch). Their stories of rebuilding after Katrina and their tenacity in continuing their businesses are nothing short of amazing.  It was wonderful to meet a group of people with such pride and knowledge of what they were doing and the hard work going into the success they were building.  After the tour, we had some time to wander around a bit.  I bought a jar of Mayhaw Jelly from Briarhill Farms to take back for my mom as well as some kettle corn for me (naturally!).  Then our tour group of 11 people was taxi'd over to the New Orleans Cooking Experience, a cooking school where Poppy was waiting to show us how to cook the 4-course meal that was to be our lunch.
The front of the house where the cooking school is located
This was probably one of the highlights of the trip for me.  The ladies at the cooking school were so graciously charming and welcoming.  We started off with a Frozen Brandy Milk Punch made of bourbon, simple syrup, milk or half and half, vanilla extract and vanilla ice cream.  Again, I the teetotaler took a few sips to try it but I just don't have the taste buds for alcohol so it was lost on me.  But everyone else seemed to like it and more than made up for me.  After the punch, we gathered in the demonstration kitchen where Poppy took us through making shrimp remoulade, seafood gumbo, chicken creole and frozen creole cream cheese with calas.
Frozen Brandy Milk Punch

I've sat in on cooking demos before and I went to culinary school for 8 months to get my pastry certification but what set this apart was the rich culinary history Poppy shared with us as she went about making each of the dishes.  I wish I had thought to take notes or even video but I think even that would have been a thin representation of how vibrant she was and how interesting the history was behind the dishes she was making.
Shrimp bought just that morning at the farmers market
Our first course was Shrimp Remoulade.  I was a bit leery when it was being made as I'm not fond of mustard and the remoulade uses quite a bit of it.  But I tried it and I'm almost embarrassed to say I couldn't eat it fast enough.  It was so good, didn't taste mustard-y at all and the fresh shrimp (bought at the Crescent City Farmers Market just that morning) in the remoulade sauce was delicious.  Poppy put it together effortlessly and it was just yummy (I'll be using that word a lot in the next few posts for our next courses, just so you know). 

Shrimp Remoulade, recipe from New Orleans Cooking Experience
1 cup Creole mustard
1 bunch green onions
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
1 celery heart
4 tablespoons paprika (you want the sweet Hungarian paprika)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
juice of one lemon

Combine green onions and parsley in food processor.  Process together until finely minced  Add the remainder of the ingredients.  Serve over boiled shrimp on a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce or as a dipping sauce of savory calas.

Friday, January 25, 2013

New Orleans, Day 1 - Bananas Foster

I just got back from a short culinary tour of New Orleans.  I've always wanted to go to New Orleans and my main criteria was timing: I knew I didn't want to go during Mardi Gras, Superbowl Week, jazz festival or hurricane season (either too crowded or too risky, weather-wise).  So when I saw this trip advertised in the Sur La Table catalog as Tasting New Orleans and that they were offering the 4-day, 3-night tour in January, the timing was perfect and I jumped at it.

It was actually more like a 2.5 day tour.  Our first event was Monday night as a meet and greet at St. Marie Hotel's Vacherie Restaurant.  We got a horse-drawn carriage ride around the French Quarter from our hotel on Bourbon St to Vacherie where Elizabeth Pearce, a culinary historian who gives culinary and cocktail walking tours of New Orleans, told us about the official cocktail of New Orleans, the Sazerac.  I don't drink but always find culinary history interesting and Elizabeth did a great job making the story come alive.  We all got tastings of the sazerac.  I took a sip just to try it and that was more than enough for me.  I'd really come on the trip for the food.
A tasting of the Sazerac and spicy pecans
After that initial cocktail hour, we were on our own for the evening.  I had already arranged to meet a friend I had gotten to know from my old online fitness board.  Jen lived in New Orleans and was the perfect person to give me the inside "locals" scoop on where to go and what to eat.  Plus, from our exchanges online over the years, I also knew I'd love to meet her in person and knew I'd like her in person as much as I did online (and I was right).  I had emailed her a list of foods I had to try (mostly desserts, of course) while I was in New Orleans and one of them was Bananas Foster.  Her husband suggested Palace Cafe which was owned by Brennan's, the restaurant that invented Bananas Foster in 1951. How could we go wrong?
My steak and shrimp entree
Jen's rotisserie chicken entree 
Turns out we couldn't.  We met at Palace Cafe on Canal St and got a front table by the window overlooking the street.  Later on, we saw some of the Mardi Gras floats being transported in preparation for the upcoming parade.  I got a steak and shrimp entree but truthfully I was looking forward to dessert.  It didn't disappoint.  The waiter prepared the Bananas Foster table-side - heat the skillet, melt the butter and brown sugar, add the banana liqueur then the bananas until they caramelize but are still firm.  Of course, the whole point of getting Bananas Foster is setting the dessert on fire once you add the rum.  Although alcohol's not my thing, I have no problem with it being set aflame for a cool-looking dessert.  The Bananas Foster was amazingly yummy.  It was a great way to start off a culinary adventure.
Our waiter was used to getting photographed by tourists
Melting down the butter and brown sugar

