Hello Dollies Bars

Hello DolliesIngredients:

¾ cup butter (or 1 ½ sticks)
1 cup crushed saltine crackers
⅛ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup coconut
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (I like my walnuts toasted first)
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in 9”x13” baking pan. Mix together in a bowl the cracker crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour the crumb mixture evenly over melted butter, and push down so that the mixture becomes the crust. Pour the condensed milk over the crust, and then spread the coconut evenly over the milk. Scatter chocolate chips evenly over coconut. Spread walnuts over chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes*. Cool completely and cut into bars.

*If using a dark coated pan lower temperature to 325 degrees, as the edges tend to get dark.

Hello Dolly!

Hello DollySo back in the 60’s there was a musical that took Broadway (and the world) by storm called “Hello Dolly!”. It stared Carol Channing and was about a meddlesome woman who considered herself a matchmaker and had quite a few scenes all revolving around the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant. How this actually relates to the dessert bars, I’m not 100% sure, but supposedly a little girl named Alecia Leigh Couch of Dallas, Texas, entered the recipe (which she borrowed from her Grandmother) in a baking contest held by Clementine Paddleford (America’s first food journalist). When published in the September 19, 1965 edition of the Syracuse Post-Standard, Ms. Paddleford wrote: “The “Hello Dolly” name was Alecia’s idea. “No need even to mess us a bowl,” Alecia writes, “and that’s the big reason why I call this my favorite cake recipe. And of course it’s good!” 

Again, how this relates? No clue… Maybe ’cause Dolly liked things easy? Who knows… what I do know though, is the bars are incredibly easy to make and easier to eat! So enjoy!

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo BarsFor the mint version of this dessert, add some mint extract and green food colouring to the middle layer. This recipe will make about 32 bars.

Ingredients:

Bottom Layer:
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup white sugar
⅔ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs, beaten
3 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups flaked coconut
1 cup finely chopped almonds (optional)

Middle Layer:
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup plus 2 teaspoons heavy cream
¼ cup custard powder (if you can’t find this, use vanilla pudding mix)
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon mint extract (for mint flavoured option)
2-3 drops green food colouring (for mint flavoured option)

Top Layer:
8 (1 ounce) squares semisweet baking chocolate
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon butter

Directions:

For the bottom layer:
In the top of a double boiler, combine 1cup butter, white sugar and cocoa powder. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. In a small bowl, beat the 2 eggs until they are well combined. While constantly mixing, add a small amount of the cocoa mixture to the egg mixture so that the eggs can come up to temperature. Slowly add the egg mixture to the main cocoa mixture, until both are combined. Make sure to whisk the entire time so that the eggs do not cook and curdle. The mixture will thicken up, after about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove it from the heat and mix in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and almonds (if you like). Press into the bottom of an un-greased 9×13 inch pan.

For the middle layer:
Cream together 1 cup butter, heavy cream and custard powder (pudding mix), and if using, the mint extract and food colouring, until light and fluffy. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Spread over the bottom layer in the pan. Chill to set.

For the top layer:
While the second layer is chilling, melt the semisweet chocolate and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon butter together in the microwave or over low heat. Spread over the chilled bars. Return to the refrigerator to let the chocolate set before cutting into squares.

Dessert Bars! All Ages Allowed!

Dessert BarSo two brownies walked into a bar… ouch! What? You haven’t heard that one before? That’s right, it’s bar week…. dessert bar week that is (sorry… maybe one week I will do drinks. Hey, how about I do drinks one week? Good idea!) So this week is all about dessert bars… not cookies and not cakes, but 2 to 3 bite wonderful bars sent from Heaven to torment us with these horrible things call calories.. Wow.. I’m in a weird mood today, sorry.

Back to the desserts. So these are all going to be hand hold-able sweets that will hit the spot. Seeing as how it is so cold out, and I am Canadian… let’s start out with Nanaimo Bars. The exact origin of the bar is unknown, though it is attributed to Nanaimo, British Columbia. The earliest confirmed printed copy of the recipe using the name “Nanaimo Bars” appears in the Edith Adams’ prize cookbook from 1953. A copy of the book is on view at the Nanaimo museum.

