Tag-Archive for ◊ caramel ◊

29 Mar 2014 Caramel and Chocolate Covered Graham Crackers

Graham-crackers-2

It’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad few days around here. We are all fine, but there was a family brouhaha that just didn’t sit right. We were all out of sorts, and, truth be told,  a bit afraid of what the future will bring, too.  So what to do? Make the all time favorite family comfort food, of course!

This recipe is rustic and quik, and it’s done in 20 minutes.  So it’s great just to start on this and put some of that pent up adrenaline to good use. But then there’s the cooling off period. Once made, these bars have to  sit in the refrigerator to harden up a bit. Again, another good thing.  A cooling off period is needed after a big family brouhaha.  Then comes the peace and contentment, sitting down with a good cup of coffee, some rustic chocolate covered graham crackers and reflecting on what went right and what went wrong, and figuring out how to right the wrongs and ultimately, bringing peace back to the family.

In August of 2005 my friends Sharon and Margie, from Lake Arrowhead Retreats, gave me a recipe for Saltine Toffee Cookies which they had found on AllRecipes.com.  Truth be told, the recipe didn’t sound very good.  Saltine crackers, brown sugar, butter, and melted chocolate?  Just say no.  But they insisted I try it.  They insisted the recipe was good.  I trusted them, they make some great food, so I tried it. It WAS good. VERY good.  Then I came to find out this recipe is sort of an Internet sensation and I might have been the last person on the planet to know about it!

Years pass, and one fine weekend, I took a chocolate making class.  The instructor of the class talked about how her mother used to make a ganache and pour it over crumbled up graham crackers as a bedtime snack for her and her siblings (I know, I know, what a Mom! I never did that for MY kids…).  Then the gears started churning.  Chocolate covered graham crackers are one of my favorite things in the whole wide world, but I had never made them.  The chocolate covered graham crackers from Starbucks are the best, but they are a bit too rich with a bit too much chocolate. OH!  The light bulb popped!  Could I make chocolate covered graham crackers for my kids, too?  I could one-up that other Mom, as well!  I could make chocolate covered graham crackers and with caramel!  Never mind that she was using a fancy ganache and I was just melting giant chocolate bars, LOL! What if I use the Saltine Toffee Cookie recipe but substitute graham crackers for the saltine crackers.  What if???

So I did it.  Many times.  My son says these are the best things I make. The last tin I made, hidden in the refrigerator behind the lettuce, lasted only three days.

Turns out, I am not the first person to think of this!  Lots of people on the Internet have used graham crackers instead of saltines with this recipe. Again, why am I one of the last people on the planet to know about this?! 🙂 Anyway, here’s my recipe.  You can find lots of versions all over, but this is the one that works for me.  Keep these Caramel Chocolate Covered Graham Crackers refrigerated, when they are not being eaten…  If these cookies sit out too long at room temperature the graham cracker starts to soften and loose it’s crunch 🙁 My 2005 copy of this recipe (with saltines rather than graham crackers) specifies that the recipe makes 35 servings. ROFLMAO!!! That’s so funny 🙂

Caramel and Chocolate Covered Graham Crackers

  • approx. 2/3 a box of graham crackers (two wax covered packages out of a box of 3 packages)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 large sized (4 or 5 oz) chocolate bar, chopped (I like a Symphony Bar or a Cadbury Bar, if you like dark chocolate, the Hershey’s Special Dark Bar is good)
  • ¾ cup chopped nuts (if you like nuts.  I have never added nuts) OR, if it’s December, crushed candy canes! (I loooove this option!)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with graham crackers.  Place the graham crackers as close together as possible. You will need most of 2 waxed covered packages. Set tray aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine butter and sugar and stir constantly, over medium heat, until sugar is melted.
  4. Raise heat slightly, to bring mixture to a boil.  Boil vigorously for 3 minutes, without stirring–shaking the pan occasionally is OK (the original directions said to “stir constantly” but I have found this to make a grainy caramel layer).
  5. Immediately pour caramel over graham crackers.  Use an offset spatula to quickly spread the caramel evenly over the crackers.
  6. Place tray in hot oven and bake for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove tray from oven and sprinkled chopped chocolate evenly over top.  Let chocolate just sit on top of caramel for 5 minutes.
  8. Spread the now melted chocolate evenly over the caramel.  Sprinkle with nuts (if using).
  9. Let tray sit until chocolate has hardened.  This make take a few hours.  To speed things up, put the tray in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes.
  10. When chocolate is set, break bars into uneven pieces. Sneak a piece or two.  Serve or cover and hide in refrigerator until needed.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  If there is a brouhaha in your family, I hope it’s over quickly and sweetly!

