Monday, September 17, 2012

celine steen's caramel chocolate squares

If you only make one dessert this year (by year I'm referring to the Jewish calendar, this being the first day), let it be these bars. I made them yesterday, haven't shared with a soul and they will be nonexistent by my bedtime (which is in about an hour, sad to say*). They are so darn good. They remind me of toffee, caramel (obviously) and maple candy all in one bite. And they are pretty resilient to changes. I made a bunch of changes (based on what I had available in the cupboard) and had no problem. You can find the original recipe on Have Cake, Will Travel. I'm going to re-post the recipe below with my changes (just in case your cupboard is pretty bare bones these days like mine). I wish I would've taken a picture of the bars, but mine didn't turn out quite as pretty as Celine's (and my camera sucks and did I mention I have to be back up at 1 a.m.?). But you can find a perfect, mouthwatering photo of them over at HCWT.

Caramel Chocolate Squares:

Adapted from Celine Steen's Caramel Nut Barley Squares**

For the crust:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup melted coconut oil (or olive oil or canola oil, if it's all you've got) + more if needed (add a tablespoon at a time until the crust holds together nicely when pressed)
1/4 cup liquid sweetener (maple syrup, agave nectar or brown rice syrup -- take your pick)

For the filling:
2 tablespoons water (you can also use nondairy milk, but I was out and it worked fine with water)
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice (or sucanat)
1/4 cup liquid sweetener (brown rice syrup works best here)
Generous pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegan semisweet chocolate chips

Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350. Spray 8-inch square pan lightly with oil. Add flour, sea salt and liquid sweetener to the bowl of a food processor. Add oil 1 tablespoon at a time until it holds together when pressed (I needed slightly more than 1/4 cup for this). Press dough down very firmly into the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

Make the filling: Place the water, evaporated cane juice, liquid sweetener in a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add the sea salt and vanilla. Stir well.

Assemble: Pour the caramel mixture over the pre-baked crust and use a spatula to spread it evenly over the crust. Bake for another 15 minutes. Turn the oven off. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top and place pan back in the oven just until the chocolate chips melt. Use a spatula to spread the chocolate chips over the caramel layer. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour and then cut into squares. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days (or freeze for longer). These are best eaten at room temperature.

Yield: 16 squares

*I'm the midnight baker for a coffee shop, so I've gotta be back up at 1 a.m.!
**I left the nuts out cuz I wasn't in a very nutty mood. I think I'll try the nuts next time!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

basil walnut + roasted tomato pesto

The color of this pesto, due to the roasted tomatoes, is not the most appetizing (therefore I took the photo down I previously had up). But it tastes amazing. There are two steps involved in the process, as you will need to roast the tomatoes first and then blend them into the pesto. The fastest, most effiicient way to prepare this is to start roasting the tomatoes, prepare the rest of the pesto ingredients and get it all blended and then blend the tomatoes in when they are done roasting. Try this on pizza, pasta (with a pat of non-dairy butter or a touch of olive oil) or served on crostini or grilled tofu.

Basil Walnut + Roasted Tomato Pesto:

2 cloves garlic, peeled
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
5 cups (20g) loosely-packed basil leaves
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
1 lb. oven-roasted grape tomatoes (see directions.)

Begin roasting the tomatoes.

Blend remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor. Add additional olive oil or water, if needed, to thin pesto as desired. Add roasted tomatoes. Serve as desired.

Yield: About 1 cup