If you look at my life (living with my boyfriend/fiance, not married yet and no near wedding plans, went back to school as an adult) I would not really look I am into rules, order or tradition. I think I’ve just realized that I am happy to figure it out, whatever it looks like.
I am intimidated by things. By a lot of things. Namely, girls that are beautiful and well-spoken and seem to have it all together when I soooooo do not, guys who know their wines, and probably most kids over the age of 6. Also, things that are eggy-custard based [please note the “eggy-custard based” is now a technical term, and I might refer to it elsewhere.]
This includes but is not limited to: puddings, ice creams, and pastry creams. I have a fear of… curdling. Or clumping? Either way, I don’t want little lumps of egg in my custardy-eggy product [again, technical term.]
So, how do we combat this? Head on! Let’s make pudding! I wanted to make this pudding because I actually have an odd love for pudding and also butterscotch–ever since I would get those little yellow cellophane wrapped candies as a kid from my parents church friends.
The church my parents went to for a time when I was 0-8 had a campground and a whole cafeteria and kitchen areas (no, it wasn’t a cult. At least I don’t think it was.) I used to count the minutes until we could go have lunch in that cafeteria. It was the usual kind; go down the line and pick up what you want, leave what you don’t. As a kid, on my tray were three puddings and a dinner roll with butter. What can I say? Not much has changed, except now I might add some sautéed spinach.
I guess there is something about eating butterscotch pudding that reminds me of those days. Unafraid of what others thought, gleeful that the sermon was over, and happy to have freedom from the hard wooden chair. Come to think of it, I feel that pudding and childhood are inexplicably linked.
So to get back to my fears, this pudding was far easier then I expected it to be. It just whisks together, non-fussily [theirs another technical term for you] and so quickly. Then you let it cool to room temp and refrigerate. There are no clumps, because the cornstarch is well whisked into the butter and sugar, and it all thickens up quicker then expected, so you don’t need to stand at the stove stirring for minutes that feel like eternity.
You start with the butter which is browned a bit.
Another thing: I like to have all my ingredients measured out when working with things that require eggs and cooking milk. Things can go more quickly then you realize and it prevents accidentally burning something.
Using a pot that has a lighter color–white or cream–inside makes it far easier to tell if the butter is browned. I would not recommend using dark non-stick pans for pudding.
Whisk together and add the rest of the milk, then return it to the heat to continue cooking until it thickens. This pudding thickened up faster then I thought! A lot faster than ice cream, which was nice… I’m all for speedy sweets!
When the pudding is thickened, it will give off bubbles that quickly burst at the surface, which is a little scary, but then you know it’s done.
Remove it from the heat and stir in a little more butter, the bourbon, and vanilla.
Cover with plastic wrap directly touching the surface of the pudding, and let it come to room temperature on the counter. When it has cooled, transfer to the fridge and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Ready for the fridge:
Dish up with some whipped cream if you want, and run around, remembering with delight that you are not confined to a wooden chair. It all seems a bit less intimidating now.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt two tablespoons of the butter until browned, about 2 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the brown sugar, cornstarch, 1/2 a cup of the milk, salt, and egg yolks.
Whisk in the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk and return to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the pudding thickens. It will probably get thick in about 3-5 minutes at medium heat, but every stove is different.
When it is giving off bubbles that suddenly burst, and is thick like honey, you can remove it from the heat. Whisk in the remaining tablespoon of butter, the alcohol of choice, and the vanilla if using.
Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, with the wrap directly touching the surface of the pudding. Let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to serve, at least 2 hours.
You know that moment when something easy, delicious and quick comes together in the SAME recipe? This is that moment! This chocolate fudge sauce comes from Joel’s brother, Jesse. He made it at a family dinner once, in about 10 seconds, in the microwave! I was stunned at how easy and good it is.
This fudge sauce can be thrown together while you’re dishing up the ice cream. You can switch it up by using either almond extract or vanilla extract. You could even use a little orange liqueur.
In a small sauce pan (if heating on the stove) or in a small microwave-safe dish, combine the ingredients. Butter, cocoa powder, heavy cream, sugar, instant espresso powder, and a pinch of kosher or sea salt.