Add bananas and caramelize
Add rum and set on fire
Eat and savor every bite
 Jen was also kind enough to bring me some treats from my must-eat list from Gambino's Bakery, where a former boss once gave me their red velvet cake for Christmas.  She brought me a slice of King Cake, doberge torte petit fours in caramel and lemon and an almond white chocolate and a chocolate petit fours.  Stay tuned as I write up the rest of the trip in all its delicious, worth-every-calorie detail.

Recipe from Brennan's
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup banana liqueur
  • 4 bananas, cut in half
    lengthwise, then halved
  • ¼ cup dark rum
  • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream

    Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet. Place the pan over low heat either on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan. When the banana sections soften Bananas Fosterand begin to brown, carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum. When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

German Chocolate Cake Bars

German Chocolate Cake Bars - made January 16, 2013, recipe adapted from Six Sisters' Stuff

Although I'm not a fan of box cake mixes, I am a fan of German Chocolate Cake or any version thereof.  So I put my snobbery aside for this recipe.  You just can't go wrong with chocolate and a gooey coconut topping.  Plus this was super easy to make and is perfect when you're short on time and need a decent number of servings.  I needed something for both dinner with my friends and a team lunch and there was enough of these bars to go around for everyone's goodie bags.

They turned out okay although I think I inadvertently overbaked them so mine didn't look as good as the picture from Six Sisters' Stuff.  Plus, my snobby taste buds kicked in and I could taste the cake mix.  The topping was good but next time I think I would go with my snobby inclinations and bake a German chocolate cake base from scratch.

1 box devil's food cake mix (not the kind with pudding added)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup chopped pecans (toast them first to bring out their flavor)
1 cup shredded coconut (I used sweetened coconut)
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the cake mix, butter and egg, and press into the bottom of the prepared pan. The crust should not come up the sides. Bake for 7 minutes and remove from the oven. The crust will not look done.
  3. While the crust is baking, mix together the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, egg, pecans and coconut. Pour evenly over the warm crust and sprinkle evenly with the chocolate chips. Bake for 24-30 minutes, until the top is a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting into squares.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Black Gold Cookies - in honor of the 49ers, the NFC Champs

Black Gold Cookies - made January 19, 2013 from Hugs & Cookies

I'm blogging a little out of order as I had decided on these cookies yesterday, the day before the NFC Championship game.  I adapted them from Hugs & Cookies but added Milky Way Caramels and am re-naming them Black Gold Cookies in honor of the NFC Champs, the San Francisco 49ers.  I've been a 49er fan since the 1982 NFC Championship game, 49ers vs the Cowboys, when Joe Montana threw the winning touchdown to Dwight Clark, aka The Catch.  I've hung in there with the Niners over the years through thick (Montana, Clark, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, Ronnie Lott, Steve Young, Coach Bill Walsh) and thin....and thin and emaciation (we won't name names for these periods).  We're getting back into "thick" territory again with a trip to the Superbowl in 2 weeks!  So cookies in their honor seem apropos.

Why black gold?  Because that's what chocolate is, of course.  At least to me.  But to make it more color literal, I added the Milky Way Caramels and you can just see liquid gold peeking out from this cookie.  This is a pretty rich cookie - we're talking 5-mile run kind of cookie.  As with most chocolate cookies, I actually prefer these at room temperature when the chocolate has a chance to set.  Try to cover the caramels with the cookie dough as much as feasible so the caramel doesn't leak out too much during baking.  A little peeking out looks pretty, a lot makes for overly chewy caramel once it's baked.  The dough is rather soft but does become more firm as the melted chocolate chips cool in the batter.  You want to scoop these out fairly soon after mixing the dough so it doesn't become too difficult to portion them out into dough balls.

1 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Milky Way Caramels, chopped
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

  1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Melt the 8 ounces of chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler over hot water until smooth.  Let cool slightly.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla. Set aside. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.  Beat in the sugars. 
  4. Mix in the beaten egg/vanilla until incorporated.  Add the melted chocolate and beat until combined.  Add the dry ingredients on slow speed.  Fold in the chocolate chips and Milky Way Caramels.
  5. Scoop into dough balls and chill for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cookies have just begun to set with the centers still appearing very soft.  They will firm up as they cool.
  7. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.