Sunday, September 16, 2018

Cocoa Snails

The best independent coffeehouses can be found in Europe. Some of the more elite date back to the 1800's and the atmosphere is nothing short of amazing. Going out for a simple cup of coffee turns into an experience that reflects history and elegance. As you walk inside, you will behold red velvet, gold leaf and milk white marble. You can stay on that floor or go one floor up.

Your stay will not just include coffee. To heighten the whole experience, there are delicious pastries that reflect the unique skills of the famous pastry chefs of Paris or Hungary.

I have yet to get to Europe, but visiting some of these coffeehouses are on my bucket list. As you can tell, I have read up on the subject. With that in mind, I bring you this recipe that is a recognized favorite in Budapest, kakaos csiga (cocoa snails).

Do not let the picture fool you, these are nothing like cinnamon rolls. The pastries are a cross between yeast dough and puff pastry. The rolls have a crisp outer edge and a soft interior, unlike yeast rolls. These snails have a deep chocolate flavor and do not contain a lot of sugar-typical of most European recipes. Each round is small, ranging from 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter, making them look more like a cookie than a pastry. The dough is formed by using the laminated dough process of folding and rolling to create layers, making approximately 2 1/2 dozen snails.

Cocoa Snails
adapted from

2 tbs sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 cup or 2 sticks butter (or more depending on roll out)
4 cups plus 2 tbs flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp dry yeast

4 heaping tbs dutch processed cocoa
7 heaping tbs of sugar
1/4 cup butter

To make the dough, you should start with the butter. The butter, if in the form of sticks, should be sliced vertically and placed in a bowl. Add the 2 tbs of flour and use a pastry cutter to blend the butter with the flour until no more dry streaks remain. Place the lump of butter in between 2 pieces of parchment paper and roll out to a rectangle, approximately 16 x 10 inches. This rectangle is to cover 2/3 of the rolled dough surface. While you prepare the dough, place the butter pad in the refrigerator.

While the butter is chilling, prepare the dough. Heat the milk in the microwave on 15 second intervals, mixing and checking the temperature after each session. Once it registers between 105 to 115 degrees, sprinkle in a pinch of sugar and the yeast. Stir to blend and then set aside for the yeast to react. Once the surface of the mixture becomes foamy, it is ready to incorporate into the flour.

Fill a large bowl with the 4 cups of flour, egg, 2 tbs of sugar, salt and activated yeast. Combine by using a wooden spoon. Once a mass has formed, place on a flat surface dusted with flour. Knead until smooth and elastic. If the dough seems too dry, knead in more milk (one teaspoon at a time) until the proper dough consistency is achieved.

Form the dough into a rectangle, rolling out to approximately 21-24 inches in length by 16-18 inches in width. The longest part of the dough should face towards you, parallel with the length of the counter top. Remove the butter pad from the refrigerator and peel off one layer of the parchment paper. This butter pad is to cover 2/3 of the surface of the dough. Flip the butter rectangle on top of the right side of the dough, with the remaining parchment paper facing up and butter down. Slowly peel the parchment paper off of the butter pad. This should result in 1/3 of the left side of the dough without a buttery surface and the remaining should be covered in butter.

If you have thin places and some does not peel off, take another stick of butter and cut thin vertical slices. Use these slices to spread on dough so the 2/3 section on the right is completely covered. Then fold the left section of dough (the section with no butter) towards the center, covering 1/3 of the buttered section. Then fold the last 1/3 of the buttered section (on the right) over the top of the other, forming a 3 layer stack of dough. It should measure 7-8 inches wide (this side parallel with the counter top) and 16-18 inches in height.

Turn the dough mass 90 degrees. Roll out again to the original size (21-24 by 16-18 inches), placing it lengthwise, parallel with the counter top. Now each side is to be folded in to meet each other. This is called the book method. Then the dough is folded over again at the seam where the two sides meet. Cover in plastic wrap and place on baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

After the 30 minutes of chill time, follow the instructions on the rolling and folding for the 1/3 sections and then refrigerate again for 30 minutes. Then take out and roll and fold, using the second, or book, method. Wrap and chill again. Repeat this rolling and folding process a second time for each method. Once the last fold is made, do not refrigerate. Instead let the dough rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

During the rest period, preheat the oven to 390 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

For the filling, melt the butter in the microwave and take out a pastry brush. Fill a small bowl with the cocoa and sugar and whisk together. Set aside.

