Category Archives: Chocolate

Salted Caramel Brownies

Okay, before we get down to the recipe promised above, let’s talk HAMILTON!   (For those of you just joining the blog, that is the name of James’ current show, playing at the Public Theater.)    Now, I don’t think it’s appropriate to share theater reviews on a baking blog, (mostly just because Hamilton has not  officially opened,) so this is not me doing that.  But just allow me to say that this was just about the most life-changing show I’ve ever seen.  (And I’m more cynical than Ben Brantley, John Simon and Michael Riedel all rolled into one.  For those of you unfamiliar with Michael Riedel, check out his latest column here.  MeOW!)

And, oh, while I’m at it, check out the Wall Street Journal on Hamilton here and this New Yorker article here. Read ’em and weep, friends, because the whole run is sold out.  But maybe Michael Riedel is right and you’ll be able to catch the show on Broadway soon!

But enough not reviewing Hamilton — there’s a Salted Caramel Brownie recipe to share.

James managed to send me the following in the midst of tech rehearsals, so I’ll just share his story in its entirety:

“My friend Harriet Weil, a production manager, who I first met working at the Shakespeare Theatre in DC, always finds time to send brownies to my tech rehearsals when she knows I am too busy to bake. This year, she sent up two kinds:  Salted Caramel Brownies and Cream Cheese Brownies. There was a line of cast and crew at my tech table on our break. They were all gone so fast that I could not even get  one photo!  I decided to try Harriet’s recipe the next week for our first Wine and Unwind, and the results were wonderful. Here is the recipe and a photo of my attempt at the Salted Caramel Brownies”:

The recipe called for a brownie mix. Below is a variation of my fudgy brownie recipe, but any brownie recipe should work.

Ingredients:

1½ cups (3 sticks) butter
12 oz. unsweetened chocolate
3¾ cups sugar
6 large eggs
1½ cups all-purpose flour
20 caramels, unwrapped
2 tablespoons milk
Sea Salt — flaky type, like Maldon, is most desirable
Caramel filled chocolate candies, like Dove. (Optional. I added this to the recipe.)

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease a 9″ x 13″ pan using oil or non-stick spray

2.  Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat.  Remove from heat and whisk in sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition.  Stir in flour until it is is just blended.  (Note, if you use a brownie mix, just make the mix according to the package directions and ignore this step.)

3.  Spread half the batter into prepared oiled pan.  Add caramel filled chocolate candies on top of batter. Use as many or as few as you desire.   Spread remaining half of the batter on top of the candies.

4.  Caramel sauce:  Place 20 unwrapped caramels and milk in a microsafe bowl and heat on high for 1 minute.  If the caramels are still stiff,  heat for an additional 20-30 seconds until the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Spread caramel sauce over brownie batter and swirl using a butter knife.

5.  You may add a little sea salt on top before baking. Bake about 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick plunged into the center comes out clean.   Sprinkle sea salt on top as soon as they come out of the oven for an additional salty/sweet taste.

6.  Cool completely before attempting to cut into squares.

Peanut Butter/Nutella Brownies

The Cast and Crew of Hamilton
The cast and crew of Hamilton (photo by Joan Marcus)

 

Hamilton had its first preview on January 20, and the packed house went wild!  (The Public has a “First Performance Free for All” where the first row of every new show this season is given out by lottery.   Over 9,000 people signed up online to try to get those tickets!)  They’ve already extended the run at the Public through April 5, but I hear that even that new block of tickets is mostly sold out.  But still, give it a try here.

So the following degenerate recipe was featured at last week’s Wine and Unwind.  (I call them degenerate because I needed to find a synonym for decadent, which is highly overused in this blog.  A brownie batter featuring peanut butter AND Nutella?  If that’s not degenerate, I don’t know what is!)

Peanut Butter/Nutella Brownies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter (2 sticks), melted
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup peanut butter

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and grease a 9″ x 13″ glass pan

1.  In a medium bowl combine all-purpose flour, cocoa (sift this in to get rid of lumps), baking powder and salt. Set aside.

