My Top 10 of 2011!

Wow! Where did 2011 go?  Seems as I get older the years just fly by.  This year  I did a lot of baking, most were good, some were amazing and a few were total flops!  There were some  new recipes and others were tried and true favourites.  The Daring Bakers took me way out of my comfort zone as I was truly dared with some amazing recipes.  As for the “flops” I posted them too, not everything can turn out well.  I thought I would end the year with a “top 10” list of my favourite recipes of the year.

 10. Perogi Day

Perogi Day was a day I will never forget! Mom, Etta, Jen and myself were at it for almost 12 hours.  We made 9 different flavours, used 25 pounds of potatoes, 7 tubs of sour cream, almost 2 bags of flour and a lot of bacon, cheese and onions.  We ended up with, get ready for it……471 perogies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They were delicious, not sure I will be able to go back to the frozen ones from the store.  It was a great day and the results were amazing! We all agreed that we would definitely do it again, just not anytime soon…

9.  Apple Sauce Muffins

These Apple Sauce Muffins were something I stumbled across when visiting Gramma one afternoon.  They were hot and fresh and delicious!  You can’t really taste the apple sauce, they are a little bit sweet and have an amazing texture.  I think I have made them at least 6 times since then.  A wonderful recipe with simple ingredients, Thanks Gramma! 🙂

8.  Baklava

This one was special for me.  I was asked to be the host of the June Daring Bakers Challenge!  Being host meant that I was able to pick any recipe and have all the members make their variations. I had always said, way back when I joined, that if I ever got the chance to host I was going to pick Baklava.  It was amazing to see the different variety of baklava that were made.  I was a little daring (mean) and had everyone make their own phyllo dough.  Some people enjoyed the process, a lot did not, but all in all it was a wonderful experience.  It was a true honour to be picked to be the June 2011 host.  My baklava was delicious.  I will definitely be making it again but, like many other members, I will probably use pre-made phyllo!

7.  Puppy Chow

Puppy Chow was new for me, I had never even heard of it.  Jen had come over to do some Christmas baking and she brought all the ingredients for Puppy Chow…hmmm.  I was pleasantly surprised!  Unlike the name this is a wonderful treat!!!  Very simple, cereal, chocolate, butter, peanut butter and icing sugar.  It is very addicting!  It was a great gift to give away in little Christmas sacks.  Thanks Jen for a great recipe that I will be using for many years to come.  I may have to come up with a more appealing name….

6. Cupcakes, Cupcakes and more Cupcakes!

This was a scary one! Making 130 cupcakes for Kris and Selena’s Wedding!  I had never done anything like this before.  I mean I had made cupcakes but never 130 in one day!  I was a nervous wreck, as I think the wedding cakes is a huge deal.  Sadly it’s the food aspects that people remember more at a wedding then the actual ceremony.  I thought if they don’t turn out I’d have people thinking “god, their cake was horrible”.  Thank goodness everything went smoothly and the cupcakes were a hit!  So much so that there was not near enough 😦 If there is a next time, I will know people will eat more than one! Thanks Kris and Selena!

5. Bachlorette Cake

When Coralee asked me to make Chrissy’s Bachlorette Party cake I was thrilled!  I had just recently taken the Wilton Fondant course and figured this would be the perfect opportunity to give my new skills a try.  For my first try at creating a formed fondant covered cake, I think it turned out pretty good.  I hope to make more in the future.  Unfortunately I fell ill that night and was unable to make the party, so I didn’t get to try it.  Hope it was good!

4. Wedding CakeS!

No, I did not make a typo in the title I meant for the ‘S’ to be big!  This was by far my biggest baking event ever, let alone in 2011.  I was asked to make the cakes for Jen and Martin’s Wedding.  At first I was terrified and think I even tried to talk her out of it, as I mentioned above, the wedding cake is a huge deal!  When I calmed down I was truly honoured and accepted the challenge.  Jen had a wonderful idea of having a cake on each table.  The cake would then be “the wedding cake”, centre piece and dessert.  It really was a good idea.  It was a ton of work but I enjoyed every minute of it and would do it again in a heart beat!  Thanks Jen!!

3. Povitica

This recipe was from the October Daring Bakers Challenge hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk.  She introduced me to something I had never heard of.  Povitica?? I could barely say it let alone make it.  As it was a bread recipe I was very hesitant in even trying it, bread and I do not get along well.  I was pleasantly surprised, it was an amazing dough and so versatile.  I was able to make both savory and sweet loaves out of the recipe.  They were delicious!! This one rang in on my top 3!  I will be making this a lot more in years to come.  Thank you Jenni!!