After the dough has rested, roll out to a rectangle (same size as originally stated). Dough should be about 1/4 of an inch thick and the length should be parallel to the counter edge. Brush the surface with the melted butter and then evenly sprinkle the cocoa/sugar blend on top. Roll up the dough tightly, forming a round log with swirls of filling, starting with the longest length. Slice the log into 1/2 inch rounds.

Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheets, about an inch apart. Bake in the oven until slightly golden, about 13-15 minutes. Remove and let rest on baking sheet for 3 minutes then transfer to rack to completely cool.

Tips and Notes:
1. Whenever you are making laminated dough, the temperature is crucial. The dough and the butter should have the same pliability. Too much heat in the kitchen will cause the butter to start to melt and if too cold, the butter will crack. During the process you may need to refrigerate or leave at room temperature if you experience any of these issues.

2. If you have butter seeping out through the dough when rolled, use a little flour to patch the area.

3. After the last fold of the dough, dust off the excess flour before rolling into a log.

4. Should you want an even fold of dough, cut the edges to form a straight, sharp edge.

5. Insuring that the butter pad is an even rectangle is the most difficult part. If it is not, some of your rolls will be drier than others and not puff as much. They will still taste good, but will not be a perfect example.
                                  **LAST YEAR:Apricot Sweet Rolls** 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

To start the fall season, I have kicked it off with these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. My first dilemma was that I knew the use of pumpkin would produce a cake-like cookie and that was not exactly the texture I was looking for. The cookies needed to have a little bit more substance than that.

This particular recipe amps up the structure of the cookies by using oats and chocolate chips. Even though the main texture is cake like, the oats support a little bit of chewiness. Also, since the chocolate chips remained unchanged in structure, they support a slight crunch.

Regarding the flavor, it reflects the typical essence of pumpkin and pumpkin spice with a touch of chocolate. These gems are a delicious reminder of all the wonderful flavors that fall represents. I am looking forward to this season.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from 

2 eggs (room temp)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz honey whiskey
15 oz pumpkin puree
1 cup butter (room temp)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp baking soda
4 cups flour
2 cups oats
1 tsp salt (optional)
2 cups milk chocolate chips

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining the interior with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place flour, pie spice, baking soda and salt (if using) in a sieve placed over a large bowl. Sift the dry ingredients together into the bowl. Then add the oats and stir until evenly distributed. Set aside.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter. Beat on medium high speed, stopping at intervals until butter becomes slick like frosting. Then switch the speed to medium and add the brown sugar. Beat until fully blended into the butter. Add the regular sugar and beat again, the end result will be a light fluffy mixture.

Incorporate each egg, one at a time, into the batter by mixing on medium speed. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the vanilla extract, honey whiskey and pumpkin puree. Once fully mixed, fold in 1/3 of the dry oat/flour blend. Then add half of the remaining blend, mix again and add the last of it, mixing until no dry streaks remain. Fold in the chocolate chips, making sure they are evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Using a small scoop or tablespoon, drop mounds of cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden brown on edges. This should take about 15-20 minutes.
Cookies should rest on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transferred to a cooling rack.

Tips and Notes:
1. Feel free to experiment with the 2 oz liquour addition. Liquour that has fall flavors such as cinnamon, gingerbread and nutmeg would be good paired with the pumpkin.

2. The cookies do not spread much on the pan, so you can bake a lot on each pan.

3. This recipe makes about 8 dozen small cookies, so divide the ingredient quantities if you want to make less.

4. Consider adding 1 cup of chopped toasted pecans and reduce the milk chocolate chips to 1 cup.
                                  **LAST YEAR:Hibiscus Butter Cake** 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Limoncello Bundt Cake

There are many cake recipes out there, but there is one type of cake that stands in a class all of its own - the bundt cake. These type of cakes are more dense and much more flavorful than any layer or sheet cake. Based on that, the bundt cake is prepared and served (quite often) without any icing or glaze.

