Caramelized Maple Praline Shortbread Bars

Caramelized Maple Praline Shortbread Bars 
This is one of the most decadent desserts I have ever made for myself. I do make very rich special occasion desserts for family and friends, but I normally try to stick to the lighter recipes when I’m baking for myself and my parents on an average weekend. Despite it’s shortbread-meets-praline flavor and it’s lack of “light” ingredients,it still manages to clock in at around 190 calories with only classic,organic,and simple ingredients. It made my house smell amazing and oddly enough tasted exactly like how it smelled. It was also the perfect solution for a Fall craving. Who doesn’t want shortbread,pecans,caramel, and maple syrup around this time of year? Not me! That’s for sure. ;) This makes 9 bars and goes perfectly with a tall glass of milk on a cool Autumn evening.Ingredients (I used all organic but use whatever works for you :) )

  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup grade B maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp salted butter
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp raw sugar
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 1 tbsp milk

Directions

  1. Combine maple syrup and milk in a large saucepan (the mixture will bubble up so be careful!)
  2. Once combined, add the sugar and salt and boil at high to medium-high until it reaches a firm ball stage. The time will vary for each batch so test it by dropping a small amount of the mixture into ice water. It should form a firm (but not too firm) ball.
  3. When it’s reached firm ball stage,take the saucepan off of the stove and add the butter and vanilla immediately. Stir in chopped pecans. Set aside and let cool.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  5. Cream together the brown sugar,butter,vanilla,and salt with a mixer or hand held beater .
  6. Slowly beat in flour until moist and crumbly.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes in an oiled 8×8 in square pan.
  8. Once the crust is done and still hot from the oven,return the saucepan to the to stove. Slowly warm until it becomes soft,keep stirring at low heat until the mixture crystalizes. It should look like maple candy.
  9. Add the tbsp of milk so that it is soft enough to spread over the crust. Don’t worry about spreading it perfectly. It will soften even more in the oven and spread throughout the pan. The maple caramel boils up and hardens into this amazing praline buttercream crust.
  10. Return mixture to oven and bake for another 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack before cutting.

 

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Chocolate Hazelnut Pistachio Cookie Cake

Chocolate Hazelnut Pistachio Cookie Cake 
 
This is a special cake I invented for my mom’s birthday. Almost every ingredient was picked out specifically for what I know about her tastes. She loves pistachios (especially in ice cream) so I made pistachio cookies. The cookies were based off of a simple peanut butter cookie recipe that I made for her once on a whim and she adored. I also made my own pistachio butter with organic refined coconut oil (a healthy fat that she loves to cook with.)  The frosting was made from Neufchatel. It’s a french cream cheese with 1/3rd the fat and the cream cheese that I always use in her favorite frosting recipe. The chocolate hazelnut spread I used was the brand I brought home from France so that I could recreate the crepes I had loved so she could taste them. The ganache was made from a high quality milk chocolate that we both fell in love with a few years ago when we made homemade toffee.
 I also chose to make the layers out of cookies instead of cake because we were traveling on her birthday. I had to make something that would stand up well and last well. The cake actually tasted even better. It acted like a well made fruitcake, where the flavors just got richer and more pronounced over time. This is a perfect cake to make ahead of time. It’s unique enough to be a special occasion meal but classic enough that it suits almost everyone’s tastes.
For the cookies
Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup pistachio butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup chopped macadamia nnuts
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 small egg or 1 egg white
Directions
  1. Preheat oven for 350 degrees F.
  2. Cream together pistachio butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, vanilla, and the egg.  Mix in chopped macadamia nuts and separate into three balls. Flatten the cookies with your hand or a fork and back on parchment paper for 8 minutes.
  3. Cool completely on wire rack.
For the frosting
Ingredients
  • 4 oz Neufchatel
  • 3/4 cup Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (Nocciolata Rigoni di Asiago)
  • 1/4 tsp chocolate extract
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract.
  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp salt.
Directions
  1. Cream together Neufchatel and chocolate hazelnut cream until smooth and slightly lighter in color.
  2. Mix in 1/4 tsp of vanilla,chocolate,and almond extract.
  3. Slowly beat in powdered sugar,1/4 cup at a time. Add 1 tbsp of milk and mix until thoroughly combined.
  4. Beat in cocoa powder and salt.
  5. Frost the cooled cookies and set in refrigerator or freezer to let the frosting stiffen up.
For the ganache (Make after assembling and cooling the rest of the cake.)
Ingredients
  • 1 oz (two tbsp) milk
  • 3 oz finely chopped high quality milk chocolate
Directions
  1. Bring 1 oz of milk (about two tbsp) to a boil and pour over chopped chocolate.
  2. Let sit for one minute, then whisk until smooth. Cool slightly.
  3. Pour over assembled and chilled cake. Refrigerate to set.