2.  Over low heat, melt butter and stir in sugar until well combined.  Remove from heat and and vanilla extract.

3.  To the butter-sugar mixture add eggs, one at a time. With a wooden spoon vigorously mix in each egg until well combined.  Then whisk in the cocoa mixture until fully combined.

4.  In a microwave-safe bowl, add Nutella and peanut butter. Heat in the microwave in 20 second intervals until it just reaches a runny consistency.  (Be careful!  This mixture is so high in fat that it can scorch easily)   Stir into the batter.

5.  Pour the batter into your prepared 9 x 13 pan.  Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Let brownies cool completely before cutting.  Makes approximately 20 brownies.

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Chris Jackson (who plays George Washington) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (who plays Alexander Hamilton)

 

Nina Jacobs from wardrobe enjoying a Sunday treat

Nina Jacobs from wardrobe enjoying a Sunday treat

 

Thayne Jasperson, a member of the ensemble

 Thayne Jasperson, a member of the ensemble

Almond Happiness Brownies

The BB has taken a bit of a hiatus lately, what with the holidays and rehearsals for his new show, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton at the Public Theatre.  (I’d say get your tickets now, but I understand it’s already sold out!  And it doesn’t open until January 20!)  Of course, this doesn’t mean James hasn’t been baking (and cooking), it just means he hasn’t been taking pictures of everything.

But that stops now with a very decadent recipe that does NOT fit into my New Years’ diet.  Maybe it fits into yours.   (Aw heck, who am I kidding?  I’ll be making these ASAP!)

Lin-Manuel MirandaLin-Manuel Miranda, the composer-lyricist and lead pouring Coquito for the Hamilton cast at Sunday’s Wine and Unwind.

ALMOND HAPPINESS BROWNIES

Ingredients:

*For the brownie layer:
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

*If you’re rushed for time, you can also just use 1 box of family size Chocolate Fudge brownie mix.  No one’s judging you!

For filling:
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (14 oz.) bag coconut
1/4 C milk

For topping:
1 C chocolate chips, melted
1/4 C almonds (or other nuts), crushed

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line (regular size, not mini) cupcake pan with paper liners. (Don’t skip the paper liners as these will stick).

2.  Make brownies: In a large bowl, stir together the cocoa and baking soda. Add 1/3 cup vegetable oil and boiling water. Mix until well blended and thickened. Stir in the sugar, eggs, and remaining 1/3 cup oil. Finally, add the flour, vanilla and salt; mix just until all of the flour is absorbed. Pour batter only half way up the liners.

3.  Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes. While they are baking, mix the coconut, sweetened condensed milk and milk together.

4.  Remove brownies from oven and spoon on some sweetened coconut.  Place back in oven and continue to bake an additional 14-16 minutes.

5.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing them from the pan. Drizzle on the chocolate then sprinkle on the almonds.

 

Carleigh Bettiol and Sasha HutchingsCarleigh Bettiol and Sasha Hutchings enjoying some wine and goodies. Notice the prop table!

Jasmine Cephas JonesJasmine Cephas Jones and a nice shot of the Almond Happiness Brownies

No-bake Peanut Butter Bars

PB bars

I just got back from a delightful 24 hours in Red Bank, New Jersey, where James is stage managing Moliere’s “School For Wives” at the Two River Theater.

Two River

The show runs through October 5 and I highly recommend getting out there if you can —  Robert Stanton is wonderful as always (I worked with him on my very first Equity show, A.R. Gurney’s “A Cheever Evening” back at the old Playwright’s Horizon theater.  He is one funny, funny man and a very fine actor!)   The rest of the cast is terrific too, director Mark Wing-Davy is inventive and irreverent as always, and the production values at this theater are truly first-rate.  (Plus, the theater is within walking distance of the train and Jon Bon Jovi’s community restaurant Soul Kitchen.)

Not to arrive empty-handed (yes, I always bring treats to every show I see) I brought a batch of these No-Bake Peanut Butter bars, having found the recipe on Facebook.  (No idea other than that who came up with this.)  These are so delicious and more-ish that I just had to get them out of the house.  The cast and crew seemed to agree, since they were all gone by the end of the show.

