Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Gooey Goodness!

Whew...I nearly forgot that it was Tuesday. It has been one of those days. Luckily I started my daily review of the food blogs and the first blog I saw had their post up, so it suddenly clicked!

This week's challenge was Dorie's Gooey Chocolate Cakes. I've been pretty excited about this because A: I love chocolate and B: I was hosting Emma Day with my niece and knew that she would be a great helper. (She also helped me with the Daring Baker post below if you need more cuteness in your day.) We had a great time making these cakes. They really were perfect to make with a five year old because they do come together so quickly. There was very little patience required, the hardest part for her was waiting on the butter and chocolate to melt, but she was mesmerized by the process. She kept giving me a running commentary on how many bits of butter were left unmelted! But in no time we were at the table enjoying our cake and ice cream. Here's a picture of Emma enjoying her cake:
The cake itself is really yummy. I don't think mine was quite as gooey as it was supposed to be, but they still tasted really good. These are definitely something I will make again when I need a quick and tasty dessert!
Anyway, here's the recipe:
Gooey Chocolate Cake

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate,
4 ounces coarsely chopped,
1 ounce very finely chopped
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
6 tablespoons of sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. butter (or spray – it’s easier) 6 cups of a regular-size muffin pan, preferably a disposable aluminum foil pan, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Put the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, put the coarsely chopped chocolate and the butter in the bowl and stir occasionally over the simmering water just until they are melted – you don’t want them to get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until homogenous. Add the sugar and whisk until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and, still using the whisk, stir (don’t beat) them into the eggs. Little by little, and using a light hand, stir in the melted chocolate and butter. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and sprinkle the finely chopped chocolate over the batter.

Bake the cakes for 13 minutes. Transfer them, still on the baking sheet, to a rack to cool for 3 minutes. (There is no way to test that these cakes are properly baked, because the inside remains liquid.)

Line a cutting board with a silicone baking mat or parchment or wax paper, and, after the 3-minute rest, unmold the cakes onto the board. Use a wide metal spatula to lift the cakes onto dessert plates.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

March Daring Baker Challenge

The Perfect Party Cake
(with Pierre Herme's luscious lemon cream)

This month's Daring Baker Challenge was Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake. As all of you know, I'm a huge Dorie fan so I was definitely up for yet another Dorie baking challenge. One of the great things about this challenge was that this month's host decided to let us change things up a bit as far as fillings were concerned.

Once I read that I immediately knew where I was headed in Dorie's cookbook, straight to Pierre Herme's lemon cream recipe. Dorie raves about this recipe, and after making it I know why. It is absolutely the tastiest, most wonderful thing I've ever eaten. Upon tasting my eyes immediately rolled back in my head in pure delight! I have to say that at first I was concerned with this being a cantankerous (we love that word in my family) recipe, but surprisingly it is fairly easy-going. I actually hideously overcooked it (thanks to my crappy thermometer), but it still tasted amazing, once I strained out a small amount of scrambled eggs along with the lemon zest.

As far as using the cream as a filling, it worked out really well in the end. Although I'm afraid that the lemon cream stole the show some from the cake and frosting. The cake itself is beautiful. The crumb of the cake is fabulous, it's almost a cross between pound cake and angel food cake with a hint of lemon flavoring. I must say that the layers are durable too; I nearly dropped one on the floor but caught it at the last minute and it held up just fine. The frosting is nice as well, but it's actually a little too light for me but probably is perfect for this cake. I'm a fan of a thick powdered sugar frosting, but this is very tasty too!

All of the flavors work really together. I can't wait to take this to work tomorrow and get some other opinions on the cake. I have a feeling that it will be a big hit because it is such a light tasting cake. Don't let it fool you though there's actually nothing light about this cake, between the cake, frosting, and lemon cream there are 6 sticks of butter in this recipe, but you would never know it by taking a bite.

I also have to say that I had some help with my baking today, my niece Emma came over for an "Emma Day" and was a big help in the kitchen. Here she is juicing some lemons and enjoying the lemon cream:

Alright, here are the recipes! I definitely recommend the cake and the lemon cream! I really think that everyone should make the lemon cream right now, I mean stop everything, make it, and eat it with a spoon! It's that good!

Pierre Herme's French Lemon Cream
(This is from Dorie's Baking from My Home to Yours, the recipe is for a tart but can be served many ways)

1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
2 sticks, plus 5 tablespoons butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces, at room temp.

Tools: Instant read thermometer, strainer, and a blender or food processor

Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy, and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk--you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling--you'll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180 degrees F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point--the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don't stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience--depending on how much heat you're giving the crea, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.

As soon as it reaches 180 degrees F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cooks to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going--to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machinea little rest between beats.

Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Dorie's Perfect Party Cake
Baking From my Home to Yours

For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour (updated 25 March)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut (

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
Spread it with one third of the preserves.
Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Couple of changes: I didn't use the coconut obviously, and I also just baked the cake into three layers, which required me to cut down the baking time. I didn't much like the idea of sawing my layers in half.

Please excuse my pitiful attempt at presentation, it's embarassing, really it is! Oh, and I thank my husband for the fabulous picture at the top of the post! He's amazing!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Quick & Yummy Dinner

I'm finally getting around to posting a non-TWD post as well as a savory post! I almost forgot to take a picture of our dinner tonight, but luckily my dear hubby was sweet enough to run out to the car and grab my camera at the last minute! YAY!

Tonight's dinner was Sauteed Salmon with Spinach Fettucine. I make the salmon my standard way by coating it in olive oil then sprinkling a pretty good amount of sea salt (I use William Sonoma's fleur de sel) and pepper on both sides of the fish. Then I saute in a bit more olive oil until it is done to your liking.

The spinach fettucine recipe comes from Cooking Light, but I actually lighten the recipe even more than they have. One thing I did differently tonight that I think worked really well was using fresh baby spinach (rather than frozen spinach) and wilting it by draining the pasta over the spinach in a colander. I definitely like the flavor and texture of fresh spinach much more than frozen spinach.

I'll note the other changes I made in italics in the recipe. Definitely a yummy supper and is actually really quick to make. Tonight we were eating in less than an hour after I got home. That's super-fast for us! Anyway here's the recipe, I hope you give it a try!

Spinach Fettucine
Adapted from Cooking Light
1 lb. uncooked fettucine (I use whole wheat angel hair, hubby doesn't like fettucine)
1 tablespoon butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup reduced fat cream cheese
3/4 cup fat-free less-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
3/4 cup half-and-half (I use skim milk, I'm sure H&H is creamier, but just not necessary to me)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 10 oz. pkg frozen spinach, thawed (I used fresh spinach wilted by draining the pasta on top in a colander)
10 center-cut bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (I leave this out because I normally serve it with salmon, which is so much healthier than bacon, this actually seems a little weird to me in this recipe)

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting the salt and fat. Drain pasta (I drain on top of the fresh baby spinach), reserving 1/2 cup pasta water (I replaced this with more chicken broth for flavor).

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, saute 30 seconds. Add reserved pasta water (Again, I used chicken broth) and cream cheese, stirring with a whisk until smooth.

Combine broth and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture to pan, stirring with a whisk to combine, bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add parmesan cheese, stirring until smooth. Add half-and-half (I used skim milk), salt and pepper. Stir in spinach (Unless you wilted the spinach with the pasta). Combine cheese mixture and pasta in a large bowl, tossing to coat. Sprinkle each serving with bacon (If using).

Quick final thought: One issue I had the first time I made this was on timing everything to get done at the same time. I found with this attempt that if I start making the cream sauce and sauteing the salmon right after I put the pasta in the boiling water the timing works out pretty well.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm out this week!

Hello everybody! I decided to take a break from Tuesday's with Dorie this week. I just didn't have enough people around this week to eat the Flan. I'll be back next week with Gooey Chocolate cake though (YUM!) Definitely take a look at all of the other posts on Flan by visiting the blogroll at Tuesday's with Dorie.

I'll try to be back some this week with some other posts as well. We have some really good meals planned for the week so hopefully I'll get to post some "eats" rather than all "treats"!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Blazin' Blaisins

TWD: Dorie's Brioche Raisin Snails

I really wish that I had more time to post things other than my TWD posts each week, but for some reason I just haven't had an enormous amount of time for cooking lately. I'm going to make a real effort to post about some other stuff here over the next week or so. Not that I don't love Tuesday's with Dorie, but I definitely need a little more variety.

Anyway, on to this week's challenge...This challenge was chosen by Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody (the link is in my favorites list). She bravely chose Dorie's Brioche Raisin Snails. I must be honest and say, I saw this at first and groaned, you see I'm a raisin hater. They just do absolutely nothing for me in a dessert. This is odd but for some reason I liken biting into a raisin in a cake or cookie to biting into a large bug. Yes, I know I'm an odd person; my husband judges me frequently! Anyway, finally I saw that some people were subbing the raisins out for other dried fruits and fortunately I was able to find dried blueberries (hence the "blaisins" in the title), can I say YUM! I knew these would be perfect.

The next step was securing some help and hopefully a better location for making this complicated challenged. Luckily I know that my mom is always willing to help out when I need a hand and a bigger kitchen. She volunteered and we spent most of Sunday making the parts of this challenge. We made a fantastic brioche dough, an okay pastry cream (it tasted fabulous but was a little lumpy, I think I rushed it), and some really, really good flambeed dried blueberries. That was definitely the coolest step. We tried to take a picture but unfortunately the flames just wouldn't show up, but trust me it flamed up pretty good!

