Salted Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars

Hi! Remember me? I’m sorry for being MIA the past few weeks but lots of exciting new things have been happening! Well, maybe not lots but it feels like lots!

This fall, yours truly, will be attending UCLA to finish up my environmental studies/geography degree!

Every day since I received the lovely news, I wake up and think to myself “hey remember that time you got into UCLA?” and then I smile REALLY big. You’ll even find me smiling at really awkward times. I’m just…happy. So I have been off smiling around town. I know that doesn’t really seem like an excuse for being so absent…but it’s true.

So stay tuned, Thursday Night Baking is moving to Westwood! Woohoo!

I also went to Chicago to visit my Granny with my Mom! We did some site seeing, ate food, took pictures – it was a lovely mini vacation, despite the 40 degrees and raining weather.

The pretty Jellyfish at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

So in honor of my exciting news, I made you guys something super good. This recipe has been bookmarked and drooled over for many months and now that I’ve made it I can’t believe I waited so long!

My oh my, these bars are little bites of sugary goodness! The buttery shortbread can stand proudly on its own, but wow add the gooey caramel, chocolate coating and oh of course the fleur de sel and this will leave you with a huge smile on your face.

Oh fleur de sel, you steal my heart. I’m having a hard time figuring out what doesn’t taste good with fleur de sel on top.

This recipe makes an entire 9×13 inch pan which means lots of goodies to share with friends! And trust me, this is an impressive recipe that you’ll want to show off to your friends.

Enjoy,

Madeline

#64 Caramel & Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Rods

Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to get out all of the ingredients out of the pantry and plug in the mixer. Sometimes I am out of necessary ingredients such as sugar/flour/butter and I just really dont want to go to the store. Sometimes I just want something sweet, salty and crunchy that doesn’t require baking, cooling, and frosting.

Alright, so sometimes I’m just really lazy, but the laziness doesn’t overpower my desire for sweets.

This quick dessert is also really great for people who may not have access to an oven or fancy baking equipment. It takes practically no time to do, and it can be made all just using a microwave! For my version, I used the stove to melt down the caramel and chocolate just because I can control the heat better on the stove than in the microwave.

The most traditional way to make these is just dipping them in caramel and then chocolate and calling it a day. Isn’t that boring though? So here are some ways to make it more exciting.

  • Melt down some white chocolate chips in the microwave. First for 1 minute, stir, then 30 second increments until melted. Spoon into a plastic sandwich bag and cut off a small piece of the corner of the bag.
  • Crumble up your favorite candy bar, I used Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. After you dip the pretzels into the chocolate, press the crumbled up candy into it.
  • Sprinkles are always fun too. 🙂

If you leave about 2 inches at the bottom uncovered, it makes a nice little handle to hold on to without making your hands a mess covered in chocolate. At first when you bite into this it’s chewy and chocolatey, and then the salt from the pretzels sneaks up on you and makes it perfect. It is kind of like you’re own home made candy bar!

Enjoy!

Madeline

#63 Brown Butter Ice Cream

If you don’t know what brown butter is already, you’re seriously missing out.

Basically, brown butter is this amazing thing where you melt butter on the stove until it separates and the milk solids sink to the bottom of the pan. Once they’re resting at the bottom, they begin to brown and gives off this nutty, fabulous smell and flavor.

The other day I ended up at the library after attempting to go to a yoga class, but it was so full in the parking lot I couldnt even find a place to park. I took a peak at the cookbook section to see if there was anything exciting there and BOOM, this massive 700 page Bon Appetit Desserts cookbook was shining down upon me.

I went through the entire book, many many times, bookmarking with a post-it note on every recipe I wanted to save/try/pretend i’ll make someday.

My only complaint about this cookbook is that there are not that many pictures in it, and there is nothing I hate more than a cookbook with no pictures. BUT the redeeming factor is that this is Bon Appetit and they know what they’re doing. The recipes are detailed and not so crazy that you couldn’t figure out what it should look like on your own. If all else fails, you can always google what you’re making and I’m sure that theres a picture somewhere.

The recipe called for adding in peanut brittle, which sounds delicious, but alas I did not have any, so I left it out. Instead, I had some crushed up pretzels, caramel, and hot fudge so that one could decide what they wanted on it instead of me forcing the pretzels down throats (although they’re really good with it!).

See? How delicious does that look. If you’re looking for a homemade caramel recipe check this post out.

