Sunday, May 25, 2008

weird but good

This recipe won 2nd place at UCSD Sixth College's annual Chocolate Festival recipe contest in my freshman year (first place went to a chocolate souffle). Chocolate and caramel go hand in hand, but you'd never guess what this sweet's base is- saltine crackers! That's right. I got this recipe from a swim team kid's mom, who made it at our annual holiday party, and had a very hard time believing it. Of course, the crackers are unsalted, which does make a big difference, but still! How could something that you normally eat when you're sick or with soup possibly make such a sugary snack? I've tried using graham crackers as a base before (easier to break), but I've been told that it's a little too sweet that way.

Chocolate Toffee Crackers

(makes about 1 lb.)
  • unsalted saltine crackers (enough to cover the pan)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups sliced almonds or pecans (optional)

- Arrange a single layer of crackers with sides touching, but not overlapping, along the bottom of a shallow, non-stick baking pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a small saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly until melted. Cook for two minutes once the mixture comes to a boil, then remove from heat and spread the caramel quickly over the crackers. Use a spatula to make sure the caramel covers all of the crackers, then add the nuts.
- Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from oven. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the pan. Wait several minutes for the chocolate to melt, then spread it evenly over the crackers.
- Refrigerate the crackers in the pan for 30 minutes. Remove and break into pieces- use a butter knife to gently break the crackers apart along the seams if you want neat pieces.

Here's some music to dance to while you bake:
Dizzee Rascal - Fix Up, Look Sharp
Klaxons - As Above, So Below (Justice remix)
Scissors For Lefty - Ghetto Ways

Saturday, May 24, 2008

lazy weekend

Long weekends are a good time to sleep in late and wake up in the afternoon to make breakfast. Here's a recipe for pancakes from Bon Appetit that sounds weird but tastes REALLY good. They've got a lot more texture and flavor than regular pancakes, without being too odd.
It's a little tricky, at least for me, to make these pancakes without burning them- I use a cast-iron pan to make them. You also need to keep a good eye on the heat if you're using an electric stove, because the pan will get hotter even if you don't adjust the temperature. After burning the first few pancakes I made, I turned the heat down to a medium-low and let the pan cool before trying again.

Banana, Raisin & Oatmeal Pancakes

From Bon Appetit
(makes about 12)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed golden brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup plain (or vanilla) yogurt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup raisins (I used golden)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for griddle

- Whisk the oats, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon into a medium bowl.
- Whisk yogurt, milk, eggs,and vanilla in another medium bowl to blend.
- Whisk the dry ingredients into the yogurt mixture until just blended. Fold in the mashed bananas, raisins, and melted butter.
- Brush a non-stick griddle or skillet with melted butter and heat over medium-low heat. Pour the batter by 1/3 cupfuls onto the griddle, and cook until bubbles form on the top  and the bottoms are golden brown, about two minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook until the bottoms are golden, about another two minutes.

Here's some happy music for the three-day weekend:
- Oh No, Oh My - Jane Is Fat.mp3
The title of this song is so mean it's hilarious, but the song is actually completely different from what you might expect given the name. It's a surprisingly sweet song about love, really, upbeat but quiet.
- Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) & Britt Daniel (Spoon) - Let The Distance Bring Us Together
This song is from a Post-Parlo Records EP back in 2002 with four songs from this unexpected pair. I don't own the CD itself- it was printed in a pretty limited run- but I did manage to find all four songs on the internet. It's worth listening to if you are vaguely into either band. This song in particular works really well to combine both sounds in a way that ends up being pretty awesome on its own.
- Mount Righteous - When The Child Awakes
I saw this band play with the Modlins just yesterday. I had never heard of them before, but it ended up being pretty incredible. It's a large group of kids from Texas (about 12 of them) who each play a different instrument and sing, kind of a cross between a chorus and a marching band. Sounds really weird, but it was amazing to watch, and a good listen, too.