Tuesday, January 28, 2014

i want it all

Last meal before my juice cleanse, aka the only way to prevent myself from parking in front of crafty on set for the next two days. I just can't help myself when I'm on set - I don't need to be hungry, even a little bit. Pita chips? Why, thank you. 3rd meal of delivery pizza? Is there garlic sauce with that? I become a disaster, and with the long days cutting into gym time, drastic measures have to be taken.

Tonight's also the last time I'll be able to cook before Matty leaves for a week on a songwriting trip. I thought I'd send him off with a bang, and since my new plan for documenting Bacon-and-Waffles Sunday every week was foiled when I failed to hit "share" on Instagram before receiving a phone call this Sunday, I thought I'd make more waffles.

These were delicious - more strongly rosemary than sweet potato, but that was perfect. I really wish I had the patience (or an industrial-sized waffle-maker) to make enough fast enough for a big Thanksgiving dinner. It has such a perfect holiday flavor. Only made 5 here, and it took as long as it did to cook the chicken.

The chicken was just fine. If you're making fried chicken, you might as well pop it in the deep-fryer, but I will say that this recipe made me realize how much I miss just having cornflakes for breakfast. In a world of granola this, flax-seed oatmeal that, sometimes all you need is just some Special K.

Cornflake Chicken
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
makes 5 drumsticks

1 1/2 lbs. chicken drumsticks
3/4 c. cornmeal
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 t. cayenne
1/2 t. dried oregano
1 c. buttermilk
2 c. corn flakes, crushed

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 400 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a cooling rack over it.

2. Stir cornmeal, salt, pepper, cayenne and oregano in a bowl. Pour the buttermilk into a wide bowl. Place crushed corn flakes on a plate.

3. Working one piece at a time, coat chicken in cornmeal mixture, dip in buttermilk, and coat well in crushed corn flakes. Place chicken, evenly spaced, on rack. Bake until golden and crispy, and chicken is cooked through (about 170 degrees in the thickest part of the drumstick), 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let chicken rest 5 minutes before serving.

Rosemary-Sweet Potato Waffles
slightly adapted from The Perfect Pantry
makes 5 waffles

1 1/2 c. cooked sweet potato (about 1 lb. potatoes)
2 t. minced rosemary leaves
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. black pepper
3 eggs
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
1/3 c. packed light brown sugar
4 T. unsalted butter, melted

1. Prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork, and microwave for 15 minutes, turning once, or until the potato is soft. Let cool slightly, and scoop out the flesh. Mash well with a spoon, and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the rosemary, flour, salt, baking powder and black pepper.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sweet potatoes, buttermilk, brown sugar and melted butter, until the mixture is smooth.

4. Cook the waffles in a waffle maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve immediately.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

get ready for this

This Sunday has just been the best.

It started out with some cardio. I know, who am I? But hear me out. I've been working out with a trainer for a couple months, saving my "off" days for cardio while he focuses me on resistance training. Unfortunately, I keep finding my alternate mornings too full to get in my runs and bikes. But today, an hour fueled by a 90's jock jams playlist had me flying pretty high.

Then I went home and got some of those calories back with a Coconut Strawberry Waffle. One of my favorite waffles to date. The coconut oil makes for a rich, tender waffle, and the strawberry bits became delightful pockets of jam. I treated myself to an extra dollop of strawberry jam on top, but I'm furious that I didn't think of smearing on some peanut butter until just now. Luckily, there are leftovers, and another day this weekend.

Coconut Strawberry Waffles
slightly adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod
makes 6 waffles

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 3/4 c. milk
1 t. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/4 c. coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/2 c. shredded coconut
1 1/2 c. roughly chopped frozen strawberries

1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, vanilla, eggs and coconut oil. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Gently stir in the coconut and strawberries.

3. Pour the waffle batter into a hot waffle iron and cook according to manufacturer's instructions. Make all of the waffles and keep warm in a 200-degree oven. Serve with

Thursday, January 16, 2014

no cream

Tonight's dinner was all about the soup.

You see, my last night in China, I ordered a creamy mushroom soup for dinner before heading to the airport. Was this the wisest decision for a lactose-intolerant girl about to board a 12-hour flight? Maybe not. But I was just discussing the room service menu on the car ride back to the hotel with a friend, and it sounded like something worth trying.

Turns out I had ordered what amounted to hot milk that at some point may have had a mushroom floating in it. I was so upset. And we'll get to what really upset me about the dining in China this weekend, but the first thing I wanted to do when I got home was make the mushroom soup I wished I had gotten.

