Candy Bar Cookies | Pork CracklinsThis is an ironic cookie. It’s the best way to describe an elegant looking little cookie that surprises you with a candy bar inside. It’s highbrow meets lowbrow, and it works really well.

The cookies are simple to make. The dough is kind of sandy and initially kind of a pain to work with, but it turns out to be very forgiving. It’s a little messy, since the candies need to be smooshed into a ball and then wrapped up in the dough before baking, but it’s all chocolate so it doesn’t matter.

I dipped some in white chocolate, some in dark. I love how they look like little petit fours. I served some to friends that came over for cocktails, and the rest went to work, where they were quickly gobbled up.

I wasn’t as creative as my fellow bakers, though. They tried all sorts of different candies inside these cookies – I just went with the recommended Mounds and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Word is, candies with a lot of caramel don’t work as well because the caramel just melts all over the place. I thought the ones with peanut butter cups were really good – and the ones with Rolos sound great, too.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Chocolate-Chunk Pumpkin Bread Pudding | Pork CracklinsLarry is thrilled that it’s September and time for the start of Fall desserts – apples, pumpkin, cinnamon and spice and everything nice. I, on the other hand, still do not like pumpkin. But I’ll make an exception for this bread pudding.

When I first saw the title of the recipe, I imagined a typical bread pudding, except with pumpkin, including raisins and soggy bread. Shudder. But no! In typical Baked style, this is a surprising and delicious twist on the classic.

I should note that a time commitment is required – there’s not a lot of hands-on work, but the recipe starts with making bread. That’s right – the bread pudding starts out with a pretty-tasty-on-its-own pumpkin bread that’s not too sweet and is studded with chunks of chocolate. I recommend making just the bread even if you don’t want to make the bread pudding.

There’s more pumpkin in the custard; this is where it starts to seem suspiciously like pumpkin pie to me, but I soldier on. What comes out of the oven is deep brown, hearty, and delicious. The bread stands up very well to the custard, and the chocolate is a delightful surprise. Maybe it’s still a little too much pumpkin for me, but Larry really likes it. It doesn’t suck – that’s about as enthusiastic as I can get for pumpkin.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Crunchy Peanut Butter Banana Bread | Pork Cracklins

When I saw this recipe, I was skeptical. Does the world really need yet another version of banana bread? Maybe not, but after I tried this one, I’m leaning towards yes.

Larry and I aren’t big peanut butter fans (I don’t like peanuts in general). This is a pretty standard banana bread, but with the addition of peanut butter and chocolate chunks, it’s transformed into an additive sweet treat.

I used crunchy peanut butter and liked the texture of the bread. If you really like crunch, you could add in more chopped peanuts. If not, go with creamy peanut butter. I had some issues with the texture in the middle – that all too common crater down the center of the bread that never seems to get enough time in the oven. Next time, I’ll bake it a bit longer until I’m sure the middle has fully baked.

The bread would also be great with almond butter, or really, any other nut butter (I’ve got some hazelnut butter in the fridge). I’m curious to see how it turns out with a natural nut butter, since I used Skippy Super Chunk. Don’t judge. I firmly believe it’s the very best peanut butter for baking, sugar and stabilizers and all.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Chocolate Banana Tart | Pork Cracklins

This is a pretty quick tart, with layers of chocolate and raw bananas, topped with caramelized bananas and buttery brown sugar caramel. It’s too bad it’s not prettier.

The tart wasn’t trouble-free. There are a few steps – make and bake the crust, make the ganache, slice bananas, caramelize bananas, finish off the caramel. My caramel got very gloppy and the butter started to separate out. I think the ganache overpowers the flavor of the caramelized bananas (which are the best part).

I could have eaten just the caramelized bananas. They’re delicious, but mine got pretty soft in the time it took to get them somewhat brown.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Chewy Chocolate Mint Cookies | Pork Cracklins

Flat, flat cookies. They drive me crazy, and these little chocolate mint morsels are no exception. They’re not a bad cookie – very chocolate-y and intensely minty. If you don’t like mint, you can leave it out and add nuts or another flavor.

