pan of (granola) bars

Pre-kids (and pre-Internet), collecting cookbooks was my thing. Consequently, my shelves are lined with hundreds of books I can’t seem to part with. While I’ve pared the collection down some, I still have far more cookbooks than I’ll ever need or use.

I’m betting many of you can relate. Cookbooks are more than recipes–they remind us of the people who gave them to us, restaurants enjoyed, travels made, classes taken, places lived. Even though there are plenty I’ll never cook from, each has its own reason for sticking around.

Why, though, would I purchase another cookbook? There are few recipes that can’t be found online and decluttering has more appeal than acquiring.

my new toy

my new toy

But I’m easy prey for a good deal and a pretty face. Hamilton Book offered both when its recent flyer advertised Entenmann’s Home Baking for a mere $4.95. Shipping didn’t add much and the memories I have of Entenmann’s baked goods, sitting on supermarket shelves in their blue and white boxes, drew me in. I wanted–no, needed–this book!

So in my collection it now sits and I’ve enjoyed turning its pages. Muffins, cookies, crumb cakes, pies, fancy desserts–they all look wonderfully homespun and there are many I would make. The Almost Homemade chapter uses Entenmann’s products as ingredients (their frosted donuts–along with coarsely chopped popcorn–somehow morphs into Dreamy Chocolate Bars). It all looks like great fun and I’ve already gotten my money’s worth by making two recipes.

Their basic chocolate chip cookies got a bit of a makeover when I subbed in cut-up Halloween candy (still trying to make my way through our stash) for the chips and are rich and buttery and delish.

Nutty Granola Bars were almost as successful. The photo reminded me of the Nature Valley bars we buy in bulk to keep my husband in constant supply. I’ve tried to make DIY versions with varying levels of success (thanks, Ada, for one of my favorites!), but have yet to achieve the crunch of store-bought brands.Open book

pan of bars

pan of bars

Instead of corn syrup, I used honey (seemed a cleaner ingredient) and maybe that was why these bars were softer than expected. Flour and a longer bake time differentiated this recipes from others, but the bars were still more soft than crisp.

Nutty Granola Bars

Nutty Granola Bars

Ironically, the other issue was that the edges crumbled and I had a cup or so of granola left in the pan after cutting and wrapping. The granola–and bars–were fantastic: buttery, a bit salty (did I mention I sprinkled the bars with Maldon sea salt before baking?), just slightly sweet. A splash of almond milk added to the granola crumbles made a fine supper.

granola for supper

granola for supper

I’m glad to have tried this recipe, but would add a bit more honey next time in hopes of better gluing the dry ingredients together. Perhaps a slightly longer bake time, higher temp, and larger pan would crisp them up a bit. Most likely, I’ll find another granola bar recipe to try (if you have one you love, please holler in comments or message me via my deLiz facebook page). Entenmann’s Home Baking will see more use, though, as there are crumb cakes, et al. to be made. This book will earn its place on my shelf.

Nutty Granola Bars

adapted only slightly from Entenmann’s Home Baking

  • 2 1/3 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey or corn syrup

Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease 9-inch square pan. (original recipe calls for 8×8-inch)

In large bowl, mix oats, hazelnuts, flour, and cinnamon.

In saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, and honey; cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Pour over dry ingredients; mix well. Spoon mixture into pan, pressing down and smoothing top. Bake 25 minutes or until golden and firm to touch. Cut into 16 pieces while still in pan; cool completely. Makes 16 bars.

foodforfun’s guide to irreverent cookie wisdom

Mentioned here before is my delight at meeting like-minded folk in the blogging community. Often, these bloggers write about food, but just as often I’ve enjoyed learning about nonfood topics from experts in other fields. Movies and TV, humor and travel. I’ve even (unwittingly) picked up a bit of sports trivia. (Still looking for a music blog–please recommend!)

Then there’s the “fiction” blog, which took a bit of getting used to. But Fannie Cranium and her adventures pulled me in. Stand-alone “chapters,” each post recounts an episode in (mostly) fictional Fannie’s life. The first paragraph on the About page welcomes readers “to Fannie’s world where she explores the adventures of married life, on the intersection between “I Love Lucy” Way and “Erma Bombeck” Avenue.” This has to be good, right? Even better, Fannie’s stories are authored by a talented (and soon to be famous, I’m sure of it 😉 ) writer who has an eye for detail and a way with words.

And here’s the food connection (you knew there had to be one, didn’t you?): One of Fannie’s stories involved a plate of mint-chocolate chip cookies. I sent off a comment (jokingly) asking for the cookie recipe and darned if author Tracy didn’t send me her cookie recipe! Talk about a class act.

So with many thanks to Tracy–and an urging to you all to check out her fun-to-read stories, which follow the life of Fannie Cranium, husband Richard, friends Bunny and Clarissa, and other assorted and colorful characters–I bring you Mint Decadence Cookies.

Mint Decadence Cookies à la Fannie Cranium

Mint Decadence Cookies à la Fannie Cranium

Mind you, I made changes along the way, but what food blogger worth his or her (chocolate) salt wouldn’t? For starters, instead of grating a large Hershey bar, I gathered leftover chocolate Easter bunnies (about 14 ounces worth) and chopped them into chunks. Also, wanting to apply some of the “irreverent wisdom” found in Tracy’s blog, I tried to get more mileage out of the cookie dough by treating each baking sheet a bit differently.