Recently, our house was gifted with a bottle of a special lemon liqueur that hailed from Italy, Limoncello cream. As we know, all things lemon basically equate to summertime. Since the temperature is starting to wane down, I decided that this Limoncello bundt cake would be the perfect way to say goodbye to the season of long hot days. Summer was fun, but now it is time to bid it farewell until after another spring season.

This bundt cake has 1/4 cup of lemon zest, which gives it a nice clean taste. Also, the flavor of the Limoncello exists as a subtle undertone in every bite. The structure and texture reflects that of the classic standard-moist and with a tight, tender crumb. Now on to the will need a 10 cup capacity bundt pan in order to make this cake.

Limoncello Bundt Cake
adapted from Nordicware 

1/4 cup limoncello
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup of buttermilk
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
4 oz melted white chocolate
1/4 cup lemon zest
1 cup butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 cups flour
1/4 cup bread crumbs (or more for dusting pan)
2 tbs vegetable shortening

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbs Limoncello

Start by preparing the bundt pan for baking. Melt the 2 tablespoons of shortening in the microwave. Then, using a silicon brush, brush the interior of the pan. Make sure all the surfaces are well coated. Empty the bread crumbs into the pan and rotate to coat the interior with the crumbs. Once fully coated, set the pan aside.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Also, prepare a cooling rack by placing over a parchment lined baking sheet.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the 2 1/4 cups of sugar and the butter. Cream together on medium speed, stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue to beat the mixture until the consistency reaches a fluffy stage-which should take about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and combine. After that, each egg and egg yolk is to be blended into the mixture, one at a time. Once all the eggs are incorporated, blend in the lemon zest and white chocolate. Set aside.

Using a small bowl, whisk together the Limoncello and the buttermilk. Take out another bowl (medium size) and place a sieve over the top. Fill the sieve with the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Sift the ingredients together, filling the medium size bowl.

Fold 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the butter/sugar batter. Then, mix in 1/2 of the buttermilk/Limoncello blend. Repeat the process-beginning and ending with the sifted ingredients. Empty the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Place filled pan in the oven and bake until tester comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set on the prepared cooling rack. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 20 minutes. Then invert the cake pan onto the rack, releasing the cake. The cake should cool for about 15 minutes before drizzling the glaze on top.

For the icing glaze, fill a saucepan with the water and sugar. Place over medium high heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved into the water. Remove from heat and whisk in the Limoncello. Drizzle the syrup over the warm cake.

Tips and notes:
1. Make sure your refrigerated ingredients have warmed up to room temperature (yes, this does include the buttermilk)

2. The bread crumb coating creates a nice toasty surface to the cake and insures that it falls out of the pan with no sticking issues. Also, if you are making any type of bundt cake with chocolate, dusting with cocoa is another option. Should you not want a toasty surface for the cake, generously spray the pan with a non stick spray that includes flour.

3. This cake is good sliced and served with cream and fresh fruit.

4. I used a white chocolate bar for the chocolate, but you are welcome to use chips. If using the chips, the melted chocolate can cool some prior to adding to the batter. The bar chocolate, due to its tendency to seize up quickly, should be mixed into the batter as soon as it is melted. 
                                          **2 YEARS AGO: Bali Hai Pie** 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Cherry Almond Eclairs

If you have ever experimented with choux pastry, you will find that it is very forgiving and is very European. If your piping (or forming) of these pastry shells is not so pretty, you can scrape the dough off the parchment and put it back in the piping bag to try again. As far as being European, the shell itself is not very sweet, unlike most American desserts. Most of the sweet flavor stems from the whipped cream filling and icing drizzle on top.

These eclairs bake up nice an airy. They are like houses waiting to be furnished, but a lot cheaper and tastier! You can customize them with your favorite flavored filling and icing. Another plus is that they are fairly easy to make.

The filling in these eclairs have the classic flavor pairing of almond liqueur and cherries, swirled together with two types of cream. Eclairs are not too common in the US, however, they should be on your bucket list as a must try if you have not already experienced this special pastries. This recipe makes about 8-12 eclairs, depending on the width when they are piped/formed.