These are a make-ahead sort of cookie. Like most cookie doughs, it benefits from some time chilling in the refrigerator. In my case, it was in there for a couple of days. I had other things on my plate: the annual Netflix Waffle Day was last week, and my coworker and I were busy making puff pastry (16 pounds) and frangipane (6 quarts, and yes, we waffled puff pastry!).

After waffle day was over, the cookies bake off in just 10 minutes. The dough is just as quick and easy to make, too, but I’m not sure this is a recipe I’ll revisit.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

Vanilla Bean Malt Cake | Pork Cracklins

This is a lovely little Bundt cake. I already have a bias towards Bundt cakes – so simple, and not fussy at all – but this one is small enough for a 6-cup bundt pan. It’s perfectly sized.

The cake is quick to make, so I whipped it up at the last minute the night before we left on a camping trip to Yosemite. It’s a good cake for camping or a picnic.

If you’re not a fan of malt, just leave it out. There’s plenty of flavor with the vanilla and a hint of Bourbon. The buttermilk makes for a moist crumb.

My only beef with the recipe is the glaze – it comes out way too thin, and I needed to add quite a bit more powdered sugar to get it to the right consistency. I suggest starting off with half of the milk at first, and thinning as needed.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.

La Yapa Cocktail | Pork Cracklins

In Part II of this series on rye, I mentioned that I was going to write about an unusual cocktail that includes balsamic vinegar. I turned to a drink developed by the bar manager at Peels in NYC, the New York Shrub. It sounds odd, but makes sense – cocktails are best with a hit of acid to balance out the sweet and bitter flavors. In order to intensify the vinegar, it’s first boiled down into a syrup. Lemon juice adds brightness, and a bit of simple syrup as a counter to the tart vinegar. The result is a dark, delicious drink that’s perfectly balanced. The rye plays beautifully with the balsamic vinegar – it’s become one of my preferred flavor pairings. Bold and unique, I could drink this every night. I think it lends itself more to a cold night, but there’s something refreshing about the bracing tartness of the vinegar.

Next I returned to an old favorite, the Stone Fence. Actually, this is adaptation of an adaptation of a Stone Fence. I’ve taken some liberties. In Part I, I mentioned how I tend to think of rye in terms of winter flavors. This is the embodiment of that idea. With reduced apple cider, maple syrup and a ginger garnish, this drink almost demands a to be consumed on a cold night in front of a warm fire. As much as I love it, it’s best saved for another season. One of the reasons I wanted to make it now is to compare how the Templeton Rye performs in a more traditionally rye-based cocktail versus something less customary.

For my last rye experiment of the night, I made Imbibe Magazine’s La Yapa. This is a return to a more tropical-themed drink, with falernum and grenadine. Bracing Fernet Branca gives it a bit of a bite, but it works fairly well – I’m becoming convinced that Templeton Rye has an affinity for bold, unusual flavor pairings. I like this drink less than the previous two, but more than last night’s Two Stone.

A last variation on rye cocktails is to batch up several servings, and then place it in an oak barrel for a period of time. I won’t go into too much detail here, since I wrote about the subject at length previously in my post on a Barrel-Aged Vieux Carre. The primary guidelines for barrel-aging cocktails are that they shouldn’t include citrus juices, and the smaller the barrel, the less time it should spend aging (it’s a good practice to taste the progress daily). I can say that three months after bottling the aged cocktail, it’s still terrific. And it’s great to be able to pour myself a drink without having to go to any more trouble than popping open the bottle and pouring.

After all of this experimentation with Templeton Rye as the starring ingredient in cocktails, I can’t help but think it would also be wonderful as a supporting flavor in low-alcohol cocktails – with a primary base of port, or sherry, or vermouth. I can’t wait to get back into the kitchen for more investigation.