CArson Elrod
Carson Elrod, who plays Alain,  enjoying a pre-show sugar fix.

No-bake Peanut Butter Bars

Ingredients:

1 cup salted butter (melted)
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup peanut butter — natural, non-sweetened kind is best
1/2 tsp.vanilla extract
1 (12 oz) bag milk chocolate chips

Method:

1. Combine all ingredients, except chocolate chips, in a medium-sized bowl. Stir until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
2. Pour peanut butter mixture into a 9 x 13 pan.
3. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave for 1-2 minutes in 30 second increments until almost melted. Stir chocolate and pour over the peanut butter mixture. Spread chocolate with a spatula. To even out chocolate, tap pan on the counter.
4. Refrigerate bars for one hour. Cut while bars are still cool. Enjoy

 

Julia Kulaya Wardrobe
Julia Kulaya, Wardrobe

All the (Milky) Way Cheesecake Brownies

Jersey Boys Tony Good wishes

“Jersey Boys” cast and crew wishing their across the street neighbors good luck on Tony night!

“All the Way” represented at Broadway’s biggest awards show, bringing the Tonys for Best Play and Best Performance by an Actor home to 52nd Street.   Our Backstage Baker was at Radio City in his tux to enjoy the show and party until dawn.  (Okay, maybe not exactly dawn, but there was some party hopping happening!)

And on post-Tony Tuesday, James brought in a celebratory batch of  decadent “All the (Milky) Way Cheesecake Brownies.”  Enjoy!

All the (Milky) Way Brownies 1

All The (Milky) Way Cheesecake Brownies

Ingredients:

Brownie Layer

1 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

 Cheesecake Layer
16 oz cream cheese, softened (2 packs)
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 bag chopped Milky Way Simply Caramel Bites (these are great because you don’t have to unwrap the individual candies.)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of  a 9/13 pan with parchment paper. Lightly grease the paper.

1. With a mixer combine melted butter with sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Add the cocoa and mix well. Then add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined, do not over mix.

2. Set aside one cup of the brownie batter and smooth the rest into the 9×13 prepared pan

3. With your mixer  (cleaned off), begin making your cheesecake layer by beating cream cheese and sugar until smooth.

4. Add the vanilla and then the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.

5. Pour the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie mixture and using a spatula, smooth it evenly over the brownie batter.

6. Sprinkle the chopped Milky Way Simple Caramel pieces evenly over cream cheese layer.

7. Using the reserved cup of brownie batter, drop spoonfuls over the top of the candy bar layer, scattering around.

8. Use your spatula or a butter knife to gently swirl the batters. This will combine the cream cheese layer and top brownies layer a bit, which covering the candies in batter. This does not need to be perfect.

9. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares (at least an hour).

I like these cold so I refrigerate after cooled. Any leftovers (if there are any leftovers) should be refrigerated.

 

 

Slutty Brownies

Slutty6

 

These are just the epitome of decadence.  I mean, brownies with a chocolate chip cookie AND an Oreo cookie layer????  I must admit I take issue with them being called “Slutty” Brownies (I mean, why not “Dirty Boy” or “Gigolo” Brownies??)  but that’s what they’re called, so . . .

Anyway, these are so good that the Backstage Baker made these twice — once for a Wine and Unwind and once for a social with the Jersey Boys company (the theaters are across the street from each other.  All Broadway is family!)

Slutty Brownies

Ingredients:

Cookie layer:
1½ cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1½ sticks butter, melted
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
Pinch of salt

1 package of Oreo cookies

Brownie layer:
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling coffee
3/4 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsps vanilla
2½ cups sugar
1½ cups flour
Pinch of salt

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9×13″ brownie pan with parchment paper and grease the paper.
2.  For the cookie layer:  Mix the wet ingredients for the cookie layer (egg, butter, and vanilla) with the sugar until smooth.  Mix the rest of the cookie layer ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Stir into the wet ingredients in small increments into everything is well mixed.  Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour into the pan and cover the entire bottom surface evenly.
3.  Add a layer of Oreo cookies on top of the chocolate chip cookie layer. As much of the surface should be covered as possible without overlapping cookies.
4.  For the brownie layer:  Whisk the cocoa powder into the boiling coffee until there are no clumps. Add the oil and butter, and again stir until smooth.  Mix in the eggs and vanilla, making sure the mixture before adding is cool enough the eggs will not cook. Once this is all smooth, stir in the sugar.Stir in the flour, salt, and mix until smooth.
5.  Pour the brownie batter all over the Oreos.
Bake for an hour. Allow to cool for two hours before serving.

 

Slutty1
More than just wine at WINE AND UNWIND

 

Slutty2
The layers

 

Slutty3
Susannah Schulman who plays Barb, along with a million other roles

 

Slutty4
The completed batch

 

Slutty5
Actor Christopher Gurr enjoying a bite

 

Slutty7
Layering the cookies

 

Slutty8
The cookie layer

 

Slutty9
Michael McKean enjoying a taste.

Breakaways — Not (Breaking) Bad at All!

breakaways1

“All the Way” is almost two weeks into the preview part of putting together a Broadway show, having begun its previews on February 11. James always says that previews are often harder than technical rehearsals.  During tech, the hours are long but you go through the show in order from beginning to end. During previews, you are onstage with sets and lights, and these rehearsals jump throughout the show to focus on the problem parts, so cast and crew are kept on their toes.   They are in for almost-daily rehearsals from 12:30pm – 5:30pm, then crew and stage managers are called at 6:30pm for an 8:00pm show,  then the production staff and stage managers finish the evening with a production meeting. Stage managers are in for more than 12 hours a day.

It rather goes without saying that James did not have the luxury of baking something too elaborate or time-consuming for their first Wine and Unwind at the theater.   So, he turned to a tried and true PTA bake sale recipe I’d sent him a while ago, adding his own distinctive fillip with chopped almonds and flaked sea salt on top of the chocolate. They were a hit with the wine. (James also thought they were appropriate since “All the Way” stars Bryan Cranston,  star of the TV series “BREAKING BAD”!)

Salty Chocolate Breakaways

Ingredients:
1 sleeve Saltine crackers
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 bag Nestle’s chocolate chips
1 Tablespoon Flaked Sea Salk
1/4 finely chopped almonds

Method:
1.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, then place Saltine crackers on foil.
Melt butter in microwave, then add sugar to butter and stir. Evenly spread the butter and sugar mixture on crackers and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 20 minutes.

2.  Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over entire cookie sheet. Return it to the oven just long enough to melt the morsels.

3.  Remove from oven and spread chocolate evenly. Sprinkle on salt and almonds and then place in refrigerator to cool. When cool, peel back the foil and break into pieces.

breakaways5

Who knew that a Cotes du Ventoux would pair so beautifully with saltines, butter, sugar and chocolate?

breakaways3

Production Stage Manager Matthew Farrell, Production Assistant Sarah Perlin, Cast Member Robert Petkoff, Follow Spot Operator John Kelly.

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes with Red Wine Chocolate Glaze

Red wine cupcakes2For last Sunday’s Wine and Unwind after Week #2 of rehearsal, James made these fantastic Triple Chocolate Cupcakes with a red wine chocolate glaze.  (The balsamic vinegar in the topping really brings out the chocolate.)  He’s made Red Wine Chocolate Brownies in the past (for recipe click here), but these are on a whole different level.  (Can I just say that this recipe contains one of my favorite instructions ever:  “Pour in the wine, vanilla, oil and eggs.”  It just sounds so, well, Classic in that Roman/Greek mythological sense.)

Regarding the show, James tells me that it is Shakespearean in its epic scope.  You’ve got assassinations, war, power struggles, and hubris playing out against the backdrop of 1960s America.  This production, by the way, originated last year at Cambridge’s American Repertory Theater and received stellar reviews (here’s just one, from Variety).  Previews for this Broadway production begin on February 10 and the show is a strictly limited engagement, only running through June 29, so get those tickets now!!

It’s been whirlwind of rehearsals so far — about half the cast did the ART production, but the rest are new to the show, so the vibe in the rehearsal room has been intense.  And the cast is onstage for a week of tech starting this Tuesday!  So soon!  They’ll need all the chocolate they can get.