Cherry Almond Eclairs
adapted from 

Ingredients/choux pastry
3 eggs (room temperature)
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt

2 tbs of powdered sugar
1/2 cup softened marscapone cheese
1/2 cup almond liqueur
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried cherries
pinch of salt

2-3 tbs milk or water
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup powdered sugar (sifted)

Start with preparing the guideline sheet for piping the choux dough. Gather together a sheet of parchment paper (big enough to line the bottom interior of a baking sheet), a ruler and a pencil. Using the ruler, draw a straight line parallel and one inch below the long edge of the parchment paper. Drop the ruler down 3 inches from that line and draw another parallel line. Repeat the process below that line, but only drop down 1/2 an inch for one line and then the 3 inches for the next. Then draw again with the same instructions. You should have 3 sections 3 inches wide with a 1/2 inch strip between them. Place this sheet (penciled side down) on the bottom interior of the baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Fill a saucepan with the butter, salt and water. Place over medium high heat and let come to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon as the butter melts. At that time, reduce the heat to medium. Empty a cup of flour into the liquid, stirring with a wooden spoon to blend. As you blend the ingredients, the flour will cook. Be sure to mix vigorously so all the lumps disappear, this should take about 2 minutes. The mixture should clump together and leave a very thin sheet of dough sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and fit the mixer with a paddle attachment. Turn the mixer to low which will knead the dough. As the mixer is running, the dough will be cooling off. After about 3-4 minutes, it should reach the desired temperature-being just warm to the touch.

Maintain the same speed and add one egg. The mixing will cause the dough to separate at first, but after a few minutes the mixture will form into a dough again. At that time, switch the mixer speed to medium low and blend the dough for another 20 seconds. Reduce the speed back to low and repeat the same process with the additional eggs, blending one at a time.

Prepare a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch star tip. Empty the dough into the bag and push it down, reducing the air in the bag. Twist the excess part of the bag, so that the dough is compacted towards the star tip. Pipe tight zig zags in the 3 inch sections marked off on the parchment, starting at the top line and spacing about 1/2 an inch apart. You should be able to fit 3-4 pipings of the zig zagged choux dough in each 3 inch section.

Place in oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. Eclairs are done when they are featherweight and golden brown. Remove pan from oven and transfer the choux shells to a cooling rack.

For the filling, start by adding the almond liqueur and dried cherries to a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and let the mixture heat up. The liquid should get hot to the touch and removed prior to simmering or boiling. Once removed from the heat, let the mixture rest in the saucepan for about an hour or until cool. After this time, place a bowl underneath a sieve and pour the cherry/almond mixture into the seive and strain out all of the liquid. Reserve the almond liquid in a small bowl. Finely chop the cherries, bearing in mind that the pieces have to flow though a 1/2 inch plain piping tip.

Place the bowl of a stand mixer and wire whisk attachment in the refrigerator to chill. Then mix the chopped cherries and the marscapone cheese together in a small bowl until the cherries are evenly distributed. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the reserved almond liquid, blending well. Set aside.

Take the chilled bowl and whisk out of the refrigerator. Attach to the stand mixer and fill with the heavy cream. Run the mixer on medium high speed for 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract, powdered sugar and salt. Beat on medium high speed until stiff peaks form. Separate out 1/2 cup of the cream and blend it into the marscapone/cherry mixture. Add that mixture back into the large bowl of whipped cream and beat again on low speed about 10 seconds. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

As the filling is keeping cold, make the icing. Combine the powdered sugar and water or milk to form a smooth glaze. Set aside.

To assemble the eclairs, fill a pastry bag (fitted with a 1/2 inch round pastry tip) with the chilled cream filling. Twist the end of the bag to get all of the air out. Poke a hole in one end of an eclair shell and squeeze the filling into the hole until cream comes out of the hole (indicating that the shell is filled). Continue this process until all shells are filled. Place the shell back on the parchment paper. Brush the surface of each eclair with the glaze until all crevasses and top surface is covered. Sprinkle each with slivered almonds.

Let set for 1 hour prior to serving, so glaze can harden.

Tips and Notes:

1. I tried to use a large Bismark type of pastry tip to fill the shells and it got clogged. A regular (1/2 round) tip is the best to use.

2. There will be extra pastry filling, so you may want cut the amount of each ingredient in half to start or find a use for the extra.