Other unconfirmed references date the bars back to the 1930s, when it was said to be known locally as “chocolate fridge cake”. Some New Yorkers claim the recipe originated in New York and refer to them as “New York Slices”. However, Tim Hortons coffee shops, a Canadian chain, sell them in New York as “Nanaimo bars”. One modern reference even refers to the bars’ existing in nineteenth century Nanaimo. Well, whatever they’re called, and wherever they originated, they are a yummy no-bake layered dessert bar that tends to have 2 main variations: original and mint. I’m going to be giving you the original version, plus the additions needed if you wish to go minty!

Twisted Chocolate Babka – Шоколад Бабка

Chocolate BabkaThis recipe will make 2 loaf-sized chocolate babkas

Ingredients:

Dough:
4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
½ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
Grated zest of half an orange
3 large eggs
½ cup water (warm, between 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit) and 1 to 2 tablespoons extra, if needed
¾ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup unsalted butter or margarine at room temperature
oil, for greasing

Filling:
4 ½ ounces dark chocolate (or approximately ¾ cup chocolate chips)
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, cold is fine
Scant ½ cup powdered sugar
⅓ cup cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Syrup:
⅓ cup water
⅓ cup plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Make the dough:

In a small bowl mix together the warm water and the yeast, with about 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Let this stand aside and foam up. This should happen within 10 minutes.

Combine the flour, remaining sugar and zest in the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low to combine. Add the foamy yeast water, and the eggs (one at a time), while the mixer is on low with the dough hook. Keep the machine mixing, increasing the speed as the ingredients come together to form a dough.

It’s okay if the dough is on the dry side, but if it doesn’t come together at all, add extra water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms a mass. With the mixer on low, add the salt, then the butter, a spoonful at a time, mixing until it’s incorporated into the dough. Then, mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until dough is completely smooth; you’ll need to scrape the bowl down a few times. I usually found that after 10 minutes, the dough began to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If it doesn’t, you can add 1 tablespoon extra flour to help this along.

Coat a large bowl with oil (or scrape the dough out onto a counter and oil this one) and place dough inside, cover with plastic place in a warm area to rise, about 2-3 hours. Once the dough has doubled (or close to it), stick it in the fridge to cool. This will help with the rolling out of the dough in the next segment.

Make filling:

In a small pot on med-low heat, melt the butter and chocolate together until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar, cocoa and cinnamon; mixture should form a spreadable paste. Remove from the heat and set it aside.

Assemble loaves:

Coat two 9-by-4-inch loaf pans with oil or butter, and line the bottom of each with a rectangle of parchment paper. Take half of dough from fridge (leave the other half chilled). Roll out on a well-floured counter to about a 10-inch width (the side closest to you) and as long in length (away from you) as you can when rolling it thin, likely 10 to 12 inches.

Spread half of chocolate mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a ½ -inch border all around. Brush the end farthest away from you with water. Roll the dough up with the filling into a long, tight cigar. Seal the dampened end onto the log. I found that transferring the log to a lightly floured baking tray in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes made it much, much easier to cut cleanly in half. Repeat with second dough.

Trim last ½ -inch off each end of log. Gently cut the log in half lengthwise and lay them next to each other on the counter, cut sides up. Pinch the top ends gently together. Lift one side over the next, forming a twist and trying to keep the cut sides facing out (because they’re pretty). Don’t worry if this step makes a mess, just transfer the twist as best as you can into the prepared loaf pan. In one batch, mine was long enough to “S” inside the pan and I nested the trimmed ends of the log in the openings. Even if you don’t (and choose to bake them separately in a little pan, as I did in other batches), the dough will fill in any gaps by the time it’s done rising and baking, so don’t worry.

Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise another 1 to 1 ½ hours at room temperature. Repeat process with second loaf.

Bake and finish cakes:

Heat oven to 375°F. Remove towels, place each loaf on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 30 minutes, but there’s no harm in checking for doneness at 25 minutes. A skewer inserted into an under baked babka will feel stretchy/rubbery inside and may come back with dough on it. When fully baked, you’ll feel almost no resistance. If you babka needs more time, put it back, 5 minutes at a time then re-test. If it browns too quickly, you can cover it with foil.

