Turtle Brownies

Turtle Brownies
Recipe inspiration often hits me out of the blue. I have lots of to-make lists from a simple notebook to scraps of paper stuffed in my bag to my smartphone. If I don’t jot down my ideas, there is a good chance they will be forgotten. One of the best things about blogging is that is challenges me to cook new things all the time, so I am always brainstorming.

I debated whether to do another brownie post. I hesitated because this is number 4, not counting blondies, but I love them all. With variation in bite (i.e. cakey or fudgy) and add-ins (i.e. nuts or chips), brownies can be very different from each other. Slathered with a caramel topping and toasted pecans, this turtle brownies elevated the humble bar cookie.
Turtle Brownies
Turtle Brownies
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living October 2001

Makes 12

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter plus more for pan
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
Caramel sauce (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13-inch by 9-inch rectangular baking pan with parchment and grease with butter.

In a medium saucepan, bring 1 inch of water to a low simmer. Place the butter and chocolate in a large heatproof bowl over the saucepan without the water touching the bottom of the bowl. Stir frequently until the mixture is fully melted and then remove from the heat. Stir in in the vanilla extract and salt.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Fold into the chocolate mixture followed by the flour.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan using a spatula to spread in an even layer. Sprinkle the top with pecans. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool the brownies completely before drizzling with caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Combine the sugar and water in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat without stirring until the mixture starts turning deep amber and then carefully swirl the pan, about 20 minutes. Remove the caramel from the heat. Add the heavy cream and stir until it stops bubbling. Add the butter.

Sweet Potato Hummus

Sweet Potato Hummus
Being a mom has made me an expert in the art of doing things with a toddler on one arm. Taking care of tasks with a single hand is the ultimate challenge of multitasking and a feat of ungraceful acrobatics. My curious and energetic little boy can find himself getting into a mess in a millisecond, so I have to swoop in fast to scoop him up.

Holding W. while taking a break from playtime, I attempted to have a quick snack of pita chips and hummus. W. gave me a look like I should be sharing, so I let him try a spoonful of hummus. He couldn’t get enough, and now it is one of his favorite foods. I sneaked veggies into his beloved spread and whipped up a batch of sweet potato hummus.
Sweet Potato Hummus
Sweet Potato Hummus

Makes about 2 cups

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1-15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the sweet potatoes on a foil-lined sheet pan and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Bake the sweet potatoes for 30 minutes until tender.

Finely chop the garlic in a bowl of a food processor. Add the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, peanut butter, lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper and process. While the food processor is running, drizzle in the remaining olive oil through the feeder tube and puree until the hummus is smooth and creamy.

Store in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

Pear Ginger Compote

Pear Ginger Compote
My unseasonal fruit cravings have me heading straight for the freezer to a stash of summer fruit. With bags of cherries, blueberries and strawberries, I am dreaming about sunshine and long days. I’ve been so obsessed with warm weather fruit that I completely forgot about 4 Bosc pears hidden in a refrigerator drawer for at least the past 2 months.

Despite all that time, those hearty pears were still in pretty good condition. I made a batch of pear ginger compote. The zippiness of minced fresh ginger and a crisp Pink Lady apple gave the mellow pears a pleasant kick. The compote ended up swirled in yogurt and oatmeal, but it was at its best paired with walnuts on a buttermilk waffle.
Pear Ginger Compote
Pear Ginger Compote                  

Makes about 2 cups

4 Bosc pears, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1 Pink Lady apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice

In a medium saucepan, combine the pears, apples, ginger, sugar and orange juice. Cook the fruit over medium heat until tender, occasionally stirring and mashing with a wooden spoon, about 20 minutes.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Chicago Style Pizza

Chicago Style Pizza
Whenever we go out for pizza, it is always thin crust. I am convinced that tourists are the ones diving headfirst into deep dish. For locals, it is an occasional indulgence when out-of-towners have Chicago pizza on their to-do list. A single slice of thick crust is enough to induce a food coma, so thin crust is the preferred choice for routine pizza eating.

Craving comfort food during a cold weekend, I decided to take my usual dough and swap the olive oil for butter and some of the flour for yellow cornmeal to make Chicago style pizza. Baked in a cast iron skillet, it was an absolute cheese and carb splurge. I still consider myself a thin crust person, but if I have that urge again, I will definitely craft a homemade pie.

Chicago Style Pizza
Chicago Style Pizza

Makes two 10-inch pizzas

For dough
1-1/4 cups warm water
1 packet dry active yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2-1/2 cups bread flour plus more for dusting
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Olive oil for bowl

For tomato sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pinch red pepper flakes

For pizza
Olive oil for skillet
3-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

For the dough, combine the water, yeast, sugar and butter and let stand for 5 minutes until foamy. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until it forms a shaggy dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. (Alternatively, the dough can be mixed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.)

Gather the dough into a ball, transfer to an oiled bowl and cover. Place the bowl in a warm spot to allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size, about 1-1/2 – 2 hours.

For the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a large skillet until it is shimmering. Sauté the garlic cloves for a couple minutes until they become fragrant. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and simmer for 30 minutes until the sauce has slightly thickened.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Once the dough has risen, give it a quick knead and divide it in half. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into two 12-inch diameter circles. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of two 10-inch cast iron skillets. Place the dough in the bottom of each skillet allowing the edges to fold up the sides. Sprinkle in equal amounts of cheese and spread the sauce on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Garnish with Parmesan cheese before serving.

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