3. Some of the shells baked up with holes in the side, but it did not cause a major issue. If you do not have the pastry tips, you can slice and sandwich the top and bottom together with the filling. Then you do not have to worry about the holes forming when baked.
                                         **LAST YEAR: Sawmill Toffee**

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Grand Hotel Pecan Balls

The weather here in Texas is now pretty scorching. This heat is not only in Texas, I recently got a comment indicating that it was too hot to turn the oven on and that it was time for ice cream. In response, I cranked up the ice cream maker instead of the oven for this post.

If you are looking for something chilly and sweet, you have come to the right place. These baseball-sized scoops of homemade maple ice cream coated with crunchy roasted pecans are a super summer treat. While they are tasty on their own,the rich chocolate sauce is the crowning touch.

Most of the time spent on this recipe is waiting for the ice cream to firm up in the freezer. The end result, however, is worth the wait time. So pull out that ice cream maker-you will be glad you did! This recipe makes about 6 servings. Be sure to plan for the long amount of chilling time for the ice cream.

Grand Hotel Pecan Balls
adapted from recipelink and serious eats websites

Ingredients/Maple Ice Cream
1 1/2 cups half and half
2 tbs invert sugar (recipe found here)
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup maple syrup
6 egg yolks

Ingredients/covering and sauce
2 cups roasted pecans/ chopped
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 lb chocolate chips
2 cups light corn syrup
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbs cream de cacao

For the ice cream, start by blending the yolks together in a saucepan. Then mix in the maple syrup, heavy cream and half and half. Place the saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly as mixture cooks. Liquid batter will thicken up, forming a custard. This process should take about 10-15 minutes. To test for correct consistency, use the back of a spoon. Mixture should coat the spoon and leave a clean line when swiped with your finger.

 Remove from heat and mix in invert sugar. Let cool for 20 minutes, then transfer to heat proof bowl. Cover with air tight lid and place in refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 8 hours or overnight. After the chilling step, transfer custard to an ice cream maker. Follow manufacturers' instructions for making ice cream. Once completed, transfer back to airtight container and let chill again, in the freezer, for 3 hours. Then scoop into 6 - 8 balls and roll in chopped pecans. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and freeze until ready to serve.

About 1 hour prior to serving, prepare the sauce. Fill a saucepan with the heavy cream, corn syrup and sugar. Whisk together and place over medium high heat. Once mixture starts to boil, remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips, vanilla extract and cream de cacao. Once chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, let cool. Then plate each ice cream ball with 1/4 cup of chocolate sauce underneath.

Tips and notes:
1. Do not skip the roasting of the pecans, this insures that they stay crunchy even though they are covering ice cream.

2. This recipe makes a lot of chocolate sauce. If you just want a drizzle for serving instead of the 1/4 cup, cut the recipe in half or fourths to reduce the amount left over,

3. The ice cream turned out silky and hard, so consistency was not an issue when forming the rounds. If you prefer something softer for serving, try plating with warm chocolate sauce or taking the ice cream rounds out of the freezer for awhile.
                                     **LAST YEAR: Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies**

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Cinnamon Popovers

I have always wanted to taste popovers, but this is one item that is rare to find. Actually, I have never even seen any on a menu or in a bakery. Finally, I gave in and decided to give up the search and make a few myself and I was happy with the results. These are on the sweet side with cinnamon, but I am interested in making some savory ones also. Toasty on the outside with a hollow custard textured inside, these popovers make breakfast special and delicious.

These were made with chunks of apples. However, I was not happy with how they reacted when baked. They actually just rose to the surface and got too brown, so the apples are excluded from the ingredients. Other than the apples, this recipe worked out well. The popovers did rise as expected and the recipe did not take a lot of time. This recipe makes 6 large popovers, each well took 1/2 cup of batter.

Cinnamon Popovers
adapted from

1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups milk
2 cups flour
6 eggs

Ingredients/Butter spread
1/4 tsp gnd nutmeg
1/2 tsp gnd cinnamon
2-3 tbs packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup softened butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease the interior of 12 popover cups with butter. Place popover pan in preheated oven for 2-3 minutes and remove.

Whisk together all of the batter ingredients in a large bowl. While the popover pan is still hot, fill each cup (almost to the top) with the batter. Place pan in oven and let bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Popovers are done when golden, airy and puffed- 4-5 inches over cavity rim. Remove pan and let cool slightly in pan.