01 Sep 2012 Banana Pancakes with Caramel Syrup

Hmpfff…, just got through looking at the two hundred and seventeen pictures of a recent bride’s Hawaiian honeymoon.  As one of her friends commented, “The envy hurts”!  I went to Hawaii once.  I did.  It was with my kids’ swim team.  I forget exactly how many 8 – 14 year old’s were on that trip, but it was over a hundred. And a handful of chaperones and coaches. I sure know how to vacation in Hawaii.  NOT.

This morning I was inspired, by the aforementioned 217 pictures, to bring a bit of Hawaii to the breakfast table.  One of the few things I remember about my trip to Hawaii, aside from the twelve year old climbing from one balcony to another–yes, balconies on the outside of the building, outside of  the eighth floor no less–were the breakfasts.  Most mornings we had sushi from the ABC store, and I know most of you won’t relish that,  but one morning, I think it was the last one, we had some wonderful coconutty-banana pancakes.  I think by this time we had locked the kids in their rooms, turned on the TV, handed them a box Twinkies, and thrown away the keys. Yes, I am pretty sure it was an adult only breakfast that morning…

Yep…, transported to the tropics with banana pancakes!  If I had sprinkled the top of the pancakes with a bit of toasted coconut or some diced macadamia nuts I could have been transported even closer to the tropics. These pancakes raise high and are wonderfully light.  The syrup is as sweet as maple syrup, but with a lovely caramel flavor that really makes the pancakes shine.  I found this recipe on epicurious.com (love that site).  I shared these pancakes with one of the kids who went on the trip with me.  She’s almost all grown up now, but I will always remember how she loved Hawaii 🙂 Ohhhh, OK, I do have many wonderful memories of a vacation in Hawaii…

A few notes on this recipe.  If you don’t have self-raising flour, add 1 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt to each cup of flour and to make your own homemade self-raising flour.  Don’t have buttermilk?  Stir 1 T lemon juice or 1 T. white vinegar into each cup of milk and let sit for 5 minutes; but next time you are at the store, buy two buttermilk cartons, one to use now and one to store in the freezer for next time (never run out of buttermilk).  Buttermilk powder is also a nice ingredient to have on hand (available on the baking aisle of most larger supermarkets), use as directed. The last option is to substitute yogurt (vanilla, plain, greek, banana) mixed with a little milk until the mixture has a thick pouring consistency for the buttermilk.

Don’t want to go to Hawaii?  Want to go down South?  Substitute peaches for the bananas, and add bourbon to the sauce, and throw some diced pecans over the tops of the pancakes!

Banana Pancakes with Caramel-Banana Syrup 

3 large bananas, peeled, divided use

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted, divided use
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar, divided use
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or rum)
2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
toasted coconut, diced macadamia nuts or pecans, optional

Whisk flour 1/4 cup brown sugar in large bowl. In another bowl mash one banana, then stir in buttermilk , eggs, and 1/4 cup melted butter.  Pour the banana mixture over the dry ingredients (some lumps will remain). Heat griddle over medium heat; brush with melted butter or spray with a cooking spray.  Pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls onto griddle. Cook pancakes until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer pancakes to baking sheet; and place in 200 degree oven to keep warm, if desired.

Combine 1/4 cup melted butter, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan. Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat, and simmer until mixture thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Slice 2 bananas into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and add to syrup along with vanilla extract. Remove syrup from heat and let sit while you finish cooking pancakes.

Serve pancakes with caramel-banana syrup, and toasted coconut and/or chopped nuts for sprinkling on top of hot pancakes.

Aloha! Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

03 Feb 2011 Caramel Corn

Ooooh, Caramel Corn!   Isn’t it lovely?  You know I am not talking about that stale, pale, powdery stuff out of a bright and cheerful tin.  No, no, no, no, no!  I am talking about real Caramel Corn, the homemade variety.  Caramel Corn made with love.  Lots of love.  Lots and lots of love.  Truthfully, Caramel Corn is a bit of a  bother to make.  It’s going to take a commitment.  It’s going to take some time.  And it is going to make a mess in your kitchen.  It’s kinda sorta along the same lines as giving birth  (Forgive me for this analogy). At first bite – that first crisp, sweet crunch – the pain of bringing it forth will be forgotten.

