Club: Baked – Soft Candy Caramels

soft candy caramels

Our Club: Baked recipe this time around is something near and dear to my heart – caramels! Hosted by Teri at The Freshman Cook, I can’t think of a better treat to celebrate Valentine’s Day than caramels. Truthfully, I am not much of a chocolate girl, so these caramels were right up my alley!

soft candy caramels cooking with milk mixture
soft candy caramels cut

The process of cooking these was pretty easy. There are more steps and more ingredients than caramel recipes I’ve made in the past, however the instructions were simple enough to follow. I had a little bit of trouble cutting the caramels at the end. When my husband’s stepfather makes caramels, he lets them cool for a bit, but cuts them while they are still soft. In the future, I think I would try this as the caramels were a little hard to cut after they had set. In full disclosure, I let them set for closer to 18 hours before cutting, however they were still pretty set at the 8 hour mark. 

So did they live up to my expectations? Absolutely! Like many of the recipes in the book, we really enjoyed these. Mine start out a little harder than purchased caramels, but they soften quickly once in your mouth. Perfect texture for homemade caramels in my opinion. Enjoy! 

soft candy caramels wrapped

Be sure to stop by the Club: Baked page to check out the other caramels!

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Lighter Salted Caramel Ice Cream

I officially started my residency this week, so I am now a working woman. So far, it’s been a lot of orientation type tasks, but I am excited to finally be starting! I know the pace of things will pick up quite a bit over the next few weeks, but I plan to continue cooking. If nothing else, I have quite the stockpile of recipes saved to share with you!

Ice Cream. While many enjoy it year around, in my mind, it is synonymous with warmer temperatures. As a kiddo I remember root beer floats, “blizzards” from the local ice cream shop that was only open in the summer, and sundaes drenched with caramel. I have always had a soft spot for caramel, so when I saw this recipe, I was immediately interested. If caramel is good on top of ice cream, it has to be good frozen into it. 

Well, I was right. This ice cream is awesome! I didn’t add the salt on top of each serving, but the salt included in the ice cream gives it a sweet-salty combination that is awesome. If you’ve ever had a salted caramel, it’s in that league. It is a little bit more complicated than most ice cream recipes because you need to make a caramel, but it is worth it. Plus, there is a bonus in that this recipe is a little lighter than most. With only 1/4 cup of heavy cream, it uses mostly 2% milk. While it is certainly still considered a treat, you can feel a little bit better about enjoying that (larger) scoop. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Lighter Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Adapted from Cooking Light May 2010

Ingredients:
3-1/2 cups 2% milk
3 large egg yolks
1-1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. flake salt (optional)

Place milk in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Heat to 180 degrees (check temperature with a candy thermometer) or until tiny bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Do not boil. Meanwhile, place egg yolks in a large bowl and stir with a whisk. Once the milk reaches the correct temperature, gradually add half of the hot milk to the yolks, stirring constantly to temper. Add the rest of the milk mixture and stir to combine. Return the milk-yolk mixture to the saucepan.

In a separate large saucepan, combine sugar, cream, and butter. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar melts. Cook 3 minutes without stirring. Remove from the heat and stir in the Kosher salt. Gradually and carefully add the caramel mixture to the yolk mixture, stirring constantly. Return pan to low heat and cook until a thermometer registers 160 degrees. Pour the mixture through a fine-meshed strainer into a bowl set over a larger ice-filled bowl until completely cooled, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate overnight.

Pour the mixture into the freezer bucket of an ice-cream freezer. Freeze according to package directions. The ice cream will emerge in soft-serve consistency. Freeze in a resealable container for a firmer consistency or for storage of any leftovers. To serve, sprinkle each serving with flake salt if desired.

I am linking this to Sweets for Saturday.


The Secret Recipe: Cinnabun Cheesecake

This is my second month participating in The Secret Recipe Club held by Amanda from Amanda’s Cooking. If you didn’t see my post from last month, each month members are assigned a participating food blogger secret santa style. We choose a recipe from their blog to make (keeping it secret), and everyone reveals their recipe and blogger on the same date. It has been a great way to meet different bloggers, and I think it is fun to see what someone else will pick from my blog. 