Enter Mushroom-Brie Soup. The original recipe called for sherry. In my bleary-eyed haze, I read sherry and thought vermouth, and didn't stop at the store because I knew we had vermouth (hashtag: we always have the fixings for a Manhattan). When I got home and realized my error, I pulled all of our cooking wines out, sniffed them all to decide what might go good with mushrooms, and picked a 2:1 vermouth:Marsala mixture. It worked out well.

As did the rest of the substitutions - vegetable broth for the beef broth (no need to un-vegetarianize it), and completely removing the additional cup of half-and-half called for in the original recipe. Once the Brie was in, there was no need for any additional dairy. I just shuddered again at the room service soup.

The only thing I would change would be to double the mushrooms and keep half of it reserved to add to the soup after pureeing it, but that's just my preference for soup I can chew.

Mushroom-Brie Soup
adapted from Talk of Tomatoes
serves 4

1/2 c. Marsala wine
1 c. dry vermouth
1 T. butter
10 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup shallots, sliced
2 T. flour
2 c. vegetable broth
6 oz. Brie cheese, trimmed and cubed
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Boil marsala and vermouth to reduce by half; set aside.

2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the mushrooms and shallots, and cook over medium high heat, until the mushrooms are golden brown.

3. Stir in the flour, and add the stock and reduced wine. Bring to a boil, then simmer 15 minutes. Add the Brie, and stir to melt. Simmer 5 more minutes. Remove from heat, and puree until smooth. Salt and pepper, to taste, and serve immediately.

The fritters (and what they eventually became - fritter pita pockets) were a secondary thought. I certainly couldn't just put soup on the menu, regardless of how strong my desire to erase China's soup from my mind. I (and definitely Matty) would need a little more substance. Tired of the soup-and-grilled-cheese route (there was certainly already enough cheese in the soup), I searched for lighter sandwich options.

I sold these to Matty as leeky falafels, but they're really more mini-omelettes. Eggs make up most of the base, but the panko fluffs them up and makes them a bit more substantial, and the more or less melted leeks sweeten up the whole deal. They were just perfect inside warm pita pockets and accompanied by a spicy cabbage slaw, some cucumbers, and a Greek yogurt-based dip.

Leek Fritters with Spicy Cabbage Slaw
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
makes 6 fritters

For the spicy cabbage slaw:
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1⁄2 t. salt
1⁄4 c. white vinegar
1 T. Sriracha

For the leek fritters:
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned
2 T. olive oil
3⁄4 t. salt
4 large eggs, beaten
1⁄2 c. panko
1⁄2 t. ground cumin
1⁄4 t. cayenne
pinch of ground cinnamon
vegetable oil, for shallow frying
flaky sea salt, for finishing

1. Thoroughly toss together the cabbage, salt, vinegar and Sriracha. Set aside.

2. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and then into 1⁄4-inch-wide half-moons.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and sauté until tender and starting to shrivel, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

4. Thoroughly mix the leeks, salt, eggs, panko, cumin, cayenne and cinnamon.

5. Heat about 1⁄8 inch vegetable oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, drop in 1⁄4 cup leek batter with a measuring cup and use the back of the cup to smooth the patty into a circle about 4 inches in diameter. Repeat with remaining batter. Fry each patty until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels and season with flaky sea salt.

6. Serve with spicy cabbage, pita bread, sliced cucumbers and Trader Joe's Spinach + Kale Greek Yogurt Dip, or any combination of the above.

Monday, January 13, 2014

do you not think so far ahead

I know we've only just cleared the New Year, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say this will be on Thanksgiving 2014's menu. It's everything I want in a lasagna - a creamy cheese sauce, a savory, meaty filling and tender noodles. So what if the meaty filling has no meat in it at all? The mushrooms are perfectly satisfying, and while the Brussels sprouts shreds more or less disappear into the sauce, their nutty flavor is definitely there.

I actually made this before Christmas, and was only reminded of it when I had some equally delicious vegetarian pasta from Heirloom LA. And lest you think that I'm already resorting to cheesy pasta so soon after Resolutions time, I will have you know that both my breakfast and lunch involved kale today. Balance!

Creamy Brussels Sprouts and Mushroom Lasagna
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
serves 12

15 sheets no-boil lasagna noodles
24 oz. button mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
5 T. butter, divided
1/2 c. chopped shallots
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. Brussels sprouts
2 T. olive oil
2 c. heavy cream
3 T. flour
3 c. whole milk
1 lb. grated mozzarella cheese, divided
salt and pepper, to taste
2 T. chopped fresh parsley leaves

1. Place lasagna noodles in a 9x13-inch baking dish and cover with warm water. Let soak 15 minutes, then arrange on a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to dry. Set aside.

