Salted Carmelita Bars

This blog has seen a lot of kitchens. I started writing it while we lived in Madison, in an apartment with an L-shaped kitchen so small I had to store my KitchenAid mixer on a shelf in the bathroom. Then we moved to Boston, and I cooked out of a tiny kitchen that (astonishingly) had no drawers.

Our second apartment in Boston had an awesome kitchen with white cupboards and granite countertops that I still dream about, but we weren’t there for long. Our Minneapolis apartment has the biggest kitchen yet, but the countertop edges are so sharp I have actual scars from running into them.

So many kitchens. So many culinary trials, tears, and triumphs. And now, it’s time to move on to yet another kitchen. In a few short weeks, we’re bidding adieu to our beloved Minneapolis and moving to Los Angeles. Our belongings will follow on a truck a few weeks later, and I will be anxiously waiting their arrival. Because then I can start to organize yet another kitchen, and then it will start to feel like home.

Salted carmelita bars

Carmelita bars are a Minnesota classic, originating (as far as I can tell) in the Pillsbury Bake-off Contest in 1967. The original recipe is delightful, but then I discovered a version that calls for homemade salted caramel sauce and it knocked my socks off. So look out, California friends, because I’m bringing some good ol’ Midwestern cooking like this your way. But it’s gonna come with some long vowels and a lot of me yelling “Gladys, we need more bars!” Okay then? Ohh-kay.

Salted carmelita bars

Salted Carmelita Bars

Bars

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream at room temperature (I used lactose-free half ‘n’ half)
  • 3 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350° F and lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish with butter. Set aside.

Make bars: In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, oats, brown sugar, and baking soda. Chop the butter into pieces about 1/2-inch square. With the paddle attachment fitted to the mixer, add butter to the oat mixture and stir at low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is broken into small chunks. Press about 2/3 of the oat mixture into the bottom of the 9×13 pan.

Bake crust for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Set aside.

Make caramel sauce: In a medium saucepan, stir together granulated sugar and water. Place over medium heat and let the mixture come to a boil, without stirring. Place a lid on the saucepan and continue boiling for three minutes, so any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan get steamed off.

Remove the lid and continue boiling the sugar mixture– still without stirring– until it’s a deep amber color. Remove from heat. Add the cream carefully; the mixture will violently bubble up. Whisk in butter and salt until smooth and well combined. If there are chunks of hard caramel in the sauce, stir constantly over low heat until they’re melted. Whisk in the flour.

Pour the caramel sauce over the chocolate chips and oatmeal crust. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the caramel sauce. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the topping is lightly browned. Let bars cool completely before slicing and serving. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes 24 bars.

Source: Adapted from Erlyce Larson via Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. 

Cinnamon Streusel Dessert Pizza

I’m not so sure what to say about this recipe, except that biting into a slice of dessert pizza sends waves of nostalgia crashing over me. Memories of hanging out in a certain pizza chain with my family, and grabbing a slice of pepperoni at the buffet just so I could say I ate some lunch before rushing back for dessert.

Or memories of my twelfth birthday party, where I sat at the head of a long table of aunts, uncles, and cousins, eating dessert pizza while I unwrapped coveted N’SYNC and Britney Spears CDs.

Or of that time a blizzard was roaring into town and the wind whipped around my family furiously as we ran into the restaurant to order takeout. And making it home just in time to hunker down and share pizza.

There’s a lot I could say about a pizza that’s not really a pizza, but rather a soft dough loaded with sweet, crumbly streusel topping and drizzled with icing. But I think I’ll just leave you with some photos instead.

Cinnamon streusel dessert pizza

Cinnamon streusel dessert pizza

Cinnamon streusel dessert pizza

Cinnamon Streusel Dessert Pizza

Streusel Topping

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 Tbs. (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted

CRUST

  • 1 batch pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
  • cornmeal or semolina flour, for sprinkling
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • ground cinnamon

Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs. milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450° F, with a pizza stone set on a rack in the bottom 1/3 of the oven.

Make streusel topping: In a small bowl, stir together flour, granulated sugar, and brown sugar with a fork until well-combined. Add in 1/4 cup melted butter and stir until the mixture is moistened and large clumps form. Set aside.

Roll out pizza dough on a floured surface until about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to a pizza peel sprinkled liberally with cornmeal. Brush surface of dough with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with ground cinnamon. Sprinkle streusel mixture evenly on top of the dough. Using the pizza peel, transfer pizza to heated oven.

Bake at 450° for 8-10 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Meanwhile, make glaze: In a small bowl, stir together powdered sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt until smooth.

Remove pizza from oven and top with glaze in a swirl pattern. Slice and serve immediately.

Source: Slightly adapted from Rumbly in My Tumbly.

Baked Potato Pizza

In my last post, I promised a pizza recipe, and here it is! I first had a baked potato pizza like this at Pizza Luce in Minneapolis, and I’ve loved the concept ever since. Gabe loves potatoes and I love bacon (and not spending all our money on takeout), so it’s a win-win-win in our household.