Verdict: This is a great alternative to vanilla ice cream, if for some crazy reason you’re sick of it. It tastes like a buttery, caramel, ice cream. The caramel flavor comes from that brown butter, and its soooooo good. If you have peanut brittle, or see some in the store, you should definitely try tossing some of that in. I think it would compliment that nutty flavor already present in the ice cream very nicely. Otherwise, take a look in your pantry and see what you could toss in, i’m sure you’ve got something!

Enjoy!

Madeline

#57 Homemade Caramel Sauce

I first stumbled upon caramel sauce when I failed an attempt at salted caramels a few months back. The caramels never ended up setting up, granted it was my first time using a candy thermometer, and I ended up with this pool of caramel. At first I was bummed that my caramels didn’t turn out, but quickly realized that this caramel soup that remained was amazing! Into a mason jar it went and ended up on ice cream, pies, cookies, in coffee, or just on a spoon, hehe.

I wanted to make something for my family back in Minnesota for Christmas but wasn’t sure what to make that would travel well and also appease a bunch of different people’s tastes. Everyone loves ice cream, so this caramel sauce was the perfect thing! I put it in half pint sized mason jars, glued some ribbon onto the rim of the lid, and made my own label for the top. Seriously, these turned out way cuter than I expected 🙂

The one thing about making candy that makes me so annoyed is that the caramel is SO HOT that you can’t really test it (unless you drop some into some water). I’m all about tasting along the way, otherwise you might make this huge batch of cookies and find out that they’re disgusting because you forgot the sugar (this happened…).

For this recipe, I started out using the candy thermometer, but found after making 3 batches that I didn’t really need it to make a good caramel sauce. You let it brown until it gets to an amber color, and then add in the cream. Taking the candy thermometer out of the equation makes the process seem a lot less intimidating.

So if you’re scrambling last minute for a gift for a holiday party that you’re going to, this is an easy fix! After you make it you can put it in the fridge and go get ready for the party. By the time you’re done it will be cooled enough that you wont burn your hand.

Grab a spoon and dig in!

Tips:

1. Use a large pan! That way when the caramel bubbles up when you add the liquid it doesnt boil up too high to the point where it might cause a mess.

2. Stir with a silicon spatula that can handle serious heat!

3. Understand that this sugar is 300+ degrees! Be careful!

4. Clean up: When you’re done, put the spatula back in the pot and add a few cups of water. Put the pot back on the stove and bring it to a boil. This will boil away all of the hard caramel thats a nightmare to clean on its own.

Enjoy!

Madeline

#49 Caramel Pecan Brownies

A friend asked me the other day what my favorite dessert is and instantly I float into this fake little dessert world. In this world, there is a big plate with a slightly undercooked brownie in the center of it, dripping with salted caramel, topped with toasted pecans, with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Im melting into my chair as I think about that….give me a second…

Alright I’m back.

But really, how delicious does that sound?

So you know what, I made it! Well, a slightly less decadent version…but the taste has not been sacrificed, I assure you that.

Since we (sadly) don’t all have that time to sit down with that giant plate of dripping caramel, this brownie has a layer of caramel and chopped pecans on top. This way, you can chop it into a square and grab it as you go sink into the couch, under a warm blanket.

My favorite part of brownies - the wooden spoon!

Bubbling sugar

Let it get to an amber color (a little past this point)

Video of Bubbling Sugar. I just had to include this.

After you’ve made that caramel topping, you’re going to look at that pan and think “Oh man this is going to be a pain in the butt to clean”. Fear not, I have a great tip!

TIP TIME: Fill sugar encrusted pot, and any utensils covered in sugar, with water and heat to a boil. This will boil away the hardened sugar and make it easy to clean off.

Enjoy,

Madeline

 

PS: I apologize in advance for the future delay in posts. It’s college essay time! Bear with me 🙂

 

 

 

 

#38 Chocolate Caramel Cream Pie

My apologies for the delay. I just realized that I have not turned my computer on in 4 days, and if you know me that is kind of crazy.

Last week I made this Chocolate Caramel Cream Pie out of the Martha Stewart Pies and Tarts cookbook that my lovely friend Danielle got for me. I went through the book and have put Post-it notes on a ton of pages that I want to make, to the point where the Post-it notes are almost pointless because they’re every other page. This pie actually caused a lot of grief on multiple levels, but I think there was just something going on and the kitchen gods were not wanting me to have an easy time or something.