I hope you love it just as much as she did. :) I love you Mom!

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Homemade Caramel Fondant

Homemade Caramel Fondant 

 
  Fondant has always been a bit of an internal struggle with me. I love how beautiful it can make a cake look but I don’t like the taste or the ingredients. Cakes should be pretty but it’s definitely much more important for them to taste delicious. That’s what they’re for after all. :P
   Store bought fondant has some really nasty ingredients and home made always calls for store bought marshmallows. Even if you get organic marshmallows, it’s a long shot that you could find vegetarian ones that still melt and form into a workable fondant. Trust me….I’ve tried! Besides all of that,I don’t even like the taste of fondant.
   That’s why I was so excited when I came up with this idea. A gelatin, corn syrup, food coloring, marshmallow, shortening free caramel fondant. It’s a beautiful golden color with no dyes, simple ingredients, and which tastes amazing. It’s also easily moldable and holds up well to decorations and general man handling if, like me, you don’t have much experience with fondants.
First off we make the caramel. 
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup wildflower honey
  • 3 tbsp lite coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp raw vegan sugar
  • 1 tbsp organic butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Directions
1.) Mix honey and coconut milk together with a whisk. Bring to a boil over high heat until caramel reaches soft ball stage.
2.) Remove from heat and mix in vanilla,butter,and salt. Return to heat until caramel mixture reaches firm ball stage. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
Now for the fondant.
This is the full recipe. I cut mine in half because I was making a mini cake and wanted the other half of the caramel for decorations.
Ingredients
  • 1 batch of honey caramel
  •  2/3 cup organic powdered sugar
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt
 Slowly mix powdered sugar, flour, and salt into the honey. Once combined, knead until smooth.  So simple!
Now you can roll out the fondant, cut it into shapes, add natural dye (plus a little more flour or sugar to keep the right consistency), mix in cocoa, anything you would normally do with a store bought fondant. Enjoy!
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Salted Maple Honey Caramel Corn with Toasted Pecans.

Homemade caramel corn is so surprisingly delicious. Sometimes that’s easy to forget when all you’ve tasted recently is store bought,yellow #5, high fructose corn syrup drenched caramel corn. But then you take a bite of this crisp,sweet,buttery,light homemade treat and you realize what you’ve been missing.

My mom loves caramel corn. This is the second batch I’ve made in two days. (shhh,don’t tell!) I made it as a random surprise for her a few days ago and the whole bowl was gone after that evening’s dessert. Don’t worry,this time I doubled the recipe. 

I really can’t stand cooking with corn syrup. Even if I buy dark corn syrup from Whole Foods, I still feel strange about serving it and would much prefer to find a different recipe completely or a way to substitute it. I found out a while ago that you could make caramel with honey or maple syrup instead of corn syrup so, using naturallysweetrecipes.blogspot.com‘s Honey Caramels recipe loosely as a guide, I set to work.

This tastes like the best gourmet caramel corn you’ve ever had…but better.
 
