Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread Bars.

Pretzels: hands-down, a top-5 snack food. So simple, so good, so surprisingly versatile (just ask Auntie Anne). For me, pretzels get really interesting when you think of them as an ingredient, as the start of something, rather than the end of it. I’ve posted a pretzel-transformation recipe before, and I wasn’t surprised to discover that other bloggers had the same idea. Adrianna from A Cozy Kitchen has got a real knack with pretzels, as evidenced by these insane pancakes.  And Molly from My Name is Yeh‘s pretzel shortbread cookies looked so good, I barely changed anything in the riff I’m sharing with you today–just a slight tweak in ingredients and process. But it’s an important change, where I sub in one of my all-time favorite ingredients besides pretzels: brown sugar. Damn. Enjoy.

Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread Bars | KellyintheKitchen.net | pretzels, butter, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, canola oil

INGREDIENTS

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
200 g pretzels (any kind)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp canola oil

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Start by making the “pretzel flour.” Using a food processor (or a plastic bag and a rolling pin, if you’re very patient), pulverize the pretzels until they are utterly dusted. It should look like light brown flour. **Don’t underestimate this step; it took me at least 20 minutes to process the pretzels, pass the flour through a sifter to catch the bigger crumbs, process those crumbs again, and repeat the whole thing. And don’t skip this step – if you have big crunchy crumbs in your batter, it will make for weirdly crunchy, sandy-textured cookies. If it doesn’t take you as long to get to the flour stage, then you’ve got a better food processor than I do.**

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar.

Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread Bars | KellyintheKitchen.net | pretzels, butter, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, canola oil

Stir the pretzel flour and all-purpose flour into the butter mixture. Eat a tiny bite of the batter, because it’s sooooo good.

Press the somewhat crumbly batter into whatever pan you’re using (I used what I think of as a “brownie pan”) so that it’s evenly packed. Then, use a knife to cut the batter into bars. Do this before you bake, because if you try to cut them after baking, you’ll probably end up with a pan full of crumbs. Poke a few holes in the tops of the bars with a fork (make a pattern if you’re feeling cute).

Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread Bars | KellyintheKitchen.net | pretzels, butter, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, canola oil

Bake for 25-35 minutes, until just starting to brown. Savor the scent of your kitchen…it will smell divine.

When the bars are done baking, remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Use a knife to retrace the lines you cut before the bars baked; it should be easy to do. Let cool completely in the pan.

Once the bars are cool, melt the chocolate chips and oil together in a small bowl. I popped them in the microwave for about 40 seconds, stirring halfway through, but you can use a double boiler if you’re fancy. Take a spoon and drizzle the chocolate in whatever pattern you want. I went for free-form marble and I’m pretty happy with it.

Chocolate Pretzel Shortbread Bars | KellyintheKitchen.net | pretzels, butter, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, canola oil

Let the chocolate set. That’s it! Enjoy the salty-savory-sweetness.

Advertisements

Lemon Curd Shortbread Tart.

Whenever I visit my cousins in Denver, we do A LOT of cooking and baking together. I’ve been here for 3 days and we’ve already made so many good things. I wish I had photographed our dinner a few nights ago, elote chicken salad, but I spaced. I did manage to write down the recipe, though, so it’ll make it up on the blog someday. This afternoon, we wanted something sweet and tart, and lemon curd came to mind right away. This recipe is a team effort between my cousin Summit and me; she made the shortbread crust and I made the curd. The curd is exactly what you’d expect: tart, sweet, deliciously lemony. And the crust was a nice surprise, a bit denser than we thought it would be but still a really nice shortbread (it was everyone’s favorite part!). A warning for those who try this recipe themselves: as soon as our tart came out of the fridge, a feeding frenzy ensued. Be prepared.

Lemon Curd Tart | KellyintheKitchen | Ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, ground almonds, flour, water, parchment paper

INGREDIENTS

for the curd:
1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) softened butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs, and 4 egg yolks
1 1/3 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice

for the tart shell:
1/2 cup finely ground almonds (or use almond flour)
1/2 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
8 tbsp cold butter
3-5 tbsp cold water

DIRECTIONS

Start with the curd. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. One at a time, add the eggs and then the yolks, stirring to incorporate between each addition. Once all the eggs are incorporated, stir another minute or two until creamy and smooth. Then, add the lemon juice and stir. Don’t freak if everything is separated and curdled-looking! You’re doing it right.

