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I love chocolate and caramel, but chocolate and salted caramel? I DIE. My church choir had a potluck after one of our recent concerts, and I decided that instead of bringing my usual napkins, I would attempt to bake! Those of you who know me in real life probably know how much of a disaster this could potentially be, but I found a pretty foolproof recipe at Sweetapolita and got really brave. The recipe was originally published by Saveur and all of the measurements were metric, so that’s why some of these amounts might seem a little bizarre, but trust the recipe!

It’s kind of a three-phase process, so I’ll break it down phase-by-phase.

Phase 1: Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon dutch-process cocoa powder (as you can tell, I used something generic)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and softened (I zapped it for 30 seconds in the microwave and let it sit while I got my act together)
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

[crust ingredients, with an unnecessary cameo by granulated sugar]

1) Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

2) Using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until mixture is pale and fluffy. WARNING: lower the beaters in *prior to* turning them on. Otherwise, you’ll have to add an additional step to clean the powdered sugar off of the counters, floor, and your hair :). Mix in egg yolks and vanilla.

[sugar + butter + eggs + vanilla = cats meowing incessantly]

3) Mix in dry ingredients.

[dough]

4) Transfer dough to a 9″ fluted tart pan with a removable bottom (like this one from Crate & Barrel). Press dough evenly into bottom and sides of pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. During the last 10 minutes, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees. Prick the tart shell all over with a fork and bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a track and let cool.

[dough, holes]

Phase 2: Caramel

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 7 tablespoons heavy cream

[measuring cups – Anthropologie]

1) In a small heavy saucepan, whisk together sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook undisrupted until a candy thermometer inserted into the syrup reads 340 degrees F. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, the mixture should be a rich amber color. If you’re like me, you’ll want to buy a candy thermometer.

[candy/oil thermometer – Williams-Sonoma]

2) Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter + cream (mixture will bubble, so cuidado and don’t stick your face in it!) If your caramel is too dark/burnt, throw it out and start again. You’ll thank me later.

[caramel]

3) Pour the caramel into the cooled tart shell and let cool slightly. Refrigerate until firm (4-5 hours). FYI this makes a CRAPLOAD of caramel, so do not fret if it looks like it’s going to pull a Mount Vesuvius (in its active days) over the edge of the tart pan. It’ll settle in.

Phase 3: Ganache

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (to expedite the melting process)
  • Fleur de Sel for garnish – I used Balinese Sea Salt, but I’d recommend any giant grain sea salt to make it pretty!

[ingredients; laptop+rockin’ tunes optional]

1) Bring heavy cream to almost boil (translation: get it really hot) in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Put chocolate into medium bowl and pour in hot cream. Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth.

[ganache]

2) Pour ganache evenly over tart. I had to spread it out with a spatula. Refrigerate 4-5 hours (I did it overnight). Sprinkle tart with sea salt. Slice. Eat. Get diabetes.

[tart, partially camouflaged by my counters]

Enjoy! This tart is amazing with coffee, and best when it’s chilled.

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It was over 90 degrees at one point today, so this probably seems like a horrible time for this post, but here’s what I’m loving for fall (whenever it gets here):

1. Rose gold

Like I said in an earlier post, I used to be a “silver accessories only” girl, but I’ve recently begun loving gold, and rose gold is no exception! I also love giant watches, so this one by Nixon is perfection:

Love it? Get it here from Mimi & Red. Here’s a similar one by Michael Kors, and a much more affordable one by Fossil.

2. (Faux) Fur!

A part of me is unsure about this, but I’m going to go with it! Loving this vest (even though I honestly haven’t worn a vest since middle school, but now might be a good time to start!)

the perenially fabulous rachel zoe

I especially love this BB Dakota vest (buy it here at ShopBop, and sources tell me it’s also available at Mimi & Red RIGHT NOW for you San Diegans!) Here’s a cheaper version from American Eagle, and a ca-ray-zee fur poncho from Zara, which brings me to my next point…

3. Capes

How cute is this?

coach bonnie tattersall cape

If you have $598 laying around, please get this. I love the colors, the shape, and basically everything about this. If you are like me, and don’t have quite the disposable income for this one, this checker table cape from Anthropologie is a decent substitute, and it’s on sale!