  • Ingrediants
  • 1/2 cup Raw Honey (1/2 cup maple syrup if vegan)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup 1% milk or lite coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2-3 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons Butter (or vegan butter,earth balance etc.)
  • 7 tbsp popcorn (7 cups popped)
  • 2/3 cup vegan cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup lightly toasted pecans (chopped)

1.) Combine honey (if using),maple syrup, sugar, and milk in a large pot over medium high heat. Bring to a boil,stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the mixture comes to the soft ball stage. You can test this by dropping a small amount of caramel into cold or ice water. If the mixture stays together instead of dissolving and forms a soft ball that you can lightly roll in-between your fingers, then you are at the soft ball stage. Soft ball stage normally happens around 234 F-240F (112.78 C) measured on a candy thermometer.

2.) Take mixture off of heat and mix in butter,vanilla extract,and salt. Set aside.

3.) Meanwhile,pop 7 tbsp popcorn kernels to get about seven cups of popcorn. Pour into large bowl.
Preheat your oven to 375°F (135°C)

4.) Pour warm caramel over the popcorn and stir to coat. The caramel doesn’t have to touch every piece.  That will be fixed during the baking. Mix in chopped pecans.

5.) Butter a large rimmed baking pan and spread popcorn mixture evenly inside.  Bake for 10 minutes,stirring every 2 minutes to make sure it is evenly cooked and your caramel corn doesn’t burn.

6.)Remove from oven and let cool slightly or until safe to touch. If you let it cool too long then your caramel corn will harden onto the baking pan and you won’t be able to pry it off without breaking it. If this happens then just pop it back into the oven at 350°F (121.11°C) for a minute or two and it should become soft again.
Store in a large container with the top off until entirely cooled. (so the caramel coating will stay crispy.)

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Browned Butter Coconut Blondies

Browned Butter Coconut Blondies with a Salted Browned Butter Glaze.

These are maybe the most amazing blondes I’ve ever had. I wanted to make something with coconut butter because I had a nearly full jar sitting around in our cupboard for quite a long time. It didn’t expire until November but since it hadn’t even been touched in months,I was sure that time could slip by pretty easily. Strangely enough the coconut butter doesn’t show through much despite being in both the blondie and the glaze, so if you aren’t the biggest fan of coconut butter then it shouldn’t be a problem.

The flavor that really shines is the browned butter. I’ve had recipes where the browned butter didn’t actually effect the taste of the finished product. It feels like an extra step that ends up being a waste of time. This is definitely not one of those recipes. Browned butter is the main character in this dessert. It’s the most prominent flavor and the delicious nutty scent it gives off during the browning lasts through the baking to leave these blondes smelling delicious and decadent despite only having a 1/4 cup of butter in the entire batch. I’m selling them to you but honestly these blondies speak for themselves. They really are one of the most delicious things I’ve ever made and I sincerely hope that you make a batch for yourself since I can’t personally send out a dozen to everyone and anyone with a sweet tooth.

Ingredients

  • 5 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 heaping teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup softened coconut butter
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, browned and cooled to room temp (1/4 cup set aside)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup toasted sweetened coconut

Frosting

  • 1/4 cup browned butter (room temperature)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp coconut butter
  • 2-3 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp milk
  • dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp coconut oil

Directions for the blondies:

  1. Melt butter completely in sauce pan on medium high heat. Let the butter simmer (stirring constantly) until the butter becomes a deep brown and foam appears on the top. There will be flecks of brown at the bottom. Do not drain. The flecks add an extra oomph to the brown butter flavor as well as the beautiful speckles in the glaze.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and whisk together all purpose flour,brown sugar,baking powder,and salt. Set aside.
  3. Beat the coconut butter, brown sugar, half of the browned butter, milk, vanilla, and eggs until completely combined.
  4. Mix the wet and dry ingredients thoroughly.
  5. Mix in toasted coconut and chocolate chips.
  6. Bake the blondes in a 9 inch square pan for 19 minutes.
  7. Cool completely on wire rack.