At this point, I started the tart shell. Stir together the ground almonds, flour, and sugar. Then, use a fork or pastry cutter to cut the butter into the dry ingredients, until the mixture resembles slightly clumpy sand. Add the water one tablespoon at a time–you want to use as little water as possible to hold the dough together. Once it holds without crumbling too much, transfer it to whatever you’re using to bake the tart. We used a cake pan lined with parchment paper, but this would be adorable in a traditional tart pan, too. Press the dough into the pan and then refrigerate for at least an hour.

While the tart shell refrigerates, cook the curd. Pour the lemony mixture into a saucepan and heat over low, stirring occasionally, until the curd is heated through and the mixture is uniform (i.e., no separation). Now, turn the heat up to medium and stir constantly for about 10 minutes, until the curd is thickened and beautifully glossy.

Lemon Curd Tart | KellyintheKitchen | Ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, ground almonds, flour, water, parchment paper

Turn off the heat and transfer the curd to a bowl. Press plastic wrap right onto the top of the curd (this prevents a gross skin from forming on top) and let it cool to room temperature. Then, move it to the fridge to cool all the way.

Back to the tart shell. When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400 F and use a fork to poke a few holes in the base. Ideally, you’d set baking weights or dry beans inside the shell on a layer or parchment, to weight it down while it cooks and keep its nice shape, but we didn’t have this and obviously everyone survived. If you’re using weights, bake with weights for 8 minutes, remove the weights, and finish for about 10 minutes. If you’re going naked (without weights) like we did, just bake for about 15 or so minutes until the shell is set and browning. Let it cool.

Okay, the final step is assembly. Take your cooled tart shell and your beautiful cooled lemon curd. Pour the lemon curd into the shell. Smooth the top. And if you can bear to wait, it’s probably a good idea to refrigerate for another hour or so, now that everything’s assembled. But if you can’t wait to dig in, that’s okay, no one’s judging.

IMG_3141

Once it’s cooled and fully set, you’re good to go. I definitely recommend serving this with whipped cream or ice cream. Keep refrigerated so the curd holds together nicely. Yum. And thanks for being my co-baker, Summit!

Split Pea Soup with Bengali Spices.

I’ve been meaning to share this recipe for a while now (pretty sure I’ve been making it for almost a year!). One of my best friends, who is an amazingly creative cook, gifted me a batch of her Bengali spice mix, called panch phoron. I started using it in split pea soup, and it is SO GOOD. The spices get toasted and give a really interesting and savory flavor to the already-wonderful classic split pea. This stuff is great fresh or as leftovers, and it freezes well, too, so you can definitely make a big batch and pop half in the freezer. Pair it with almost any garnish you can think of–my favorites include fresh herbs, grated cheese, toasty buttery croutons, or a poached egg. So without further ado, one of my favorite soups…Split Pea with Bengali Spices!

Bengali Spice Split Pea Soup| KellyintheKitchen | Ingredients: bacon fat or butter, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, Bengali Spice Mix (fenugreek seed, fennel seed, cumin seed, nigella seed), split peas, cooked ham, chicken stock, thyme, fresh parsley

INGREDIENTS
bacon fat (butter or olive oil will work also, of course)
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp Bengali spice mix (see below)
2 cups cooked ham, chopped
1 lb split peas 5-7 cups stock or water
1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
optional: 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

for panch phoron spice mix (equal parts of all spices):
fenugreek seed
nigella seed
mustard seed
cumin seed
fennel seed

DIRECTIONS

Add bacon fat to a Dutch oven or other large soup pot over medium low heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and stir. Cook until softened and just starting to brown. Use a large spoon to move all the vegetables to the side of the pan. Put a bit more fat in the pan and add the spice mix. Stir into the oil and cook until fragrant–just a few minutes–and be careful not to burn.

Bengali Spice Split Pea Soup| KellyintheKitchen | Ingredients: bacon fat or butter, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, Bengali Spice Mix (fenugreek seed, fennel seed, cumin seed, nigella seed), split peas, cooked ham, chicken stock, thyme, fresh parsley

When the spices are cooked, stir them into the vegetables. Pour in the stock or water, ham, thyme, and split peas. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the split peas are softened. When the soup is done cooking, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the fresh parsley and serve hot!

Bengali Spice Split Pea Soup| KellyintheKitchen | Ingredients: bacon fat or butter, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, Bengali Spice Mix (fenugreek seed, fennel seed, cumin seed, nigella seed), split peas, cooked ham, chicken stock, thyme, fresh parsley

Though you may be tempted to eat it all up right away, this soup is PERFECTION as a leftover. The flavors get even better when they have a few days to develop.

