Archive for the 'sweet stuff' Category

Browned Butter Maple Walnut Praline

Or as Mike called it, “The New Best Thing Ever”, “Heaven in a Bowl”, and “OMGooooooood!!”

I know, it doesn’t look like much. It wasn’t planned, and then when it turned out so well I had to grab a bunch out of Mike’s fist in order to document it. I’m not sure how to convey how much better this tastes than it looks. The spur-of-the-moment red tissue may have been a mistake. I’ll take more photos next time – and there will be a next time. We ate the entire batch tonight while decorating the tree.

I was just playing, distracted by thoughts of the sugary top of that Skibo Castle Ginger Crunch I told you about. I wanted to make it maple: ditch the ginger, swap the golden syrup for pure maple. Which made me want to add toasted walnuts. I put a slab of butter into a small pot to melt, intending to add another layer to an existing batch, just to try. I left the empty pot on the stove a few minutes too long as I went for the butter – distracted by something – and when I dropped it in the heat turned it golden instantly.

Browned butter! Of course! what better way to improve on an already awesome butter-sugar-golden syrup combo? I swirled the pot until it melted and turned a nutty brown, then stirred in the icing sugar, maple syrup this time and a bit of vanilla and dropped it in globs over just toasted walnut halves. Not pretty, but not ugly either, and ridiculously delicious.

It sounds insanely sweet, this butter-icing sugar stuff, like hard icing. But it’s not. A cup of powdered sugar is equivalent to half a cup of regular sugar – which isn’t to say this is low in sugar, just less sweet than it sounds. It balances the toasted walnuts perfectly. Make sure you have nice fresh walnuts, which is easy at this time of year with the turnover most stores see. They should be crunchy and nutty and slightly sweet – not at all bitter.

I’m not saying these are authentic pralines – in fact I’m sure they’re not – but I can’t think of what else to call them, other than sweet brown buttery, walnutty goodness.

Browned Butter Maple Walnut Praline

1 1/2 cups California walnut halves or pieces
1/3 cup butter
1-2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup or Lyle’s or Roger’s Golden Syrup
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Toast the walnuts by spreading them on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and toasting in a 350F oven for 6-7 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. If you have a toaster oven, that works too.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and after it melts, continue cooking it, swirling the pan often, until it foams and turns a nutty brown. Whisk in the syrup, icing sugar and vanilla. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 seconds.

Spread the toasted walnuts out on the lined baking sheet and pour the butter mixture overtop, trying to cover as much of the nuts as possible. Stir a bit on the sheet with a spoon so that it clumps up and coats (or at least touches) as many of the walnuts as possible. Let cool, then break into chunks. Try to share. Makes about 8 servings.

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December 04 2011 | snacks and sweet stuff | 16 Comments »

Plantain Fritters and a 35 lb. Poutine

Yes, I shared. Honestly, I have no idea why my pants are getting so tight.

But first: Plantain fritters! I wish I would have figured this out on Monday. Then again, best that I didn’t – the house smelled like mini donuts and the Stampede all day. They were fantastic. And easy to make. They brought out the banananess of the plantains – as fritters, they tasted more of bananas than I think bananas would have. And they held up to the heat – when you bit into one, it wasn’t mush.

I love that this week I was forced to make my acquaintance with something that has been available to me for most of my life, and yet I never bothered getting to know. I still have enough left to take a stab at a curry next week.

Which, ahem, brings me to a small confession. I assumed that since we started on Monday, Sunday night we’d be wrapping up the Week in Their Kitchen project. It makes sense, right? En route to CharCut, where I had booked a seat at their communal table for Meat Sundays, at which this particular Sunday they promised to make a 15 kg poutine, I got an email titled: three more meals and you’re home free!

Um. Whoops? We’re supposed to keep going from the hamper until Monday noon? Maybe I didn’t read the instructions thoroughly. (Try to hide your shock.)

At any rate. I didn’t bail out on going for poutine, since I had already signed up. It was stupendous.

John and Carrie brought it out steaming – all 35 pounds of it (they weighed the ingredients) including 3 kg of cheese curds and I imagine a bucket of gravy. The fries themselves were cooked in duck fat. It was poutine perfection, served at the communal table, family-style. Awesome.

And yes, I enjoyed it. A little too mightily. It was good food with good friends around a table of happy (verging on ecstatic) people. It was nice to see cheese again, but I had been eating my share of potatoes this week anyway.

Which brings us back to the Week in Their Kitchen project. Yes, it wraps up today. But I can’t say I’m excitedly looking forward to the end of the day (to sum, that was the gist of the aforementioned email: I imagine many of you are looking forward to dinner tomorrow when you can eat whatever you want! That’s right after your lunch tomorrow you are all free of the Hampers!) because really, all the participants in this were always free of the hampers. We’re not homeless, or struggling. We didn’t worry all week that we can only access the food bank once per month, and what we might do when this stash runs out. This has been a learning experience, but I still can’t say I know how a food bank client feels, or that I’ve truly walked a mile in their shoes. Some participants have said this week was fun – I doubt anyone actually utilizing the food bank would share that sentiment.

So. I won’t be going out for a celebratory dinner tonight. I’ll use up the rest of my hamper, along with the (comparably vast quantities of) ingredients already in my kitchen. I’ve already gone and bought a couple bags of food to give back to the food bank (remember-Husky covered the cost of the extra food for all our hampers). I’m going to continue on in some way, cutting my food spending drastically – for the next month at least only buying fresh produce and milk. (And toilet paper. Hard to make that from scratch.) I’m going to shop from my cupboards instead of from the store, and make do with what I have, which is clearly not that difficult.

I’ll try to pursue new sources of fresh produce for the food bank wherever I can (a portion of the new Ramsay community garden?), and contribute easy recipes (hopefully even compile a cookbook) because that’s what I can do to help. And I’ll focus more energy on being happy for what I have, and less thinking about what I’m in the mood for.

And I’ll eat more plantain fritters.

Plantain Fritters

Thanks to Gourmet for walking me through this.

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar (white or brown)
1 tsp. baking powder
pinch salt
1/2-3/4 cup water
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 ripe plantains

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
canola oil, for cooking

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the water and egg and whisk until the batter is smooth.

Peel plantains and cut on a slight diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces. Heat a half inch of oil in a heavy skillet or pot until hot, but not smoking. Dip the plantains in the batter to coat them and fry in batches (don’t crowd them) until bottoms are golden, about 45 seconds, then turn over and fry until other side of each is golden, 30 to 45 seconds more. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Stir together the sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl.

While still warm, toss each batch in sugar mixture until coated. Serve warm.

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June 07 2010 | sweet stuff | 27 Comments »

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