Tag Archives: caramel

Day 5 of Bakers Dozen: Caramel Corn

I should not have made this caramel corn. Shouldn’t have done it. Why? Because I can’t stop eating it! It’s worse than the peanut brittle. Sweet, salty, and crunchy. I should also mention that popcorn is an addiction of mine.  I have an air popper that cooks my lunch for me often. Cause, you know, sometimes I just feel like an easy lunch. And popcorn is perfectly acceptable in my book. Then I had to go and add caramel to the mixture, which is probably making my dentist cringe.

This recipe is very easy. You don’t want to use microwave popcorn – the extra flavors might not work with the caramel. You do need a candy thermometer again, but you don’t have to babysit this caramel. Just cook it, toss with the popcorn and eat! Well, give it a second to cool off. Trust me on this one.

If you want to add nuts I’m sure it would work great. Maybe cut out a little of the popcorn for the nuts added. In Hawaii you can find caramel corn with macadamia nuts. So. Good. Personalize it and enjoy!

Caramel Corn

Recipe from Joy of Baking

Yield: 8 to 10 cups

Difficulty: Easy

Prep time: About 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (110 gr) popcorn kernels, or about 10 cups of popped corn, plain
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 gr) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (110 gr) packed dark brown sugar (I only had light and it worked fine)
  • 1/2 cup (120 gr) light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 2 TB (28 gr) butter
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda

1. Preheat oven to the lowest setting it will go (mine goes to 170F). Lightly spray a large stainless steel bowl. Pop the corn into the bowl and place in oven to keep warm. Lightly spray two wooden spoons and set aside. Prepare a sheet pan with parchment or silpat and set aside.

2. Measure your salt and baking soda and set aside. In a medium heavy bottom saucepan, stir together the sugars, corn syrup, and water. Bring to a boil. Place a lid on pan for just a minute to reduce sugar crystals from forming. Uncover and clamp candy thermometer to pan.

3. Cook to 240F. Add the butter, stir only once, and then bring mixture to 300F. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the baking soda and salt. The mixture will foam up.

4. Quickly pour over popcorn and toss with your prepared spoons. Pour onto sheet pan and spread out. Let cool and break into pieces.

5. Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days. But it won’t last that long. Yum.

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Chocolate, Caramel, and Coffee. Cupcakes, that is.

Yes, this post is about all three – chocolate, coffee, and caramel. Three of my most favorite indulgences, all in one beautiful little cupcake. Last week I was requested, er, told, that I was to bring the dessert for a work pot luck.  I love making a dessert that makes people smile, so I needed something good. Really good. And I’m afraid I’ve outdone myself this time. I don’t know how I will ever make anything better. I’m a serious critic of my food, and this time, I am really proud.

What could I have made that tastes so good? Chocolate cupcakes with caramel pudding and a coffee buttercream icing. Oh yeah. When people ate these they had a look of pure pleasure on their face. That amazing.

And then, at the same time, I thought, Do I really want to share these? Maybe I should just buy cupcakes so I can keep these to myself. I got the cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen and she too writes that she didn’t want to share. In fact, she said “I kind of wanted to swat people off with a spoon.” I felt the same way! You will too. I promise.

Now these cupcakes didn’t come without heartache. I knew I wanted to put caramel pudding inside, but I had never made caramel pudding before. I’ve made pastry cream many times, but never caramel flavored. The first recipe I tried came out rubbery. I was worried because it didn’t have eggs like the traditional pastry cream. I was right to be worried. It was terrible. Bleh. Try number two I used a recipe from Hungry Cravings and I was fairly certain this recipe would work since it was a traditional pastry cream recipe. But, the first time I burned my sugar. Like black in my pan. Bad. Just a pointer if you do this, fill your pot of burned, hard sugar with water and bring to a boil. It will dissolve the sugar and then your pot will be clean! Second time though, the sugar didn’t burn and I had a delicious caramel pudding. Whew. Step one was done.

