ANZAC Biscuits

I’m hijacking the Backstage Baker to blog a recipe I have been meaning to blog for years.

ANZAC biscuits are the traditional cookies baked to celebrate ANZAC day, April 25.   My excuse is that it’s a holiday we don’t celebrate here in the US, so I never have fair warning.  Luckily, one of my Antipodean cousins reminded me in time to get it together this year.  And perhaps it’s appropriate that I’ve waited until the 100th anniversary of the battle it commemorates to share this recipe.

ANZAC Day memorializes the sacrifices made by the Australian-New Zealand Army Corps who fought against the Turkish Army at Gallipoli in April 1915.  Landing on April 25, the ANZACs were tasked with capturing the peninsula as a first step to capturing Constantinople so that Britain could have free access to the Black Sea, thus neutralizing the Ottoman Empire for the rest of WWI.  (Writing this seems like such ancient history. World War 1? Constantinople? The Ottomans? Is Helen of Troy going to show up too? Oh yeah, actually this was also near where ancient Troy was located. War has been an enduring theme for this area.  But I digress)

Mother England spearheaded this campaign and used the troops from Down Under to do their dirty work.  But they didn’t reckon on the fierce resistance of Kemal Ataturk’s Army, and what was supposed to be a quick, decisive battle dragged out for months.  Both sides suffered heavy casualties (over 450,000 by some counts) and the remaining ANZACs were finally evacuated eight months later.  It was all very complicated and futile.  (Perhaps you remember Gallipoli — Peter Weir’s 1981 film starring Mel Gibson?  It’s about this battle.  You should watch it.)

Gallipoli is also a battle in which my great-Uncles Frank and Maurice Loftus fought, so this holiday is about a little more than cookies for me.  Great Uncle Frank corresponded regularly with his mother, and sent these letters home.  His Kiwi understatement combined with his sharp observations of battle are incomparable, and we’re so lucky these letters were preserved.  So read them.  If you want.

(Just an aside:  Frank survived Gallipoli, then served further in France, where he suffered a mustard gas attack. He was wounded three times during the war, and received the Croix de Guerre and a kiss from the King of the Belgians.)

My mother once told me a story about visiting a New Zealand veterans’ home with her Catholic School choir.  There was one man there, she said, who had been dreadfully wounded at Gallipoli and lost his arms and legs.  He was carried into the room in a small basket, and had the most beatific smile on his face as the girls sang.  My mother always felt guilty that she broke down in tears when she saw him and was unable to sing.

(You’ll excuse me as I go read some light poetry by Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.)

Anyway, the story behind these biscuits is that they were baked and sent by the wives of the ANZACs to the soldiers because they travel well and don’t spoil easily.  I think this explains why they have never been a particular favorite of mine, but if you ever need to send biscuits to soldiers overseas, these are the ones to make.

Below is my mother’s recipe for ANZAC Biscuits. I’ve adapted it below for American ingredients, but don’t you just love the neat handwriting my mother had!!

ANZAC recipe

ANZAC Biscuits
(recipe from Margaret Loftus Ranald)

Ingredients:

1 stick butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons Golden Syrup (you can find this in most grocery baking sections, or substitute light corn syrup.  I’ve used honey with fine results.)
3/4 cup oatmeal (quick or original, either is fine)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda (dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup flaked coconut
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a stand mixer, cream butter, sugar, vanilla and Golden Syrup.  in a separate bowl, whisk oatmeal, flour, and salt.  Add dry ingredients and baking soda solution to creamed mixture and mix until just combined.  Stir in walnuts and coconut by hand.

Roll about a tablespoon of dough into a ball and place on lined cookie sheet, flattening slightly.  (NOTE: I always use a Silpat, but parchment paper is fine too.  Or just grease the cookie sheet.  It’s all fine.)

Bake for approximately 10 minutes.  Remove from cookie sheets and let cool.

ANZAC biscuits

Brownie Batter-Stuffed Cupcakes with Fluffy Peanut Butter Icing

Brownie Stuffed Cupcakes 2
These were served at the Easter Sunday Wine and Unwind, hence the pink bunny rabbit.