Given the name of the blog, I can’t end this series without mentioning the Templeton Rye Heritage Pork Project. They raised Duroc pigs, which were fed a diet spent grains from the Templeton mash. The pigs were slaughtered this summer, but I hope they continue the program because I’d love to do a backyard pig roast.

If you’re interesting in learning more about the history of Templeton Rye, I recommend picking up a copy of Gentleman Bootleggers: The True Story of Templeton Rye, Prohibiiton, and a Small Town in Cahoots.

Other posts in this series:
Rye Cocktails, Part I
Rye Cocktails, Part II

Disclaimer: The folks at Templeton Rye provided me with a bottle of their product for experimentation. All opinions are my own.

Up to Date Cocktail | Pork Cracklins

Yesterday I wrote about two simple, spirit-forward cocktails using Templeton Rye. I was excited about the outcome of both drinks. Today I’m taking a different and more unusual approach, pairing the rye with Sherry in two different cocktails.

I’m a little bit obsessed with Sherry and am always trying to find ways to highlight it in a cocktail. It’s a bit of an odd ingredient for cocktails, as it’s more often sipped on its own. I wondered how it would work with rye – would the flavors clash in a fight for dominance, or would they meld into something delightfully drinkable?

It turns out, it depends on the drink. I used an Amontillado Sherry in both drinks for consistency. First, the Up To Date, a classic cocktail from the 1916 edition of Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks. This drink pairs equal amounts of rye and Sherry with Grand Mariner and bitters. I love this combination. Neither spirit is dominant – instead, they’re harmonious and are enhanced by the addition of the Grand Mariner. This is a very drinkable cocktail, like a Manhattan but more interesting.

My second experiment was the Two Stone. Like the Up to Date, it’s also a riff on a Manhattan, but emphasizes the rye over the Sherry. It also includes an orange liqueur in the form of Orange Curacao instead of Grand Mariner. As much as I love rye, I didn’t love this drink. It wasn’t balanced, and the flavors didn’t play as well together when the rye was matched with an equal amount of Sherry.

I think the learning here is that Rye and Amontillado sherry, while a seemingly unusual pairing, work well together, particularly when used in equal amounts. I would expect to need to experiment with that ratio when using other types of sherry, such as Oloroso, or Manzanita, or even the sweet Pedro Ximinez. From now on when I see Rye and vermouth in a drink, I’m definitely going to try swapping out the vermouth with Sherry to see if I like the outcome.

Part three of this series will cover more cocktail variations using Templeton Rye, including a crazy pairing of rye with balsamic vinegar. In a cocktail! Stop in tomorrow to learn more.

Other posts in this series:
Rye Cocktails, Part I
Rye Cocktails, Part III

Disclaimer: The folks at Templeton Rye provided me with a bottle of their product for experimentation. All opinions are my own.

Lemon-Thyme Old Fashioned | Pork Cracklins

Ask anyone who drinks spirit-based drinks will likely tell you they have a signature drink. This is the drink you order when you go to a bar, and nothing else appeals to you, or you want to stay in your comfort zone… or everything on the menu ends in -tini and you don’t feel like drinking liquid candy.

Larry’s a Corn ‘n’ Oil guy. I’m partial to an Old Fashioned. Corn ‘n’ Oil is a little uncommon, but as long as the bar stocks rum, falernum and angostura bitters, Larry knows his favorite ratio and can get just what he likes. 

My go-to drink is an Old Fashioned. I have very specific ideas about an Old Fashioned. It needs to be spirit, sugar, bitters. Orange twist. Ice. Stirred, not shaken. That’s it. No muddled fruit, especially the DayGlo maraschino cherry. I’m partial to Bourbon or rye, but am happy to drink an Old Fashioned with rum or mezcal. Actually, if you think about it.. a Corn ‘n’ Oil is really just a variation on an Old Fashioned (falernum is a sweet spiced syrup).