The first batch was rolled in powdered sugar before baking, the second sprinkled with vanilla salt, and the third with chocolate salt. At this point I was down about two-thirds of the dough and my eyes happened upon a bottle of rum sitting on the counter (you can’t enjoy that Derby Day mint julep without rum, folks). Before I knew it, a splash or so (thinking about 1/4 cup) of rum went into the leftover dough, as did about 3 tablespoons baking cocoa to balance out the extra liquid. These cookies were sprinkled with either vanilla or chocolate salt, then dusted with powdered sugar as soon as they emerged from the oven.

rolled in powdered sugar prebake

rolled in powdered sugar prebake

sprinkled with chocolate or vanilla salt before baking

sprinkled with chocolate or vanilla salt before baking

rum in the batter, dusted with powdered sugar after baking

rum in the batter, dusted with powdered sugar after baking

No matter how they were topped, the cookies were deep, dark, and yum. The mint flavor wasn’t so much a wallop as it was a subtle backnote rendering these cookies Decadent with a capital D. I imagine Fannie and Richard Cranium would approve and I’m hoping Tracy does too. So here’s to friends made while hanging out in the blogosphere. I thank you all for your reads and likes and comments. May you always enjoy chocolate decadence as you continue to write and read about your favorite topics.

Mint Decadence Cookies

1 (10-ounce) bag mint-flavored chips
1 (12-ounce) bag chocolate chips
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 giant Hershey’s candy bar, grated (I used 14 or so ounces chopped assorted chocolates)

Heat oven to 375°F. Grease baking sheets.

In top of double-boiler set over simmering water, melt 3/4 cup each mint chips and chocolate chips over hot, stirring until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In large bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla; beat until creamy. Stir in melted chips and eggs; beat well. Gradually blend in flour mixture. Stir in grated chocolate bar and remaining mint and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets. Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until just set. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 60 cookies.

the most expensive ice cream I’ll ever make

With Minnesota’s recent frigid blast of cold weather, I’d bet there’s been lots of baking going on. Baking seems meant for cold days, which was reason enough for me to whip up a loaf of banana bread and multiple batches of chocolate chip cookies (science fair time!). But I’ve also rebelled and made what is most definitely not winter fare.

A library borrow–Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones–was my inspiration. There’s plenty to this lovely book (sugar cones, shortbread, cakes, herb-and-spice ice creams, fruity ice creams, decadent ice creams), but I was drawn to the simpler flavors. Buttermilk ice cream was a must-make as I’m always trying to push through a 50-pound bag of buttermilk powder I couldn’t resist buying a few years back. (I’m a sucker for good deals.)

Despite the 5°F high yesterday, I set about to make my own ice cream. My snazzy little ice cream maker (it’s red!) meant that all I had to do was cook up a custard, cool it down, age it overnight (hardest part as I wanted to churn it immediately), then spin it the next day to freeze.

Thinking it would make a fun blog post, I started snapping photos as the custard just approached a simmer. One hand on the phone, one hand on the whisk–recipe for disaster. As my phone splashed into the hot custard base, my heart sank. Knowing I’d burn my hand if I reached in, I frantically pulled open drawers looking for a pair of tongs to extract the phone. I removed it from its case and wiped it down and was thrilled when it still seemed to work. After only briefly considering tossing the custard (nah), I soldiered on, cooking and then cooling the base for overnight refrigeration.

custard sans cell phone

custard sans cell phone

Trying to receive a phone call later that night, I realized the phone was indeed damaged. Which makes this ice cream a spendy one. Never one to hold a grudge, I churned the ice cream this morning and found it to be every bit as tasty as I’d imagined. Rich, very slightly tangy, sweet, creamy, lush. A drizzle of homemade Hershey’s syrup (as easy a DIY as they come–you must make this and keep it on hand at all times) made it Perfect.

amazing buttermilk ice cream with diy Hershey's syrup

amazing buttermilk ice cream with diy chocolate syrup

Subzero temps and having to shell out a chunk of cash to replace my phone–two downers for sure. But there’s no changing the weather and what’s done is done, so I’ll enjoy my buttermilk ice cream and keep paging through Sweet Cream for the next batch of ice cream inspiration. Crème fraîche (on page 38) is looking pretty good….

Buttermilk Ice Cream

adapted slightly from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones

  • 3 large egg yolks (original recipe was for 5)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup 1% or 2% milk (used 1%)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (whisked together 1/4 cup buttermilk powder, 1/2 cup water, and enough fat-free half-and-half to yield 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In medium heatproof bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 6 tablespoons sugar.

In heavy nonreactive saucepan, stir together cream, milk, and remaining 6 tablespoons sugar. Heat over medium-high heat just until barely simmering. Reduce heat to medium. Gently stir 1/2 cup hot cream mixture into egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly; repeat. With heatproof rubber spatula, stir cream in saucepan as you slowly pour egg mixture into pan. Gently cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture is thickened, coats back of spatula, and holds clear path when you run your figures across spatula.

Strain base through fine-mesh strainer into clean container. Set container in ice-water bath; let cool, stirring occasionally. When completely cool, remove from ice-water bath. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 2 hours or up to overnight.

Whisk buttermilk and vanilla into cold base. Freeze in ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Enjoy immediately or transfer to chilled container and freeze 4 hours. Makes about 1 quart.