These are so impossibly decadent that I will let the recipe speak for itself:

Brownie Batter-Stuffed Cupcakes

Ingredients:

For the brownie batter portion (to keep it simple, you can also use a boxed brownie mix):

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

In a large bowl, stir together the cocoa and baking soda. Add 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.

Set aside (DO NOT BAKE YET!!)

For the cupcake portion:

1 (18.25 ounce) package chocolate cake mix (you could also use white or yellow)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/3 cups water
3 egg whites

Method:

1.  Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.  Using mini-muffin pans, line 48 muffin cups with paper liners.

2.  Mix the cake mix, 2 tablespoons canola oil, 1 1/3 cup water, and 3 egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Now there are two ways to proceed:

3.  For a chewier brownie interior, spoon the brownie batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each cup 1/3 full. Spoon the cake batter over the brownie batter, until muffin cups are each 2/3 full.

4.  For a more molten brownie interior, start by adding 1 tablespoon of cake batter to each paper lined cup, then your brownie batter then top with cake batter. This will make them easier to remove from the liner too.  (This was James’ preferred method.)

5.  Bake in the preheated oven until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 20 minutes.

Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons milk, or as needed
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Method:

Place the butter and peanut butter into a medium bowl, and beat with an electric mixer. Gradually mix in the sugar, and when it starts to get thick, incorporate milk one tablespoon at a time until all of the sugar is mixed in and the frosting is thick and spreadable. Beat for at least 3 minutes so it is nice and fluffy. James piped the icing on to the cooled cupcakes using his trusty pastry bag and a flower tip, and topped that with jellybeans.

Needless to say, they were a big hit with the Hamilton cast.

Stuffed cupcakes
I mean, really, what else is there to say?

Nirvana Bars (Gluten-free)

Nirvana Bars
These may well have been the biggest hit at any Wine and Unwind ever.

Leslie Odom Jr
Leslie Odom, Jr. (Aaron Burr) enjoying Nirvana

These bars are so simple to make, and are gluten-free AND can easily be made dairy-free/vegan as well.  They’re win win win for any gathering.   Just don’t try to reduce coconut milk and sugar yourself because this is what happens:

Nirvana Oops!

Actually, the photo doesn’t do the tragedy credit — James tried to make the first batch vegan, but didn’t have any sweetened condensed coconut milk on hand.  So ever the problem solver, he tried reducing coconut milk and sugar down into a thick, syrupy vegan dulce de leche sort of thing.  But it was late and after about an hour and a half of cooking and stirring, he just poured it on the crust.  Only a few middle pieces didn’t burn!  I only share this so that you know that even the Backstage Baker has his share of baking tragedies.  Luckily, he lives in New York City and can get anything at anytime — yes, even sweetened condensed coconut milk at 2am — so he was able to make a fresh batch.

Thayne
Ensemble member Thayne Jasperson helping himself to a piece, with Daveed Diggs, who plays Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, in the background opening champagne.

Nirvana Bars

(inspired by The Gluten Free Goddess)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter or vegan buttery stick, such as Earth Balance
1 1/2 cups gluten-free chocolate cookies, processed into crumbs  (I used Tate’s)
1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet or dark, your choice)
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup chopped roasted almonds
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk (if you want to make this vegan, substitute coconut sweetened condensed milk here.  But DO NOT try to reduce regular coconut milk and sugar because it won’t work!)

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

2.  Place the butter in a 9×13-inch baking pan and set it in the oven until the butter is melted. Tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly.

3.  Toss the cookie crumbs in the buttered pan until they are completely coated with butter.  Press them into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Pour the condensed milk on top of the cookie layer. Then add a layer of chocolate chips, a layer of coconut, a layer of almonds. Using the back of a spatula, press the mixture firmly into the pan.

4.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 to 25 minutes, until set.

5.  Cool completely on a wire rack. Chill thoroughly before cutting.  James drizzled chocolate over the top for an extra festive fillip.

Makes 15 to 20 bars.

Chocolate Swirl Mini-cheesecakes

Mini cheesecakes

I’m behind on my Wine and Unwind posts — this recipe is actually from two weeks ago.  But, oh my, was this ever a popular one!  Nothing hits the spot better after a five show weekend than cheesecake and champagne (thanks again, Anna Wintour, for the case of bubbly.)