If I’m drinking a rye-based Old Fashioned, Templeton Rye is one of my favorite rye whiskies for mixing. The spirit needs to be able to stand on its own – the rest of the cocktail is pretty simple, so using an inferior base liquor will make an inferior drink. Templeton has just the right amount of rye spiciness, and it’s reasonably priced, so it won’t break the bank.

The thing with whiskey is that I always want to pair it with wintery flavors. Maple, apple cider, warm spices. But it’s summer, so I’m thinking I need a summertime twist on an Old Fashioned.

I took some liberties with the Old Fashioned in order to keep with the freshness of the season. I made a simple syrup infused with thyme, and then finished off the drink with a healthy dose of Meyer lemon bitters and a lemon twist. It’s a lovely drink, and has become a refreshing way to wrap up a long day. The Templeton Rye works particularly well in this drink – it doesn’t overpower or compete with the delicate thyme and lemon flavors.

My success with the Old Fashioned encouraged me to create a variation on Larry’s corn ’n’ oil, doing a simple swap of the rum for rye. It’s no surprise that it’s delicious – I don’t know why I haven’t made this before now. Falernum includes cinnamon and clove, the same wintry spices that work well with my cold-weather cocktails. But it also gets an acidic hit from a good dose of lime. Falernum is available at most liquor stores, but I make my own using a variation on this recipe. I used Angostura bitters in the drink, but I think allspice bitters would be great as well.

Stay tuned – over the next two days, I’ll write more about rye-based cocktails, including how to pair rye with unexpected ingredients to add some excitement into your cocktail hour.

Other posts in this series:
Rye Cocktails, Part II
Rye Cocktails, Part III

Lemon-Thyme Old Fashioned
Yield: one drink
2 oz. Templeton Rye
1/2 oz. thyme simple syrup (recipe follows)
2 dashes lemon bitters (or to taste)
Lemon twist

Combine the rye, simple syrup and bitters in a mixing glass. Fill the glass with ice and slowly stir to chill and dilute the cocktail. Strain into a rocks glass (over a large ice cube, if desired). Garnish with the lemon twist, expressing the oils over the drink.

Thyme simple syrup
Yield: 1/2 cup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 sprigs fresh thyme

Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat on medium until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, and add the thyme sprigs to the sugar syrup. Cover the pan and let steep for at 30 minutes. Remove the thyme from the pan (strain the syrup if needed, to remove any stray leaves). Cool completely before using in a cocktail. The syrup will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Rye Corn ’n’ Oil
Yield: one drink
2.5 oz. Templeton Rye
1 oz. falernum (Velvet brand, or homemade)
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine the rye and falernum in a mixing glass. Fill the glass with ice and slowly stir to chill and dilute the cocktail. Strain into a rocks glass (over a large ice cube, if desired). Top with Angostura bitters.

Disclaimer: The folks at Templeton Rye provided me with a bottle of their product for experimentation. All opinions are my own.

Milk Chocolate Malt Semifreddo | Pork Cracklins

I don’t know why I don’t make semifreddo more often – it’s easy and refreshing, and lighter than ice cream.

This recipe makes two loaf pans of the frozen (or semi-frozen, officially) dessert, but it’s easy to scaled down, which is what I did. And then it’s as easy as whipping up the cream and egg whites and folding it into the yolk mixture.

I added a bit more malt powder and I liked the result. Getting the malt balls to just the right size without completely pulverizing them in the food processor is problematic, but I didn’t have time to experiment with other methods.

The recipe calls for a drizzle of chocolate syrup. The dreaded chocolate syrup from the book that doesn’t seem to work for anyone. I didn’t even go there, and just used a bit of leftover ganache I had in the refrigerator.

We really liked the texture of the semifreddo, and the addition of malt balls gives it a nice crunch. Definitely a make again.

For the recipe and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers fared, head over to Baked Sunday Mornings.