Directions for the topping:

  1. Mix the cooled and now solid browned butter,maple syrup,milk,and coconut butter.
  2. Mix in powdered sugar until you reach a wet frosting consistency.
  3. Salt to taste. The frosting may taste salty by itself but it contrasts amazingly with the sweetness of the blondie.
  4. Melt chocolate chips and coconut oil in the microwave until smooth.
  5. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the blondie.
  6. Allow to cool slightly and then drizzle the browned butter glaze over the blondie as well.
  7. Allow to set for about 10-20 minutes in the refrigerator and cut into pieces.

Loaves and kisses, Maddie

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Orange Almond Chai Banana Bread

Mmmm….almonds and candied ginger.
Not something I normally would go for. I mean almonds and ginger are yummy on their own but together they are something else entirely.
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I love this grain free banana bread recipe from Healthful Pursuit but I had already made it twice before and was craving a variation. I also had been eyeing a fruit filled banana bread and a chai banana bread. Somehow all those blended into a Orange Almond Chai Banana Bread.
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The name and the ingredient list may be long but the prep time is over in a snap.
Ingredients
Dry
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour (56 grams)
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp all spice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cardimon
  • 1/4 cup salted chopped almonds
  • 25 grams chopped candied ginger
  • (1/4 cup melted coconut oil)
Wet
  • 3/4-1 cup mashed very ripe banana. (About 8 3/4 oz or two large bananas.)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup raw milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tsp orange extract
  • Juice+zest of one large orange
  • 2 tbsp raw honey
Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. I like to mix the coconut oil into the dry ingredients because the wet ingredients make it resolidify. Once the coconut oil has soaked into the dry ingredients,that is no longer a problem. Add wet ingredients and beat until smooth with a hand held or stand mixer. Bake for 45-50 minutes.
This bread is extremely moist which I personally love. If you prefer drier bread then this may not be the recipe for you. Or this could be the recipe that changes your mind. ;)
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Serves 12. 147 calories per serving with almonds and candied ginger.
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Floral Raspberry Shortbread

Normally when I start out a blog post,I add a little anecdote. Something to catch your attention,or just ease you into all the tech talk. Normally…but not today. These cookies are just too good to beat around the bush! For one thing,I tend to not enjoy fruit flavored desserts. In my taste buds’ opinion, anything that tastes like fruit should be fruit. When I bite into something that tastes like strawberry or orange,it should be sweet and natural and juicy. If it’s not,the caveman part of my brain panics and is simultaneously disappointed at the difference. For another,I don’t like fruit and chocolate very often. Raspberries and chocolate are a small exception but even then I tend to lean towards plain. These cookies are not only a small exception,they’re a game changer. I can’t believe how much I love them. They’re the perfect blend of tart fruit,creamy dreamy chocolate,and a buttery texture. It’s hard to put into words. I think you just have to trust me. These cookies are GOOD.

Wouldn't these be great for Easter?

Ingredients
1/3-1/2 cups frozen raspberries (defrosted)
1 stick soft butter
1/2 cup – 2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp orange extract
1/4 tsp lavender extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cocoa nibs
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Raw Sugar (optional)
Directions
1) Preheat oven to 350°F
2) Cream the butter and raspberries together until the raspberries are completely blended in.
3) Beat in the sugar and flour until you have a dough that stays together but isn’t too sticky to roll into balls.
4)Spray a large cookie pan with non-stick spray. Roll the cookies into balls and press down with your thumb. Sprinkle them lightly with raw sugar. Cook for 18-20 minutes and cool on a wire rack. Makes 25-30 thumbprint cookies.
My mother,who has always said raspberries and chocolate sound terrible together,also loves these cookies. I guess it goes to show you that you can change anyone’s opinion with enough butter. :P
Loavesandkisses,
Maddie
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