I was only able to get a couple of pictures because JULIA ROBERTS was in the house that night and came backstage afterwards.  To say the green room was crowded was an understatement.  Oh, wait, is it tacky to name drop on a baking blog?

Chocolate Swirl Mini-Cheesecakes

(Based on a recipe from the King Arthur Flour website)

Ingredients:

Crust:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ice water
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, cold

Cheesecake filling:
8 ounces block-style cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream OR sour cream
1 large egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted

Method:

1) For the crust: Preheat oven to 425°F.  Add flour, almond flour, sugar, and salt to a food processor. Pulse twice. Pulse in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Do not over process. Sprinkle in the vanilla and a teaspoon or two of water if the dough is too crumbly to hold together when squeezed.

2) Divide the crumbs among the 12 cups of a bite-size cheesecake pan. Press them firmly to the bottoms and about 1/2″ up the sides. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until set and just beginning to color. Remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

3) For the batter: In a medium-sized bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the cream, egg and almond extract, mix well. Spoon the batter into the cooled crusts, using about 2 tablespoons in each. Top with a scant half teaspoon of melted chocolate. Use a toothpick to swirl it into the batter.

4) Bake the cheesecakes for 18 to 20 minutes, until just set. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes — the tops will sink slightly. Use a knife to gently loosen the edges, then carefully invert the pan and push the cheesecakes out. Immediately turn the cheesecakes right-side up and chill them. To remove the metal plates before serving, run the blade of a table knife under hot water to warm it, then run the knife between the crust and the metal disk to free up the cheesecake.

5) Serve with whipped cream if desired.

mini cheesecakes 2

 

Yield: 12 mini cheesecakes.

Chocolate Macaroon Tart

IMG_2326

It’s Wine and Unwind time!  Now that “Hamilton” is up and running and only rehearsing 12 hours a week (in addition to an eight-show a week performance schedule) James has time to bake again.  Ahem.

Anyway, this tart was so popular that I barely had time to snap a few pictures before it was gone gone gone.  (I did manage to score a tiny slice and it was velvety smooth and delectable.  Good thing everyone else devoured it too, or else.)

It’s also gluten-free, so you can serve it to just about anyone.  A useful recipe to have in your repertoire in this day and age, no?

Chocolate Macaroon Tart

Ingredients:
10  ounce(s) (soft ) coconut macaroon cookies
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
1  navel orange, for garnish

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Using a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom, spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2.  In food processor with knife blade attached, pulse macaroons until fine crumbs form. Pour crumbs into prepared pan and press crumbs onto bottom and up side of pan. Bake crust 10 minutes or until golden-brown; cool completely on wire rack (about 30 minutes).

3.  In 1-quart saucepan, heat 3/4 cup cream to boiling on medium. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; with wire whisk, whisk until melted and smooth. Stir in liqueur and vanilla. Pour chocolate mixture into tart shell. Refrigerate 2 hours or until set.

4.  When ready to serve, in small bowl, combine sugar and remaining cream. With electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream until soft peaks form.

For extra credit:
With vegetable peeler, from orange, remove strips of peel measuring approximately 3″ by 1/2″. With paring knife, scrape off and discard white pith from peel; very thinly slice peel lengthwise. One at a time, wrap each strip around chopstick or pencil and hold 10 to 15 seconds or until curled. Garnish tart with whipped cream and citrus curls.

IMG_2328Lin-Manuel Miranda taking his tart very seriously.

IMG_2327Sidney Harcourt, a member of the Hamilton ensemble, digging in.

IMG_2325The glamor of theater!  Thanks Anna Wintour for the Veuve Cliquot!!

 

Red Velvet Bars

 

REd VelvetRed Velvet Bars . . .  going fast!

Our Backstage Baker outdid himself on this one!  He’s been sitting on this recipe since Christmas, but just hasn’t had the time to bake it.  So, last Saturday, after getting home from Hamilton at midnight, he baked the following for the next day’s Wine and Unwind. (Have I mentioned that our Backstage Baker only needs about two hours of sleep a night?)   Coincidentally, there was a marriage proposal onstage after the show on Sunday, so the Valentine-red bars were perfect!