A crispy crust is slathered with sour cream and chives, then loaded up with potatoes, bacon, cheese, and green onions. Of course, you could add broccoli or whatever other baked potato fixings you prefer. Even chili would be pretty awesome! I microwave my potatoes to soften them up before baking, but you could also bake them in the oven first if you are better at planning ahead than I am. :) Either way, you’ll want to make this pizza soon!

Baked potato pizza

Baked Potato Pizza

  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbs. chopped chives
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 oz. red or fingerling potatoes
  • cornmeal, for sprinkling
  • 1 batch pizza dough
  • at least 2 oz. sharp cheddar or monterey jack cheese, finely grated (about 1/2 cup; add more if you prefer!)
  • 4-5 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • green onions or additional chives for topping

With a pizza stone on the lowest oven rack, preheat oven as hot as you can. In small bowl, stir together sour cream, chives, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Pierce the potatoes all over with a fork and microwave on high for about 2 minutes, or until soft. Watch the potatoes very carefully while microwaving so they don’t explode! Set aside.

Sprinkle a pizza peel generously with cornmeal. Roll out pizza dough and transfer to the peel. Spread the sour cream mixture evenly all over the dough. Sprinkle with half the cheese.

Slice cooked potatoes and arrange in a single layer over the pizza dough. Sprinkle with bacon and cover the entire pizza with remaining cheese. Sprinkle with green onions or chives.

Slide the pizza onto the pizza stone and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned. Remove from oven and top with additional chives or green onions. Slice and serve immediately.

Makes one pizza.

Source: A Lingonberry Jam “original” inspired by Pizza Luce of Minneapolis.

Homemade Pizza Dough

I know this might be a bit polarizing, but I’m going out on a limb here: thin crust is the best kind of pizza. Don’t get me wrong; I love soft, puffy pizza crusts piled with toppings, and I’ll even tolerate deep dish from time to time. But my favorite kind of pizza crust is the kind baked in a blazing hot wood-burning oven that snaps like a cracker when you bite into it. (The crust, not the oven.) Magic.

I don’t have a blazing hot wood-burning oven, but I do have a pizza stone, a peel, and a kickin’ recipe for pizza dough.

This is one of those recipes that I have memorized. 3 cups flour, 2 tsp. yeast, 2 tsp. salt, 2 Tbs. olive oil, and 1 cup water. That’s it. I’ll often mix up the types of flours I use, but the rest stays the same. Roll it out nice and thin, and you have delightfully crispy pizza crust. And no worries, I’ll be sharing a recipe for the delicious pizza you see below soon!

Homemade Pizza Dough

Homemade Pizza Dough

Homemade Pizza Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (may also swap in up to 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour for a nuttier, healthier crust)
  • 2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3/4 to 1 cup warm water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, salt, and yeast. Attach the dough hook and turn the mixer on to low while gradually pouring in the olive oil. Slowly add the water until the dough comes together. Knead for a couple minutes. The dough should be tacky, but not sticky. (You can also mix and knead everything by hand.) Add more water or flour, a tablespoon at a time, if necessary to get the right consistency.

Let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down dough and divide into two pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover, and let stand until puffy, about 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, place a pizza stone in the oven on the lowest rack and heat to the highest heat possible. (Mine only gets to about 450°F.)

Working with one ball of dough at a time, roll it out on a floured surface. Transfer to a pizza peel that has been heavily sprinkled with cornmeal. Jiggle the peel back and forth a bit to make sure the pizza slides instead of getting stuck. Cover your dough with the toppings of your choice and slide the pizza onto the pizza stone in the preheated oven. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until crust is golden brown and crispy.

Source: “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman.

Blood Orange Margarita

Happy Pi Day everyone! Unfortunately, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, I’m not here to share a pie recipe with you. I am in fact in the middle of making this delightful-looking pie from Smitten Kitchen, but I’ll just link to that recipe in case you’re feeling particularly pie-ish.

Nope, I’m here to share a different recipe with you. Because not only is it Pi Day, it is an incredibly, unseasonably warm 60+ degrees in Minneapolis right now. I’m celebrating the fact that all our windows are open and I just finished cleaning off our patio furniture. In March. Awesome.

How am I celebrating, might you ask? With a blood orange margarita. Bright, tangy citrus fruits are one of the things that cheer me up in the middle of winter, and blood oranges are one of my favorites. Their growing season is slowly tapering off right now, so making a summery margarita seemed to be the perfect way to say goodbye to winter and hello to this early spring. And, since people are thinking a lot about math today, margaritas also have one of the easiest drink ratios ever– 3:2:1. Cheers!

Blood orange margarita

Blood Orange Margarita

  • 3 oz. freshly squeezed blood orange juice (from 1-2 blood oranges)
  • 2 oz. tequila
  • 1 oz. triple sec
  • kosher or coarse sea salt, for the rim

Rub the rim of a glass with the cut half of a blood orange. Sprinkle some salt on a plate and gently dip the rim of the glass in the salt. Place a handful of ice in the glass and set aside.

Combine blood orange juice, tequila, and triple sec with additional ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain over the ice in your glass. Serve.

Yield: One delicious margarita.