2. Finely chop the mushrooms. Heat 1 T. butter in a large non-stick skillet over high heat until foaming subsides. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until all excess moisture evaporates and mushrooms begin to sizzle and brown, about 12 minutes. When mushrooms are browned, add shallots, garlic, and thyme. Cook, stirring, until shallots are translucent, about 4 minutes. Scrape mixture into a medium bowl, and set aside.

3. While the mushrooms are cooking, shred the Brussels sprouts. Heat the olive oil in the now-empty skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add the Brussels sprouts. Cook, tossing occasionally, until well-charred on most sides, about 10 minutes.

4. Add the reserved mushrooms and the cream, and cook until reduced to a loose sauce-like consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to a large bowl. Wipe out the skillet.

5. Melt the remaining 3 T. butter in the cleaned-out skillet over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until pale brown and nutty, about 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, slowly add milk in a thin, steady stream. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and stir in 3/4ths of the mozzarella. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve 2 cups of the sauce. Add the mushrooms and Brussels sprouts to the rest of the sauce.

6. Adjust the oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay 1 c. of the reserved cheese sauce on the bottom of the lasagna pan. Add three noodles. Top with 1/4 of the Brussels sprouts mixture, 1/4 of the cheese sauce, and a sprinkle of grated mozzarella. Repeat noodle, sprouts, sauce and cheese layers three more times. Top with last three noodles, remaining cheese sauce, and remaining grated mozzarella.

7. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until heated through and top is browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with parsley, let rest 10 minutes and serve.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

i need more

Waffles are my favorite breakfast food, so when Matty requested these last night, he didn't need to twist my arm. I do need to grow a collection of waffle recipes, though - this was the only sweet, breakfast-y one I had!

I didn't find this particularly almond-y, except for the almonds sprinkled on top, but it's still a good hearty waffle with the oats in it, so really, it's just an excuse to get maple syrup in your mouth. And more motivation than ever to collect more waffle recipes. Do you have any favorites?

Almond Waffles
slightly adapted from Baking Bites
makes 3 waffles (in my waffle iron)

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. quick cooking oatmeal
2 T. almond meal
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 T. sugar
1 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. butter, melted and cooled
1/2 t. almond extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds
additional sliced almonds and maple syrup, for topping

1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oatmeal, almond meal, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar.

2. Add in buttermilk, butter and almond extract, and whisk until smooth. Stir in chopped toasted almonds.

3. Preheat your waffle iron as directed and use a ladle to pour the batter onto a hot, greased iron. Cool until golden and serve, with extra sliced almonds and maple syrup.

Friday, January 3, 2014

good sauce

This now goes on my list as second-best pasta party trick ever.

The first is throwing 3 oz. of truffle butter into 8 oz. of cooked pasta. (This without the cream. Because you don't need it). Duh. Winner.

But this. This is for when that much butter seems overwhelming, but maybe the tomatoes aren't the greatest, aka right freaking now.

The process is very similar to that Marcella Hazan how-to-doctor-up-jarred-sauce-with-tomato-and-onion, which frankly, I didn't care for. I don't think I even blogged about it. But switch up that onion for garlic, add a couple diced anchovies, and roast the whole thing in the oven, and I'm in. This is both light and fresh like a simple fresh tomato sauce, but it's got a richness from the secret anchovies. The roasting time also jams up the tomatoes in both texture and flavor, and it's all the 3 of us at dinner could do to not finish the whole pan.

Linguine with Roasted Tomato Sauce
slightly adapted from Epicurious
serves 4-8

1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
8 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 anchovy fillets packed in oil, minced
1/4 c. butter, cut into small pieces
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. linguine
grated Parmesan and red pepper flakes for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine the tomatoes (crushing them with your hands), garlic, anchovies and butter in a 13x9 baking dish. Roast, tossing halfway through, until garlic is very soft and mixture is jammy, 35–40 minutes.

2. After 20 minutes, cook the linguine in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. The sauce should be done when the pasta is cooked.

3. Scoop the pasta straight into the sauce dish, tossing well to coat. Add additional pasta cooking liquid if the sauce seems too dry. Serve immediately with Parmesan and red pepper flakes.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

should've listened

This Cabbage-Wrapped Red Curry Salmon would have tasted so much better if I had just left well enough alone and followed the recipe's instructions. Why? Well because it probably would have actually only taken 20 minutes, not the hour-plus it ended up in the oven because I didn't feel like sashimi for dinner.

I mean, I don't know what magical properties a parchment envelope covered in foil has cooking faster than a foil-covered baking pan, but when I followed the recipe and started with a 250-degree oven, I was able to safely stick my finger right in the sauce after 30 minutes.