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes with Red Wine Chocolate Glaze

Cupcake Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoom baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups red wine (James used a Malbec, but any full-bodied red will do)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup dark chocolate chips (melted)

For Red Wine Chocolate Glaze:
2 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup red wine (same as used in the cupcakes)
1/2 cup Karo syrup
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Additional chocolate to shave for decoration

Method:

For cupcakes:
1.  Preheat oven to 325º F.
2.  Line 2 cupcake pans. (Tip: After you line the pans, spray the liners with some non-stick spray. It will keep the cupcakes from sticking to the paper. Don’t spray if you are using the foil liners or the cupcakes will fall out when you are icing)
3.  In a large mixing bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder. Mix everything so that it is evenly distributed.
4.  Make a “well” in the center of the dry ingredients.  Into the well, pour in the wine, vanilla, oil and eggs.  Mix on low speed until combined and lump free.
5.  Pour in the melted chocolate chips and mix until thoroughly combined.
6.  Fill lined cupcake pan. Fill each liner to the top. Important to do this so you get a nice dome on each cupcake.
7.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The cupcakes will puff quite a bit, and when done should be slightly firm to the touch, but be able to spring back.

Let cool slightly before dipping in chocolate wine topping.

For topping:
1.  Microwave everything in a microwave safe bowl for two minutes.
2.  Remove from microwave, carefully, and stir until smooth and shiny.
3.  Let cool, and dip cupcake tops into the chocolate. Repeat after they’ve set up a bit. Garnish with shaved chocolate.

Red Wine cupcakes

Salted Chocolate Caramels

Salted Chocolate CaramelsOkay, I’ve hijacked this blog once again to post a recipe of my own.  Well, not exactly my own, it actually comes from the now sadly defunct “Gourmet Magazine,” circa 2006.  But this is my go-to Christmas gift.  Some people bake scads of holiday cookies and while I’ve done that too, it’s these Salted Chocolate Caramels that people actually remember and ask for, year after year.  So here’s the recipe.

One important note:  Candy thermometers and specific temperatures can make a recipe sound onerous and difficult, but the secret to this one is to read it all the way through each time you make it.  I know, you’re ALWAYS supposed to read recipes all the way through, but I’m lazy and don’t.  Trust me when I tell you I’ve thrown out just about as many batches as I’ve given away.  And really, it’s all because I forget to read through the recipe.  Just do it.  It’s really not that hard.  (The recipe, that is!)

Salted Chocolate Caramels
(from Gourmet Magazine, 2006)

Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
10 1/2 oz fine-quality dark chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt such as Maldon
Vegetable oil for greasing

Method:
1.  Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch straight-sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment.

2.  Bring cream just to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan over moderately high heat, then reduce heat to low and add chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then stir until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat.

3.  Bring sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt to a boil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot (I like to use a ceramic-coated, Le Creuset-style Dutch oven) over moderate heat,  stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, uncovered, without stirring but gently swirling pan occasionally, until sugar is deep golden, about 10 minutes.

4.  Carefully pour in chocolate mixture (be warned:  mixture will bubble and steam vigorously). Continue to boil over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until mixture registers 255°F on thermometer, about 15 minutes.  Be precise about this temperature — anything above 255 will give you an almost solid, hard candy.

5.  Add butter, stirring until completely melted, then immediately pour into lined baking pan (do not scrape any caramel clinging to bottom or side of saucepan or else your finished product will have a burnt flavor to it.)

6. Let caramel stand 10 minutes, then sprinkle evenly with sea salt. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours.

7.  Carefully invert caramel onto a clean, dry cutting board, then peel off parchment. Turn caramel salt side up.

8.  Lightly oil blade of a large heavy knife and cut into 1-inch squares.

Yield: 64 caramels

More notes: Additional sea salt can be pressed onto caramels after cutting.

Caramels keep, layered between sheets of parchment or wax paper, in an airtight container at cool room temperature 2 weeks or they can be wrapped in 4-inch squares of wax paper; twist ends to close.

