Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Recipe Test for food52: 5 Spice Millionaire's Shortbread with Earl Grey Caramel

An important part of food blogging is getting involved with the online food community at large. There are so many opportunities to get to know other "foodies" and learn from them. I can't remember exactly how I came upon the Food52 , I think it may have been via facebook, but I got extra excited when I realized that Amanda Hesser, former NYT Food Editor and the author of "Cooking for Mr. Latte" which I reviewed this fall, is at the helm. Created with her friend and fellow food journalist Merrill Stubbs Food 52 is first and foremost a community. It was initiated as tool to create a Cookbook full of what they refer to as "crowd sourced" recipes and has blossomed into an integrated online experience where members can read about recipes & trends or get involved and submit their own work to contests and other forums. Their most recent contest called for "Chocolate & Spice" recipes. First over 100 recipe entries were gathered, then out of all of the entries Community picks are voted on and subscribers like myself get a chance to choose one to test. After testing the subscriber submits a 100 word description of the recipe which if the recipe you tested is chosen will be published up at the top! I was super excited about the opportunity to actively participate and was the first to call dibs on the recipe I wanted to test choosing (mind you without actually looking at the recipe just the title) The Earl Grey & 5 Spice Millionaire's Shortbread (sounds killer right?). A layer of shortbread, a layer of caramel, a layer of chocolate. Yum.
After feverishly putting in my bid I got down to the business of actually reading the recipe, here is the list of ingredients:

Five Spice Shortbread:
1/2 cup plus 2 tbp extra virgin coconut oil, room temp
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Earl Grey Caramel & Chocolate Layers:
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons loose leaf Earl Grey tea
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 pan 5 spice shortbread
5 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 bergamot (optional) (Thank god cause I have never seen it in stores)
2 cups sugar (optional, to make bergamot syrup

 ummm.... yea.... So being that I don't keep a gluten free kitchen some of the shortbread ingredients were a whole new world to me. Thank goodness for Whole Foods bulk bins! I was able to get just the amounts I needed of the brown rice & coconut flours. I had never even heard of coconut flour before! (although now that I have... watch out I will definitely be experimenting with that baby!) I actually had ground almond flour in my pantry from something else and the rest of the ingredients (with the exception of two) were easily found between Whole Foods and Trader Joe's (you could probably get them all at WF but I got a few things a little cheaper at TJ's). The two items that I could not find were the Tapioca Starch and the 5 Spice powder. I was actually pretty surprised that they didn't have either of these available particularly the spice. For a bit I considered buying all 5 elements to create my own but that would have inevitably racked up about $20 in spices for a recipe that called for 1 Tablespoon.... no thank you. Luckily a friend suggested I check out the Asian market down the street which was genius. Although I am often intimidated in ethnic markets I am also pleasantly surprised every time by how many cool (and cheap!) products they have. I easily found the spice and starch (both only 79 cents) plus a few other treats for my trouble (hellllooooo strawberry Yan Yans!)
 3 grocery stores later I was ready to bake, below is the recipe created by the Food52 user Anitalectric for a friend who was looking to recreate a delicacy her friend had enjoyed abroad on a trip.  My notes are interspresed throughout.
To make Earl Grey caramel: Bring the coconut milk to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in tea leaves. Cover and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Whisk and then strain out leaves, being sure to press out all possible liquid (the last drops will have the most flavor). Reserve milk.
Over low heat, simmer 3/4 cup of the tea infused coconut milk with the sugar, agave and salt until it reaches 234°F (soft ball stage). Add the remaining milk and heat to 248°F (hard ball stage). Please note, this will take at least an hour. You do not have to monitor it constantly, but you do have to stir once in a while to prevent burning.

Use this time to make the shortbread (see recipe below).
Remove caramel from heat and pour over shortbread. Spread into an even layer. Chill to set.

