Tag Archives: Caramel

Caramel Cake and Wishes for a Very Sweet New Year

with-champagne-1 Restraint can wait. Let’s usher out 2016 with decadence. This is a time-honoured Southern Caramel Cake. If anyone knows how to bake a Southern classic it is the Lee Brothers, Matt and Ted, from Charleston. This recipe hails from their book The Lee Brothers Charleston Kitchen.

Admittedly, this cake is a labour of love. But, if you can read and follow instructions, the Lee Brothers will take you by the hand and guide you, step by step, through this challenging but fun to make cake. The tricky part is the caramel icing. A candy thermometer and an instant read thermometer are critical to success.

The cake layers are rich and buttery, and come together quickly.cake-into-pansIt never ceases to amaze me how simple ingredients like milk, sugar and butter are transformed into a fluffy caramel frosting. spreading-caramelThe gossamer light caramel icing, dissolves almost instantly on your tongue. It has a perfect salty-sweet balance that keeps you coming back for bite after bite.adding-pearlsI found some leftover Callebaut Dark Chocolate Pearls in the cupboard and decided to decorate to top of the cake with them.

Wishing you all a sweet, happy and healthy new year.

Click here for recipe for Caramel-Cake.

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Ultimate S’mores

We are living in a time of some amazing culinary experimentation. While culinary mashups are nothing new, witness the Turducken, which has it’s roots in ancient Roman times, some creations have gone a bit too far.

While I love nothing better than a bowl of Cheetos and a glass of wine for dinner, I am not keen to give Cheetos Macarons a try anytime soon. Nor will Goat Cheese and Peanut Buttercup Fries be passing these lips… not ever!

However, I firmly stand behind Donut Ice Cream Sandwiches, and will even stand in line for the Cronut (and anything else that genius Dominique Ansel dreams up!).

So, in the spirit of culinary creativity, I bring you The Ultimate S’moretoasted 2 625 sqready for smores 1Because it’s summer! Because it’s crazy delicious! Do I really need an excuse for taking my favourite Passover snack, Matzoh Crunch and turning it into that summertime staple, the s’more? Instead of using matzoh, I substituted Saltine crackers.saltinesI cooked butter and brown sugar until it resembled molten hot lava and poured it over a layer of saltines.molten gold spreading caramelI baked it until it was bubbling and then I covered it in bittersweet chocolate and marbled in some white chocolate, just because it’s so freaking beautiful.chocolate

Then I toasted some marshmallows and sandwiched them between the caramel chocolate coated crackers.  toasted 625 sqIf you are a purist, like my youngest son, you may prefer them raw!raw 3If you are watching your carbs, perhaps an open faced sandwich is the way to go.open facedHowever you enjoy summer, including the Ultimate S’mores in your celebrations is bound to make it a lot sweeter.

Click here to print recipe for Ultimate S,mores.

stacked smores 1

Pretzel Crusted Turtle Bars

Hot on the heels of posting about Challah Monkey Bread and Brown Sugar Valentines Heart Cookies, I had every intention of sharing with you the recipe for a delicious Baby Kale and Brussels Sprouts salad this week. But somehow, here we are with Pretzel Crusted Turtle Bars.with text 2F 625 sqTo be honest, it’s not entirely my fault. I have been noticing quite a few pretzel crusted treats floating around cyberspace recently. Naomi of Baker’s Royale made these to satisfy her pregnancy cravings.  Averie of Averiecooks did a top crust of pretzels on her treats.

I started thinking about what I would love to combine with pretzels and the answer came to me instantly…Turtle Bars. If you have never heard of Turtle Bars, let me enlighten you.  Imagine a chocolate base topped with a pecan caramel layer, reminiscent of Turtles Candies. Adding a crushed pretzel layer is a really inspired idea.
whole pretzelscrushing pretzelsadding melted butter to crustcrust ready for ovenThe thing is, you would imagine that Pretzel Crusted Turtle bars would be pretty damn good. But something kind of astonishing happens when you combine these three layers. Alone, each layer sounds yummy. But the synergy that occurs when these three layers combine is something akin to a culinary explosion. The whole somehow becomes so much more than the sum of its parts.stacked 1
Essentially what we have here is a crunch sandwich, with the bottom layer providing salty crunch from the pretzels, and the top layer providing sweet crunch, from the pecans and caramel. Sandwiched in between these two awesome layers of crunch is a chewy fudgy chocolate layer. it doesn’t get better than this.
cracking eggchocolate layer 1candy thermometer in caramelspreading on pecan caramel layerAfter photographing these, I realized that these bars needed to find a good home, other than mine. I took half to my Yoga class and I do believe I heard a few “oohs” and “aahs” mixed in with the “ommmmm” chanting! The other half disappeared quite quickly at my hairdresser’s.3 bars on tile

Click here to print recipe for Pretzel Crusted Turtle Bars.

on twig tray

 

Caramel Chocolate Dipped Pretzels and a Labour of Love!

on tray 625a sqAbout 6 months ago, my sister Jody asked me to make caramel dipped pretzels for her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. She wanted to use them as place cards for lunch. Of course I quickly agreed. I love my niece and my sister very much. Besides, when it was my oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah, 10 years ago, she laboriously snipped twigs from her garden and fashioned them, with a hot glue gun and incredible manual dexterity, into numbers for the table cards for our dinner.