Here’s my recipe.  I think I first got it from Taste of Home about, oh, maybe, five years ago.  Over the years, after reading every other Caramel Corn recipe, and testing out and then incorporating the best tips, I have improved upon their recipe.  It’s still a mess to make, but, using this recipe has a guaranteed outcome.  I know this recipe works.

There are a lot of occasions coming up where Caramel Corn would be very welcome.  What’s happening back East right now?  Snow Days!  How about a Movie Night?  I just had friends over to watch a few of this years “Best Picture” Academy Awards nominees.  Then, in a few weeks it will be the Academy Awards themselves.  Let’s not forget abut Super Bowl Sunday: the best reason on the planet for the best snack layout of the year!  Touchdown! And, Valentine’s Day. Just pop Caramel Corn in those heart motif bags and you’re all set. Your Valentine will melt in your arms…

Need some more reasons to make Caramel Corn?  (Tough crowd today…) Caramel Corn can be made ahead, way ahead, like a week or more.  Once made, Caramel Corn is no more bother.  Just pour it in a bowl on put it on the table.  No refrigeration.  No reheating.  No slicing. No spreading.  No dip.  No utensils. Leftovers, highly unlikely, but if there are any, will keep for up to two weeks. The real reason to make Caramel Corn though?  The taste.  That sweet, crisp crunch.

Caramel Corn

  • 1 cup unpopped popping corn (divided use)
  • ¼ cup vegetable, canola, or corn oil (divided use)
  • 1 cup butter (no substitutions, no margarine)
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Set out two large, rimmed baking sheets and one clean, large brown grocery bag.
  2. First, make the popcorn.  You’ll have to do this in two batches.  Get out your biggest pan (I use my stock pot) with the tightest fitting lid (if the lid is glass, you’ll have it made in the shade).
  3. Note:  I make my popcorn the old-fashioned way, on the stove, in some hot oil, as the directions below reflect.  I am guessing you could also make the popcorn in an air popper or in the microwave.  If you choose to go down that path, skip the popping directions below, use your own method, and have about 16 cups of popped popcorn warming in the oven when you start on the caramel part of this recipe.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of the pan.  When oil is hot, stir in ½ cup unpopped popcorn kernels.  Put the lid on and SHAKE the pan like crazy. After 2-3 minutes, the popcorn will begin to pop.  Keep shaking the pan!  When you can see (if you have a glass lid) or hear the corn has stopped popping for 2 seconds or more, remove pan from heat.
  5. Pour the popcorn onto a baking sheet and place in warm oven.
  6. Make the second batch of popcorn.  Wipe out the hot pan and repeat the steps above with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and ½ cup unpopped popcorn kernels. The popcorn will cook faster this time around because your stock pot should already be hot.
  7. Put the second batch of popcorn onto the second baking sheet and place in warm oven.
  8. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
  9. Stir brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt into the melted butter and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Now, STOP STIRRING.  Let mixture boil, undisturbed, for four minutes.
  10. Remove warm popcorn from oven.
  11. Pour ½ of hot syrup over each tray of popcorn.  Stir to combine.
  12. You can skip this step if you want, but I find it helpful.  Pour the partially coated popcorn into a clean brown paper grocery bag.  Fold over the top to seal, then vigorously shake the bag to evenly coat with the caramel syrup.
  13. Pour the popcorn back onto two baking sheets.
  14. Place popcorn in preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and stir to evenly coat caramel over all kernels.  Return pans to oven, switching pan locations.  Repeat three more times, so the popcorn bakes for 45 minutes total.
  15. Remove pans from oven and let cool.
  16. Serve, or store in air tight container until ready to serve.

Thank you for stopping by my kitchen today!  I hope you like the Caramel Corn. Want to serve it with Maple Bacon popcorn?  Stop by again, I have that recipe in my line up. Enjoy!

15 Jan 2011 Banoffee Pie

Banoffee Pie! You’ve heard of it, right? Toffee, bananas and coffee flavored cream in a pastry crust? There is more to British desserts than Trifle, Spotted Dick, and Sticky Toffee Pudding, you know!

This pie took the British Isles by storm in 1972, and  gets more and more popular by the year. I’ve read Banoffee Pie is now on Australian menus, New Zealand menus, and even a few US menus!

Last March I went to England with a specific goal: to taste Banoffee Pie.  It didn’t happen.  FINALLY, almost one year later, I got a taste and it was made by me in my own kitchen!  If you want something done right… 🙂 It’s a pity I had to wait so long, but it was worth the wait.

