Category: confections (page 1 of 3)

Keeping it simple with salted caramel corn

Salted Caramel Corn

 

I’ve been on a caramel corn making kick, and figured it would be good to share this salted caramel corn recipe with you, since my habanero caramel corn recipe might be a bit intimidating (or the heat might just plain turn you off).

Since starting out, I’ve made a couple small changes to my process. First, no more canola oil. I prefer olive oil for popping popcorn, and it’s what I have readily available. Second, you don’t need to let caramel corn cool for much longer than 5-10 minutes—it cools quickly!

Are there other caramel corn flavors you’d like to see me experiment with? Let me know!

Keeping it simple with salted caramel corn

Yields: Approximately 20 oz of caramel corn

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Heat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large dutch oven, combine the olive oil and popcorn kernels over medium high heat. Put the lid on, and pop, shaking the pot from time to time. When the popping stops, remove the popcorn from the heat.

Sort through the popcorn, removing the unpopped kernels. Return the popcorn to the dutch oven, and set aside.

To make the caramel, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Once melted, add the brown sugar and continue stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Add the molasses, then turn the heat up and boil the caramel for 2-3 minutes until a deep amber.

Stir in the salt, then add the baking soda, stirring until dissolved (the mixture will bubble up and lighten in color).

Add the vanilla, but be careful. The caramel will sputter when a liquid is added. Stir to combine.

Pour the caramel over the popcorn in the dutch oven and stir to coat.

Pour the caramel corn onto the parchment paper, spread out, and place in the oven.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes, stirring the popcorn every 15 minutes.

Once done baking, cool on a rack for 5-10 minutes before enjoying. Store in an air tight container to keep the popcorn fresh.

Tradestone Confections to be featured at 2014 Food for Thought

Tradestone Confections

Get your tastebuds ready … Chip Roman (Blackfish, Mica) and Fred Ortega of Tradestone Confections will be bringing some of their signature confections to ACHIEVEability’s 2014 Food for Thought on March 22.

The two chefs are responsible for handcrafting artisan chocolates, delicious confections and gourmet goodies, including signature bon bons and palets, classic truffles, caramels, barks, pate de fruits, macarons and more.

For Food for Thought this year, there will be an array of chocolates available for sampling, including chocolate truffles, earl grey tea bon bons, and chocolate covered caramels. Have you gotten your ticket yet??! You don’t want to miss out on such treats, as well as all the other amazing foods to sample that night.

Tradestone Confections is based out of Conshohocken, Pa., and can be found at Roman and Ortega’s storefront—Tradestone Cafe,  117 Fayette St., Conshohocken—as well as at Night Kitchen Bakery in Chestnut Hill, High Point Cafe in Mt. Airy, and Green Aisle Grocery in South Philadelphia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pretzel crust brownies with salted caramel

Pretzel crust brownies with salted caramel

See that deliciousness? Those brownies floating above this text may be the best brownies I have ever made IN MY LIFE.

I was inspired by Bakers Royale’s similar brownie recipe, though I found her actual brownie recipe not to be to my liking. So I adapted her pretzel crust, then went on the hunt to find a fudgey, chocolate-packed brownie. And it wasn’t easy.

I didn’t want to use cocoa; I was out of bittersweet chocolate (though I had plenty of unsweetened chocolate); and some recipes just looked wonky. Add on the fact that brownies have never been my strong suit, and I ended up spending several hours looking up brownie recipes online. Then I decided to close my laptop, walk over to my jam-packed cookbook bookcase, and I pulled my giant New Best Recipe off one of the shelves (then proceeded to rearrange the rest of the books so they wouldn’t tumble out).

I thumbed through the index and found the pages on brownies, glanced at the ingredient list, balked slightly at the inclusion of cake flour, then read about the science behind the recipe … and it all makes sense. The Test Kitchen team found that all-purpose flour rendered the brownies too gummy—by switching to the cake flour, the texture improved. I’m all for science, so I moved forward with this recipe.

The result is a massive beast of a brownie. And once you add the salted caramel, it turns into a heavenly beast. Make these for your next party and cut them into small pieces (no larger than 2 inches by 2 inches) or make them even smaller into brownies bites. Your guests will thank you and leave you with a licked-clean plate.

Pretzel crust brownies with salted caramel drizzle

Yields: 12 extra large brownies or 24 more reasonably sized brownies

  • Pretzel Crust Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 oz pretzels (yields approximately 1 cup pulverized pretzels)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • Brownie Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 6 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 1/4 cups (15 3/4 oz) sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • Salted Caramel Drizzle Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/4 heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and center the rack in the oven.