As it cools, mix together ingredients for butter spread. Serve spread with popovers.

Tips and notes:
1.  Make sure you oven rack has plenty of room for the popovers to rise. They should not be too close to another rack or the top broiler.

2. Feel free to change up the flavor with other spices. However, if you decide to add in pieces of anything to the batter, they will float to the surface and be part of the outer cust.
                       **LAST YEAR: Choco Berry Ice cream Pie**

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Cashew Butter Blondies

With school right around the corner, I could not help but to notice the amount of spreads and butters on the grocers shelves these days. Today you will find chocolatey hazelnut spread, almond butter, sunflower butter....and the list goes on. Children's sack lunches are no longer filled with the same old peanut butter sandwiches.

With such a variety, the spreads are fun to experiment with by using them as a baking ingredient. Today, I bring you a recipe for blondie bars. Not just any blondies, but ones made with 2 components of cashews, along with some semi-sweet chocolate chips. Teaming these ingredients together resulted in a moist, chewy bar with a little crunch. One square of these bars will take care of your sweet tooth. Also, the cashew, chocolate and brown sugar flavor combination will satisfy your tastebuds as well.

The recipe makes enough dough to fill a half sheet baking pan, so there will be plenty of bars for those sack lunches.

Cashew Butter Blondies
adapted from 

Ingredients/Cashew Brittle
1 2/3 cup cashews
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup water
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 stick unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar

Ingredients/Blondie batter
1 1/2 sticks or 6 oz unsalted butter (room temp)
1/3 cup cashew butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbs plus 1 tsp baking powder
3 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups sugar
3 cups cashew brittle (recipe included)
1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Start by making the cashew brittle.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat. Also, grease the interior of another baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Grease surface of parchment paper. Butter a silicone spatula.

Place the cashews in a shallow pan, spreading out evenly. Toast in the oven for about 7 minutes. Set aside. Fill a saucepan with the water, sugar, salt, light corn syrup and butter. Place over medium high heat and stir only until butter is melted and mixture is blended. Let cook in saucepan and place a candy thermometer in the liquid. The liquid will start to boil and thicken. Watch the thermometer temperature, once it reaches 300 degrees- remove from heat. Add the vanilla extract and cashews. Stir with a wooden spoon until evenly distributed and then let rest for 30 seconds. Lastly, mix in the baking soda.

Transfer the candy mixture to silicone lined pan and flatten/spread with the prepared spatula. Let cool completely. Crack into pieces and place pieces in a sealable plastic bag. Crush the brittle into smaller, pebble-sized pieces with a rolling pin.

Fill a bowl with the cashew brittle and chocolate chips. Whisk together so ingredients are evenly distributed.

Using a sieve place over a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Measure out 2 tablespoons of the blend and add to the bowl of brittle and chocolate chips. Toss all together so pieces are evenly coated. Set aside.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with both types of butter and both types of sugar. Combine the ingredients by using a paddle attachment with the mixer set on medium speed. Continue to beat together, stopping at intervals to scrape down sides of bowl, until batter is fluffy. Switch the speed down to low and add one egg and vanilla extract. Beat for 30 seconds or until blended. Repeat the process, one egg at a time until all have been mixed into batter.

Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in the sifted ingredients with a wooden spoon. Then fold in the blend of chocolate chips and brittle until no dry streaks or loose pieces remain. Empty batter into prepared baking sheet and smooth evenly.  Bake until tester comes out clean, approximately 25-30 minutes. Surface should be golden brown when done.

Cool completely prior to cutting into 1 1/2 inch squares.

Tips and Notes:
1. if I was to make this recipe again, I would reduce the amount of sugar, starting the reduction at 1/3 of a cup for the brown and regular sugar. Recipe is very sweet.

2. My cashew butter was natural (no salt or sugar)and the cashews did not have any salt. Using salted cashews may tone down the sweetness of the recipe.

3. When baking, a little of the batter dripped onto the floor of the oven, so place a larger pan on the next rack underneath the bars to catch the drips.

4. Coarsley chopping the nuts prior to adding to the brittle mixture will help disperse them more in the candy.
                                **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake**