Tag Archives: caramel

Hazelnut caramel bars with candied orange and chocolate

I’ve had a series of baking mishaps. I don’t really want to talk about it. Except to say that my labmates have been going without recently. Until I happened upon a recipe for hazelnut caramel bars with candied orange and chocolate.

I don’t have an elaborate story to accompany these bars. Sometimes food is food, and baking is fun. They are tasty. The candied orange is unexpected and delightful. In one of my aforementioned baking mishaps I made candied orange peel for the first time and fell in love. So easy! How had I not made it, or utilized in my baking before? A problem easily remedied with these bars.

And so ends my baking slump…

Hazelnut caramel bars with candied orange and chocolate
from Bon Appetit, December 2010
makes ~30 bars
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup + plus 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
5 ounces hazelnuts, roasted, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped candied orange peel (recipe below)
4 ounces 60% chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°. Line 13 x 9 x 2-inch metal baking pan with foil. Mix flour, brown sugar, and salt in processor 5 seconds. Add 3/4 cup butter; using on/off turns, process until coarse meal forms. Transfer to pan; press firmly and evenly onto bottom of pan. Bake crust until golden, about 20 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Bring 6 tablespoons butter, 2/3 cup sugar, cream, honey, and finely grated orange peel to boil in heavy small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Boil until candy thermometer registers 230°F, about 6 minutes. Stir in nuts and candied orange peel.

Spoon hot nut mixture evenly over crust in pan. Return to oven and bake until entire surface is bubbling, about 10 minutes. Cool 20 minutes. Using foil as aid, lift cookie from pan. Carefully peel foil from edges. Cut warm cookie into 1 1/2-inch squares. Cool cookies completely.

Melt chocolate in small metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until warm to touch. Remove bowl from over water. Using a spoon, drizzle melted chocolate over bars. Chill until chocolate is set, about 1 hour.

Candied Orange Peel
from Bon Appetit, December 2008
makes ~2 cups
2 large oranges, 1/4 inch of top and bottom cut off
4 cups sugar, divided
3 cups water

Cut peel on each orange into 4 vertical segments. Remove each segment (including white pith) in 1 piece. Cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Cook in large pot of boiling water 15 minutes; drain, rinse, and drain again.

Bring 3 cups sugar and 3 cups water to boil in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add peel. Return to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until peel is very soft, about 45 minutes. Drain.

Toss peel and 1 cup sugar on rimmed baking sheet, separating strips. Lift peel from sugar; transfer to sheet of foil. Let stand until coating is dry.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites

During my parents’ visit earlier this month, we picked up two pie pumpkins during our trip to the apple orchard. The first one I used to make this delicious soup. The second one I had reserved for something sweet. I went ahead and roasted it, pureed it and ran it through a mesh strainer to lose some of the water (and still ended up with about 3 cups of pumpkin puree). Then I thought to myself – what in the world should I make? I seriously contemplated pumpkin pie. Tis’ the season after all. But I knew I would regret making, and then eating an entire pumpkin pie by myself. (And transporting via bicycle to work just seemed like a disaster waiting to happen). And so I found myself thinking back to these cheesecake bites I had made earlier this year.

Of course! Pumpkin cheesecake bites. The perfect solution, because I love pumpkin cheesecake even more than I love pumpkin pie. Here’s why it’s a great idea 1) No pie crust involved. 2) Instead you get to use spicy gingersnaps. 3) By making them cupcake size, the resulting crust to cheesecake ratio to (in my opinion) strikes the perfect balance. Oh, and 4) you can make as few or as many as your stomach desires.

I smothered mine in this salted butter caramel sauce I had leftover in my fridge. Don’t wait for a special occasion or Thanksgiving to make these. Make them for your lunches during the week. Or as something to tide you over while you’re making dinner. Or for no reason at all…

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites

makes 1 dozen

The Crust 
1 cup crushed gingersnaps
3 teaspoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
The Filling
1 – 8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon bourbon

1. Preheat oven to 325º. Line a cupcake tin with papers.

2. Pulse gingersnaps in food processor to a fine crumble. Add brown sugar and melted butter and mix together. Scoop approximately 2 tablespoons of cookie crust in each cupcake paper. Use the bottom of a small glass (my glasses from beer festivals are just about the perfect size for such a job) to pat down cookie crumbs. Refrigerate while making the cheesecake filling.

3. Cram together cream cheese and brown sugar until well combined. Mix in cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt. Beat in egg. Fold in pumpkin puree, vanilla extract and bourbon and mix until smooth.

4. Using an ice cream scoop, distribute filling among cupcake papers, filling about 3/4 full.

5. Bake at 325º for about 20 minutes. Cool in pan and refrigerate until set.

Salted Butter Caramel Sauce

I have a philosophy:

If you’re going to indulge – indulge all the way.

Alongside that there’s:

Quality over quantity.

And it’s only getting worse as I get older. It turns out I have luxurious tastes. Now, I’m not out of control … but I won’t bat an eye at spending $100 for a dress when ten years ago that would make my eyes pop out of my head. But I would rather have fewer things that I love, than a bunch of stuff that I only kind of like.