The pudding after chilling. Looks weird, huh? Stir first!

The cake went fairly smoothly, except I overfilled the cupcakes. I knew the cake didn’t rise a lot, but I still over judged how much to fill. So I had to very carefully peel each cupcake from the pan. If I wasn’t careful, I would tear the cupcake and it wouldn’t be pretty anymore.  And those “ruined” cupcakes, well, quality control is just terrible, huh? I couldn’t let them go to waste. Yummy.

Finally, the buttercream. I’m not sure why buttercream gives me such a headache, but alas, it does. I learned a very important lesson when I made this buttercream. My emulsion broke. Let’s chat a bit about emulsions. According to wikipedia an emulsion “is a mixture of two or more immiscible (unblendable) liquids.” What, that doesn’t make sense? Yeah, I didn’t think so either. Examples of emulsions are mayonnaise and vinaigrettes. Mayo is a “permanent” emulsion. Once it is done, it’s done and it won’t separate if it’s done correctly. Vinaigrettes will have to be mixed each time since they will separate. An emulsion forms when the mixture is well, mixed properly. It is broken when it’s not. And you know when it’s broken because it just looks terrible.

Now, did you know that ganache and buttercreams are also emulsions? Yup, they are. This buttercream was made with egg whites, sugar, and butter. All was going well with the egg whites, but when I started adding the butter, I had a grainy, icky, horrible looking buttercream.

Egg whites whipped to stiff peaks.

Broken buttercream. Ugly, yucky, disappointing.

Drat. What to do? I didn’t want to dump it out and start over – what a waste! Thankfully, Baking 911 had pointers for fixing a broken butter cream. The site suggested if it is cold and broken, melt about 25% of the butter cream and rewhip. This didn’t work for me the first time. I tried chilling in the refrigerator and then whipping. Nothing, nada, zip. I was on the verge of a meltdown at this point. Why wasn’t it coming together? So, one more shot. I put the buttercream in the freezer for 15 minutes, then melted some again. I was so certain it wasn’t going to work that I just put the mixer on high speed, insanely fast, and what do you know – I had a smooth, silky butter cream. I did a little jump for joy! Yahoo!

Then, it was time to assemble. This was the easiest part. Step 1, cut out little holes in your cupcakes.

Cupcakes with holes.

Place all your cake crumbs into a separate bowl. Save for later when you are craving this cake. This may be immediately.

Mmmm….snack.

Next step is to fill the cupcakes. The absolute, easiest way to do this is use a piping bag. There is no reason to be scared of a piping bag here. It requires no skill whatsoever. You are merely filling the cupcakes and it will make your life a whole lot easier if you use a piping bag. If you don’t have one, they are super cheap at your local craft store (particularly if you use coupons!). I prefer the 14″ Wilton Featherweight bags because they are dishwasher safe (hooray!) and just the right size. And, all you need is a simple piping tip like this one and you are set. No need for couplers here since you are using a larger tip and you are just filling cupcakes.

Finally, time to top the cupcakes with that buttercream. I used a piping bag here too, but it isn’t necessary. Do whatever is easiest for you.

Heavenly. Oh, so good.

People will love you for these. If you are willing to share, that is. And if you aren’t, don’t worry, I understand. They are that good.

Caramel Pudding

from Hungry Cravings

I only used about half of this in the cupcakes. So, either cut the recipe in half or enjoy the rest as tasty snack.

  • 6 ounces sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 ¼ ounce cornstarch
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ ounce unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine 5 ounces of the sugar and the water in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, brush down the sides of the pan with water, and boil for 8 to 10 minutes, or until caramelized (this only took about 5 minutes for me. The key is to watch very carefully! Do not leave the room!) The sugar will be fragrant and a deep amber color when it is caramelized. Remove the pan from the heat and dip the bottom into an ice water bath for a second or two. Slowly stir in the milk. (The sugar may harden at this point. Just keep stirring on the heat and it will melt again).  Return the pan to low heat and stir until smooth. Increase the heat to medium and heat to a simmer.

Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and remaining 1 ounce of sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk in the egg and yolks. Continue whisking while adding the hot caramel mixture (all of it, not just a little) in a thin stream. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it thickens and just comes to a boil. Immediately strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl and stir in the butter and vanilla. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate.

Double Chocolate Cake

From Smitten Kitchen

The recipe below is for 2 10-inch layers or about 32 cupcakes.

  • 3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Guittard
  • 1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used half King Arthur Cake Flour and half AP flour)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300°F. and prepare pans or cupcake liners.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.

Note: This is a very runny cake mixture. You will think you’ve done something wrong, but never fear, it is supposed to be like that.

Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Coffee Buttercream

from Martha Stewart

I doubled this recipe and had just a little bit leftover.

  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon boiling water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place espresso powder in a small cup; add the boiling water, and stir to dissolve. Let cool.

Bring a saucepan with about 2 inches of water to a simmer. Combine sugar and whites in a large heatproof mixer bowl set over (not in) simmering water. Whisk until whites are warm to the touch and sugar is dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes.

Place bowl on mixer stand; whisk on low speed until mixture is foamy. Whisk on medium-high until stiff, glossy peaks form and mixture is completely cooled completely, about 10 minutes.

Reduce speed to medium-low; add butter 2 tablespoons at a time, whisking to incorporate fully well after each addition (if buttercream appears curdled, at this point simply beat until smooth). Whisk in vanilla and espresso mixture.

Switch to paddle attachment; beat on lowest speed to reduce air bubbles, 3 to 5 minutes. To store, refrigerate airtight up to 3 days, or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature; beat with paddle attachment on the lowest speed until smooth and pliable, about 10 minutes.

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Homemade Twix-Thousand Dollar Bars

King Arthur Flour has become one my favorite bread flour. I get a much better crumb when I use their flour as opposed to say, Sam’s Club or Costco, which is much cheaper. But when I started using KA Flour, I knew so little about them. I didn’t know they had a whole repertoire of recipes! However, I hadn’t tried any until I saw this recipe. They call them “Thousand Dollar Bars“. Others call them “Twix look-a-likes”. Whatever you call them, they are evil. Why evil? Because  you can’t stop eating them. That good. And yet, so simple! Just shortbread, caramel, and chocolate. These are such a good example of why simple can be so delectable. The hardest part is waiting for each layer to cool.

First, you make the shortbread:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups AP Flour

1) Preheat oven to 300F. Prep a 9×13 pan (or 8×8 if doing half the recipe) with cooking spray and then line with parchment. Leave overhang so you can take them out of the pan easily. This will make for easy cutting later.

2) Cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the flour. Dough will seem stiff at first, but be patient! It will come together.

3) Press into a pan. If you have a small roller, that will help even it. Take a fork and poke holes to prevent bubbles.

4) Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the caramel. The KA recipe suggests melting pre-made caramel, but if you have 30 minutes, make your own! Much cheaper and so tasty. I also used the KA recipe for caramel:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter

Place all ingredients in heavy pan and bring to 235F. Obviously you will need a thermometer here. However, if you don’t have one you can check for “softball” stage. This is when you take a small sample, stick it in ice water and if it is ready it will form a ball. If not, you aren’t ready. Watch carefully though because you can burn quickly at this point. When it is done, pour over the shortbread and chill for about 30 minutes or until set. You will not use all the caramel. Any extra just pour onto a sheet pan and (spray or line with parchment first) and let set.

And finally, my favorite part, the chocolate. This part is easy, just melt 3 cups of chocolate over a double boiler and pour over the caramel. I used Guittard 52%, but milk would be tasty too! You can chill for a short time, but sometimes when chocolate is chilled it can take on an unpleasant appearance. It will still taste ok, but doesn’t look as pretty. Thus, just chill briefly then return to room temp. Cut into bars and enjoy!

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