Pissed off, I cranked the oven to 350, put the foil back on, and took out my aggression on a football game. Luckily, another 30 minutes turned out perfectly cooked fish. The cabbage wrap was the perfect foil for the rich fish - fresh and sweet. Below is what I should have done from the start.

Cabbage-Wrapped Red Curry Salmon
slightly adapted from No Recipes
serves 4

1 c. coconut cream
2 T. red curry paste
2 t. brown sugar
1 t. fish sauce
1 head cabbage
3 1/2 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 lb. salmon, cut into 4 pieces
2 c. cooked jasmine rice

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Whisk the coconut cream, red curry paste, brown sugar and fish sauce.

3. Carefully remove 5 of the outermost cabbage leaves and boil in a large pot of salted water until tender. Drain and set aside.

4.  Meanwhile, slice the remaining head of cabbage into 8 wedges, and place in a 9x9 baking dish. Sprinkle the shiitake mushrooms over the cabbage wedges.

5. Place a boiled leaf down on the cabbage wedges, and then place a piece of salmon on top. Pour 2 T. of sauce on top and fold the cabbage like you’re wrapping a package. Repeat with the rest of the salmon. Drizzle with the rest of the red curry.

6. Cover the dish tightly with foil, and bake for about 30 minutes or until a thermometer poked into the middle of a cabbage roll reads 135 degrees. Serve immediately over rice.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

all is quiet on new year's day

I love New Year's morning. There is such stillness. I'm okay romanticizing it even if I know it's only quiet because everyone else on the planet is hungover.

The perks of being old and falling asleep before midnight is a productive morning - a great way to ring in the new year. Wrapping up pork bellies, proofing dough, baking sticky toffee pudding, roasting those pork bellies, finding a new brussels sprouts recipe. Okay, fine - all of that took me well into the afternoon, considering the Capital One Bowl-sized break I took, but it was still a good way to kick off the year.

The pork belly porchetta was delicious. However, it wasn't without its issues:

- The piece I had was so thick that I had trouble rolling so that the rind made up the entirety of the outside, but that turned out to be a non-issue.

- I was also a little nervous that not very much fat rendered in the pan for basting even almost 2 hours into the roasting process, but there was plenty as I continued to roast.

- Many of the comments suggested a lower roasting time, so I kept it 275 rather than 300 for 4 hours, then 450 for the final crisping, rather than 500.

Must be beginner's luck, as it couldn't have come out better. The skin was perfectly crisp, while the meat was nearly spoon-tender. It was pure, unabashed porky goodness. I would actually leave out the red pepper flakes next time as I felt it was a bit of a jarring flavor when placed in context with the rich mellowness of everything else.

Pork Belly Porchetta
from Serious Eats
serves 8

6 lbs. rind-on pork belly
1 T. whole black peppercorns
1 1/2 T. whole fennel seed
2 t. crushed red pepper
1 T. finely chopped sage
1 T. finely chopped rosemary
6 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane grater
2 T. salt, divided
1 t. baking powder

1. Place pork belly skin-side down on a large cutting board. Using a sharp chef's knife, score flesh at an angle using strokes about 1-inch apart. Rotate knife 90 degrees and repeat to create a diamond pattern in the flesh.

2. Toast peppercorns and fennel seed in a small skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned and aromatic, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind until roughly crushed. Add 1 T. salt, the crushed red pepper, chopped herbs and garlic. Stir to combine.

3. Rub the mixture deeply into the cracks and crevices in the meat. Roll belly into a tight log and tie tightly at 1-inch intervals with kitchen twine. Combine 1 T. salt with 1 t. baking powder, and rub the mixture over the entire surface of the porchetta.

4. Wrap the porchetta tightly in plastic and refrigerate at least overnight and up to three days.

5. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat oven to 275 degrees. Place pork in a v-rack set in a large roasting pan. Place roasting pan in oven and roast until internal temperature of pork reaches 160 degrees, about two hours, basting with pan drippings every half hour. Continue roasting until a knife or skewer inserted into the pork shows very little resistance asides from the outer layer of skin, about two hours longer.

6. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees, and continue roasting until completely crisp and blistered, about 10 to 15 minutes longer. Alternatively, you can remove the roast from the oven and tent with foil for up to two hours before finishing it in a preheated 450-degree oven.

7. Tent with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Slice with a serrated knife into 1-inch thick disks and serve.

I can't wait to make sandwiches out of the leftovers with the leftover garlic knots. I was actually already making mini sandwiches during dinner. This is actually way better than I expected things to go considering how the rolls looked when I took them out of the oven.