The proposalAwwww . . .

In other news, Hamilton is moving to Broadway!  Look for a July 13 opening at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Here’s the New York Times review & David Brooks’ recent editorial raving about the show. Who knew these gentlemen were such fans of the rap?

Red Velvet Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

For the bars:

3⅓ cups flour
¼ cup unsweet­ened cocoa
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bak­ing pow­der
1 cup but­ter, softened
1½ cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons red food coloring gel

Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 8-oz bricks cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Line a 9×13 inch pan with aluminum foil.   Spray the foil with cooking spray so that the bars easily lift out and are easy to cut.

3.  In one bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

4.  In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, vanilla, and food coloring until combined.

5.  Mix in the flour mixture gradually until a soft dough forms. Press into the bottom of the 9×13 inch pan. Bake for about 20 minutes until the edges start to pull away from the sides and a toothpick entered into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Red Velvet Bars 1The red velvet base

6.  To make the cream cheese frosting:  Beat together the cream cheese and butter.  Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and continue beating until smooth.  Frost the top of the bars.

Red Velvet bars 2Mmmm . . . frosting!

Seth StewartHamilton Ensemble member Seth Stewart Wining and Unwinding

Phillipa SooPhillipa Soo (aka Eliza Hamilton)

Jasmine Cephas-JonesJasmine Cephas Jones (aka Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds)

 

Upside Down Cornbread Cake

Upside down Cornbread cakeHere’s a shout out to another backstage baker, Mr. Randy Stricklin-Witherspoon!  Randy is a dresser over at “Wicked,” and a truly fierce baker and chef.  In addition to working eight shows a week, he has  a catering business that serves the Broadway community called Spoonfed NYC.  Folks can place orders through his website for deliveries anytime.  On Wednesdays and Saturdays, he drops off a selection of foods at various shows, and people pay on the honor system.  Last week at “Kinky Boots”, here’s what he had on offer:

Spoonfed food close-up

Randy is raising money to open a Southern restaurant on 9th Avenue called Spoonfed’s New York Country.  (Here’s a link to his GoFundMe campaign for more information.)  And check out a recent article on his project here.

But what’s really important is the food, right?  Here’s the dessert that everyone’s requesting from SpoonFed NYC right now — Upside Down Cornbread Cake.  Randy tells me that this recipe is great with canned fruit cocktail or your favorite seasonal fresh fruit. (His personal favorites are a combo of fresh berries and maraschino cherries.)  He also says the crumbled topping is so pretty that you may not want to turn the cake upside down.

Remember, more is more, and this recipe is all about more please!  “Eat it like you mean it!” is his motto and after you see the recipe below, you’ll understand.  (How he manages to keep that eight-pack of his intact is a mystery . . .)

Ingredients:

for the Cornbread:

(You can, of course, always just use a box of Jiffy Corn Bread mix, but if you like to make things from scratch, see below):

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups buttermilk

For fruit sauce:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
15 oz. fruit cocktail (drained) or fresh berries
12 oz. maraschino cherries (drained)

Crumb Topping:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cubed and softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Fruit Sauce:

Melt butter, then add brown sugar to a large cast iron skillet*.   Spread and brown evenly.  Add cherries then spread fruit over cherries. (Reminder — drain all fruit prior adding to skillet.)

Cornbread:

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Combine the cornmeal, sugar and eggs in another bowl and stir well. Add flour mixture to the cornmeal and continue stirring until blended. Stir in melted butter and buttermilk.  Pour cornbread mixture over fruit and spread evenly in skillet.  Let sit for a few minutes to settle before sprinkling with crumb topping.

Crumb Mixture:

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter in a bowl and mix with a fork until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle on top of cornbread.

Bake in cast iron skillet* for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. To check doneness, insert tooth pick and if it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Place a large plate or a platter on top of skillet and turn over. Tap sides and lift gently.

*Note —  Make sure the skillet you use doesn’t have a plastic handle!  If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can use a large aluminum cake tin, about 11″ round or 9″ x 13″ square.

pans for cornbread

Serves about 12.

