Sunday, December 19, 2010

Homemade Samoas

Who needs girl scouts when you can make your own samoas? The great blend of caramel and coconut is one of the reasons why Samoas are my favorite girl scout cookies.  With Christmas just around the corner, now's a better time than ever to say no to those boxed cookies and to sit down and make your own. 

First preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Now to make the shortbread dough:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
First cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.   This will help to bring air into the butter, when all the sugar granules poke and create air pockets in the butter, resulting in a lighter base. 

Next, and in the egg and vanilla and mix to combine.  In a separate bowl, sift together 2 cups of flower and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  With mixer running,  slowly add in the flour mixture until dough comes together. 

Lay out a piece of parchment paper on a 9x13" dish.  I highly recommended using parchment paper, it helps from sticking and moving the shortbread out from the dish to cooling rack. Spread out your dough mixture in the dish. You want to spread it out so it is about 1/4" thick.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown.

While the dough is in the oven, start to make the topping:

  • 3 cups of sweetened shredded coconut
  • 12 ounces of caramels (I used the individually wrapped caramels you find in the candy aisle)
  • 3 tablespoons of milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
In a medium saucepan, add in the coconut.  Cook just enough to toast, making sure to stir constantly to avoid burning.

In a microwave safe bowl; add caramel, milk, and salt.  Microwave in minute intervals, stirring each time. Once the caramel is smooth, add in the toasted coconut and stir to combine. 

Once the shortbread is done, slide out of the pan and onto a cooling rack.  Spread the caramel and coconut mixture onto the shortbread, trying to get as even as possible.

Let this cool completely.  I put mine in the refrigerator for 20 minutes for extra encouragement.

For the chocolate, add the chips to a microwave save bowl and heat in 45 second intervals stirring each time. 

Once the chocolate is completely smooth and your cookie is cool, cut the cookie into 30 separate squares.  Dip the bottom of the squares into the melted chocolate and put on wax or parchment paper. Take remaining chocolate and drizzle over top of the squares.  Put in refrigerator to let chocolate set before enjoying. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Smoked Beef Brisket

Hello all,

This is my first post and I wanted to start off with my favorite thing to make, Brisket! I have been working and refining this recipe and technique for over a year now and have got it pretty good, but am always trying new methods and ingredients to try and improve.  For all those unfamiliar with brisket, it is a cheap and tough cut of meat located on the lower chest of the cow.  The brisket muscle supports 60% of the cow's weight and therefore has a lot of connective tissue.  So the only way to make it edible is to cook it for long periods of time to completely render out all the connective tissue.  One of the greatest things to do is take a $1.80/lb piece of meat and turn it into meat in your mouth goodness, heres how.

 First things first is buying a brisket.  Whole briskets are comprised of two major pieces, the point and the flat.  The point is a fatty piece of meat located directly above the flat and is separated by a layer of fat. The point is best for burnt ends, more on that later.  The flat is the muscle that contains less fat and is where you will cut and serve from.  When I first made a brisket I didn't know what to look for so I went to Whole Foods and asked the butcher for a brisket.  He went back and cut a few pieces of brisket and handed it to me, it was $5/lb and had all the fat trimmed off. The resulting brisket wasn't the best but was a good starting point.  So when you are looking to buy a brisket, see if you can go to Sam's or Costco or even your local butcher and ask for a packers cut brisket.  It will come in a cryo-vac bag and be anywhere from $1.50 to $3.00/lb.  The reason it is cheaper is because it is not trimmed and comes right from the source without any handling.  A brisket like this will weight anywhere from 8-17 pounds.  Even if you are cooking for 2, I strongly recommend buying this larger piece of meat, there are plenty of leftovers options, more on that later.

So for this brisket, I started with a 16 pound packer's cut that I got from my local butcher.  It was a little more than other brisket I got from Sam's, but really wanted to try the quality from a butcher.

 From here, I took it out of the packaging and just rinsed it with water then made up the marinate:

3 cups of Dr. Pepper
1/2 cup of Terriaki
1/2 cup of Worcestershire sauce
splash of tabasco

I put all this together and put it in a large roast pan and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, rinse off the brisket and then slather the whole brisket with molasses, this will up the sugar content, promoting good caramelization but also give something for the rub to stick to. 

Now for the rub.  For the rub I use a Texas rub that has a good amount of brown sugar to help caramelize the brisket.  Here's my rub:

4 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
4 Tablespoons Paprika
2 Tablespoons Salt
2 Tablespoons Chile Powder
2 Tablespoons Cracked black Pepper
4 Teaspoons of Garlic Powder
4 Teaspoons of Onion Powder
2 Teaspoons of Cumin

Generously apply rub over all the whole brisket.

Now insert a thermometer probe, one that connects to a digital readout.  This is the best way of knowing exactly when the brisket will be done.  Insert it into the middle of the flat end of the brisket.  Mine started at 42 degrees.

Now its time to start the smoker.  I use a Weber Smokey Mountain, but you can use any variety of smoking devices.  You can even set up a weber kettle to smoke low and slow using indirect heat.  When choosing which wood you would like to use, you have to consider which meat and flavor you want to impart.  Usually for pork such as shoulder and ribs, I use apple wood.  For brisket, however, I like to use a combination of oak and pecan wood chunks. When setting up the smoker, I use lump charcoal as the fuel but use the wood just to impart flavor.  I use about 5 pounds of charcoal then put wood on top.  I also use a water pan which works to regulate the fire temperature and also add moisture to the meat.  So once the water pan is full and the the fire is up to temperature, about 230-250, then the meat is ready to go on.  From here on out, you basically need to babysit the meat.  Watch the internal temperature and watch the temperature on the smoker, making sure it stays in the 220-250 range.  I usually check on it every hour or so.

When barbecuing meats such as brisket or pork shoulder there is a thing called the "plateau effect".  This is where the fat inside the meat starts to meat and cool the meat.  This happens around 150-160 degrees internally.  The result is that the meat will stall for a good 3 to 4 hours, the temperature will not budge.  Don't get discouraged, it will eventually get out of this stage and begin to climb like normal.

Once the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees, it it done and ready to be pulled.  195 is the temperature in which all of the connective tissue inside the meat will be completely rendered out, leaving the meat tender and delicious.  So when the meat is done, pull it off the smoker and triple wrap it aluminum foil.  Before completely closing it, however, I like to sprinkle brown sugar all over the brisket to add to the already delicious bark.

Close the foil and double wrap it in beach towels, yes beach towels, and put your little brisket baby in a cooler to rest for at least an hour.

Now its time to slice! Take the brisket out of the foil and begin to slice.  If you would like to make the delicious treat, "Burnt ends" then what you can do is cut the point off of the flat, sprinkle the exposed end with the same rub mixture as before and then put the point back on the smoker for about 5 hours.  Then, pull the point off and cut into cubes.  As for the flat, you can slice it into slices and serve.

That's it! there are a lot of stages but completely worth it in the end! If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments.