Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sea Salt Caramels

As Christmas time was approaching I began to hear more and more about my friend Annie's famous caramels with sea salt. I love chocolate with sea salt but had never had the caramel with sea salt, so I asked Annie if she would come over and make her recipe with me. She said yes! Our friend Aubra offered to come help also (but I think she just wanted in on the caramel lesson too) and so we made of night of it, I made margaritas, we ordered in pizza and we got our caramel making on!

I have always been intimidated with cooking sugar, it sometimes seems more like a science project than  standard cooking. Annie was great with going step by step to make sure we learned the process and made the best caramels ever! Since the night we made them I have now made this recipe 4 times and they have come out great everytime. I'm looking forward to maybe trying a batch with toffee, or incorporating chocolate somehow. There are endless possibilities!

Lets get started...

Line a baking dish with parchment paper then lightly oil the parchment paper. Lightly oiling the paper just helps the caramel remove itself easier once its cooled.

Then bring the cream, butter and sea salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Once this is boiled evenly and stirred well, set aside.

Then boil sugar, corn syrup and water in a large saucepan. Stirring the mixture occasionally until sugar is fully dissolved.

This next step I think is the most important. Once all the sugar is dissolved you'll want to swirl the mixture while you wait for it to turn a light golden caramel color. Me and the girls took turns swirling, this step takes about 8-10 minutes. We were armed with oven mitts so that we were ready to swirl when it was our turn. 


 Aubra was especially taken with the sugar changing colors.

Once you think you couldn't stand to swirl anymore and the sugar is a nice caramel color then its time to add your cream mixture.

Pour in all of the cream mixture into your sugar and stir well. If you are nervous because it boils up "violently", don't worry, thats normal. 

Stir well and add your candy thermometer to your pan. Let the mixture simmer until the thermometer reads 248 degrees. 

Once your mixture reaches 248 degrees then it is time to pour it into your lined baking dish. 

Then sprinkle the top with sea salt. Once you have got as much sea salt as you want on your caramels add it to the fridge for a couple of hours until it is cool enough to cut. 

Here we are posed with our caramel mixture. We were pretty excited with what we created. 

Here is the batch of caramel cut up into squares, then another photo of them wrapped up. 

They really are completely delicious. The flavor is so creamy and sweet and with the salt sprinkled on top it balances out the sweetness and brings the flavor around full circle. I made some caramel to take with me to see my family in Illinois and I don't think they even lasted 24 hours. They were a hit! A special thanks to Annie for teaching me how to make these caramels. She made them foolproof without sacrificing any quality. If you'd like to try these on your own I have attached a 4x6 recipe card for you. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pear Claw

Do you ever make something and when you eat it you are convinced its the best thing you have ever made? This is that for me. Last time I made them I gave some to my Aunt and Uncle, who told me they were delicious and my Aunt said she had to have the recipe. So Aunt Dawn, this one's for you...

Anytime the weather gets colder I feel the need to buy pears. While eating them fresh is always delicious I wanted a way to serve them hot. That's when I thought of stuffing them inside a pastry! The first batch I made turned out so great and they kind of looked like a bear claw would, thats how they became dubbed the pear claw. 

So here is how it goes down:

Take two pears and dice them up and add them to a bowl that has a stick of melted butter in it. Then add brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves then stir well. 

Then take your pastry sheet and roll it out so that its nice and thin. Then cut the pastry sheet into about 3" x 3" squares. 

Place a spoonful of the pear mixture into a pastry square then top with a dollop of the whipped cream cheese. Fold the pastry into itself to seal your "claw". 


Once you've got them all sealed and loaded onto your sheet pan you can brush them with and egg wash. I've never really believed in an egg wash before now. Not that I meant to defy years of bakers, I just never really noticed the importance. Well now I am a believer, it really does give it a nice golden sheen, and since the pastry sheet has been thinned out it the egg wash makes it feel a whole 'nother level of flakiness.

Now bake them at 350 for 20-25 minutes. 

While you wait for them to cool you can make the glaze. For the glaze you'll whisk together the powdered sugar and water in your bowl that had the pear mixture in it. I like doing the glaze in the pear bowl because any left over butter or spices will get incorporated into your glaze and make it extra yummy! Once the pear claws are cooled go ahead and brush them with the glaze. 

If you like pears, these are for you. You take a bite and it is truly a flavor explosion. You get the crunch pastry and the soft warm pears that are filled with a butter spicy flavor, the flavor balances out with the creaminess of the cream cheese. It is perfect every bite. As always, there is a 4x6 recipe card for you if you'd like a copy.