4. Fall food/drinks

My court partner brought in homemade pumpkin bread on Tuesday (like, she cut open and roasted an entire pumpkin because she’s a legit, kickass mom – and attorney! -) and I was reminded of how much I love fall food! Here’s a pretty basic recipe for pumpkin bread, and here’s a fantastically rich recipe for pumpkin bread pudding. I made this last year for Christmas, and it was insanely sweet, rich, and totally delicious.

I also love apples, and am super excited about this apple butter recipe, since it looks pretty foolproof (a must when I’m cooking).

Last, I must admit I love hot chocolate, even though I’m lactose-intolerant. My favorite local hot chocolate is the chili burnt caramel from Eclipse Chocolat. They make their own marshmallows in house, and the drinking chocolate is the perfect combination of spicy and sweet, and completely worth taking all of the Lactaid for.

mmmm hot chocolate

If you can’t get to Eclipse, the Spicy Maya hot chocolate mix from Chuao is also super-delicious and just the perfect amount of spicy. Order it here, although my local Whole Foods carries it too!

Happy fall shopping/eating!

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The cafe downstairs in my office building has the most amazing lentils and rice dish available as their “special” on Fridays. It’s such a perfect dish: hearty and a little bit sweet. However, there’s one major downfall: it’s only available on Fridays! So what’s a girl to do? Turn to the internet!

My cafe actually calls it “Mujadara” but the recipe I found online calls it “Mujaddara.” I tweaked the recipe a little bit (explanations below.) The recipe is virtually foolproof! Here’s what you’ll need:

20110808-102445.jpg

three onions, one cup lentils, 3/4 cup rice; 1 tbsp cumin/garlic powder; 1 tsp cinnamon

Plus 3 cups of water (divided into 1 cup and 2 cups), and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I also threw in one vegetable bullion cube to the cooking stock, and plenty of salt and pepper. Laptop optional, obviously.

The recipe only calls for the onions to be sauteed right at the end and thrown on top of the rice/lentils mixture, but the cafe makes it with caramelized onions, and it’s absolutely delicious. You’ll want to slice your 3 onions down as thinly as possible. I’d recommend using either white or yellow onions – I tend to think the red onions are too harsh for this recipe.

20110808-102509.jpg

onions, sliced

I’d start the onions over very low heat (I sprayed a nonstick pan with cooking spray) a full hour before you start the lentils/rice cooking because they take just that long. Thankfully they’re not high-maintenance (unlike yours truly) so they just require a bit of stirring once in a while. But make sure you keep the heat low! No burned onions!

20110808-102630.jpg

onions, starting to wilt

Next, bring two cups of water, the vegetable bullion cube, the spices, and the lentils to a simmer in a small pot. Reduce the heat and simmer 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Ignore the fact that it looks like sludge. It’ll be okay.

20110808-104951.jpg

lentils; water; spices

 

Pour in the rice, 2 tbsp of olive oil, and another cup of water. (I know the recipe only calls for 3/4 cup of water, but I don’t think the rice can cook adequately like that.) Also: cuidado con los onions! (Translation: mind the onions.)

20110808-102642.jpg

rice + water + olive oil

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for another 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Once that’s done, and the onions are caramelized (dark brown), combine them in the giant saucepan, and stir together.

20110808-102704.jpg

voila! mujadara (mujaddara?)

Sorry about the quality of this last photo – the pitfalls of iPhone photography. You can serve it plain, with pita, or our cafe adds a fresh salsa that’s almost like pico de gallo on top. Delicious!