The same holds true for food as well. I like tasty, full-fat, full-sugar, full-flavor foods. I can’t help myself, it’s in my nature. But there is one lovely benefit to being a food snob (a label that I coming to terms with as more and more people in my life are calling me that). I hardly ever buy uber-processed foods. I may have five different types of flour, six different types of sugar and eight kinds of vinegar in my pantry but you wont find store-bought bread, cookies or salad dressing.

I recently resumed my affair with caramel. Especially salted caramel. Talk about indulgence – butter, sugar, heavy cream … and a dash of vanilla. There’s nothing in it that is good for you – unless you’re talking about good for your soul. Because this salted butter caramel sauce is heavenly.

Use it as a dipping sauce for apples, use it as a topping for cakes and ice cream … or just eat it by the spoonful. In moderation, of course.

Salted Butter Caramel Sauce

From David Lebowitz

makes ~1 1/2 cups

6 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse sea salt

Melt the butter in a deep-sided saucepan. Stir in sugar and cook, stirring frequently until the sugar is a deep golden brown and starts to smoke.

Remove from heat and whisk in half of the heavy cream – this will bubble up! Stir until smooth. Stir in remaining cream and then the vanilla and salt.

Will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks.

Turtle Brownies

Do you know what I love more than baking?

Baking for somebody other than myself.

I was in Florida for a couple of days. Which meant Scott bore the brunt of my baking addiction. I try to be thoughtful and make things that appeal to him.

Like these turtle brownies.

Chocolate. Caramel. Pecans. Even if they were a flop, I am pretty sure they would be a delicious pile of goo. A timeless combination, which makes it appropriate for Florida, as the weather here has been somewhat undefinable, in terms of seasons.

These are intense. I have no other words. Not a quick and simple brownie by any means, but well worth the commitment. And let’s face it, Scott is worth it.

Turtle Brownies

adapted slightly from Gourmet
Brownie batter
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup 60% cocoa chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Caramel sauce
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast pecans for about 15-20 minutes. Leave oven on and line an 8-inch square glass baking dish with aluminum foil.

Make brownie layer:
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.

Melt chocolate and butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth, then remove from heat. Cool to lukewarm, then stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition until mixture is glossy and smooth. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Pour batter evenly in baking dish and bake for 30. Cool completely in pan on a rack.

Make caramel-pecan layer:
Bring sugar, water, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then boil, without stirring, until mixture turns a golden caramel color, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully add cream and vanilla (mixture will bubble and steam). Pour over brownie layer, spreading evenly. Sprinkle pecans over the caramel layer. Cool completely in pan on rack.

Prepare garnish:
Melt remaining chocolate chips in the microwave (heat for 30 seconds, stir and heat for 30 seconds more). Drizzle melted chocolate decoratively over brownies.

Chill brownies, loosely covered, until caramel and chocolate are firm, at least 4 hours.

Bourbon Caramel Pecan Bars

Prior to going down to Florida, I spent an evening in my kitchen. I knew that I wanted to bring something sweet to eat for Scott (in lieu of his birthday which is at the end of the month). As he is partial to chocolate-y, caramel-y, pecan goodness, I decided to improvise a kind of turtle-like thing.

Now, I am not sure where all of this new found kitchen confidence has come from. I do pretty well with a recipe, and frankly, I hesitate to venture into baking without one. There is something comforting about going to a recipe and following directions (and gives you something to blame when it doesn’t come out well).  But I had been thinking about how to concoct these little treats for a couple of weeks now and figured if I could deconstruct the layers I could come up with something pretty good.

It’s basically a layer of shortbread, a layer of caramel-bourbon sauce, a layer of pecans and topped off with a layer of ganache. To say that I am pleased with how they came out would be an understatement. The verdict? Damn good, if I say so myself. Especially since I just made them up on the fly.

Bourbon Caramel Pecan Bars

Layer 1: The Shortbread

Using the food processor, measure 1 1/2 cups flour


1/2 cup powdered sugar


and 12 (twelve!) tablespoons of butter


Pulse until dough is mixed through and crumbly.


Press into the bottom of a 9 x 9 glass baking pan. (No need to butter, given the aforementioned 12 T of butter in the dough).


Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.


Layer 2: Bourbon Caramel Sauce

In a medium-sized pot, measure 1 cup sugar


2 Tablespoons corn syrup


and 1/4 cup water.


Bring to a boil.


And cook until it turns a dark golden brown.

This was after about 5 minutes…


And I took it off the heat after about 8 minutes.


Add 1/2 cup heavy cream (and stand back – this will bubble up furiously).


and 4 tablespoons of butter.


Because I was making things up, I went ahead and added a couple of tablespoons of bourbon. (If this recipe has a secret ingredient, this would be it).


Add about 1/3 cup flour to thicken up the caramel sauce.

Now pour this deliciousness over the baked shortbread.


Sprinkle 3/4 cup chopped pecans on top of the caramel layer.


Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes and caramel is bubbling.


Layer 3: Chocolate ganache

Simmer 1/2 cup heavy cream in a small sauce pan.


Take off heat and stir in 1/2 a bag of chocolate chips until melted.


Pour over caramel layer.


Top with additional pecan pieces and let set for (at least) a couple of hours.


I dutifully cut them up, wrapped them in cupcake wrappers and boxed them up to take with me to the Sunshine State.


These are not for the faint of heart. Or those on a diet. I even got them approved by Scott (who is a tough customer).

Not too shabby for being recipe-less.