Now that you’ve heard of Banoffee Pie, don’t wait as long as I did to try it.  It’s as easy as pie to make!  There is no doubt in my mind that my very next dinner party will feature Banoffee Pie. No doubt at ALL.

The original pie was made in a regular baked shortcrust pastry, but I made mine in a crust of crushed “Digestive Biscuits” (another English specialty! And, no, I don’t know why they are called “digestive” biscuits. I don’t want to think about it actually.) and melted butter.  A graham cracker crust can be substituted.  So you have three crust options! Pick the one that best suits your tastes, what you have on hand, or is easiest for you to pull together.

Banoffee Pie

For “Digestive” crust

4 oz. melted butter

8 oz. English Digestive Biscuits (available in International sections of many larger grocery stores, British Food stores and Indian markets…)

For Bottom Toffee Layer

4 oz. butter

½ cup dark brown sugar

1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk

For Middle Banana Layer

3 or 4 small bananas

For Top Cream Layer

1 ¼ cups whipping cream

½ – ¾ teaspoon instant espresso powder (to taste)

2 tablespoons sugar

small amount of grated chocolate (or ½ of a “Flake” bar, crumbled–another very good British chocolate bar)

Directions:

Decide what kind of crust you want and prepare it.  To make the English crust, crush the digestive biscuits in a food processor and then stir in the melted butter.  Press mixture along the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  (If you don’t have a 10-inch tart pan, use a quiche pan or a regular pie pan).  Chill until firm.

Combine the butter and sugar into a saucepan and place over medium heat.  Stir constantly until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.  Stir in the condensed milk and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust.  Let sit until cool.  This step is OK to prepare one day in advance.

If using a tart pan, remove the pie from the pan and place on serving tray.

Cut the bananas in half lengthwise.  Using the curve of the banana against the outside layer of the pie crust, begin to layer the banana halves lengthwise on top of the toffee layer.  When you get towards the inside you will have to cut the long banana halves to fit.

Combine the whipping cream, espresso powder and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip until soft peaks form.  Spread the cream mixture on top of the bananas.

Grate the chocolate, you only need a tablespoonful or two, and sprinkle over the top of the whipped cream.

Serve immediately (or within an hour or two, although leftovers do keep rather well for a bit longer than that.., if there ARE any leftovers…)

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  I hope you make this soon and NEVER say terrible things about British food again! I may get offended! There is some very good British food out there, you know 🙂

06 Dec 2010 Chocolate-Caramel-Coconut Bars

So sorry, so sorry. I’m a bit  behind on my Christmas Cookie postings.  Blame it on the drain!  There have been many, many men visiting me this last week.  Unfortunately, they are only interested in messing with my pipes and taking my money. Lots of my money went out the door with one man today, lots more went with another man last week, more will go tomorrow with a third man<sigh> and I still can’t use the sink, the dishwasher, or the washing machine.  What’s this got to do with Christmas cookies and posting recipes?  Not much, I guess.  My computer still works.  My fingers aren’t broken.  My Christmas spirit has suffered a bit, but not posting recipes for GREAT Christmas cookies is not helping.  So let’s get to it!

Coconut Bars are a new addition to my repertoire this year.  Over the past month or so I’ve spent a bit of time trying to cook my way through The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe From Each Year 1941-2009 by Gourmet Magazine.  I’ve liked a lot of the cookies, but I’ve been tempted to fiddle with each one of them.  Why?  I’m not sure.  Maybe I’m crazy.  Maybe I have too much free time.  Maybe I have serious gym avoidance issues (the latter is the closest to the truth)…

I loved the base of Gourmet’s Chocolate Coconut Squares on page 124 (which Gourmet declared the best cookie of 1997) , but simply hated the ganache topping they used.  It took a few tries, four or more, before I got a version I liked.  My version has Gourmet’s base, a caramel layer (from a Saltine Toffee Cookie recipe), and then some melted chocolate to “gild the lily” as my friend Louise is fond of saying.  It’s decadence.  Candy bar decadence. The recipe makes a 9 x 13 inch panful.  Cut the bars small, and you can feed the neighborhood! Bars will keep a week or more when covered and refrigerated.