Another sister (I have four of them plus one brother!), Bo, baked and iced 225 of these adorable sugar cookies to give out to guests. They were created to look like the Bar Mitzvah boy! My siblings and I hail from a genetic pool of hard working and deeply creative folks! table numbersNicky cookies 2With the long lead time she had given me, I had ample time to research and test recipes so that we would have the perfect pretzel. My sister has a finely developed sense of aesthetics and we spent many hours discussing the appropriate colour shape and size of the tag to tie onto the pretzel bag and the colour of the ribbon. We debated fonts as well as font weights and sizes. We looked at the pros and cons of dipping all in dark chocolate or half in milk and half in dark. We contemplated coloured sprinkles vs. Skor bits. No option was left unconsidered.in brown vase 3Fast forward to a week before the Bat Mitzvah and I had yet to produce a single dipped pretzel. Somehow I just hadn’t gotten around to it. There was no shortage of caramel chocolate dipped pretzel rods on the Internet for inspiration.  I found these and  these and these. However, most of them used ready-made caramels and just melted them for dipping. I needed to make 140 pretzels! By the time I finished unwrapping enough tiny caramels for melting, the Bat Mitzvah would be over. Besides, my niece deserved better than store bought caramel.

During my research I discovered that most recipes for homemade caramel followed a fairly similar ingredient list and methodology. I settled on a caramel recipe from Mrs. Fields’ blog (of the cookie fame).  Following the methodology of most of the recipes I found, I dumped butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk into the pot, brought it to a boil and started stirring. I ended up burning the bottom of the pot.  Dumped that mess out and started over again. Here is an excellent tip to remove burnt debris from the bottom of your pot: fill pot halfway with water, add a few tablespoons of powdered dishwasher detergent and bring to a boil. Rinse and scrub and most of it should come off.

Attempt # 2: I melted the butter, and then stirred in brown sugar until it dissolved. Then I added the corn syrup and condensed milk and boiled until my candy thermometer read 245°F. Once I started working with the caramel and it began to cool, it hardened too much for dipping.

At this point I suspected that my candy thermometer was off. I decided to test it by bringing a pot of cold water to a boil. Once the water was at a rolling boil, I checked my thermometer. It read 202°F.  If you recall from science class, water boils at 212°F. My thermometer was off by 10°F!

For my third attempt, I made the mental math adjustments and took the caramel off the heat at 235°F. Perfect!

making caramelspooning on caramel

I prepared a little video to show the coating and decorating process.

My sister and niece were thrilled with the finished pretzels. My sister ended up labelling them with beautiful kraft brown tags and purple raffia ribbon. She displayed them in glass ginger jars, All the guests gobbled them up very quickly.

pretzels for Em 3 pretzels for Em 2 in shot glasses 1

Click here to print recipe for Caramel Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Rods.

in brown vase 1

Salted Caramel Chocolate Tarts and a very sweet Mother’s Day.

Today I am grateful for several small and large blessings! I am grateful to be relatively pain free. If you read my last post,  you, may recall that I was in bed for over 8 days with terrible back and leg pain. The MRI revealed a bulging disc which was pressing on a nerve and causing me back pain. It seems to have eased greatly and I am back on my feet again. I feel grateful for a wonderful husband who brought me an extra hot skim milk latte in bed this morning.

Although I couldn’t be in Toronto today to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom, I am grateful to have 5 siblings all living there to celebrate with her. They gathered at my baby sister’s house and had a “friendly” game of softball. Some family members tend to get a bit competitive about these things so hopefully no one sprained a hamstring sliding into first base or got bonked on the head from being tagged out at home plate. I’m sure to get a play by play analysis very soon.

Finally, I am grateful for my sweet children. My oldest was unable to spend today with me, but he drove for over 5 hours to come home for a short visit yesterday. My middle child bought me a beautiful blue hydrangea plant and gave me a very fitting (and funny) card .

And my youngest, with the help of his sister, made me a video on YouTube, serenading me with Elvis’ “Love me Tender.” So sweet!

I made these tarts a few days ago and thought we would have them today for dessert. Unfortunately they were all gone the day I made them. Luckily I have other sweet things to satisfy me!

These tarts are the creation of Lucy Waverman, food columnist for the Globe and Mail. I have adapted the recipe somewhat.  The original recipe produced tarts that had a thin layer of caramel and then a thick layer of ganache. I doubled the caramel recipe so that the finished tarts would have a thick layer of both caramel and chocolate.I also added some salt to the caramel filling as well as a few decorative flakes on top of the ganache filling.

I made them in mini muffin tins. Not only do they look adorable, but there is no guilt at all involved in popping one (or three) of these into your mouth. The contrast in textures of this mini bite are what make it so special. Biting into the crisp flaky pastry you discover a silky smooth layer of bittersweet slightly salty caramel covered in a thick layer of chilled chocolate ganache. The ping on your tongue from a melting crystal of fleur de sel helps these tarts from being too cloyingly sweet.

Begin with making the caramel, as it needs time to cool and firm up. Sugar, water and corn syrup are boiled until a rich amber colour is reached. Finish with whipping cream and a pinch of kosher salt.

I like to roll out the pastry dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper, right after making the dough. Then I chill the rolled out dough. Be sure to roll the dough very thin (1/8 of an inch thick) for these mini tarts.

Let the tart shells cool completely before filling. I find it easiest to put the caramel filling into a disposable piping bag.

Finish off with chocolate ganache and a few flakes of fleur de sel.

Click here to print recipe for Salted Caramel Chocolate Tarts.