Salted Caramels

Salted Caramels

My freezer is full.  Like seriously full.  Like open it, stuff something in, slam the door, and run, hoping all the goodies inside don’t come tumbling out full.  It’s a real problem.  But a good problem to have.  The freezer is full of my baked treats I just can’t bear to part with, which accounts for most of the recipes you see here.  There are also bags of peaches, cherries, blueberries, and blackberries that I froze to help me survive winter.  And of course there’s fresh pumpkin puree bagged in half cup portions.

Opening the door reveals a mass of zipper bags, stuffed full with shiny aluminum foil covering sugary sweet goodness.  Each of the bags has an attached post-it note, reinforced with tape, saying what’s inside, but there’s something about the bags and the cold temperatures that makes the tape not want to stick.  It’s always an adventure finding bags with no labels and others with two.  “What’s inside?” I wonder as I quickly unwrap something waiting to discover if it sounds good at the moment or if it’s something I’ve forgotten about altogether.

Salted Caramels

Salted Caramels

As much as I try to go through it and keep is super organized, it’s hard.  All the fruit and pumpkin is on one shelf, all the muffins on another.  As things are added it becomes a jumbled mess, often leaving me searching through each and every shelf to find what I’m looking for, because you know those pesky Anzac Cookies are lurking on the last shelf I think they are.

I don’t mind looking through the shelves, as I often discover something I’ve long forgotten about.  But it’s seriously cold in the freezer.  More than a minute or two of looking leaves me shivering and standing by the running oven, baking or cooking away, or putting my hands under warm running water to restore feeling.

Salted Caramels

What is best about the freezer is that sometimes things taste better after having spent a while in there.  Fresh baked goodness quickly restored after awhile at room temperature or in the oven.  Even treats I didn’t love become new favorites.  Perhaps it’s also the time delay.  There’s nothing like tasting Cherry Almond Cake months after having made it, cherries having vanished from the store shelves, and falling in love with it all over again.

But that freezer really is full, so the need and desire arises for making something that doesn’t need to be frozen, doesn’t freeze well, or I just don’t see a need to keep.  Puppy Chow is so quick and easy to make and lasts awhile at room temperature that I’d rather just make it again.  These Salted Caramels will last awhile at room temperature and by the time they are gone, I’ll be done with them until I’m ready to make a new batch.  Plus I don’t think they’d freeze very well.

Salted Caramels

These Salted Caramels are the best caramels I’ve ever tasted.  Some caramels are too sweet or a little grainy or just don’t taste like anything.  But these are pure heaven.  Super smooth and creamy, they have that deep caramel flavor with a hint of sweetness, no bitterness or cloying sweetness ever.  Vanilla flavor is also present, along with welcome flecks of vanilla bean.  The flavor and texture is perfect for eating, in fact, you probably won’t want to stop.  But they are on the super gooey side for storage, having to be pried from their wax paper wrapping.  But perhaps this is what makes them so good, they don’t have any of that hard caramel, stuck in your teeth thing going on, just melt in your mouth caramel goodness.  Plus, you must burn a couple calories working to get them off the paper, right?

Salted Caramels

Salted Caramels

4.5 from 10 reviews
Salted Caramels
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 40-50
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ¾ cups heavy cream
  • ¾ cup light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeded, pod and seeds reserved
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup water
  • Maldon Sea Salt, for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine cream, corn syrup, salt, vanilla bean seeds, and vanilla bean pod. Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to simmer. Once this happens, remove from heat and allow to steep while you prepare the caramel. Remove the vanilla bean pod after a couple minutes, well before the caramel is ready for the cream.
  3. In a 4 quart saucepan, combine sugar and water. Cook over medium-high heat without stirring until the mixture is deep golden brown. Do not walk away during this process. It may take awhile, but can go from clear to burnt in no time. Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the cream mixture. Return the pan to medium heat, and stir to dissolve the caramel. Once dissolved, insert a candy thermometer and cook, without stirring, until it reaches 246 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Immediately pour caramel into prepared pan and smooth top. Let cool completely – this take a long time. Remove from pan and cut into pieces. Sprinkle with sea salt and wrap in wax paper. Store at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Saveur

 

 

Caramel Pretzel Bars

Caramel Pretzel Bars

The Super Bowl means two things for me: commercials and half time.  I like football.  I like the players and their stories.  The underdog winning when you least expect it.  Learning the stories behind the game.  Hearing about the people that aren’t always at the forefront of publicity.  Having something to cheer for, along with the rest of the country, even when it seems there isn’t anything to be happy about.  I love watching the pregame shows.  I’m a FOX viewer, welcoming Curt, Terry, Howie, Michael, and Jimmy into my home every week during the season, along with my local pregame team.  They make me laugh and teach me something about a game I’m not all that familiar with.  I haven’t missed an episode of Inside the NFL in years, even as it changed hosts and networks.

