Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Caramel Sauce... I'm cheating on my caramels!

Found a new love and fun new experiment.  I saw something on pinterest that aligned with an idea my daughter had proposed to me.  Can we make a caramel sauce out of the caramel recipe?  My daughter said the caramels tasted just like the caramel sauce at our favorite ice cream parlor Leatherby's.  My first thought was why couldn't we cook the caramel recipe less.  Then I saw the Slow Cooker Caramel Sauce pin.  The recipe was very similar to the caramel recipe.  Only a couple things differed.  1/2 as much butter, white sugar and brown sugar and lemon juice.

I decided I wouldn't add the lemon juice.  The reason given on the blog entry said it was so the caramel sauce sugar wouldn't crystallize after it was done.  WELL I saw an Alton Brown show about 5 years ago on this very subject.  He was talking about the crystallization of sugar in fudge (BTW the peanut butter fudge recipe from this episode is outstanding.)  He acted out the whole science experiment explaining when fudge crystallizes and how to stop it.  His solution was to add 1 T of corn syrup to confuse the sugar molecules and stop the crystallization.  The caramel recipe calls for 1 full cup of corn syrup.  So, I think we're covered for any crystallization problems.

I decided to use all brown sugar like my caramel recipe, but I decided to use the amount of butter called for in the caramel sauce recipe.
Finding a bowl to fit in my crockpot was the most difficult part of this whole process.  I ended up using my daughter's newer model crockpot since it was bigger and could hold the right sized bowl.
I followed the directions up to mixing the ingredients and putting them into the crockpot and there is where I diverged a little.  I didn't want to mess with it.  I wanted it to cook all night while I was asleep.  8 hours.  The recipe said it HAD to be on high to properly cook.  Since I was using my daughter's newer crockpot I knew the heat was already higher on low than mine is on low (the reason I love my old crockpot.)  I figured it might do just fine on low for 8 hours.
Before cooking.
After 7 1/2 hours

I was correct.  When I took the lid off in the morning it had been 7 1/2 hours and the texture of the caramel sauce looked a little custard like.  That did scare me at first.  I plunged my wire whisk in and began stirring.  Once it was stirred well it had the proper texture of caramel sauce.  It smelled and tasted fantastic.  I teased my daughter it was all I could do not to pinch my nose and do a cannonball right into it.  It was that good.

Now that we've actually used it on ice cream our thoughts are it does need that 1/2 cup of butter.  Though delicious and we'll eat every drop (reason why I've already given 1/2 of it away) it does need a more buttery taste to meet our idea of the perfect caramel sauce.
Makes 4 cups.  I had already filled a small mason jar to give as a gift.

Apples or ice cream it really hits the spot.
I will definitely make this again with 1 cup of butter, all brown sugar, and no lemon juice.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Caramels, My New Love

Went to my December machine knitting meeting and Ellen gave us a cute container with caramels in it.  I had one the minute I got to my car.  It was so good and I knew my daughter would love one.  I called her to tell her I had them, so I wouldn't eat them all before I got home.  She too loved the buttery homemade taste of these caramels.  I asked Ellen if I could have the recipe and she said, "Of course."  I named the recipe after her.  I do that when someone gives me a recipe that's going to be around for a while.  That way I can think about the person who gave it to me when I make it.

 Ellen’s Caramels
1 cup butter
1 pound (2 ¼ cups) brown sugar
Dash of salt
1 cup light corn syrup
1 15-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter in heavy 3-quart saucepan.  Add sugar, and salt; stir thoroughly.  Stir in corn syrup; mix well. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly.  Cook and stir over medium heat to firm ball stage (245 degrees), takes 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.  Pour into buttered 9x9x2 inch pan.  Cool and cut into squares.  Makes about 2 ½ pounds.

Very easy recipe.  One special piece of cooking equipment needed.  A candy thermometer.  My can of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk was 14 oz.  Typo or did they use to be 15 oz?  14 worked fine.
In 30 minutes anyone could have 2 1/2 pounds of caramels cooling in their kitchen.  My aunt said they were commercial quality.
They were very easy to cut if I used the tip of my sharp knife and drew it straight toward side of pan.  I cut mine into 64 pieces.  I scored it evenly 8 across and cut each strip into 8 pieces.  They were delightfully too big.  It took me 3-4 bites to eat one.  I think next time I'll try 9 or 10 across.

I wrapped each piece in wax paper that I cut to fit.  Ellen wrapped hers in plastic wrap.  Both worked out well.  The caramels held their shape well in their wrappers.  I made the mistake of cutting my caramels while in the middle of a 49ers games.  I tried a bite resumed my game and when I came back an hour or so later they were spreading slowly.  Not enough to make a mess other than with my portioning.
I've gotten equally rave reviews.  Passed the recipe along.  I seldom hear of anyone using a recipe I passed along.  In this case 2 people have already made caramels.  Lucky them!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

There Are Still Cookies In My Life

Got the cookie bug this weekend.  I have a party or two to go to and thought I should get to baking.  I had spotted these snicker bites at the store.  Thought they'd be great on my Peanut Butter Blossom recipe instead of the Hershey's Kiss.  Time to experiment.
 Above cookies were straight out of the cookie scoop.  Wasn't sure I liked the au naturel look.
 So, for the next batch I rolled the cookies into ball.  Gave a smoother look to the cookie.
In the end I think I liked the craggy look of the cookie.  Bonus it's less work.  Don't need to roll every cookie ball.  I put a pinch of holiday sprinkles on each when they were melted.  I don't think I liked the strange crunch they gave the cookie.  Next time I'll leave them off.  The cookie was very good.  I liked the extra peanut taste of these cookies.  For me the PB Blossoms with the Hershey's Kiss was too much.  Too much chocolate.  Plus once the kiss firms up on top of the cookie its a pretty firm bite.  Do I put the whole cookie in my mouth?  It's kind of big.  If I bite it in two the kiss falls off the cookie.  These cookies with the Snicker bite are soft and stay intact when bitten.  Win Win for me!