Monday, December 31, 2012

Soft Brown Sugar Cookies

        This was another great find by my wife on Pinterest+Susie Buetow posted this on her Susie QT pies Scraps of Life blog and said I could share on my blog. You'll want to give these a try.
I added the frosting while it was still warm and runny to give
it that smooth coating.
        This recipe was a hit. I brought some to a family get together and received a lot of positive comments about these. I think for me the best part was the flavor. The sour cream and the brown sugar make for a really nice sweet flavor. I've always preferred the taste of brown sugar over white. I do like the flavor of molasses  so brown sugar is a welcome change from standard white granulated sugar. The taste is smooth with a hint of creaminess from the sour cream and a hint of molasses from the brown sugar. Great combination in my opinion.  Also, and I think this has a lot to do with the sour cream, these are extremely soft. I think I would have preferred them a little stiffer and more chewy, but that is my opinion and preference.  If you are a fan of super soft cookies, then these are the best sugar cookies in that category that I am aware of. Without further delay, here is the recipe.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • 2/3 cup softened butter
  • 1 & 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoonful vanilla extract
  • 2 & 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoonful baking powder
  • 1 teaspoonful baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoonful salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
         Cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in eggs one at a time and add the vanilla. Continue creaming the mixture until light. In another bowl mix together with a whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and the salt. Slowly add flour mixture and sour cream to creamed mixture by alternating portions. Mix well. 
        Drop by spoonfuls onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. After cookies are cool, frost with Browned Butter Frosting. 
        Makes 2 - 4 dozen depending on spoonful sizes.

Browned Butter Frosting
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 & 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoonfuls milk
        Melt butter over medium heat in a suitable saucepan. Heat the butter until it turns golden brown. Keep an eye on the butter as it will go from melted to brown very quickly. You don't want to miss it and over cook the butter. Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar. Add milk until the desired consistency is met.

        One thing I noticed when taking them off the sheet, was that my vinyl spatula was tearing the cookies up on the bottom. I switched to a metal spatula that was much thinner and I was able to get the cookies from the sheet to the cooling rack much easier. I personally prefer sugar cookies without frosting. So I made most of them plain. However, the Browned Butter Frosting that was suggested in the recipe seemed likely to enhance the overall flavor. So I made some to try. While I still think I personally liked them better plain, the frosting was great and really did enhance the already great flavor of the cookies.  Don't skip the frosting just because you don't normally like frosting on your cookies. At least give it a try. 
        At any rate these where great. I look forward to enjoying them again. I recommend giving them a try.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Crunchy Caramel Corn

        This is a personal favorite of mine. I love caramel corn of all kinds. Soft and chewy or crunchy. I even love the store bought kind like Fiddle Faddle etc. However, there is something satisfying about a good crunchy snack. I happen to think that my crunchy caramel corn is the best. Well, at least it's the best that I've tried. This recipe is one that I dug out of my mothers box of recipes. I have no idea where it came from. I don't know if she or some other member of the family made it up or if someone found it in a cookbook or on the back of a box of brown sugar or something. I do know that my mother made it as least as far back as when I was a little child of three or four years old, possibly earlier. Those are my earliest memories of it at least. At any rate here is the recipe.

  • 16 cups popped popcorn
  • 1 cup peanuts - optional
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 stick butter
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit

        First, divide the popcorn and peanuts into a couple of 13" x 9" baking pans. Make sure to keep out any unpopped kernels  It's not fun chomping down on one of those. Then in a saucepan melt and bring to a boil the butter, sugar, syrup and salt. Stir constantly. As soon as it gets to a boil, stop stirring and let it continue to boil for one minute. Don't let it go too much further than that or you can burn the sugar. Then remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. It should bubble up and and get kind of fluffy. Without delay, pour over the popcorn and stir it in to coat all of the popcorn. Then place the pans in the oven on the center rack for 10 minutes. Stir again and bake for another 8 -10 minutes. Again, cooking for too long can burn the sugar. After it is done baking spread out into a single layer on some wax paper and allow to cool. Spreading it out helps you to get the popcorn broken up into small bite sized pieces and lets it cool faster. You should end up with a crisp and crunchy caramel corn.

