Butterscotch Cereal Bars

butterscotch, bar, square, dessert, newfoundland, camping, travel, make ahead

It’s the Victoria Day weekend and the first thing that comes to mind for most people is camping.  This is traditionally the weekend everyone brushes off the camping gear and heads out to the lake, cottage, or park.  It’s warm enough during the day to go hiking or play some sports, but cool enough at night to have a nice bonfire going.

Camping can be a little different in Newfoundland than in other places I’ve been.  My parents had a camper trailer that collapsed and you had to crank to raise.  Similar to this one.

camper trailer nostalgia

Everything would be packed into the base of the trailer and hooked onto the back of the car.  Then we would drive for a couple of hours and camp at a provincial park for the weekend.  That way we could go exploring to the beach, or on many of the trails in the park.  My parents would usually stick around the camper and relax.  At least, that’s how I remember it as a child.  In reality they probably did relax with some beers.

In Newfoundland, though, you can usually find campers just off the side of the highway parked in gravel pits.  It’s not uncommon for people to just pull off the side of the road, just feet from the busy highway, and park there for a couple of days.  Usually it was beside a lake so you could go fishing if you wanted.  Maybe catch something for supper that night.  It’s not as common as it was, gravel pit camping, but you can still catch the occasional camper parked along the highway if you’re visiting the island.

I always look forward to camping and the wonderful things you can make beside the campfire.  We all grew up with roasting marshmallows on sticks and blowing them out after they caught fire.  Or wrapping a potato in foil and laying beside the warm embers to have a beautifully roasted potato, smothered in butter, with your dinner.  Or bring your cast iron frying pan and fry up the fresh trout you caught in the morning in the nearby pond.  Something about being outside makes the food taste so much better.

Of course we brought some homemade goodies too.  Usually cookies and sandwiches.  I thought of this quick recipe you could take with you on your car ride to the camping ground or to have as a snack around the nice warm fire. They also keep really well so you can make them a few days ahead.

In a large sauce pan melt the butter under medium-low heat.  Once the butter is completely melted add the marshmallows and stir until melted as well.  Then add the butter extract, pudding mix, Skor bits, and cereal.  You’ll have to work quickly as this seizes up fast.  Transfer the mixture to a greased 9×13 pan and press down to make an even layer.  Let cool for a couple of hours and then cut into squares.  Makes 24-36 squares depending on how big you cut them.

butterscotch, bar, square, dessert, newfoundland, camping, travel, make ahead

Print Recipe
Butterscotch Cereal Bars
Course Dessert
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
squares
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
squares
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, under medium-low heat, melt the butter until completely melted. Add the marshmallows and stir occasionally until all the marshmallows have been melted.
  3. Remove from the heat and add the extract, cereal, butterscotch pudding, and Skor bits. Mix until combined. Quickly transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Press down to make an even layer. I used my hands just slightly dampened with cold water.
  4. Let the mixture cool completely for at least an hour. Remove from pan and cut into squares.
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Apricot Coconut Curry Rice Krispie Squares

It’s funny how little things make you think of a blog post.  We were invited to a pot luck dinner a couple of weeks ago to another city about 45 minutes away.  I brought my Santa’s shortbread and chocolate chip cookies that I made last month and conveniently kept some aside in the freezer for such an occasion.  This is why you should always make a little extra for moments like this.

Anyway, we were driving along and I see a poster for the International Comedy Festival at the Tilt theater.  This year they have Shaun Majumder.  For those of you who don’t know Shaun is of Indian heritage and is from a small town in Newfoundland.  His father was a doctor, settled in Newfoundland for his practice, married and the rest is history.  Shaun is probably most noted for his work on This Hour has 22 Minutes and the many characters he creates for the show.

Add that thought to another CBC show I was listening to on the radio this week.  Lenore Newman was being interviewed about her new book Speaking in Cod Tongues: A Canadian Culinary Journey and she was talking about how Canada’s food has become a creole.  Usually attributed to languages where two languages are combined to make a new language, Newman expanded this to mean a blending of food from different cultures.  Canada is rich with this tradition, especially now with the proliferation of fusion restaurants.

Those two things reminded me of a recipe I tried a few years back.  I love Rice Krispie squares.  To me they remind me of childhood.  They can be crammed with all sorts of different ingredients, like chocolate chips or peanut butter.  Even the plain version with just the butter, marshmallow and rice Krispies is perfection.  I started to explore with the flavours one could use in a square.  Could the square be slightly savoury instead of sweet?

Seeing the poster and hearing the radio program caused a chain reaction in my head and brought me back to this recipe.  The curry is subtle, so you’re not smacked in the face with just curry flavour.  The apricot is such a common fruit for a lot of East Asian cooking and it blends well with the coconut and marshmallow.  Try this treat the next time you’re asked to bring something for a pot luck or want to expand your culinary horizons.