Several of the taste testers asked for the recipe and that’s  ALWAYS a good sign!  So here it is, my recipe (inspired by Gourmet’s Chocolate Coconut Squares) for Chocolate-Caramel-Coconut Bars.  I’m thinking of calling them “Triple C Bars”… 🙂

Chocolate-Caramel-Coconut Bars

Bottom Layer

  • 20 whole graham crackers (one 4-portioned cracker counts as one whole cracker)
  • ¾ cup melted butter (1 ½ sticks)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 10 oz. sweetened flaked coconut (about 4 cups)

Middle Layer

  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar

Top Layer

  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (or approx 5 oz. chopped good quality chocolate)
  • ¼ cup sweetened flaked coconut (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with baking parchment or foil.  Spray the paper with Pam or grease with a bit of softened butter.
  2. Place the graham crackers in a food processor, and pulse until the graham crackers are finely ground and no large chunks remain.
  3. Melt butter in the microwave, stir in salt, and then pour mixture over graham cracker crumbs in food processor.  Pulse a few times to blend.
  4. Remove buttered crumbs from food processor and add to flaked coconut.
  5. Press coconut mixture into the bottom of prepared pan.
  6. Bake base layer in preheated 350º oven for 15 minutes.
  7. About 5 minutes before coconut base layer is due to be taken out of oven, melt butter for caramel layer in a small saucepan. Stir in brown sugar. Stir to dissolve and then boil mixture for five minutes.  Remove from heat.
  8. Pour caramel layer over graham coconut base and then bake for an additional 5 minutes.
  9. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips or chopped chocolate over caramel.  Let sit for 5 minutes.
  10. Using an offset spatula, spread the now melted chocolate evenly over the caramel layer.  Sprinkle ¼ cup coconut over smoothed chocolate. Let bars sit to cool completely.  Place in refrigerator to speed up the hardening of the chocolate, if desired.
  11. When bars are completely cool, remove from pan with foil or parchment.  Remove foil or parchment from bars and then cut into desired size. I cut mine into 2-bite bars, about 1 ½ inches by ¾ inch.

OK, the Christmas spirit is creeping back!  We have the  makings of a nice cookie tray… Gingerbread Folk, Jam Pinwheels, Caramel Bars, Egg Nog Spritz and Chocolate-Caramel-Coconut Bars. Next up?  Tangerine Sugar Cookies! Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today. You cheered me up immensely!

03 Dec 2010 Caramel Bars (Millionaire Bars)

When I was a kid growing up in the north of England, Caramel Bars were my very favorite tea time treat.  My Dad taught me to lick the top of the bar–and announce it loudly–so no one else would select the Caramel Bar before the plate got passed to me! It worked like a charm. Don’t laugh! You’ll be licking your own Caramel Bars shortly.  Look at that picture I posted! Shortbread on the bottom, soft caramel in the middle, creamy milk chocolate on top; how can you resist?

Years after emigrating from England, I found Caramel Bars in the US packaged as “Twix Bars”.  Twix Bars aren’t nearly as good as the homemade real thing, but they’ll do in a pinch. When I returned to England last spring, caramel bars seemed to be enjoying a resurgence.  They were everywhere, but they had a new name, “Millionaire Bars”.   I don’t know where that name came from. Nevertheless, these are still my favorite bar cookie.  I’ve been making them since 1981 based on a recipe I got from a Marks and Spencer’s cookbook on a visit to England on my honeymoon.  The cookbook is long gone, the marriage is long over, but the recipe remains.

My friends have been getting these in their Christmas cookie tins for years!

Caramel Bars (aka Millionaire Bars)

For the Shortbread Base

¾ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups flour

With an electric mixer, beat the butter for about 30 seconds.  Add the sugar and beat together until creamy, about 3 minutes,  scraping the sides often.  Stir in the vanilla, salt and flour. Mixture will be very crumbly.  Do not panic! Press crumbs into the bottom of a prepared 13×9 inch pan (and I do mean PRESS).  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until shortbread is a nice golden color.  Remove from oven and let cool in pan.

For the Caramel Filling

½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey or Lyle’s Golden Syrup
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk

Place all ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat gently until sugar is dissolved.  Increase heat and boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Color will darken slightly, and you may get a few darker bits which should dissolve into mixture with some vigorous stirring.  Remove from heat, stir well, and let cool for 1 minute.  Pour caramel over cooled shortbread base.  Let cool.

For the Topping

1 large (5 oz.) Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate Bar (or other favorite chocolate bar)

Melt chocolate in the microwave on 50% for 2 or 3 minutes.  Pour melted chocolate over cooled caramel layer, smoothing  top with an offset spatula. Let cool.  Cut into squares of desired size.  Think fudge!  I cut my Caramel Bars into 1 inch squares.  Mmmmmmm 🙂

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today. You’re leaving with a great recipe!  Come back again tomorrow!