Day 1: First, I made the dough and wrapped it up and put it in the fridge. Then, I started looking through the recipe and realized that the pie needs 5 hours to refrigerate and I was starting at about 7:30 PM. As much as I would love to wait until midnight to eat pie, I also had to be up at 7AM the next day. So I put the pie on hold until the next day, and made something else (post to come later).

Day 2: I end up working all day at the aquarium and do not get home until around 5:30 pm. Too exhausted and in the same situation as yesterday with timing. Around 11:30 PM that evening the oven starts making beeping noises and has an error on the screen….oh no…. I just pressed the off button and went to sleep.

Day 3: The last day that I can use this dough, I have to make it. Go to look at the oven. Broken. Still has an error code flashing on it and it wont turn on. After I had already at this point given up all hopes in making this pie, my mother tells me that the microwave has a convection setting on it. Before you get all weirded out and delete my blog from your list, I was just as reluctant as you are. I made fun of her for a few hours “You want me to cook a PIE in the MICROWAVE! Are you crazy?” I know it is considered a convection oven, but it felt like I made the pie dough in the microwave which felt like a whole new level of wrong.

Pie crust ready for the oven!

 

After the milk and chocolate have heated up, and you have added the sugar and cornstarch, the mixture will have a very thick pudding like consistency.

 

I have this whisk that my friend Torey gave to me a few years ago and it really is a very cute whisk BUT it is lopsided. I dont know who designed it, but I would love to write a letter to them letting them know how frustrating it is. You can’t leave this whisk sitting in the bowl because things like the whisk flying out of the bowl, flinging chocolate all over the kitchen and leaving chocolate behind in slightly cracked open drawers. The worst thing about it, is that I forget that its lopsided every time. Every. Time. I really should just hide this thing somewhere, or hang it on my wall, but that just might frustrate me every time I look at it.

 

Stupid whisk. The picture does not do its justice. I had to clean out chocolate from 5 drawers.

 

Still working on the chocolate curl business..getting a little better but not really.

Yum

 

In the end, this pie was a 3 day effort but it was not the pie’s fault really. Although 5 hours of chilling in the refrigerator is hard for anyone with a sweet tooth to wait for.

Tip: When making the caramel cream topping, be sure to watch your sugar as your caramelizing it. If you let it get too dark it will be too strong and overpower the whipped cream. You want a light amber color.

Chocolate-Caramel Cream Pie

Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts

Ingredients

For Dough:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the filling:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups whole milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 61 percent to 70 percent cacao), finely chopped
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the topping
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water
Salt
1 1/4 cups cold heavy cream
Directions
For the dough:
  1. Pulse flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Add yolks and vanilla, and process until mixture just begins to hold together (no longer than 30 seconds)
  2. Shape dough into a disk. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days)
  3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll pate sucree to 1/8-inch thickness. Fit into a 9-inch pie dish. Trim edges, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Tuck overhang under dough so edges are flush with rim, and crimp edges. Lightly prick bottom of dough with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line dough with parchment, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edges begin to look dry, 20 to 22 minutes. Carefully remove weights and parchment. Bake until crust is darker around edges and bottom looks dry, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. (Chocolate crust can be stored overnight.

For the filling:

  1. Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl. Heat milk and chocolate in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate melts.
  2. Whisk 1 cup hot milk mixture into sugar mixture until smooth. Whisk milk-sugar mixture into the remaining milk mixture in the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until bubbling and thick, 4 to 5 minutes total (about 2 minutes after it comes to a boil).
  3. Whisk yolks in a medium bowl until combined. Pour in milk mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking until completely incorporated. Return mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it just begins to bubble, 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Let custard cool in saucepan on a wire rack, whisking occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
  5. Pour custard into chocolate crust. Press plastic wrap directly on surface of custard. Refrigerate until custard filling is chilled and firm, at least 4 hours (or overnight).
For the topping:
  1. Prepare an ice-water bath. Heat sugar, water, and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  2. Cook, without stirring, until mixture is amber. (Do not let caramel burn.) Carefully pour in 1/2 cup cream in a slow, steady stream down the side of the saucepan, whisking constantly, until smooth (caramel will bubble).
  3. Remove from heat, and place saucepan in ice-water bath. Let caramel mixture cool, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 20 minutes.
  4. Whisk remaining 3/4 cup cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Gently fold caramel mixture into whipped cream, and whisk until stiff peaks form. Use immediately.
I know there seems to be a lot of steps to this, but all it requires is time and some waiting in between cooling of things.
Enjoy!
Madeline