Homemade Caramel Sauce

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Making homemade caramel sauce may seem like a daunting task, but with just a few stock pantry items and about 15 minutes, you can create a delicious and rich sauce that is great on ice cream, pastries, cheesecake, brownies, cookies, cake, apples...I think you get the idea!

Homemade Caramel Sauce
{yield: 1 ⅓ to 1 ½ cups}

1 cup sugar
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
2 tbsp. cold water
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
½ cup heaving whipping cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract or ¼ tsp. butter-rum or butterscotch flavor

To make the caramel sauce, start by adding the sugar, salt and water into a deep, heavy bottom saucepan.  I used a 2-quart saucepan as the mixture will bubble up during the process.  Stir to combine over medium-high heat until the syrup starts to bubble.

As the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and watch it carefully!  No one likes a burnt caramel.  The syrup will begin to turn a golden color around the edges.  Swirl the pot around to keep the syrup moving and to prevent the edges from burning before the center changes color.  Stirring the syrup occasionally towards the center of the pot will help with this. 

After a couple of minutes, the syrup will begin to get darker in color.  As soon as it reaches a rich amber color, remove it from the heat and stir in the melted butter.  Once the butter has been mixed in, stir in the heavy whipping cream.  If the sauce starts to get lumpy, don't worry...just keep stirring until the mixture smooths out.  Lastly, add the vanilla extract or other flavoring of your choice.

Once the sauce is completely smooth, allow it to cool slightly in the pan before pouring into a glass or ceramic container.  I find mason jars are perfect for this and easy to store.  Once the caramel has cooled to room temperature, store in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Enjoy!

Recipe from King Arthur Flour

Hot Cocoa Cookies

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

When I was going to college in New Hampshire, a hot chocolate was always the perfect treat on a cold...well actually, a freezing winter night.  There is nothing like the combo of creamy rich chocolate and soft gooey marshmallows to warm you up, am I right!?  

Hot cocoa is a perfect holiday drink and it also makes a perfect holiday cookie.  It is total perfection and what's happening on the blog today!

Hot Cocoa Cookies
{yield: 34 cookies}

8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, divided
¾ cup unsalted butter
1 ¼ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 ¾ cup flour
½ tsp. baking powder
17 large marshmallows, cut in half
3 tbsp. milk

Start by measuring out 6 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Add the unsalted butter and microwave on high for 1 minute or until the butter has melted.  Stir the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted and combined with the butter.

Add the sugar and mix in one egg at a time.  Then add the flour and baking powder and mix together.  Please note the dough will be very soft so it is super important to refrigerate for at least two hours before baking.  

Preheat your oven to 350 and remove the cookie dough from the fridge.  Using a cookie scoop, scoop and roll the dough into balls and place on greased baking sheet (I used coconut cooking spray) allowing about 2 inches of space in between.  

Bake for 8 to 9 minutes or until the dough is no longer shiny on top.  The cookies will still be soft, but that is exactly what we want!  Immediately top each cookie with half a marshmallow with the cut side down.  Place back into the oven and bake for 1 to 2 more minutes.  The marshmallows will puff up, but no "toasting" will occur.  If you would like to toast them, just use a small kitchen torch to toast the tops of the mallows!

Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cookies cool, heat the remaining semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments in the microwave.  Once melted, add the milk and stir until combined.

Then drizzle the melted chocolate over the tops of the marshmallows...YUM!  I used a squeeze bottle for this process, but you could also use a pastry or zip lock bag.

Refrigerate the cookies for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the chocolate drizzle to set.  Once set, remove from the fridge and start enjoying!

Winter equals cookie season in my book and these are the bomb dot com!  I also heard that Santa LOVES these cookies and would appreciate some left out on Christmas Eve with a tall glass of milk!  :)

Recipe from Kraft.

Gingerbread Cookie Truffles

Monday, December 5, 2016

Gingerbread holds a special place in my heart. Every year growing up my mom and I would bake and decorate gingerbread houses and cookies in December.  It was something I always looked forward to making and turned gingerbread cookies into one of my favorites.

I was in Target the other day picking up a few things (aka everything that wasn't on my list) and came across a box of Pepperidge Farm Ginger Family Cookies while I was in the holiday section.  They sparked my interested and I thought they would make a perfect no-bake cookie truffle...and boy was I right!

Gingerbread Cookie Truffles
{yield: 30 servings}

6 oz. of reduced fat cream cheese, softened
36 Pepperidge Farm Ginger Family cookies, finely crushed and divided
10 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate, melted

In a food processor, grind the cookies until they are finely crushed.  Then in a mixing bowl, combine the ground gingerbread cookies (reserve about 1 tablespoon of crumbs for later) and softened cream cheese.

Using a small 1 inch cookie scoop, scoop the mixture into 30 balls and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Once all balls have been formed, place the sheet into the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.

During this time, add the semi-sweet chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and heat in 30 second increments until melted.  Make sure you stir the chocolate after every 30 seconds to insure that it doesn't burn!

Remove the gingerbread balls from the freezer and dip into the melted chocolate. Place back onto the parchment paper lined cookie sheet and sprinkle the top of each cookie truffle ball with the reserved cookie crumbs.  