The blog that I had this month was Katie from Betcha Can’t Eat Just One. She has a great list of recipes and even began adapting some of her recipes to make them healthier while she was pregnant earlier this year. I had a hard time choosing between a couple of her recipes, but in the end, I decided on her cinnabun cheesecake. I have been working hard over the past month to study for my board exams and finishing something like that calls for some celebration. This cheesecake was a great way to do it! I still want to try her black bean brownies, so be looking for those in the future.

The cheesecake came together beautifully. I actually made it while I was at my parent’s, so I had my dad, our resident cheesecake chef, as help. We weren’t able to find any cinnamon cookies at the store, so we swapped them for cinnamon graham crackers. It was a little meticulous to spread the batter over each layer of crumbled cookies, but it was worth it to have little bits of the cinnamon mixture throughout the cheesecake. Mine turned into layers throughout the slice, and I liked the way it looked throughout the cheesecake. The graham crackers seemed to work just fine. I was a little worried that they might be more prone to be soggy than a cookie, but I did not notice that at all. 

My only complaint is that from the side the cake seemed to sink a little bit. It was a still quite warm when I moved it from the oven to the refrigerator, so I am guessing that is the reason. Other than the aesthetics (my fault completely), we really enjoyed this recipe. Thanks Katie! I really enjoyed your blog! 

(Printable Recipe)

Cinnabun Cheesecake
Adapted from Betcha Can’t Eat Just One and A Passion for Baking

Ingredients:
For the crust: 
1-1/2 cups cinnamon graham crackers, crushed
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Filling:
3 pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup coarsely crumbled cinnamon graham crackers
1 tsp. cinnamon mixed with 1/4 cup sugar
Caramel sundae topping 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray. For the crust, mix the cookies, butter, and sugar together in a bowl and press into the bottom of the pan. 

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the cream cheese, 1 cup of sugar, and whipping cream until smooth. Stop to scrape the bowl with a spatula often. Mix 3-4 minutes until very smooth. Mix in the eggs, flour, and vanilla and continue to beat until smooth for another 3 minutes.

Pour about a third of the filling on top of the prepared crust. Layer a handful of the crushed graham crackers and sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Repeat with another layer of filling and crackers. You may have to spoon the filling over the crackers and spread it carefully to cover the previous layer. Top with the last 1/3 of the filling and a final topping of crackers and cinnamon-sugar. 

Bake 45-55 minutes or until the cheesecake only jiggles slightly in the middle when shook (I had to bake ours closer to an hour. Just keep checking on it and add a few minutes at a time). Do not take the cheesecake out of the oven. Turn the oven off and crack the door slightly. Allow the cake to cool in this manner for 1 hour. Remove and allow to cool further to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight before serving.


SMS: Peanut Praline Sundaes

We’re nearing the end of the Sweet Melissa Baking Book. We only have 6 more recipes left with plans to finish up by the end of August. This week’s recipe was peanut praline hosted by Ruby of I Dream of Baking. The group has made Melissa’s brittle a couple of times now, but this was my first time along. The peanut praline in the book is basically the peanut brittle crumbled up and served over ice cream. I have never made brittle before from any recipe, so I thought it may serve me well to go back and read the posts from the other recipes. Thank goodness I did! It seems like many had problems with the recipe in the book – chewy and burned were many of the comments. Neither of these are good things for a brittle. 

I still wanted to participate, so I decided to look through the recipes that a couple of the ladies in the group had posted. It seems that the Sweet Melissa recipe has a lot more butter and no water compared to the other recipes? In the end, I choose to go with Margot’s version that she posted here on her blog in October. The brittle came out just the way a peanut brittle should be without any trouble. I didn’t measure my peanuts and think I may have added a few too many (user error on that one). The inclusion of the cayenne pepper gives the candy a bit of a kick as an aftertaste, and while some may prefer the sweet-spicy combo, I think I would leave it out next time. 

In her post, Margot added her brittle to ice cream. I had planned to make the brown-sugar vanilla ice cream in the Sweet Melissa book to pair with the peanut praline and thought about copying her idea. In the end, my husband talked me out of mixing it in because the ice cream is SO GOOD plain. This is the second time that we have made it, and I will never make another vanilla ice cream recipe. We served the ice cream and praline with caramel syrup (I like caramel much better than chocolate), and it was awesome! Definitely one to keep in mind for a “fancier” ice cream treat. Thanks Ruby for a great pick and for a recipe I may have never attempted on my own! Check out Ruby’s attempt and the other bloggers on the SMS blogroll page!

SMS: Honey Cream Caramels

Caramel… If there is one ingredient in a dessert that will immediately have me interested, caramel is it. Because I love caramel, there was no doubt that I would be in the mix with this next SMS recipe, honey cream caramels! This SMS was hosted by Carmen of Baking is my Zen, and it might be one of my favorite recipes yet.

Making the caramels was relatively simple. My husband’s step father has an old family recipe that he always makes around Christmas that is really similar, and although his has fewer ingredients, I knew the basic idea of how this process would go. He has made his so long that he doesn’t even need a candy thermometer anymore. We tried this one Christmas and ended up with more of a caramel syrup than caramel candies. Oops… =)

One thing I noticed was that 250 degrees F and the hard ball stage were not at the same point on my candy thermometer. I went ahead and took the sugar mixture off the stove at 250 degrees as directed, and my caramels ended up just a little bit chewy. In the end, this was fine because we like them better that way, but I definitely did not have the crumbly caramel that others indicated. Did anyone else notice this? 

After halving the recipe, I ended up with about 30 caramels. My only change was that I wrapped the caramels in aluminum foil rather than in waxed paper as that has always worked well for the family’s recipes. I “tested” one to make sure it would come off the foil, and so far, so good. Head over to the SMS page to check out the other bakers’ posts and enjoy your caramels!

Oatmeal Caramelitas

Back to school season has been a little weird this year for me. It’s actually the first year in 20 years that neither I nor my husband are really going “back to school.” My hubby graduated in May, so he’s completely done. I haven’t actually graduated yet, but I’m already 4 months into my last year of clinical rotations. Your 3rd and 4th year of pharmacy school kind of run together with only a week break in between, so while I’m “in school,” I never really had to go “back.” I am not jealous because after 20 years I definitely don’t miss those late nights studying!  I only have 3 more (big) exams left after graduation for licensing, and then I hope any remaining exams will be few and far between =)

With everyone headed back to school, these cookie bars would make a great after-school snack (or after exam treat…) for the student(s) in your life. I made these back at my parents’ house this weekend with my Dad to take as treats for the lake. The recipe comes from a lady that we know from the lake who first brought these cookies the end of the summer “festival” they have every year. They were a big both at the festival and on our little trip. Out of the whole pan, we came back with only a couple.

While making the bars, I noticed that the crust/topping was really crumbly. It did stay together when it was packed, so I just ended up squeezing the pieces together in my hand before sprinkling it on top to get larger pieces of crumbs. The bars were a little crumbly when cut but held their shape well, so I think they are just intended to be a little more crumbly. My only other modification was to leave out the pecans as most of my family (me included) prefers their desserts without nuts. Lastly, we melted caramels with the evaporated milk for our caramel topping. The substitution comes from the recipe as written, however I have not tried it. Not sure what I think about using flour in the caramel?

Enjoy! 

(Printable Recipe)

Oatmeal Caramelitas
Adapted from Lin Willett

Ingredients:14 oz. pkg. caramel candies
1/2 c. fat-free evaporated milk
(can substitute a 10oz. jar of caramel topping mixed with 1/4 c. flour)

2 c. flour
2 c. rolled oats
1-1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, melted
1-1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt caramels and evaporated milk in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until smooth. Cool slightly.

Combine remaining ingredients except chocolate chips and pecans in a large mixing bowl. Mixture will be crumbly. Press half the crumbs into the bottom of a greased 9×13″ pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and pecans. Carefully cover the chocolate chips with the caramel mixture. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture on top. You may have to press it together to get larger crumbs. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Chill 1-2 hours then cut into bars.