We decided to let all of the pieces chill overnight and got together on Monday to finish up the snails or Brioche Blueberry Twirls (I renamed them because I couldn't get past the "snail" idea...once again I'm a weirdo). I must say that these were actually really easy to put together. The dough rolled out with no problems, the pastry cream, raisins, cinnamon, and sugar were of course easy to apply, and the mixture actually rolled up with no problems whatsoever! I was a little worried about cutting each roll, but I just used short, fluid slices to cut through them without flattening the whole roll. After rising, they turned out perfectly!!

Finally, the taste...WOW, these are so incredibly tasty. Every aspect of these snails or twirls was fantastic. The brioche was nice and buttery, the blueberries were tangy and sweet, and the pastry cream was luscious! The icing was the perfect finishing touch. I really could not have been more pleased with how these turned out, but I must say the blueberries were the best touch. I really think that raisins would have done these "snails" a disservice. The blueberries are the way to go...trust me! These would definitely be worth trying again with blueberries if you tried something else the first time. Anyway, here's the final product and if you would like the recipe visit Peabody's blog.

I also have to give credit where it is due; my mom is a stickler for presentation in photos so she created my leafy presentation for my final picture. She actually clipped the leaves and berries from the plants in her yard. As soon as she e-mails me a picture of her beautiful yard I will be sure to post it here. She does a fabulous job with her flowers and plants; it's always beautiful! So thanks Mama!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tuesday's With Dorie

This week's Tuesday's with Dorie challenge was the Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie Cake. One of the best things about this cookbook is that Dorie not only provides you with great recipes, she also takes a number of chances to tell you some great stories about where her recipes came from. This recipe is one of those that has an interesting story. There are actually very few cookbooks that I've taken the time to read anything but the recipes, but I must say that this cookbook is worth the extra time. If you have this book but haven't taken the time to read her stories, definitely give them a chance. I think that is part of what makes her cookbook so great, you really get a better idea of where she is coming from.

Anyway...on to today's recipe. The recipe is obviously for a apple pie cake, I think you would have to make it as is to really understand why it's called a "pie cake," but I tried a little something different with this one. Another great thing about Dorie's cookbook is her "playing around" section on most recipes; that section gives different ways to make each of her recipes. I love that because not only do you get all of the base recipes, you also get ways to make each one different. On this challenge I chose to do one of the "playing around" options, which was Apple Turnovers.

Initially I was really excited about this week's challenge. I've been loving apples since the Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake so I thought this was another great chance to get yummy apple flavoring in my dessert. My only problem was that I seem to be in some sort of a cooking slump. I keep saying that I've lost my mojo. The previous night I had a disasterous run in with fried chicken (too bad to even be posted), so I was a little apprehensive and I think my nerves got the best of me.

The raw dough for the turnovers tasted amazing (I'm a sucker for raw dough), and the filling tasted really good as well. Something happened in the cooking process though. The poor little turnovers just dried out. They still looked pretty (if you look past the vents; I kept calling them self-venting), but they were just too dry for me. Everyone was nice and said they tasted good, but I think they could use some work. It may have been the Fuji apples, maybe they are a bit drier than other varieties. So if you have any suggestions please let me know. I would love to make these again and get a little gooier of an apple turnover. Anyway, here's the recipe and the instructions for the turnovers.

Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake

For The Dough
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon
3 1/4 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For The Apples
10 medium apples, all one kind or a mix (I like to use Fuji, Golden Delicious and Ida Reds; my grandmother probably used dry baking apples like Cordland and Rome)
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar, for dusting

To Make The Dough: Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the baking powder and salt and mix just to combine. Add the lemon juice - the dough will probably curdle, but don't worry about it. Still working on low speed, slowly but steadily add 3 1/4 cups of the flour, mixing to incorporate it and scraping down the bowl as needed. The dough is meant to be soft, but if you think it looks more like a batter than a dough at this point, add the extra 1/4 cup flour. (The dough usually needs the extra flour.) When properly combined, the dough should almost clean the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or for up to 3 days. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.)

To Make The Apples: Peel and core the apples and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick; cut the slices in half crosswise if you want. Toss the slices in a bowl with a little lemon juice - even with the juice, the apples may turn brown, but that's fine - and add the raisins. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, sprinkle over the apples and stir to coat evenly. Taste an apple and add more sugar, cinnamon, and/or lemon juice if you like.

Getting Ready to Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter a 9x12-inch baking pan (Pyrex is good) and place it on a baking shee tlined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Remove the dough from the fridge. If it is too hard to roll and it cracks, either let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin to get it moving. Once it's a little more malleable, you've got a few choices. You can roll it on a well-floured work surface or roll it between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. You can even press or roll out pieces of the dough and patch them together in the pan - because of the baking powder in the dough, it will puff and self-heal under the oven's heat. Roll the dough out until it is just a little larger all around than your pan and about 1/4 inch thick - you don't want the dough to be too thin, because you really want to taste it. Transfer the dough to the pan. If the dough comes up the sides of the pan, that's fine; if it doesn't that's fine too.