Check out my pal Miranda Levenstein’s recipe blog here — she has this recipe posted there too, but with how-to pictures.

Egg Nog and Chocolate Babka – A Sublime Holiday Partnership

Babka

Now these next two recipes are from me, not our Backstage Baker, but he has given his seal of approval for both.  And, if I do say so myself, they really are a perfect treat for the holidays.   I made them both last Sunday and enjoyed them with my boys after we participated in a local Messiah sing-a-long.

I just have to digress and tell you about this Messiah.  On one level, I must confess, it was the most ear-cringingly bad rendition of this holiday classic that you are ever likely to hear.  The orchestra was chaotic, the singers were pitchy, and no one, it seemed, could count.  Handel must have been rolling over in his grave.

However, it was, conversely, also one of the most magical Messiahs I’ve ever experienced.  Everyone involved was in the same boat – all doing our very best to steer through the treacherous waters of a very sophisticated and difficult oratorio.  And we all had to approach it with the same sense of enthusiasm and willingness to fail in order to perform.   No one could judge anyone else because, well, no one knew their part perfectly.  My inner soprano, of course, sat next to my inner critic, and they tsk’d and humpf’d and shook their heads at the untold mistakes swirling about:  “If you’re going to be THIS bad, then don’t do it at all!” they cried.  However, we collectively refused to buy into negativity and pushed on regardless.   And every once in a while we all got it together and were rewarded with a glorious, perfect chord or three.  Like in the Hallelujah – everyone could belt that out and it was divine.  Those few moments of sublime partnership made the rest of it all worthwhile.  And, in the end, isn’t that what the holidays (and life) are all about?

Light Egg Nog

I love egg nog, but it’s often so heavy and fatty that I can’t eat anything else after a glass.   And who wants to miss eating all those delectable holidays treats?  So, I’ve experimented over the years with various “light” recipes that I’ve found in magazines and on the Internet, and this is what I’ve come up with.  My kids ask for it every year and now, they can even (mostly) make it themselves!

SBC Nog making

Ingredients:

2 cups milk
2 large strips orange or lemon zest
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. vanilla extract)
2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch (dissolve it thoroughly in 1 tablespoon of warm water to avoid lumpy nog!)
White run or bourbon (optional.  Do not give liquored up nog to children.)
Ground nutmeg, for garnish (freshly grated if you have it!!)

Method:

1.  Combine 1 1/2 cups milk and citrus zest in a medium saucepan.  Split vanilla bean in half and scrape out seeds.  Add seeds and pod to pot and bring to a simmer.

2.  Meanwhile, whisk eggs, cornstarch and sugar in a medium bowl until pale yellow.

3.  Gradually pour hot milk mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly, then pour back into saucepan.  Place over medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes.

4.  Remove from heat and immediately stir in last 1/2 cup of milk to stop the cooking.  Sit bottom of pot into a large bowl with ice and water, stirring until cool.  Chill further in fridge until ready to serve.

5.  Removed zest strips and vanilla pod.  Spike with liquor, if desired and garnish with nutmeg.

Bread Machine Chocolate Babka (adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, 2009)

Ingredients:

For babka dough:

3/4 cup warm, 1% milk
6 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups bread flour
5 tbsp. butter, cut into pieces

For babka filling:
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
4 oz. mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped semi sweet chocolate bar)

Method:

1. Put all dough ingredients (in order listed above) into bread maker and set on “Dough” setting.  When dough is complete, remove from bread maker and stretch/roll/knead it out into a 16″ square.

2. Sprinkle filling over dough, leaving a 1/2″ border around the edges.

3. Roll up dough tightly, then twist, pinching seam and ends to seal. Fit dough into bread loaf pan that has been coated with cooking spray. Allow to rise for 45 minutes.

4. Bake in 350* oven for approximately 40 minutes (until brown on top and sounding hollow when rapped on bottom.)

5. Coo1 completely (or at least mostly) before slicing, otherwise it will fall apart!

NOTE:  I have split the dough into thirds and made mini-babkas in mini-loaf pans.  These make excellent holiday gifts!