Clodhoppers simply appeared one holiday season. They snuck in from the drizzly cold of a Coquitlam Christmas tucked under the arm of a guest. I imagine they were wrapped in the reindeer/snowmen/Santa print of the season or perhaps jammed between a cheese ball and turkey sausage behind the rose-tinted cellophane lens of one of those food baskets that everyone receives and no one eats and whose best-before dates make them inadvisable to re-gift.
However they got there, I arrived to find those Clodhoppers staring up from one of numerous candy bowls strategically placed at various snack points throughout the house.* They didn't last long. In the years that followed, they've made a habit of dropping in and slipping out early -- before half the family has even arrived for Christmas dinner.
They're ridiculously simple to make and highly addictive to eat. A dandy or dangerous combination, depending on your point of view. If you’re planning on sharing them with friends and family, then bag them just as soon as they're cool. Otherwise you may find yourself in the same predicament as I did: with a lot of half-filled bags and a bellyache while making batch no. 2.
* One of the first things people notice after spending any length of time at my parents' place is the sheer volume and variety of snacks available at every turn.
4 cups Golden Grahams cereal, crushed roughly
1 cup roasted cashews, chopped roughly and salted if you like
2 cups chocolate (dark, milk or white), chopped roughly
Line a baking sheet with greased parchment paper or tinfoil.
Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water. (Alternatively, you can place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan to simulate a double boiler, just so long as the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl.)
Meanwhile, mix the Golden Grahams cereal and cashews together in a large bowl. Add the melted chocolate and stir quickly to coat the nuts and cereal evenly.
Spread the mixture thinly over the prepared cooking sheet and chill until set. Break into small chunks and store in an airtight container at room temperature.
In my second batch, I added a generous tablespoon of peanut butter to the melted milk chocolate for a tasty riff on the original.
Notes: Clodhoppers are a Canadian treat with a neat backstory.
Source: This recipe is posted all over the place online.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Top of R.'s Christmas cookie wish list every year are the Chocolatiest Crinkles The conversation in early December goes something like this:
R: Hey, are you gonna make those chocolate cookies again this year? The ones with the crackly tops?
S: Which ones?
R: You know, those ones that are kind of like really thin brownies. Kind of chewy with big white flakes of sugar.
S: Hmmm, not ringing any bells.
R: You totally know which ones I'm talking about. They have a funny name, like chocolate-y something.
The name might not be so memorable, but the taste definitely is. We don't like to talk about these cookies so much as we like to eat them.
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup icing sugar
Melt chocolate in a double boiler, whisking until smooth. Remove the bowl from heat and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup flour, baking soda and salt.
In another bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and blend well. Add the egg and vanilla and beat thoroughly.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 batches, beating just until blended after each addition.
Transfer the dough to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours or as long as overnight).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop the icing sugar into a small bowl.
Remove the cookie dough from the fridge and shape into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in the icing sugar to coat heavily. Place balls 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake for 8 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets on wire racks for 2 minutes, then transfer to the racks to cool completely.
Cookies can be stored in layers, separated by wax paper, in an airtight container at room temperature or in the freezer.
Source: Luscious Chocolate Desserts by Lori Longbotham.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
I first came across this recipe for Phyllo Wrapped Bananas during our last week in Ottawa. We were down to a few canned goods, a number of mysteriously shaped Ziploc lumps in the freezer and some borderline bananas on the counter. As luck would have it, one of those ice-encrusted freezer packets was a roll of phyllo pastry leftover from an experimental cranberry apple Christmas log.
There was a time, in fact, when The Casual Baker name was virtually synonymous with phyllo. I was the queen of phyllo wrapped things: sweet and savoury, squares and triangles, bûches and bundles. My affinity for phyllo faded when I moved to Paris and found myself suddenly surrounded by an entire grocery aisle section devoted to delicious pastry of every variety: salted, sugared and puffed. The occasional pang for phyllo's crisp buttery flake was easily subdued with a trip to the nearby Algerian pâtisserie for a slice of baklava and cup of sweet mint tea.
Back in Vancouver, where the pre-packaged pastry comes in the unsavoury choice of lard or shortening, the Middle Eastern alternative quickly regained its appeal. It seemed somehow fitting to reintroduce phyllo into our lives in the same way we bid it farewell.
People are always going on about good things coming in small packages. When it comes to Phyllo Wrapped Bananas, the bigger the better I say.
Phyllo Wrapped Bananas
1/4 cup dried cherries
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 sheets phyllo pastry
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped roughly
4 small bananas
3 tablespoons rum (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Soak dried cherries in hot water for 5 minutes to soften, then drain.
In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Stir in the sugar and vanilla extract.
Work with one sheet of phyllo at a time and keep the remaining sheets covered with a damp towel. Cut the first sheet of phyllo in half. Brush the first half with butter, place the second half on top and brush with more butter. Repeat the process with another sheet of phyllo cut in half. In the end, you will have used 2 sheets of phyllo to create 4 layers.
Spread 2 tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture in the centre of the pastry. Sprinkle a few dried cherries and a heaping tablespoon of chopped chocolate on top.
Peel a banana, cut it in half and place the 2 pieces next to each other on top of the filling. Sprinkle with rum.
Fold in the edges over the banana and roll up into a square package, using butter to seal the seams along the way. Brush the outside lightly with butter.
Create 3 more packages with the remaining bananas.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Serve immediately.
Notes:The original recipe calls for these phyllo packages to be served with chocolate sauce, but I think they're sufficiently decadent as they are.
Source: Sugar by Anna Olson, 2004.