Source: White on Rice Couple

Smooth and Creamy Hummus

I first tried this hummus recipe from the Jerusalem cookbook a few months ago, and it was delicious. Then I remembered seeing Smitten Kitchen‘s quirky take on the recipe, which involved peeling the skin off each chickpea to achieve a super creamy consistency.

Say what? Sure, it seemed slightly crazy, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time shelling pistachios or trying (with much angst) to remove hazelnut skins for homemade nutella. (So sorry to disappoint you; that recipe is still in the works.) So popping the skins off a few chickpeas didn’t seem like that big a deal. And truly, it wasn’t. It took about 10 minutes, and the only side effect was that my fingers felt a little starchy at the end.

So if you’re crunched for time, this recipe is just fine with the chickpea skins included. But if you have a few more minutes, try removing them. The results are truly worth it. As Gabe told me between bites this afternoon, “This hummus is unbe-(expletive)-lievable.” That good.

Smooth and creamy hummus

Smooth and creamy hummus

Smooth and creamy hummus

Smooth and Creamy Hummus

  • 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas (from one 15-oz. can)
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice (plus more, if desired)
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 tsp. kosher flake salt (plus more, if desired)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • garnishes (optional): pine nuts, olive oil, dried sumac or paprika

Rinse and drain chickpeas. Carefully remove the skins by holding a chickpea between your thumb, index, and middle fingers and gently squeezing until the skin pops off. Discard skins.

Place chickpeas in a food processor and blend for about one minute. Scrape down the sides and add tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Blend again until well combined. Slowly add the water and puree until very smooth. Taste and add more lemon juice (I added an additional 2 tsp.) and/or salt as needed.

Let stand for about 30 minutes and then serve, or refrigerate if you’re not going to serve right away. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sumac or paprika. If using pine nuts as garnish, first sauté them in a bit of unsalted butter until lightly browned. Serve hummus with pita, tortilla chips, carrot sticks, or whatever you like!

Source: Slightly adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, via Smitten Kitchen.

Whole Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Yesterday was a chilly Sunday. Like -28° windchill. So after a brief run to the grocery store to stock up for the week, I spent the rest of the day hunkered down in our apartment. But it sure didn’t feel that cold.

Sunlight streamed through our windows and heated up the place to a balmy 76°. I sat at the dining room table, soaking up the sunshine and trying out new stitches on my sewing machine. At the other end of the table, Gabe diligently studied his law books, stopping every so often to read me something he found absurd or funny or infuriating. The cat sprawled languidly at our feet, basking in the sunshine.

And in the oven, two loaves of cinnamon swirl bread rose over the tops of their pans and turned golden brown, sending a sweet aroma cascading through our tiny apartment. I paused for a moment to reflect on the scene in front of me. As much as I dream of the day Gabe and I buy a house together, I know I’ll look back on our 600 square feet of living space with poignant nostalgia. It may be small, but it sure is cozy. And the oven makes great bread.

Whole Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Whole Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread

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Whole Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Bread

  • 1 1/4 cups warm milk
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. instant yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 5 cups (635 grams) white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (160 grams) mixed whole grains*
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt

Filling

  • 1/2 cup unpacked brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs. water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together milk, water, honey, and yeast. Whisk in egg and butter. Meanwhile, stir together flour, whole grains, and kosher salt in a large bowl. Stir the flour mixture into the milk mixture just until combined. The dough will be wet and lumpy. Let stand for five minutes.

Fit the dough hook attachment to the stand mixer, and knead the dough on low speed for six minutes. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead a couple times by hand. The dough will be very sticky, but you can add a little more flour if it’s impossible to work with. Form the dough into a ball, cover with a bowl, and let stand for ten minutes.

Knead a couple times by hand, and let stand for ten minutes, covered with the bowl. Repeat one more time. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 60-70 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together brown sugar and cinnamon until well combined. Make an egg wash by whisking together egg and water. Lightly butter two loaf pans. Set aside.

When the dough has risen, place it back onto a floured surface and divide into two pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough into a rectangle about 8 x 16 inches. Brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with half the cinnamon mixture. Working from a short end, roll the dough up into a loaf. Pinch the ends together to seal in the cinnamon sugar. Place the loaf into one of the buttered loaf pans. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Cover the two loaf pans lightly with plastic wrap and let rise until the dough has risen over the edge of the pans by about one inch, about 45-60 minutes. Halfway through the rise, preheat oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 40 minutes, or until golden brown on top. The loaves should sound hollow when tapped, and the inside temperature should reach 190° F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the loaves from the oven and let stand, in their pans, on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the loaf pans to loosen the bread, and gently turn the loaves out onto the cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing.

Makes two loaves.

* For the whole grains mixture, you can use any of the following: rye flour, rye meal, rye flakes, cornmeal, cooked grits or polenta, rolled oats or oat flour, amaranth, uncooked ground quinoa, cooked whole quinoa, quinoa flakes, or cooked brown rice. Measure by weight to get the best results. I used 70 grams of Bob’s Red Mill seven grain cereal and 90 grams rolled oats, both uncooked.

Source: Slightly adapted from Peter Reinhart via Smitten Kitchen.