Heat on low for a a few minutes, whisking, until the mixture is smooth and slightly thick. If you want to use the microwave, heat at normal power, in 30 second intervals, stirring until mixed.
Remove from the heat or take out of the microwave, and stir in the extract or liqueur if using. Serve it right out of the pan, or transfer to a small pitcher or bowl.
It’s awesome over ice cream, cake, brownies….
Now I just need a bigger bowl.
Easy Chocolate Fudge Sauce
Recipe Type: Dessert, Sweet Sunday
Author: Sugar Pickles
Serves: 2 cups
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
4 tb butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 tsp coffee or espresso (instant granules)
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
Heat sugar, cocoa, butter, heavy cream, coffee and salt over low heat or in the microwave for 1 minute until mixed. Stir and heat until well blended.
Take off the heat and add the vanilla. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Will keep in the fridge up to a week.
We are having Easter at our house this year. This started last year, and I love carrying on the tradition. It’s just an excuse to eat ham, really (I mean, let’s be honest), but family dinners, even if they are small, are fun for me. Planning menus, cleaning, and organizing what dishes to use, these are all things I get really, really excited about.
So when I was a kid, we always got Easter baskets. Sometimes my mom and dad would make little scavenger hunts for us to find them too. Since we have all adults coming to dinner, I’m making Easter baskets for grown ups!
It’s fun, and it involves chocolate. SO WHY NOT!?
There are a couple tips I’d like to share when it comes to Easter baskets for adults:
1. Include some of the “good” chocolate. I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy, but lately candy like Snickers, M&M’s, and things like that are so overly sweet tasting to me. I’m a dark chocolate lover, and I like chocolate that tastes good, deep and rich, and doesn’t have a waxy texture. So I added some higher quality chocolates, maybe some Lindt with sea salt, or Ghirardelli, for a nice treat.
2. Go with nostalgia. I added some candies from our childhood: Robin’s Eggs, Twix, and a small chocolate bunny. But other good options are Cadbury Eggs (if you like that sort of thing) and Peeps!
3. Add small things that aren’t candy. I found some little things that could be fun for an adult, like grow your own herb kits and scratch and sniff stickers (because who DOESN’T like scratch and sniff stickers). I also added a wind up chick and bunny toy, because I thought it would be hilarious to harass the cats with these.
4. Add one or two things that are useful and lasting. Getting one small thing that I will actually use is always a great surprise! Joel has been lamenting that we never have enough measuring spoons, so that’s what is going into his basket. I like the kind that are narrow enough to dip into a spice jar, so it’s like a gift for both of us!
Smells from my childhood, with this bread. Smells like home, like after school snacks, like Sunday afternoons with a cup of tea. It’s a classic, and suuuuper easy to pull off.
This bread freezes well, smells richly of bananas, ships well and is so full of banana flavor, you will eat half of it before you can even stop yourself. Make two, mail one, and you’ll be the lady with the BEST banana bread!
Mom gave me this recipe and the one small trick that goes along with it. It uses three times the amount of ripe bananas then the recipe originally called for. This one also has chopped walnuts. You could add chocolate chips, coconut, cashews– anything you like! I experiment with recipes so much, I wanted to make this recipe straight up, just like mom made.
Okay, so here’s the thing about me and bananas. Sometimes they get too ripe before I can eat them all. No biggie, I throw them in the freezer (peel on) and just let them hang out there until I want to make some kind of banana bread/cake/smoothie (not all at once) thing with them. They don’t come out looking like the most attractive things, but they taste AMAZING. For this bread, we use three over ripe bananas, thawed from my freezer.
The rest is simple: flour, sugar, butter, eggs, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Mash those ‘nanners with a fork!
Cream the butter and sugar. Mom always used a hand mixer. I have one, but I usually use my stand mixer. I thought for this recipe, what the heck? I’ll use the hand mixer. Butter and sugar ehhhvrewheree. Hmmmm. This is how my mom made cookies all those times? My heart goes out to ya, babe.
We persevere on, and add the eggs. Now things mix a little easier!
Then we add the flour in three additions, alternating twice with the banana mash.