2. Whoopie Pies!

I was a little late jumping on the Whoopie Pie ban wagon.  Not sure what rock I had been living under but I just heard about these in July.  Apparently they were quite the craze a while ago.  There is even a “Whoopie Pie War” with two States as they both say they are the founder of the Whoopie Pie.  Well, I don’t care who came up with the idea, I’m just glad they did!!  These are little pieces of heaven!  Surprisingly they are not sweet, they have a lovely light texture and a wonderful marshmallow filling.  I have only made the “Classic Whoopie” but I have a book and plan on making many different kinds.  What a wonderful find!

Drum roooooooooooooooooooollllllllllllllllllll…………………….

1. Salted Caramel Shortbread Bars

Without question this was my favourite recipe of the year!  I mean look at at…it’s not only the best tasting dessert bar ever, it’s also a thing of beauty!  This recipe was not even intended for me, haha.  When Jen came over to do some Christmas baking, it was for her to take to her baking exchange.  I had one bite and almost had to sit down.  It is one of those treats that after your first bite you have to stop before you start chewing and your eyes grow twice their normal size as you cant believe this piece of magic in your mouth.  It then turns into an eyes closed slow chew as you take in all the textures and tastes, and then it hits you…the salt!  Your taste buds jump into high gear.  It is like no other dessert experience I have ever had.  Don’t believe me, Try them!!!  Thank you Jen for my FAVOURITE treat of the year!  This recipe will remain at the front of my recipe book to be made time and time again!

I would like to thank my many followers for stopping by throughout the year to see whats up in my kitchen. When I first started this whole blogging thing, I really didn’t think anyone other then family would read.  I was shocked and so happy to see when I had over 20,000 hits!

Thanks again and Happy New Year!  Please come back to see what’s baking in 2012

Salted Caramel Chocoate Shortbread Bars

First off, I must start by introducing a guest baker!  This evening I had the pleasure of baking with Jen, I think she likes baking and baking blogs almost as much as me!  The next three posts were recipes she chose (and wow were they wonderful!).  One was for a baking exchange she was going to (that group is extremely lucky to be getting the Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bar), the other two recipes, chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk Cookies and Puppy chow, well… they were just to make and enjoy!

The first recipe of the day was the Salted Caramel Shortbread Bar, (another wonderful item from Annie’s Eats) the name is pretty self explanatory but does not do any justice to the dessert.  After tasting it, I think it deserves a much more exciting name!   I love the taste of salt and sweet together, they complement each other so well.  I have had chocolate covered pretzels, trail mixes with nuts and chocolate but I had never made a dessert where salt was the star ingredient.  To be honest I was a little leary of trying them, not really sure why as I love the flavour combination.  When I heard of what Jen picked for her exchange I was quite intrigued and when she sent the recipe entitled “deliciousness” I nearly drowned in drool.  It looked amazing!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

For the shortbread layer:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.

2. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.  We would recommend bringing the parchment paper right up the sides of your dish, as it was a bit of a challenge getting the first section out)

3. In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir with a fork to blend, and set aside.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well blended, about 1-2 minutes.

5.  With the mixer on low-speed blend in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.

6. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press in an even layer over the bottom of the pan.

Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden.  (If the crust puffs up a bit while baking, just gently press it down while it is cooling.)  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.

For the caramel layer:

This layer seems to be quite time-consuming and labor intensive (Even with taking turns stirring, I got 2, yes 2 blisters from stirring it for so long!) So, start this as soon as the shortbread is out of the oven.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp. light corn syrup
2 cans sweetened condensed milk

Directions:

1. Combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup and condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

2. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted.  Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, stirring constantly.  Continue simmering and stirring until the mixture turns an amber color and thickens slightly.

3. Pour the mixture over the shortbread layer, smooth the top, and allow to cool completely and set.  (I chilled at this stage to ensure that the caramel layer would not melt when the warm chocolate was added.)

For the chocolate layer:
8 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp. light corn syrup
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Fleur de sel or sea salt, for sprinkling


Directions:

1. Combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. (Somehow I missed getting photos of this step)

2. Pour evenly over the caramel layer and use an offset spatula to smooth the top.

3. Allow to cool for a minute or two and then sprinkle with fleur de sel.

4. Chill, covered, until ready to slice and serve.

Just look at that! It is a thing of beauty! But not only does it look amazing it tastes even better!  The combination of the sweet and the salt on top is delicious.  The shortbread had a lovely texture, strong enough to hold the square but was mild enough not to over power the treat.  The caramel layer was so smooth and creamy yet firm enough to hold up. The chocolate layer with salt was the finishing touch.  There was just the right amount of sweet and salt.  Upon taking a bite my mouth just came alive!  The salt and sweet made my taste buds jump, even after eating it you could still taste the salt finish.  WOW!!

We figured that one tray would not be enough for 5 dozen so we ended up making two trays of this, which meant I got to keep some 🙂 This is a definite keeper, I can see making this many more times. I hope the baking exchange group enjoys!

I had such a great time baking, especially with someone who shares my passion.  Hopefully there will be more additions to the”Guest Baker”.  Thanks Jen!