Bengali Spice Split Pea Soup| KellyintheKitchen | Ingredients: bacon fat or butter, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, Bengali Spice Mix (fenugreek seed, fennel seed, cumin seed, nigella seed), split peas, cooked ham, chicken stock, thyme, fresh parsley

Sugar & Spice Cookies.

Crazy to think it’s been over 4 months since I’ve posted a recipe. I still cook and bake all the time, but my weekend days (when I tend to test out new recipes, and when there’s nice daylight for photos) are not about the blog right now. Instead, I now spend at least one day of my weekend volunteering at a local dog shelter. I started volunteering last spring, but lately it’s become a huge priority for me. It’s so rewarding and special – I encourage anyone who’s interested to start volunteering at an animal shelter near you, because I can promise you they need the help!!

IMG_0815

Meanwhile, I’m exhausted from work travel this week, so I decided to take the day off from the shelter and bake these cookies. Adapted from a recipe by Joy the Baker, they smell amazing and taste even better. And I’ll still get my pup time in – it’s a three-day weekend for MLK Day, so I’ll get to spend all of Monday with them!

Sugar and Spice Cookies | KellyintheKitchen | 12 tbsp softened butter, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, pinch of ground nutmeg, 1 egg, scant 1/4 cup molasses, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup turbinado sugar

INGREDIENTS

12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 egg
scant 1/4 cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup turbinado sugar (or other sugar with large crystals)

Sugar and Spice Cookies | KellyintheKitchen | 12 tbsp softened butter, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, pinch of ground nutmeg, 1 egg, scant 1/4 cup molasses, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup turbinado sugar

DIRECTIONS

Cream together butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg until the mixture is fluffy in texture and light brown in color. Add the egg and molasses and stir just evenly combined. Then sift in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir just until combined – don’t overstir, or the cookies could become tough. You can advance to the next step here if you like, but I like to put the batter in the fridge for about 30 minutes, just to tighten up a bit.

Sugar and Spice Cookies | KellyintheKitchen | 12 tbsp softened butter, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, pinch of ground nutmeg, 1 egg, scant 1/4 cup molasses, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or baking mats. Set up a little station with your baking sheets, your cookie dough with spoons or a cookie dropper, and a little bowl full of the turbinado sugar. Scoop a small amount of dough, form it into a ball, and roll it in the turbinado sugar so that it’s completely coated. Place on the baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.

Bake for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are set but the very tops are still soft to the touch. Let cool for 2 minutes on cookie sheet and then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Put them on a plate and bring them to a friend before you eat all of them yourself.

Sugar and Spice Cookies | KellyintheKitchen | 12 tbsp softened butter, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, pinch of ground nutmeg, 1 egg, scant 1/4 cup molasses, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup turbinado sugar

Pumpkin Dog Treats.

Happy fall!!! Just kidding. We’re not quite there yet. But that doesn’t mean we can’t bake something pumpkin-y. And pumpkin dog treats just felt right this weekend, since I was dog-sitting my family’s black lab, Peepers. Did you know that pumpkin is really good for doggy tummies? And that a lot of dogs really love the taste of pumpkin? That’s why this recipe is such a success – and not just with Peepers, who will eat literally anything. Peep has lots of dog friends who acted as my taste testers: a yellow lab, an American foxhound, and a vizsla with a sensitive stomach. I think I know a beagle who might appreciate them, too.

Pumpkin Dog Treats | KellyintheKitchen | INGREDIENTS  1 cup pumpkin puree 1 tbsp peanut butter 2 eggs 2 1/4 cups unbleached flour

The results: the labs and vizsla were bonkers for them, and the foxhound was funny – she carried a treat around in her mouth for a while before she finally ate it.

One important note. You know your dog better than I do, so if he has a sensitive stomach or hasn’t tried anything like this before, give him one or two treats and then watch for any signs of upset, just to be safe. As for my taste testers, the canine verdict is good – my pup was breaking out all her tricks to get her paws on these pumpkin treats.

Pumpkin Dog Treats | KellyintheKitchen | INGREDIENTS  1 cup pumpkin puree 1 tbsp peanut butter 2 eggs 2 1/4 cups unbleached flour

INGREDIENTS

1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tbsp peanut butter
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups unbleached flour, plus more for dusting (if your dog is sensitive to gluten, use brown rice flour or a similar substitute)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Stir together pumpkin puree, peanut butter, and eggs. Add 1 cup flour, stir to incorporate, add the rest of the flour, and stir again.