After first flour addition and with the first batch of bananas.
Second addition of flour mixed, and add second batch of bananas.
Third addition of flour and the last.
Stir in walnuts.
Pour in to a buttered and parchment lined loaf pan, and bake until golden brown, about 45-50 minutes.
It really makes a great breakfast or anytime snack with a little bit of butter. It’s so moist, you really can just eat it plain too!
Classic Banana Bread
Serves: 1 loaf
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ripe bananas, thawed from the freezer if frozen
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 9x5x3 loaf pan well and line with parchment. Butter the parchment for extra insurance.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the eggs and beat well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Mash together the three ripe bananas. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating in 3 additions with the mashed banana, blending well after each addition, ending with the flour. Stir in the nuts.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the pan to cool on a rack. Serve when cooled, at least 40 minutes, or wrap in plastic to store in the fridge for up to a week.
Why on this earth would you make your own brown sugar?? Are you insane and have nothing better to do? Actually, I have plenty to do. Even though many people would like to imagine I have tons of free time, that is quite the opposite. This year we moved into a bigger house, I started freelancing full time, and I’ve been working on my food blogging and photography with my serious face on (i.e.: I’m working harder at it then ever). So again, why spend time making brown sugar when there is a perfectly good store that has it already made?
I’ll tell you.
1. Quality. When Joel and I were living in Corvallis, we got a certain organic and natural grocery store brand new to our area. I was checking out the bulk baking aisle and low and behold! The BEST looking dark brown sugar I had ever seen. I didn’t know brown sugar could be this luxurious! It was a far cry from the bland and clumpy stuff that comes in a bag. I bought some at 2.00/lb and promptly when home to make amazing cookies. When you start with quality, you get better results!
2. Time. This may be counter-intuitive, but in the time it would take me to (a) get dressed and (b) drive to the store, I could have my very own batch of luscious organic brown sugar already made! Both light and dark.
3. Price. Organic homemade anything is cheaper then organic store-bought anything. It’s also way fresher! My homemade brown sugar never hardens up or gets clumpy on me, which makes me wonder how long that other stuff in the plastic bags has been sitting around….? So I use organic, fair trade sugar and mix in a little organic molasses, and I’m in brown sugar heaven for less time, less gas, and less packaging then the conventional store bought version.*
I love to use a shallow dish for this, a pie pan or bowl with a flat bottom and short sides works really well. A fork is also essential. You could use a mixer to do this work for you, but I found it actually took longer to come together and it was noisy, so I prefer to do it by hand.
Overall, this project takes about 10 minutes. A little longer if you are making both light and dark brown sugar.
*confession: During the holidays when my baking is in high gear and butter and brown sugar are flying around my kitchen daily, I go ahead and buy brown sugar. But the rest of the year, making it at home is my move.)
Alana describes the early process of mixing together the sugar and molasses as “tense” and almost like it looks like the two things will never come together. She’s right, but you must move past it, it only lasts for a little while.
I’m hoping to turn Sundays into “Sweet Sundays” around here! Where every Sunday I post something sweet for you. Stay tuned for more.
DIY Brown Sugar
Recipe Type: DIY Pantry
Author: Sugar Pickles
Serves: 3 cups
3 cups organic white sugar
1-3 tablespoons organic molasses
low sided bowl or pie plate
In the bowl or pie plate, measure out the sugar. For light bown sugar, add 1 tablespoon of molasses. Start to mix together with the fork. I’ve found it’s easier to first mix in a tablespoon, then after that is mixed, add more molasses for a darker brown sugar if desired.
As you start to mix, the sugar will start out clumpy. Keep mixing. After about 5 minutes it will start to be absorbed by the white sugar and it will be increasingly easier to mix the rest of the molasses in.
When the sugar is homogenized and the color you are looking for (light, dark, or super dark) then you are done. I like to mix up a bigger batch, remove some for light brown sugar, then add more molasses and mix until I have dark brown sugar as well. Makes the best brown sugar you ever laid eyes on!
Note: You can put everything in a mixer and let it do your work, but it does take longer and it’s noisy. Just put everything in a stand mixer and blend on medium until combined.