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1.  The changing weather and the earthquakes have left me feeling…discombobulated, to say the least.  I’ve been sleeping inordinate amounts, including random naps (which is totally unlike me; well, totally unlike me post-college) and haven’t wanted to eat much of anything.  In fact, on Friday, I decided I wanted to eat the following:  an egg roll, a taco from Jack in the Box, a spoonful of macaroni and cheese, and copious amounts of coffee. Unfortunately, no one would sell that exact combination of food to me, so I settled for a giant salad instead, which leads me to confession #2.

romaine, chicken, dried cranberries/cherries, goat cheese and homemade ciabatta

2.  I hate premade salad dressing.  Save for the occasional ranch with fries (just one of the many reasons I will never be a runway model), I rarely have it.  I have a delightful little recipe for sesame dressing that, blessedly, does not call for ginger (see Confession #3 below).  It’s 1/2 tbsp sesame oil, 1/8 cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar, and 1 tbsp packed brown sugar.  You can whisk all of the ingredients together and then pour it over the salad, or, if you’re like me and don’t use a lot of dressing and/or are super-lazy, you can do this:

Pour all ingredients into a travel shampoo bottle (preferably one that has never been used to house shampoo/conditioner/shower gel) and shake.  You can store the leftovers right in your cupboard or on the counter.  Bonus:  no leakage!

3.  I am quite possibly the world’s worst Asian.  I hate ginger, cilantro, and I’m not great at math.  However, I have crappy vision, am a mediocre driver, and am lactose-intolerant, so I guess you win some, lose some.

4.  I love crappy reality tv.  Over the course of the weekend, I watched:  The Real Housewives of New York City, What Not to Wear, and countless reruns of Law and Order:  SVU.  Judge away.

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Yes, you read that correctly.  Cookie dough + chocolate + truffle form.  My friends (one of my favorite married couples) bought an amazing house in San Diego, and had a housewarming party to celebrate this weekend.  Not wanting to show up empty-handed, and not wanting to force them to take care of a plant, I decided to make them some candy, namely cookie dough truffles (recipe courtesy of my friend Meredith (who runs the lovely blog “Eat, Drink, and Be Meredith“).  These are so good (and so easy to make) that it’s unreal.  There are no raw eggs in the dough recipe, so these are safe for consumption (if you don’t have an aversion to flour.)  Here’s the rundown:

Ingredients:

1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature * 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar * 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract * 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour * 14 oz. can of condensed milk * 1 pound of chocolate   (In my quest to weigh 500 pounds, I also added some peanut butter)

Have I mentioned how much I love recipes that have ingredients I can count on my fingers?  And ones that call for no baking?

Instructions:

(1) Beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  (2)  Beat in flour, vanilla, and condensed milk.  Cover and chill until firm enough to form balls.  (2a)  Be 12, and laugh at the word “balls.”  (3)  Form into 1 or 1 1/2 inch balls; place on lined baking sheet and refrigerate until firm.  (3a)  See step 2a.  (4)  Melt chocolate in double-boiler, aka glass bowl over small pot of simmering water.  (5) Dip balls in chocolate, and place on lined baking sheet.  (6)  Refrigerate -or freeze if you’re impatient- until ready to serve.

So here’s how mine turned out:

Mmmmmm

I placed each truffle in a mini muffin liner and packaged them all in a reusable tupperware container for my friends’ housewarming gift.  Note the imperfect nature of chocolate coating.  I attribute this to my impatience (my inability to wait for the chocolate to melt completely) and to the fact that, despite being only 5’0″ tall and a large consumer of chocolate, I will likely not be cast on the next season of “The Little Chocolatiers.”  So this was the first batch.  I ran out of chocolate, and at the store, I had a revelation:  what if I put peanut butter in these bad boys?  So I did.

...with peanut butter!

I melted down a bunch of Reese’s peanut butter chips and dipped the balls of dough in them; chilled them and then dipped them again in chocolate.  I also decided to make ganache (partially to make the peanut butter truffles easily distinguishable, and partially also because I like the shininess of ganache) to cover these, so that’s why they are slightly more shiny.  Again, they’re lumpy, but I can assure you they are delicious.  I think next time I might incorporate the peanut butter into the cookie dough itself, and just do a drizzle of peanut butter over the tops of the truffles.

Enjoy!  They are extremely sweet and rich, and should be stored in the refrigerator (or outside in the snow if you live in the Midwest.)  I’ve been told they are good with milk, but like any good Asian, I’m lactose-intolerant, so I’ll take my friends’ word for it.

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