Valentine’s Day Cookies — Reprise

vday cookies

First, a Hamilton update:

They’ve extended the run at the Public a third time (or is the fourth?) to May 3, and even before it’s opened, the show is the talk of the town.  Check out last Sunday’s NY Times article in the Arts and Leisure section.  If you still remember hard copy newspapers, this article was on the first page of the section and above the fold, which is a big deal in theater press agent land:

Above the fold

And since I’m on the topic, check out this New Yorker cartoon  (you know you’ve made it when the New Yorker mentions you in a cartoon!!):

 

10424291_10153125615219365_4726328090278239269_n

But now for the cookies:  I blogged this recipe back in February of 2013, and I’ve been making these treats for years, ever since James shared the recipe with me.  James tells me he too is making a batch of these for Valentine’s Day this year, so I figured I might as well re-blog it for the holiday.  (James, I must mention, has these nifty little cookie presses that put the words in his cookies.  No idea where he got them from (Sur la Table?  Broadway Panhandler?) and I have never seen them anywhere, but I love them!)

With a recipe this simple, using the best quality ingredients you can find/afford really makes a difference.  For example, I like to use Kerrygold Irish Butter, 100% pure vanilla extract, Ghirardelli baking cocoa, and Nestle’s chips.  But don’t let this list deter you from making these cookies — it’s always better to choose to bake no matter what ingredients you have on hand!  (And, full disclosure, I never have all those ingredients on hand anyway.  Someday, though, I will.  And the cookie presses!)

Valentine’s Day Cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup butter softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1 cup vanilla chips
2 Tablespoons shortening
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Method:

1.            Cream butter and sugar, beat in vanilla.  Combine flour and cocoa in a separate bowl and gradually add to creamed mixture.

2.            On lightly floured surface roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with heart cookie cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

3.            For icing, melt vanilla chips and 1 tablespoon of shortening.  (I do this in the microwave in short, 10 second bursts, stirring between each zap.)  Dip both end of cookies into melted mixture. Heat chocolate chips and remaining shortening and drizzle over dipped cookies.  (I find the best way to drizzle is to scrape the slightly cooled, melted chocolate into a zip top bag, seal it, snip off a tiny corner and squeeze.)

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.

Chocolate Stout Peanut Butter Cups

Chocolate Stout PB cups

Just in time for Super Bowl Sunday — Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups with Stout!! This is one of those three-ingredient wonders — you know, those curious little recipes that crop up on Facebook from time to time and sound way too easy to work.

I made this test batch because I wanted try them out before I bring them to Hamilton  for Sunday’s Wine and Unwind.   If I do say so myself, they are pretty freaking good.  (My 13 year year old thinks they need more textural refuge, though, and suggests I use crunchy peanut butter next time.  It’s a fair critique.  I’ll try that and let you what the cast thinks.)

Oh, and one other little backstage-related detail — the peanut butter I used was “The Bees Knees” from Peanut Butter & Co.  The partner of one of the producers of Kinky Boots owns the company, and sometimes he sends a case or two to the theater for everyone to enjoy.  So I did.

Peanut Butter

Chocolate Stout Peanut Butter Cups

Ingredients:

3 cups of dark chocolate chips (60% cocoa content)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup stout or porter (espresso or smoked flavor would be divine!)

Method:

1.  Line mini-muffin tins with mini-muffin paper cups.  (should need about 24)

2.  Place chocolate chips in a glass bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time until melted.

3.  Spoon melted chocolate into muffin cups (about 2/3rds full).  Don’t use all the chocolate, as you will need a little bit to smooth off the tops after you’ve piped in your peanut butter.

4.  In a small bowl, beat peanut butter and stout until well combined.  Scrape peanut butter into a Ziploc bag, and cut off one corner to use as a make-shift pastry bag.  Insert cut-off corner into chocolate and squeeze out a good sized dollop.

5.  Top each cup with a small amount of the remaining chocolate to cover the peanut butter and create a smooth top.

6.  Chill until set, about 10 minutes.

I will confess that I used a couple of specialized tools to make this easier and the candies sleeker — a mini-cookie dough scoop really helps get the melted chocolate into the cups cleanly, and a pastry bag makes the peanut butter look very professional.  But really, a spoon and a Ziploc work just fine.  And how can you go wrong with these three ingredients?