Friday, May 4, 2007

Family memories all baked up in love.

We're heading out of town this weekend, to my cousin and her family. She celebrated her 40th Birthday last week, and knowing that she will have all the spa gift cards, and 'smelly stuff' one would want, I have resorted to making edible goodies for her (creative and economic all in one - always a bonus for this stay at home mother!)

The first batch of chocolatey goodness I'll be bringing is her favourite family treat - our Nana's Caramel Squares. As I was baking these this morning I found myself fondly reminiscing about Nana, to the point where I could almost feel her there standing beside me, watching her soft freckled hands, knuckles swollen with arthritis, lovingly rubbing the butter into the oats and flour. She was 75 when she died, not that old these days, and I was only 13, yet my memories of times spent at her house are vivid and plenty. I remember her patience as we (another cousin and myself) made Caramel Squares in her kitchen, on the big red table and we put a whole can of condensed milk into the base instead of the caramel mixture. Never one to waste a thing, she proceeded to get another can of milk for the caramel, and used our 'modified' base anyway. I think those were the crunchiest ones we'd ever tasted lol!

The timing of my reflections on Nana couldn't be better, since patience is not a strong point of mine lately. She was a great role model, and someone whose attitude and caring outreach to others I would like to emulate more. She was a devout Catholic, and instilled in her children a love of their faith, and a love of God and his 'holy Mother' as she would say. I want to pass that on to my children. I also want them to have fond memories of their Grandmothers and other extended family which is why, even though the thought of traveling for hours on end with two small children by air terrifies me (you have no idea!), I know it is so important for us to travel to Ireland as often as logistics and funds allow us to do so. We are fortunate, too, that our families can visit here fairly often.

The other recipe I'll be making for my cousin this morning is a Martha Stewart recipe - for Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies. Like most recipes of Martha's it'll use all my mixing bowls and utensils, but it'll be so worth it because these are scrumptious. Martha is someone I don't want to emulate so much lol! Well except for the mega millions part, but I'll stay clear of prison thank you!

Here are some pics - and should you feel the urge to try - the recipes are here for you too :) Have a SUPER weekend!

Caramel Squares:

For the base:
4oz quaker oats (I use quick cooking - but I don't think it matters)
2oz sugar
4oz all purpose flour
4oz (one stick) butter

  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Sift flour, add oats and sugar
  3. Work in butter with fingertips until evenly distributed and mixture forms pea sized lumps
  4. Press mixture evenly into the bottom of a greased 8x8inch baking tin (I like to use the disposable ones, I can peel the tinfoil away and it makes cutting them much easier).
  5. Bake for 25 mins or until brown and firm.
For the top:
4oz (one stick) butter
2oz sugar
2 generous tablespoons of light karo syrup (golden syrup)
Small can condensed milk (I used the most of a 14oz can)
Few drops vanilla extract
8oz milk chocolate chips

  1. Put all ingredients into a large pot and bring to the boil - allow to bubble for 5 mins (as my Nana used to say 'not a minute more, not a minute less). Be careful - I use a large pot because this mixture likes to 'spit' and there's nothing worse than a caramel burn if it gets on your skin. Watch it carefully too, it's very easy to burn and I have found this out the hard way and ruined saucepans in the process!
  2. Pour caramel over cooled base, refrigerate to allow caramel to set...
  3. Melt chocolate and pour over cooled caramel. Refrigerate again to set.
  4. Once cooled and set, remove and allow to come to room temperature - then cut into squares.
I'm tired typing now and I have NO packing done, so here's a link to the brownie recipe"

Martha Stewart Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

Now, how come I never remember how much of a pain clean up is when I embark on these baking adventures?


Deborah said...

Annie - Those look amazing. I loved reading about your Nana... what a lovely post!

Especially grateful for finally learning that the US equivalent for Golden Syrup is Karo! LOL! Now what is the Irish equivalent to corn syrup? ;-)

Flamenco Mom said...

Annie, I love making (and receiving) homemade gifts. And who wouldn't love a gift you can eat, especially one that looks and sounds so fantastic? Thanks for posting the recipe for the caramel squares--I'm going to have to try them.

Thanks also for sharing memories of your Nana. I remember spending time like that with my grandma when I was a kid; it always warms my heart to think of her.

Brillig said...

Okay, I SO want to be your cousin. Because that looks so incredibly delicious, and there's absolutely no way I'm going to make them. Hahaha. Just being honest, here. See. I need a cousin like you, who will bake me lovely things. Really. I'll have my aunt adopt you. It'll be perfect.

Annie said...

Not sure if it's an absolute equivalent Deborah, but I find for this recipe it's a satisfactory substitute - it works for me at any rate lol!

Shauna said...

Oooh. Those sound delicious!

moodswingingmommy said...

Oh my goodness...I just threw out all the candy and now this? How am I going to lose the baby weight with you doling out recipes like that? I have to add that to my list.

The Good Woman said...

Hi Annie

Thanks so much for visitng my blog and all your fantastic comments. I completely agree about the importance of grandmothers. I do worry that, living so far from both of hers, my little Bambi will grow up with a gap in her understanding of the world (she sure as heck won't be learning any patience from me!)

Anyway, one of her grannies is coming over at the end of the month. I think I'll dress them up in matching aprons and get them baking caramel squares.