While babkas are baking, make syrup:

Bring sugar and water to a simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside to cool somewhat. As soon as the babkas leave the oven, brush the syrup all over each. It will seem like too much, but will taste just right — glossy and moist. Let cool about halfway in pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way before eating.

Russian Carrot Salad – Салат из моркови

Carrot saladIngredients:

8 large carrots, shredded
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup finely chopped walnuts (or nut of choice)
½ to ¾ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh dill*

Directions:

Stir together the carrots, garlic, walnuts, mayonnaise and dill until evenly blended. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

* Click here to learn how to check dill.

Eggplant Salad – Баклажан Салат

Russian Eggplant SaladIngredients:

1 eggplant, peeled and sliced into 4″ strips
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 tomato, sliced into strips
1 onion, sliced thinly
¾ teaspoon white sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon water

Directions:

Place the eggplant, bell pepper, tomato, and onion into a large pot. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, salt, oil, vinegar, and water. Pour over the vegetables. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Russian Beet and Potato Salad – Свекла и Картофельный салат

Beet and Potato SaladIngredients:

2 beets, peeled and diced
4 small potatoes, peeled and diced
2 small carrots, peeled and diced
3 small dill pickles, diced
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
salt to taste
3 green onions, chopped

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook beets until tender, about 30 minutes. Bring a separate pot of water to a boil and cook potatoes and carrots until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain vegetables, and place in a large bowl.

Place the diced pickles in the bowl with beets, potatoes, and carrots. Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar over the mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt. Sprinkle with green onions. Chill completely before serving.

Beef Stroganoff with Egg Noodles – Бефстроганов с яичной лапшой

Beef StroganoffIngredients:

1 cup red or white wine
2 pounds beef chuck roast
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup margarine (or 1 stick)
1 medium cooking onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup all-purpose flour or cornstarch
2 ⅔ cups beef broth
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 cup sliced mushrooms, canned or fresh
⅓ cup non-dairy sour cream
⅓ non-dairy cream cheese
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
1 package egg noodles (to serve)

Directions:

Remove any fat and gristle from the roast and cut into strips ½ inch thick by 2 inches long. Put the meat in a large bowl or container and season with ½ teaspoon of both salt and pepper, tossing to coat. Add about 1 cup of wine and let sit in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours to marinate.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and brown the beef strips quickly, then remove them strips to a plate. Add the onions to the pan and cook slowly for 3 to 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and add them to the plate with the beef strips.

In a small bowl mix together the flour/starch with a little bit of broth to help it dissolve. Add the mixture to pan which now only contains the juices of the meat and onions, and mix around to bring up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour in beef broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower the heat and stir in mustard. Return the beef and onions to the pan, along with mushrooms, then cover and simmer for 1 hour or until the meat is tender.

Boil noodles according to the package directions. Drain once cooked, and set aside until beef is ready.
In a small bowl, mix together the cream cheese and the sour cream. Five minutes before serving, mix in the cheese mixture. Heat briefly then salt and pepper to taste. Serve over a bed of wide egg noodles.

Cabbage Borscht – Капуста Борщ

Cabbage BorchtIngredients:

1 large cabbage, cut into large chunks*
2 cups (about 1 lb.) beets, peeled and quartered
2 cups (about 1 lb.) Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 lb. stew meat or flunken
1 – 2 beef bones, with marrow
2 (796ml) cans diced tomatoes
1 (156ml) can tomato paste
3 tablespoons lemon juice (to taste)
3-4 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder (to taste)
½ cup Brown sugar
Salt, to taste
LOTS of pepper

Instructions:

In a large stock pot, place the meat and bones, and fill with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, skimming any fat or debris that rises. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil again. Once temperature has been reached, reduce to a simmer and let cook for several hours, stirring every now and then so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot and burns. Taste for flavouring, adding more lemon, sugar or pepper as needed. Serve hot.

* Click here to learn how to check cabbage.