Lightly flour a flat surface. Take half the dough and use a rolling pin to roll it about 1/4 inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out the treats. I used a heart, but honestly, your dog has no clue what shape they’re eating, so do whatever you want. Repeat with the rest of the dough until it’s all cookie-shaped.

Pumpkin Dog Treats | KellyintheKitchen | INGREDIENTS  1 cup pumpkin puree 1 tbsp peanut butter 2 eggs 2 1/4 cups unbleached flour

Lay the treats on a baking sheet (they don’t expand much, so feel free to crowd them on, as long as they’re not touching) and bake for 20-30 minutes. They do puff up in the oven, almost like a cute little pillow, so that the hearts are more 3D than flat.

Let cool completely before putting them away.

Pumpkin Dog Treats | KellyintheKitchen | INGREDIENTS  1 cup pumpkin puree 1 tbsp peanut butter 2 eggs 2 1/4 cups unbleached flour

Peepers was suspicious of the treats at first – like, are you trying to make me eat something healthy?? – but once she had one, I could barely keep her away. Love her little face when she gets excited to eat another treat!

Pumpkin Dog Treats | KellyintheKitchen | INGREDIENTS  1 cup pumpkin puree 1 tbsp peanut butter 2 eggs 2 1/4 cups unbleached flour

Glazed Apple Bundt Cake.

First, let me mention that you don’t need a bundt pan to make this cake. That said, bundt cakes are adorable. I’ve admired them from afar for years, but I never owned a bundt pan myself…until now. This year, I asked my maternal Santa for one, and when I woke up on Christmas morning, there was a beautiful ornate bundt pan under the tree with my name on it! Here is the link to my bundt pan. Isn’t it a glory?! It’s like something out of Beauty and the Beast. I think there will be a lot of bundt-baking in my future. And if this first foray is any indication, beauty and taste definitely go together, because it tastes as good as it looks. Inspired by a recipe from The Bite Sized Baker, the addition of shredded apples and Greek yogurt keep this cake moist and almost creamy, and a sweet maple glaze is both figuratively and literally the icing on the cake. Please come to my apartment for tea and take this cake off my hands before I eat it all. Thank you.

IMG_0464

INGREDIENTS

for cake: (makes about 6 cups of batter)
8 tbsp (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup Greek yogurt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
about 2 cups apples, peeled, then shredded in a food processor or grated by hand (I used 3 Granny Smith apples)

for glaze:
2 tbsp butter
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
about 1-2 tbsp water

Just the Recipe link: Glazed Apple Bundt Cake

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cream together the butter and brown sugar, until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition until incorporated. Then stir in the vanilla extract and yogurt.

In a second bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until just incorporated. Then add the second half of the flour mixture and stir, again just until it comes together. Don’t overmix. Finally, stir in the shredded apple until it’s distributed throughout the batter. It should smell pretty amazing at this point.

Pour the apple-y batter into a greased bundt pan (if you don’t have one, a loaf pan or even a springform cake pan will work too). Don’t over-fill the pan, as the cake will rise as it bakes. Two-thirds filled is a good rule of thumb for bundt pans, and for my pan, that means about 6 cups. Which is how much batter this makes!

IMG_0434

Put the pan in the oven and bake 35-45 minutes, until the center of the cake is set but still moist and tender. You know the toothpick test? The one where you poke a toothpick into the center of your cake to see if it comes out clean, thereby showing that your cake is done? Well, bundt pans are very deep…too deep for a tiny little toothpick. So instead, I use a wooden chopstick as my tester, and when it comes out clean from the center of the cake, I know it’s ready.

IMG_0436

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. You have two options for cooling: if you want your glaze to soak into the cake, let the cake cool for 15 minutes, or if you want the glaze to harden and look more like icing, let the cake cool completely. I opted for the quick-cool soaking option, mostly because I was impatient to dig in.

IMG_0444

As the cake cools, make the glaze. In a saucepan, melt the butter and use a fork to stir in the powdered sugar and maple syrup until smooth. Then slowly add water until it reaches the consistency you want – a slightly runny syrup. When your cake is cooled, drizzle the glaze along the top and allow it to spill over the sides, inside and out. Messy is good!

IMG_0456

Oh baby. Look at the glaze drip happening here. That’s what this cake is all about. It’s soft and tender and not too sweet, and this beautiful glaze just pushes it right over the edge. Amazing with a hot cup of tea on a winter day!

IMG_0460