Some of it may have been that I left the rolls to proof for quite a while, and maybe for too long, but when I first pulled them out of the oven and tapped on them, they were rock-hard. I pulled one off, and luckily, the innards were a fine, roll-like consistency, but having seen them called "impossibly soft" on other blogs, I was worried I had done something wrong.

I tasted a roll - shockingly bland. I was sure I was toast, and for once in my life, I hadn't over-planned side dishes, and I was afraid my dinner guests would starve.

Turns out that butter-garlic-Parmesan-rosemary concoction that you make to brush all over the rolls was made for a reason, and completely rescued the whole pan. I should know better than to doubt you, butter-garlic-Parmesan-rosemary.

Garlic Knots
from White on Rice
makes 40 knots

For the rolls:
1 3/4 c. warm water (at 115 degrees)
1/4 c. olive oil
1 t. salt
1 T. sugar
1 1/2 T. active dry yeast (two packets)
5 c. all-purpose flour

For the parmesan-garlic coating:
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. finely chopped rosemary
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Make the dough: combine the warm water, olive oil, salt, sugar, and active dry yeast in a large bowl. Mix to dissolve yeast. Add the flour, and mix/knead to incorporate. Cover the bowl with a towel, and set in a warm spot to proof until doubled in volume. Chill the dough for a couple hours to make it easier to handle.

2. Make the knots: line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pinch off 1-oz. balls of dough.  Roll a dough ball back and forth between your hands to create an even rope about 6-inches long. Tie the rope into a knot, and place on the lined sheet pans, leaving 1 1/2 inches between each knot. Cover the baking sheet with a towel, and let rise until doubled in size.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. After the knots have risen, bake for 12-15 minutes until golden.

4. While knots are baking, make the parmesan-garlic coating. Melt the butter with the olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan. Add the rosemary, and remove from heat.

5. After removing the knots from oven, while still warm, brush the knots with garlic coating, and sprinkle on parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Best served warm, but still good when at room temperature.

And the only other side, which never seems like enough because I love Brussels sprouts so much, is another Thanksgiving possibility. It's got the taste of fall, but the lightness and brightness of lemon and parsley from the dressing. I cut down the amount of parsley from 1 c. to 1/4 c. - I can't even imagine how grassy and overwhelming a full cup would make the dish, but I thought 1/4 c. was the perfect amount.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon-Mustard-Parsley Dressing
from White On Rice
serves 8

For the Brussels sprouts:
3 lbs. Brussels sprouts
3 T. olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

For the dressing:
2 T. olive oil
zest of 1 medium lemon
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 t. dijon mustard
1/2 t. brown sugar
1/4 c. parsley, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Trim and halve the Brussels sprouts (or quarter if they're large).

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the roasting marinade ingredients: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and black pepper. Then add the brussels sprouts and toss to coat evenly. Spread the brussels sprouts, cut side down, on a sheet pan. Roast for 15 minutes, toss, then roast for 10-15 minutes more or until browned. (I only needed 15 total minutes).

4. While the Brussels sprouts are roasting, make the dressing: combine the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, dijon mustard, brown sugar and parsley. Set aside.

5. When Brussels sprouts are cooked, toss them with the dressing and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

And that's all she wrote for dinner, but there's still dessert to talk about! That is, if I could find the words.

I love sticky toffee pudding. I was reminded of that last month, when on a whim, and purely to sports-feed, I ordered sticky toffee pudding at the SoHo House in NYC. It was the best sticky toffee pudding I had ever had.

I thought I'd put it on the menu tonight because we may all be a little pie'd and cookie'd out. When I tasted my tester pudding just straight out of the oven, I was not terribly impressed - it was just good-enough white cake with bits of apricot (instead of dates), that tasted ever-so-faintly of fruitcake.

But just like the butter on the rolls, the toffee sauce on these puddings turned them into an absolute dream. There was silence around the dinner table - the best compliment I could ever have.

Apricot Sticky Toffee Pudding
inspired by Chocolate & Zucchini, but adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
makes 12 puddings

For the puddings:
8 oz. butter, cut into 1-oz. pieces
1 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 c. flour
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. dried apricots, chopped

For the sauce:
2 c. brown sugar, tightly packed
2 oz. butter
1 1/4 c. heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a full-sized muffin tin.

2. In a food processor, blend together butter and sugar, adding the butter one ounce at a time. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides down after each egg. Add the remaining ingredients, except apricots, and blend until smooth. Add apricots and pulse to combine.

3. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before removing them from the muffin tins. Continue cooling on a rack.

4. To make the sauce, bring the cream, brown sugar and butter to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir occasionally for about 5 minutes. Pour over puddings.