        I almost always omit the peanuts as a couple members of my family are allergic  I personally love the nuts in it, but I usually don't want to make two batches. I just want to eat some. Even without the nuts it is very good. I've always gotten positive feedback on it. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Turkey Brine and Aromatic

        I know that Thanksgiving is over, but Christmas is coming up. I know that a lot of people like to have turkey for Christmas dinner as well as Thanksgiving. So I thought I'd share with you what I did. Our Turkeys turned out moist tender and flavorful. Part of that reason was the brine.

        I know that there has been some debate about the benefits of brining a Turkey. I am still a fan. I like the texture of a bird that has been brined and it is very moist. I suppose that it will all boil down to preference. Still, it will be your bird, and you will be the one eating it. Some say you can't make gravy with the drippings. I've personally never had that problem. My gravy always seems to come out pretty good. One thing to note, is that brining will add salt to your turkey. Perhaps people are adding too much salt, which then is too much for gravy. Basically brining causes some exchanges of water and salts in and out of the flesh. First, the bird which is relatively unsalty, loses water and allows salt to enter the meat. After the meat is saltier, then water enters the meat, more than the original amount which makes it moister. Well that's the basics of what happens. It does take time and preparation so you will need to plan ahead. So go if you want to brine then follow along.

  • 2 to 3 gallons of water and ice
  • 6 to 10 teaspoons salt
  • 6 to 10 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 lemon cut in half
  • 1 small onion cut in half
  • 1 ginger beer

        You are going to want to try and keep the salt/ sugar ratio to about 10 teaspoons for every 3 gallons. Don't worry too much about being precise. these are just rough guidelines. I did about two gallons for a twelve pound turkey. So use your best judgement to plan ahead. Mix about two quarts of water with all of the other ingredients except the ginger beer. Bring to a boil, making sure all the salt and sugar dissolve completely. Allow the mixture to cool completely and refrigerate. You can use ice to cool and chill the mixture quicker. I like to use a plastic bucket to brine my turkey in. I use a 3&1/2 or 5 gallon bucket depending on the size of the turkey. Mix the now chilled brine mixture with more water and the ginger beer to bring to your final volume. Place your thawed, cleaned (no internal organs etc) turkey in the brine. Make sure that the turkey is completely covered. Weigh it down if you need to. Cover and refrigerate for 10 to 20 hours depending on the size of your bird. You don't want to leave it in too long or it can get too salty. You will want to do a minimum of eight hours to make sure it is moist enough. I did my twelve pound turkey for about twelve hours.

        After the bird has been in the brine you will want to rinse it off inside and out and pat it dry before cooking. Stuff the bird with aromatics if you want and cook it with your preferred method. Make sure to get it to a safe internal temperature but not overdone. The meat should come out moist, tender and flavorful. Enjoy.

        I like to pair a brined bird with some things meant to add more flavor to the meat. To be honest the flavors from the brine are really subtle. Still, I think a brined bird tastes a lot better. The aromatics enhance and kick the flavor up another notch. If you also want to give it a try, this is what I like to do.

  • a fist full of fresh rosemary
  • a small onion cut in quarters
  • an apple cut in quarters
  • a tablespoon minced garlic
  • a tablespoon cinnamon
  • a tablespoon sage
        Alternating ingredients a portion at a time, I layer them into the cavity of the bird. Again, this is not something that needs precision. The amounts given are just a guideline. Feel free to adjust as you see fit. After the bird is stuffed with the aromatics, cook it with you r favorite method. Make sure to get it to a safe internal temperature but not overdone. 

Image courtesy of TheKohser and used under Creative Commons and GNU licences.
        I have always loved the turkeys I have cooked after brining and stuffing with aromatics. I love how juicy and tender they are. I love how flavorful they are. I was hooked after the first time I tried one like this. I don't think I'll stop preparing them this way anytime soon. I hope you enjoy the results as much as I do.