Start with melting the butter in a large saucepan under medium low heat.  When the butter is melted add the spices.  The spices need to cook a little in the butter to release their flavour.  This way you’ll get a nice creamy aroma mixed throughout the square instead of throwing the spices in dry later on.  Add the marshmallows and stir until melted.  Remove from the heat and add the extract.

The next bit will have to done quickly.  Add the rice Krispies, apricot, and coconut and mix well.  Everything should be well distributed throughout.  Transfer it to a greased 9X13 pan and press down to make an even layer.  I just lightly wet my hands and pressed down.  This way the batter won’t stick to my hands and it’s faster than using a spatula.  Refrigerate until firm and cut into squares.


Print Recipe
Apricot Coconut Curry Rice Krispie Squares
Indian spices enhance the wonderful fruit and coconut in these squares.
Course Dessert
Prep Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
squares
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Prep Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
squares
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium/low heat. Once butter is melted add the spices and stir. Cook the spices for about one minute to let their flavours release.
  2. Add marshmallow and stir until melted. Remove from the heat and add the extract.
  3. Quickly add the Rice Krispies, chopped apricots, and coconut. Mix well until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  4. Transfer to a greased 9X13 pan and press down to make an even layer. Refrigerate until set. Minimum one hour. Cut into squares.
Recipe Notes

I have been offered no compensation from the parties mentioned in this post. The opinions given are mine and mine alone.

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Santa’s Shortbread

20161209_130916 One of my favourite cookies for the holidays is shortbread.  Its rich buttery taste just gets me in the mood for sitting in front of a warm cozy fire with a mug of hot chocolate and these great cookies.  This is also the perfect cookie to set out for the jolly old elf himself for his yearly visit.

It has been said that shortbread originated in Scotland.  Leftover bits of dough would be made in little disks and baked on the side of the fire.  Biscuits were literally twice baked and that’s where the word came from: ‘bis’ – twice/two and ‘coctus’ – cooked in latin became bescuit in Old French and eventually biscuit in English.  Butter gradually replaced yeast as dairy farming became more popular in Scotland.  You may wonder why it’s called shortbread as it doesn’t really resemble any type of bread we know now.

Butter, the defining ingredient in the recipe, is often listed as “shortening,” hence the cookie’s name: “short (ening) bread.” In fact, butter is so integral to the cookie that in 1921 the British government legislated that any product called shortbread must contain at least 51% fat derived from real butter. Thank you Britain for keeping the rich cookie tradition alive.

The high butter content produces a crumbly texture. Fat inhibits gluten, a protein in wheat, which allows dough to rise. Gluten gives dough a chewy texture. Higher fat content slows down gluten. Its protein strands are then shorter, rather than longer, producing a more crumbly texture rather than a chewy one.  This particular shortbread is whipped instead of made into a dough and pressed into a mold or cut into cookie shapes.  Because it’s whipped the cookie can be piped with a piping bag.

Preheat your oven to 350F.  You’ll start by whipping in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment.  I recommend using a standing mixer instead of the handheld kind, just because it has more power.  This is a stiff batter and the smaller mixer might not be able to handle it.  So, whip the butter and shortening until fluffy.  On low speed add the flour, cornstarch, icing sugar, and extracts and whip on medium/high until light and fluffy.   The batter should be stiff, but soft enough to pipe.

Place batter in a piping bag with a large star tip.  I have a massive wax piping bag and I used a Wilton #4 star.  Note, fill with bag about 20161209_104650half way with the batter.  Your hands will thank you later.  If the bag is too full then it will be really hard to pipe the cookies.

Pipe rosettes with the piping bag by making two circles on top of each other with the batter and end in the middle of the cookie.  The batter should be about an inch or so high.  It will flatten with baking. Leave about two inches between each cookie and try to do alternate spacing with the rows by piping the next row of cookies slightly lower than the previous row.  This way the cookies will have room to spread and you can fit a little more on each tray.  I use Silpat liners for my cookie trays but you can also use parchment.

Place a piece of glace cherry in the middle of each cookie (or use holiday sprinkles) and bake for 10-12 minutes.  The cookies will flatten out and be slightly darker, but not much.  If there’s browning around the edges then they may be over-baked, resulting in a tough cookie.  Let the shortbread cool on the pan for about five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Enjoy with a cool glass of

Cooling cookies.
Cooling cookies.

milk or your favourite hot beverage.


Print Recipe
Santa's Shortbread
These light whipped shortbreads are perfect for a visit from St. Nick.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. In stand mixer whip butter and shortening until fluffy. Turn mixer to low and slowly add flour, icing sugar and cornstarch until incorporated. Add vanilla and butter extract. Turn mixer to medium/high and whip batter until light and fluffy.
  2. Using a piping bag with a star tip, place batter into the bag until the bag is about half full. Twist bag shut and pipe rosettes on a Silpat lined baking sheet. Top each rosette with a piece of glace cherry. You may use colourful sprinkles if you wish. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the colour has changed slightly and the cookie has flattened.
  3. Let cool on the pan about five minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 4-5 dozen.
Recipe Notes

If you don't have Silpat liners, just use parchment.

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