Betsy’s 1, 2, 3 English Toffee

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You can’t tell me that the holidays are done! It’s not truly over until you are passed out in a sugar induced coma on New Year’s Day. (I know we were healthy yesterday, but that earns us the right to be gluttons for another few days, right?) Well, we here at Two Carolines have got your back. This toffee recipe is super easy and ever since my rad friend Betsy taught my roommates and I this recipe years ago in San Francisco, it’s been my go-to! She was kind enough to offer to share it with all of you, as well! Lucky us, right? So, without further ado, here is Rad Betsy with her perfect 1, 2, 3 Toffee recipe…

I’m so happy to share my family’s homemade english toffee recipe!  For as long as I can remember, this toffee has been a staple of the holiday season in my house.  My grandmother use to make it during the holidays, my mom still makes it during the holidays to gift to friends and neighbors and now I do the same.  It’s always a hit, has a big wow factor and couldn’t be easier to make.

The method we use is the “1, 2, 3 recipe.”
1 cup granulated sugar
2 sticks salted butter
3 tablespoons water
Put all ingredients in your biggest, heavy-dutiest frying pan on HIGH.  Before you do this make sure you have an 8 or 9 inch metal cake pan right next to you.
Cook on high stirring CONSTANTLY with a wooden spoon.  You’ll watch it change from a melted butter looking mixture to a more creamy looking mixture and before you know it, it’ll start turning light brown.  Literally stir, stir, stir, stir until it’s basically the color of a brown paper bag (that’s how my mom and grandma always described it…no candy thermometers involved!).  While still stirring the boiling hot mixture, pour it into your cake pan and you’re done!  It will literally be just starting to smoke when you quickly dump it carefully into your cake pan.
I usually take my frying pan directly to the sink and turn hot water on it right away and I use my spoon to scrape out any remaining toffee.
Let the toffee cool in the pan for apx. 10-15 minutes or until you can sprinkle chocolate chips on it without them sinking right in (about 10 minutes).  The remaining heat from the toffee will melt them within a couple of minutes.  Once melted, smooth them over the top with the back of a spoon.  Traditionally, I top them with finely chopped walnuts but you can experiment with whatever you like (fleur de sel for your non-nut friends is delicious)!
Once completely cooled and chocolate is set, turn it out on a big sheet of foil.  I then gently bang/tap it into pieces with a mallet or my knife sharpening tool from my knife block…whatever works.
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Added bonus is the nuts that remain on the foil make the BEST ice cream topping.  Nuts with little shards of toffee and chocolate = heaven.
So that’s the official Taylor/Heywood/Santos family recipe!  It can take a tiny bit of practice.  If you cook it too long, you’ll know it b/c it’ll have a slightly bitter taste.  If you cook it too little, it may be a bit chewy.  You’ll get it though!  It’s really quite an easy process.  I have two cake pans and I’ll usually do two batches late in the evening…get them all ready and then in the morning they are perfectly ready to prep and package up for friends and neighbors.
Happy holidays!

Whole Wheat Banana Bread Muffins

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whole wheat banana muffins by twocarolines

Need a little detox from your stocking sweets?  Two Caroline’s are here for you! This is my own recipe, it’s so easy and good, plus it’s a great way to sneak some flax and fiber into your kids breakfast.  Not that it’s entirely virtuous, but muffins that don’t taste good are a waste of everyones time.  If you don’t have ground flax or wheat germ you can substitute with bran, or just a little more whole wheat, this recipe is very forgiving and it’s begging to be messed with so have at if you want to add some fruit, top it with raw sugar, or add some chocolate chips, which I do quite regularly because: obvious.

1/3 cup coconut oil (you can use vegetable oil or butter as well)

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

3 medium sized banana’s mashed up

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon whole wheat flax

2 tablespoons wheat germ

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

(if you’d like add 3/4 cup chocolate chips, nuts, blueberries, raisins, or whatever sounds good to you!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a muffin tin or use cupcake liners and spray just a bit in the bottom of each.  You can also make this in a loaf pan.