Give the apples another toss in the bowl, then turn them into the pan and, using your hands, spread them evenely across the bottom.

Roll out the second piece of dough and position it over the apples. Cut the dough so you've got a 1/4 to 1/2 inch overhang and tuck the excess into the sides of the pan, as though you were making a bed. (If you don't have that much overhang, just press what you've got against the sides of the pan.)

Brush the top of the dough lightly with water and sprinkle sugar over the dough. Using a small sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 evenly spaced slits in the dough.

Bake for 65 to 80 minutes, or until the dough is a nice golden brown and the juices from the apples are bubbling up through the slits. Transfer the baking pan to a cooling rack and cool to just warm or to room temperature. You'll be tempted to taste it sooner, but I think the dough needs a little time to rest.

To make the turnovers:

Cut the apples into small pieces. Roll the dough out to around 1/4'' thickness, cut into 4.5-5 in. circles. Spoon around 2 tablespoons of apple mixture into each circle. Lightly dab a little water around the edges of the circle and seal with a fork. Cut a slit in the top of each turnover and bake for 25-30 min. on a lined baking sheet.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

TWD: Snickery Squares

Well if you read my previous post you know that I had some issues with this recipe. It was definitely not the recipe's fault; I blame myself completely. Unfortunately, my issues didn't quite end with the initial dulce de leche fiasco.

I will say that the flavor of these squares are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! They seriously might be one of the tastiest desserts I've ever eaten, and trust me I've eaten an embarassing amount of desserts in my 26 years! However, my creation is one of the ugliest things I've ever seen. I know the problem lies in the dulce de leche.

You see after my attempt at making the DDL failed, I relied on being able to find it in a store in Florence, SC (which is a good bit bigger than my hometown). Unfortunately the closest thing I could find was a caramel spread. I thought it may work because the first ingredient listed was sweetened condensed milk, so I though it may be close to DDL. I guess the difference was that this spread just refused to actually set up. So after cutting into squares the caramel/DDL substitute just ran everywhere (this was after being in the freezer for at least an hour). The two squares in the above picture just happened to not run as much as the others. So they definitely don't look as tasty as they actually are. Luckily I stopped cutting at about half the pan so I have some non-spread out squares to bring to work tomorrow.

For full disclosure (haha) here is a picture of the bars that I attempted to remove from the pan:

So anyway, I'm very happy that I completed the challenge. I'm quite pleased with the taste so I can guarantee that I will be trying this again by making my own dulce de leche using one of the recipes that the some of the other TWD bakers used!

Here's the recipe (I nearly forgot it):

Snickery Squares

For the Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
2 TBSP powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

For the Filling:
½ cup sugar
3 TBSP water
1 ½ cups salted peanuts
About 1 ½ cups store-bought dulce de leche

For the Topping:
7 ounces bittersweet, coarsely chopped
½ stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature

Getting Ready:
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 8 inch square pan and put it on a baking sheet.

To Make the Crust:
Toss the flour, sugar, powdered sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Toss in the pieces of cold butter and pulse about 12 times, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Pour the yolk over the ingredients and pulse until the dough forms clumps and curds-stop before the dough comes together in a ball.Turn the dough into the buttered pan and gently press it evenly across the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough with a fork and slide the sheet into the oven.Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, or until it takes on just a little color around the edges. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.

To Make the Filling:
Have a parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheet at the ready, as well as a long-handled wooden spoon and a medium heavy bottomed saucepan.Put the sugar and water in the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Keeping the heat fairly high, continue to cook the sugar, without stirring, until it just starts to color. Toss the peanuts and immediately start stirring. Keep stirring, to coat the peanuts with sugar. Within a few minutes, they will be covered with sugar and turn white—keep stirring until the sugar turns back into caramel. When the peanuts are coated with a nice deep amber caramel, remove the pan from the heat and turn the nuts out onto the baking sheet., using the wooden spoon to spread them out as best you can. Cool the nuts to room temperature.When they are cool enough to handle, separate the nuts or break them into small pieces. Divide the nuts in half. Keep half of the nuts whole or in biggish pieces for the filling, and finely chop the other half for the topping. Spread the dulce de leche over the shortbread base and sprinkle over the whole candied nuts.

To Make the Topping:
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove chocolate from the heat and gently stir in the butter, stirring until it is fully blended into the chocolate.Pour the chocolate over the dulce de leche, smoothing it with a long metal icing spatula, then sprinkle over the rest of the peanuts. Slide the pan into the fridge to set the topping, about 20 minutes; if you’d like to serve the squares cold, keep them refrigerated for at least 3 hours before cutting.
Cut into 16 bars.