If using bergamot, remove peel and cut into 1cm thick strips. Add, along with juice, to small pan with 1 cup sugar. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until peels are candied and syrup is thickened. Remove peels and place, submerged, in another cup of sugar. Reserve syrup in a heatproof bowl.

Place syrup over double boiler and melt chocolate and coconut oil into it. (If you are not using bergamot, omit syrup from this step). Stir until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Pour chocolate mixture over caramel in pan and spread into even layer. While it is cooling, remove some bergamot peels from sugar and chop fine. Sprinkle over top of chocolate.

Chill completely and cut into 16 bars. Store them chilled in a tightly sealed container.

For the Shortbread:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 1/4 size sheet pan and parchment paper liner with shortening or oil.
 (as an FYI- a 1/4 sheet pan is 9in X 13in.... measure first, or you end up with very thin bars and the caramel & chocolate won't spread across the whole thing.... I went against my better instincts here and paid for it later)

Sift together the dry ingredients except for sugar.

Beat the coconut oil, sugar and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients until incorporated and mixture is crumbly.
Transfer to pan and press into an even layer. Chill in freezer for at least 5 minutes before baking.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until edges are golden but middle is still slightly soft. Remove to a rack to cool.

Although it suggests baking the shortbread while the caramel is working I would actually start it ahead of the caramel so it has plenty of time to cool. I had a little trouble getting the chocolate to set up I might use a little less coconut oil next time.

There were so many things I liked about this recipe and learned. #1 - the caramel technique could not have been easier, even though it required me to buy a candy thermometer (which now that I have it it will no doubt get lots of use), #2 I had no idea what a great replacement for butter coconut oil could be in baked goods. I haven't studied up yet on the health benefits of one over the other but in terms of vegan cooking, it was a knock out you sincerely couldn't tell the difference in my opinion. #3 as I mentioned, coconut flour exists how cool is that! In general I shy away from gluten free recipes but I think I need to start giving them more of a chance, these alternate flours have really unique characteristics that I'm excited to play with in the future. While I'm sad I couldn't find the bergamot (apparently it has a very short season along with the fact that after 3 grocery stores I was spent and did not want to search out another specialty shop) I don't think the recipe lost too much without it. Maybe next time I'll sub in another citrus fruit in its place to test it out. I hope you check out food52 sometime soon, if you come across this recipe you can see my write up! Or you can just read below :)

"This recipe is the perfect opportunity to add a decadent vegan & gluten free dessert to your repertoire . The shortbread is flavorful and buttery (without butter!), the caramel rich and chewy, and the chocolate silky on top. The 5 spice and Earl Grey are wonderful exotic compliments to one another. While some ingredients require an extra stop at your local Asian food market it is worth the adventure!"


  1. Wow! So exciting to see this recipe in action. I love that you went to Trader Joe's for the better deals on ingredients. I have many of the exact same ones.

    And I love your recap of the Asian grocery! There are so many bonus goodies you can discover at every visit. FYI, if you have leftover tapioca starch, you can use it to make Amanda's chocolate pudding!

    If you do repeat the recipe with another type of citrus, I would love to hear about it. What a phenomenal idea. Recently, I tried a lemon chocolate bar and it was dynamite. That would be worth trying.

    The fact that you got to explore all these new ingredients and techniques is what I am all about, and what I try to get people into. You just made my day. xoxo Thank you, Jenny!

    PS- coconut oil is magic. I put it in everything and even use it to moisturize my face. lol

  2. AW thanks for reading my blog post Anita! It was so fun testing out your recipe. It's so funny you mention that about the coconut oil when I was purchasing it the guy at the cash register said the same thing! I need to try that out. Thanks for the heads up about the Chocolate Pudding recipe I was wondering what else I could use the starch for, looking forward to more Food52-ing with you!

  3. 3 Studies PROVE How Coconut Oil Kills Waist Fat.

    The meaning of this is that you literally get rid of fat by consuming coconut fats (including coconut milk, coconut cream and coconut oil).

    These 3 studies from major medical journals are sure to turn the conventional nutrition world around!