Mix the oil, sugar, and eggs one at a time and vanilla.  In a separate bowl mix up the flours, flax, wheat germ, baking soda and salt.  Add dry ingredients and banana in 3 batches taking turns until it’s all incorporated.  If you’re adding any extra’s do that last.

Fill muffin tins about 3/4 full and bake for 17-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  You can freeze what you don’t eat the first day – I wrap them individually in plastic wrap and freeze for up to a month.

If making a bread loaf pour into greased loaf pan and bake about 50-55 minutes until a toothpick in the very middle comes out clean.

 

 

 

Creamy Salty Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats

 

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I’ve had more than a little insight on myself while living abroad this past year and a half. One of these “ah-ha” moments was realizing that if I don’t have access to something I could have back home, I get an insatiable desire to possess and/or consume it. Even if it’s something that I never really cared about that much before in the homeland. Before we get all Freudian on what that could mean about my psyche, let’s just get into how obsessed I became with Rice Krispie treats. There is no Rice Krispie cereal here in Berlin and therefore, I got a major itch to make Rice Krispie Treats. Thankfully, I had a friend get a box for me in Italy, and another sweet friend sent me a care package with supplies to make the elusive treats. Included in the package was white chocolate chips—her secret ingredient. Around this time, I had a few people tell me about Smitten Kitchen‘s recipe with browned butter and sea salt. I figured that this concoction, plus the addition of white chocolate chips would put this unassuming dessert insanely over the top—and I was extremely correct. So in conclusion, if you want some bourgeois Rice Krispie treats that will blow everyone’s mind, get on it and exercise your right to buy up all the Rice Krispies you can get your hands on and make these.

4 ounces (1/4 pound or 1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
1 10-ounce bag marshmallows
1 cup white chocolate chips
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal (about half a 12-ounce box)

Butter an 8-inch square pan.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Stirring constantly until browned and smelling nutty. Watch carefully, so as not to burn.

As soon as the butter turns golden brown, turn heat to low and stir in the white chocolate until melted. Turn off the heat, add the marshmallows and stir until melted and smooth—return to low heat if necessary.

Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together. Once halfway mixed, I butter my hands and get in there to make sure everything is evenly distributed. Immediately spread into prepared pan and press down until even. Let cool completely (ha—yeah right!) before eating. Wait for copious amounts of compliments and proposals of marriage and co-habitation.

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Salted Dark Chocolate Pecan Fudge

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Salted Dark Chocolate Pecan Fudge by twocarolines

Fudge is such a staple of my family’s Christmas tradition, for weeks around this time of year my Mom kept a 9×13 on the back porch (where it would stay cool, but not dry out like it would in the fridge) and the intention was to make pretty plates of it for friends and neighbors, but my brothers and I were always sneaking pieces so, to everyones delight, she would end up having to make it a number of times.  Momma May makes the most incredible, rich dark chocolate nutty fudge EVER!  This is not the stuff on the back of your marshmallow cream label, it’s a unique and spectacular fudge experience for sure.  I think the secret is the unsweetened chocolate, that’s what gives is such insane chocolate flavor.  I traded out walnuts for pecans because I’ve been on a pecan binge lately and I added flake salt to the top.  I’m not going to lie, I am deep deep in love with the way it turned out.

 

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups sugar

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

1/3 pound of butter (ends up being about 1 stick and 2-3 tablespoons)

2 cups chocolate chips

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate – chopped (I used 7 but who’s counting)

1 container (7 ounce)  marshmallow cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups pecans coarsely chopped

flake salt

 

  1. Have all your ingredients ready – this is a must for candy making as things happened fast and are often timed so finding and measuring is not something you’ll have time for as you go.  Grease a 9×13 baking dish (I use pyrex) with cooking spray or butter.
  2. In a large saucepan (with a heavy bottom – or at least a good thick one) mix sugar, milk, and butter.  Bring to a boil stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula.  As soon as it boils start a timer for 5 minutes and stir while it’s boiling for the full 5 minutes.
  3. Take off the heat and add unsweetened chocolate and chocolate chips, then marshmallow cream and once there are no more white streaks vanilla and nuts stirring the entire time.
  4. Pour into your greased 9×13 and sprinkle with flake salt then let cool.  Don’t slice until cooled down, but if you wait too long slicing is a little trickier to do cleanly.  I slice after about an hour of cooling for clean small squares.  I recommend keeping your servings small because it’s crazy mad rich.  Do not keep in the fridge or it will dry out your fudge.