Refrigerate for an hour or until the chocolate has set before serving.  Keep the gingerbread truffles refrigerated in an airtight container if you plan to serve them at a later point.

These no-bake cookie truffles would be perfect for any holiday party or cookie swap.  Enjoy!

Cranberry Crumb Bars

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I love this time of year...holiday decorations are going up, family gatherings and parties fill up your schedule and seasonal ingredients are abundant at the grocery store.

Fresh cranberries are one of my favorite seasonal ingredients to work with.  I use them for more traditional dishes like homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but when I saw this recipe online last week, I knew I had to make them immediately!

The vanilla drizzle is the perfect topping for these light and buttery cranberry crumb bars as it helps round out some of the tartness from the cranberries giving these bars a perfect balance of flavor.  If you are looking for a last minute addition for your dessert table tomorrow, make these.  I am serious guys!  This recipe does not disappoint and will be a major hit at any Thanksgiving celebration or holiday gathering this year.

Cranberry Crumb Bars
{yield: 24 servings}

Crust and Topping
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
½ almond meal or ground slivered almonds
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter
1 egg
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

4 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
Zest from 1 orange
Juice of ½ orange
1 tbps. cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Vanilla Drizzle
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbps. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 13x9 inch pan with cooking spray or butter.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, almond meal, baking powder and salt.  Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs, then stir in the egg.  Measure out 2 ½ cups of the crumb mixture and press it into the bottom of the grease pan.

Rinse and dry the fresh cranberries before using!

Then in a separate bowl, mix together the cranberries, sugar, orange juice and zest, cornstarch and vanilla extract.  Pour mixture over the crust and spread out evenly with a spatula.  Add the ¼ tsp. of cinnamon to the remaining crumb mixture and spread it out evenly over the filling.  Don't forget the small addition of cinnamon as it adds nice flavor to the topping!

Place into the oven and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the top is a light golden brown.  Be prepared for smells of butter, citrus and berries to flood your house...the smells are truly ah-mazing!

To make the vanilla drizzle, combine powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth.  If the drizzle is too thick add a little more milk...if its too thin, add a little more powered sugar to get your desired consistency.  Drizzle the mixture over the top of the room temperature bars and allow it to set.

LOOK at that drizzle!  Wait...I think we need one more look at it, don't you?!

YUMMY...you guys! It's so good.

The bars should be kept in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.  I had a one (okay maybe three) that I zapped in the microwave for about 15 to 30 seconds and they were delicious warmed up as well!  Try them both ways and see which you like better.

Thanks for stopping by the blog today and I hope you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow filled with great food, family and friends!

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker.

Marshmallow Brown Butter Pumpkin Pie

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Looking to upgrade your traditional pumpkin pie recipe for Thanksgiving this year?  Well look no further my friends!  I have something really, really, really good for ya...marshmallow brown butter pumpkin pie.

This classic pumpkin pie has been upgraded with a subtly delicious caramel, nutty flavored brown butter crust and topped with gooey, toasted marshmallows.

Marshmallow Brown Butter Pumpkin Pie
{yield: 8-10 slices}

1 box refrigerated pie crust, softened as directed on box
¼ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
2 eggs
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 bag large marshmallows

Start by preheating your oven to 425 degrees, then unroll one of the pie crust and transfer to an ungreased pie plate.  Fold any overhanging crust under and make it even with the edges of the pie plate.  Next, lay down some parchment paper and roll out the second refrigerated pie crust.  Using a cookie cutter, cut out leafs, pumpkins, etc. or any shape you would like for the decorative crust.  Add the cutout decorations around the edge of the pie and to help them stick, lightly brush the dough with some water with your finger before placing them down.  Once all decorations are on, place the in refrigerator. 

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Make sure to stir constantly until the butter begins to turn a golden brown color, roughly 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool while you make the pie filling.

For the filling, add the pumpkin pie spice, salt and eggs into a large bowl and whisk together.  Then mix in the pumpkin and evaporated milk until combined.  Take your pie crust out of the refrigerator and brush the browed butter all over the bottom and sides of the unbaked crust.  Add pie filling, then lightly brush the tops of the cutouts with any remaining brown butter. 

To ensure the edges of your pie don't brown too quickly, cover the edges with a pie shield or tin foil before placing it into the oven.  Bake the pie at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 40 to 50 minutes...the center of the pie may still be a little wobbly, but thats okay because it will set while it cools.  Take the pie out of the oven and place it on a wire rack and allow for it to cool completely.

Once the pie is completely cool, start cutting the marshmallows in half and place the cut sides down on top of the baked filling.

Place the pie back into the oven about 6 inches away from the broiler.  IMPORTANT: do not walk away or close the over door...you will not be happy with the end result!  Keep a very close eye on the marshmallows and remove once they are golden brown and puffed.

When ready to serve, dip a sharp knife into hot water before cutting so the marshmallows won't stick to the knife.  Also, if you are not going to serve this pie right away and it has cooled completely, place each slice in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds to allow the marshmallows to soften. 

This upgraded Thanksgiving classic will "wow" your guests and have them asking for seconds and thirds after they take their first bite!  

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker.
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