Other than touchdowns and field goals, first downs and punts, I don’t know much about the game itself at all.  Off sides, holding, pass interference, it’s like another language.  When I’m watching Inside the NFL, I fast forward through the highlight segments.  The game itself kind of bores me.  But at the end of the day it’s about moments of amazing plays and winners and losers.  That fascinates me.  I’ll be the first to cheer for an amazing play.  A zero – zero tie heading into the fourth quarter?  I’ll be in the kitchen.

Caramel Pretzel Bars

Caramel Pretzel Bars

The Super Bowl is the only game I actually sit on the couch and watch.  And truthfully, I don’t really watch it.  I can’t get enough of the day long pre game coverage.  Musical performances before the game excite me.  Then the game comes on and I pick up my latest read or my phone to catch up on blog work and email.  But everything gets set aside when the commercials begin.  In a world where I fast forward through every commercial, this is the one night when I am riveted by them, occasionally rewinding to catch it again.  If I need to pause for any reason, it’s during the game I catch up.

Halftime is the best.  A performer’s best in less than fifteen minutes.  It couldn’t get better with not only Beyonce, but also a Destiny’s Child reunion this year.  I’ve seen Destiny’s Child in concert twice and know almost all their songs.  This should be a halftime show that I’ll remember forever.

Caramel Pretzel Bars

Caramel Pretzel Bars

Of course, you need a treat while you watch the game.  Sure, there needs to be savory food, but what’s a football game without dessert?  These Caramel Pretzel Bars instantly struck me as Super Bowl worthy.  A thin, yet firm brown sugar shortbread has amazing texture, some of the best I’ve found in shortbread, along with a mild sweetness.  But the topping of caramel, with its complex flavor, accented by honey, and pretzels make these the ultimate treat.  Crunchy, creamy, smooth, sweet, salty – these bars have everything.  I was really impressed by the components separately as well as together.  I have to say the stand out is the caramel.  It’s so rich and smooth, but somehow the honey flavor is really pronounced, a welcome treat.

Whether you’re watching the game, checking out the commercials, or avoiding the hoopla altogether, these bars are a treat for any day.  They’ll leave you yelling touchdown!

Caramel Pretzel Bars

Caramel Pretzel Bars

4.6 from 12 reviews
Caramel Pretzel Bars
 
Ingredients
Crust
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Filling
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 ¼ cups packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup (I love Blis)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 cups small pretzel twists, broken into large pieces (I used Rold Gold)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with parchment, leaving overhang to pull the bars out later.
  2. Make the crust. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. I did this by hand, but a hand or stand mixer would work as well. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour and salt and mix until the ingredients are combined and the mixture is crumbly. Press into the pan firmly. Bake for 15-18 minutes until light golden brown around the edges.
  3. While the crust is baking and cooling, make the filling. In a large saucepan over medium or medium-high heat, combine butter, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Add the cream and insert a candy thermometer in the pan. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees F. Once this happens, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pretzels immediately.
  4. Pour the pretzel-caramel mixture over the prepared crust and spread evenly over the crust. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling. Allow to cool completely in the pan. When cool, use the parchment to remove the bars from the pan. Using a sharp knife, cut into bars. Bars may stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week, or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 4 months. Thaw at room temperature for about 1 hour.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Saveur

 

 

Sweet 2 Eat Baking

Prime Rib Roast

Prime Rib Roast

Prime rib roasting in the oven may be the best smell on earth.  I realize I’m a baker, and the smells of sugar and butter and all of that goodness should be my favorite, but there’s something about the smell of the meat and the fat melting and cooking that is unexplainably out of this world.

Yes, most of my savory food is healthy and prime rib is decidedly not, but for a couple days every once in awhile, mostly holidays, I indulge.  And when it’s a small portion, which it is, and it gives me the iron and protein I need, I do it without guilt and barely consider it an indulgence.

When purchasing a piece of meat like this for a special occasion, it is important to consider the grade of meat you want.  My typical stand by is a USDA Choice Angus roast.  I have had a USDA Prime Angus roast and did not find a significant increase in quality comparable with the increase in price.  The last time I made prime rib, my parents and I took a trip to Fairway Packing in Detroit.  A family owned meat wholesaler, they are incredibly nice and knowledgeable and have some of the best meat in the area at the best prices.  I went for a Wagyu prime rib.  It was definitely worth the extra money for a richer flavor and finer, less chewy texture.  In addition it is healthier with omega-3s.  If you don’t live in the Detroit area, I’m sure there are other quality meat wholesalers out there that can sell you great meat at a great price.

Prime Rib Roast

I ask for the meat to be cradled.  This means that the butcher cuts the roast off of the bones before tying it back on.  Cradling is important for a couple of reasons.  It makes it much easier to slice.  For me a serving is not an entire bone; in fact, I like to get about three servings off of each bone.  This means that if the meat were still attached to the bone, it would be very difficult to cut off and torn to pieces by the time it hit the plate.  However, the bone is what gives flavor to the roast.  None of that flavor is missing when the roast is cradled.  Though I love the roast itself, I have to admit, the meat that lingers on the bones is hands down the best.

I get a six to seven pound, three bone roast (for some reason the Wagyu one, though still three bones weighed over nine pounds).  This gives me eight to nine nice servings.  I usually eat it over a couple of nights and have found it tastes just as good, if not better, reheated the next night.  And no, I do not eat the roast by myself; Mom and Dad join me in devouring it.  This is a big piece of meat, which can seem kind of intimidating, but rest assured there is nothing intimidating about it.

Prime Rib Roast

Prime Rib Roast

I cook these roasts for 15 minutes a pound.  This assures me ends that are about medium and center pieces that are about medium rare.  Cook the roast longer if you prefer your meat more done.  Also, keep in mind that each piece of meat is different.  Some have more fat than others or a different meat to bone ratio.  This is a good guideline that will ensure the meat will be close to perfectly done, remembering it can always go back in the oven for a few moments.  It’s also very important to let the meat sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to 45 minutes prior to entering the preheated oven to ensure more even cooking; a brief resting period at the end is also essential for all the pieces of meat to be juicy.

I like relatively simple, but very delicious, flavorings on my roast.  One whole head of garlic is separated into cloves, peeled, and sliced thinly; Mom usually does this part.  That garlic is then placed into tiny slits Mom makes on all meat surfaces of the roast.  It cooks inside the meat, leaving a bit of flavor and a tender, but never burnt piece of garlic.  On the outside, I put a little salt, you could put more, a ton of pepper, and a light coating of dry mustard.  The mustard just gives a hint of flavor and helps to promote crust formation.  Be sure to season the bones as well, as that will get into the meat on them.  Once this simple seasoning is done and the roast has come to room temperature, it is ready for the oven.  It’s as easy as that.  It should have close to the perfect doneness when it comes out, leaving you looking like a rock star in front of all your family and friends without much effort or stress.

The next time you are entertaining, celebrating, or just in the mood to try something new and delicious, let it be a prime rib roast.  It will become your new favorite meat dish and is perfect to impress all your Christmas company!  Nothing says the holidays like prime rib.

Don’t forget to enter the King Arthur Flour and cupcake liner giveaway!

Prime Rib Roast

5.0 from 1 reviews
Prime Rib Roast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 9
 
Ingredients
  • 1 6-7 pound 3 bone bone-in rib roast, cradled
  • 2 teaspoons Maldon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Take rib roast out about 30 minutes prior to cooking to come to room temperature. While warming up, cut tiny slits all over the meat and fat. Insert a slice of garlic into each of the slits. They should be just wide enough and deep enough to hold the slice of garlic. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and dry mustard over all surfaces of the roast. Rub seasoning in with hands.
  2. Place roast in foil lined roasting pan to make clean up easier. Put roast in oven with bones facing the back of the oven. Roast for 15 minutes at 450 degrees F. After those 15 minutes, lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Continue cooking roast for 15 minutes a pound, including the initial 15 minutes at 450. For a 6 pound roast, this will be 1 hour 30 minutes total. It is very important to include the 15 minutes at 450. Do not open the oven during the cooking process, as this will let heat out of the oven. You should be able to hear the roast sizzling throughout the cooking process.
  3. When the roast is finished cooking, remove it from the oven. Leave it in the pan to rest for about 15 minutes. During this time you may tent the roast, however, this will cause some of the crust to become soggy. The meat will stay quite hot even if not tented.
  4. Once the roast has rested, move it to a serving platter for slicing. Plan on getting three slices from each bone. Take off only the strings you need to in order to cut it, but do make sure to remove them before serving. If the roast is not done enough, place individual pieces back in the oven on a foil lined baking sheet or roasting pan or simply on foil for a few minutes. Be sure to check it often, as it will get done very quickly.
  5. Roast may be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days. It may be eaten cold, or reheated in a 350 degree F oven for about 15-20 minutes on a foil lined roasting pan. The outside will become brown, but when you cut into a piece, it should still be quite pink. Roast the bones for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees F so the meat and fat render and become crispy.