 

Apricot Bars

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Recently, one of my favorite humans came to visit me—my cousin Bret and I have had a special bond, since I was a wee little one, so it was a delight to have him visit. We walked all over Berlin, going to Christmas markets and eating our way through the city. Dreamy, right? He was jonesing for our Grandma King’s Apricot Bars, so I asked my mom for the recipe and whipped them up really quick. Now, there is some doubt cast on whether this is the right recipe or not, but regardless I’m sticking with this one, because it’s on point! This recipe is super easy and cinchy to alter since it’s so basic. I changed out 2 oz. of the apricots and used candied ginger for a holiday twist, and a drizzle of glaze for an added touch.

Ingredients

Apricot Filling
8 ounces dried apricots (I did 6oz. apricots, and 2oz. candied ginger)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
water to cover

Base Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter, browned

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

Coarsely chop apricots (and ginger pieces, if using) and place in small saucepan. Add lemon juice, and white sugar. Add enough water to just cover the apricots. Bring to a boil, and cook until fruit is soft and the liquid cooks down and is glossy.

Mix flour, oatmeal, pinch of salt, and brown sugar together. Melt butter until browned and stir into flour mixture. Put 3/4 of this mixture into 8 x 8 inch greased pan. Spread apricot mixture over crust. Sprinkle remaining oatmeal mixture over apricots.

Bake for about 35 minutes.

Note: You could easily switch the fruit to anything your little heart desires—Or top with a glaze and add slivered almonds or pecans. This is a really versatile, easy recipe!

Brown Sugar Apple Cake

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brown sugar apple cake

There are so many apple cakes out and about these days, and at least as many coffee cakes, and probably hundreds of cinnamon crumb type of cake situations, but I swear, this one wins on all counts.  I call it Brown Sugar Apple Cake because it has 2.5 cups of that sweet brown goodness.  So I might be failing a little when it comes to the expressed goals at our last twocarolines meeting to include more simple (hello- babka!) and healthy (um….nope) recipes.  I will keep those goals in mind in future postings, but for now, I will show you how to make what is truly one of the most delicious cakes in my repertoire. We usually eat it as a breakfast cake but it certainly has what it takes to star in a dessert cake show as well.  And you’re welcome to omit the apples, if you’re CRAZY! This cake won’t judge, it bakes up perfect either way.

For the cake:

1 stick butter

1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples (usually 2 large-medium apples)

Crumble Topping:

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

4 tablespoons unsalted butter softened

Brown Sugar Glaze:

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons water

 

Make the Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease a 9×13 glass baking dish with either butter or cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating after the addition of each.
  3. In a seperate bowl mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  4. Add to the wet ingredients, alternating with the sour cream and vanilla.
  5. Fold in the apples. Pour into prepared baking dish spreading out to the edges

Make the Topping:

  1. In a bowl combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter, and mix until it resembles course crumbs.  Sprinkle topping over cake.
  2. Bake until golden brown and set, 35-40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes or so.

Make the Glaze:

  1. Combine the sugar, vanilla, and water and mix until smooth.  Drizzle the cake with the glaze and let harden slightly.

I think this cake is best after it’s cooled down completely, but if you can’t help yourself go ahead and serve warm.  It keeps as long as it’s sealed for a good 3-4 days.

Recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse Apple Coffee Cake with Crumble Topping and Brown Sugar Glaze 

 

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Chocolate Babka

 

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chocolate babka

I have been intrigued and intimidated by the twisty beautiful sweet bread known as the “Babka” for some time now.  I talked myself out of attempts to make it assuming it would we way too hard and should probably be left to the professionals, but you guys, I did it, and IT WAS AWESOME!  I’m certain that if I can pull this off, you can too, so don’t wait as long as I did and seriously just make this, you’ll be so glad you did!  I did enlist the help of my favorite food blogger @smittenkitchen Deb Perelman who gave super helpful step by step instructions and tips.  I can’t say I strayed to far from her recipe, but I’m excited to mix it up in future batches.  I’m sure you could make this with a cinnamon spice filling that would be epic or even something fruit-ish like with raspberry jam and cream cheese.  Listen to me getting all excited about the babka possibilities of my future.  Please enjoy!

Dough –

4 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons instant (rapid rise) yeast

grated zest of half an orange (you could also do a lemon, but orange was sublime)

3 large eggs

1/2 cup water (cold is fine) and up to 1-2 tablespoons extra if needed

3/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup butter at room temperature

 

Filling –

4 1/2 ounces (130 grams) dark chocolate (or 3/4 cup chocolate chips)

1/2 cup butter (cold is fine)

scant (means, not all the way full) 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional, but awesome)

 

Syrup –

1/3 cup water

6 tablespoons sugar

 

Make the Dough

  1. Combine the flour, sugar yeast and zest in the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add eggs and 1/2 cup water, mixing with the dough hook until it comes together; this may take a couple of minutes.  It’s okay if it’s on the dry side, but if it doesn’t come together at all add some extra water a tablespoon at a time.
  2. With the mixer on low add the salt and the butter, a spoonful at a time, mixing until it’s incorporated into the dough.
  3. Mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until dough is completely smooth; you’ll need to scrape the bowl down a few times.  After about 10 minutes, the dough should began to pull away from the sides of the bowl.   I needed to add a few extra tablespoons of flour to help this process along.
  4. Coat a large bowl with oil – I used the mixer bowl by taking my dough out for a minute and greasing it down then plopping the dough back in.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.  (don’t worry if it doesn’t look like it doubled, it won’t rise as much as you think – but it will still work!)

Make Filling IMG_9871

  1. Melt butter and chocolate together until smooth.  Stir in powdered sugar and cocoa; mixture should form a spreadable paste – but it’s not super thick – it thickens up as it cools.  Add cinnamon if desired.

Assemble Loaves

  1. Coat two 9-by-4 inch loaf pans with oil or butter and line the bottom of each with a rectangle of parchment paper.  Take half the dough from the fridge (leave other half chilled).  Roll out on a well-floured counter to about a 10 inch width (side closest to you) and as long in length.  So about a 10×12 inch square or thereabouts.
  2. Spread half of the chocolate mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border all around.  Brush the end farthest away from you with water.  Roll the dough into a long tight cigar and seal dampened end.  Keep as cold as possible – I put my cigar in the freezer while I rolled out the other half.  IMG_9876
  3. Repeat these steps with the other half of the dough
  4. Gently cut log in half right in the middle, then cut your now two logs length-wise right down the middle opening them up and lay them next to each other cut sides up.  Do the same with your other cigar/log of dough.
  5. Pinch the top ends together and gently lift one side over the next, forming a twist, keeping the cut sides up because they are so pretty.  Pinch at the other end once you’ve made your twist.  Don’t stress out if it isn’t perfect – it will all look great and taste amazing and the next rise will hide mistakes for you.
  6. Put your twisted dough into the prepared loaf pan and repeat with other dough.
  7. Cover with damp tea towel and let rise a good 1 1/2 -2 hours at room temperature.  Pre-heating oven to 375 towards the end of your rise.

Bake and Finish Cakes

  1. With oven at 375 – Remove towels, place each loaf on the middle rack of your oven.  Bake for 30 minutes, but you can check doneness at 25.  Mine needed the full 30.  My first I took out too early and it was a bit undercooked in the middle.  If your babka is done you will feel almost no resistance when you push in a toothpick or cake tester.
  2. Make syrup while babka’s are baking.  Bring sugar and water to simmer until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool a little.  As soon as your babka’s leave the oven, brush the syrup all over each.  It will seem like too much, but will taste perfect.
  3. Let cool about halfway in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way (not something we had the patience for but suit yourself).

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen 2016