Line a 9"x13" pan with aluminum foil so that the foil overhangs the edges. Spray the foil with nonstick spray.

To make the pretzel crust, pulverize the pretzels in a food processor until broken down into small bits.

Add the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon to the food processor and pulse to combine.

Pour in the 1/2 cup melted butter, pulse until the crust begins to come together (you'll see it darken slightly and begin to clump).

Scrape the mixture into the lined baking pan, spreading out evenly, then pat down, making sure the crust is spread into the corners.

Bake for 10 minutes until fragrant, then cool while making the brownie batter.

For the brownies, turn the oven down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate over a bain marie (water bath). Once the chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove it from the heat and gradually whisk in the sugar.

Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking in-between each addition.

Add the vanilla, whisking to combine.

Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, gently folding in with a silicone spatula until the batter is smooth and even.

Spread the brownie batter over the pretzel crust evenly, then bake until a toothpick comes out of the center with just a crumb or two, 30-40 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack until the brownies come to room temperature, 2 hours.

For the salted caramel, stir together granulated sugar and water in a saucepan.

Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color.

Remove from heat and slowly add in cream until very smooth.

Add the vanilla and salt and stir until fully combined.

Let caramel cool for about 20 minutes, until it is just barely warm and still pourable.

You can add the caramel once the brownies have been cooling for at least 1 hour. Drizzle it over the top, then allow it to set for at least 90 minutes before serving.

To serve, lay a piece of parchment paper (or even newspaper) on your work surface. Gripping the overhang of the foil, slowly pull up and out of the pan, placing on the paper below (doing this will keep your work space tidy).

Pull the foil away from the edges, and slice to serve.

Habanero caramel corn

Habanero caramel corn

I’ve wanted to make sriracha popcorn for awhile, but once Food52 posted a simple way to make caramel corn, I decided to switch up my popcorn making desires just a smidge … especially after reading how easy it is to add “flavorings.”

We grow our own habaneros and hot banana peppers, and I recently attempted my first habanero jelly. Unfortunately, it over jelled, so now I have to come up with creative applications for it. Luckily for me, when you warm it up in the microwave for 30 seconds, it becomes stirrable, which then means it can be added to the caramel easily.

Now, you don’t have to make your own jelly for this recipe, and it doesn’t have to be habanero, but I do suggest something with a bit of heat. What’s great about this caramel corn is it starts out sweet and crunchy, and then a wonderful slow burn comes in, making you reach for more.

I can’t wait to get back into the kitchen and experiment some more … and eventually I’ll get around to making my sriracha popcorn!

Habanero caramel corn

Yields: Approximately 20 oz of caramel corn

  • Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tbsp habanero jelly (or any hot pepper jelly you'd prefer)

Heat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large dutch oven, combine the canola oil and popcorn kernels over medium high heat. Put the lid on, and pop, shaking the pot from time to time. When the popping stops, remove the popcorn from the heat.

Sort through the popcorn, removing the unpopped kernels. Return the popcorn to the dutch oven, and set aside.

To make the caramel, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Once melted, add the brown sugar and continue stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Add the molasses, then turn the heat up and boil the caramel for 2-3 minutes until a deep amber.

Stir in the salt, then add the baking soda, stirring until dissolved (the mixture will bubble up and lighten in color).

Stir in the habanero jelly.

Pour the caramel over the popcorn in the dutch oven and stir to coat.

Pour the caramel corn onto the parchment paper, spread out, and place in the oven.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes, stirring the popcorn every 15 minutes.

Once done baking, cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes before enjoying. Store in an air tight container to keep the popcorn fresh.

Spodee cocktail cake balls for a boozy Valentine’s Day

Spodee Cake Balls

Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Do you have something planned for your sweetie? If not, and if you both like a good cocktail and are confident in the kitchen, then I have a suggestion for you: Spodee Cocktail Cake Balls.

Spodee is a wine fortified with moonshine (hence the “Wine with a Kick!”) that uses a Depression era recipe. There are slight hints of chocolate, and it reminds me a little of port. Since wine and chocolate are a typical V-Day pairing, I figured I couldn’t go wrong with crafting some cake balls–my take on a box of chocolates–using Spodee.

Now, because I am overly ambitious, I decided to make 3 different cake balls based off of 3 different cocktails. Try them all, or just one, and impress that special someone this Valentine’s Day. The flavors:

  • Spodee Neat: Spodee cake, bound with Spodee syrup, coated with Spodee confectionery glaze.
  • Spodee & Joe: Espresso cake made with Spodee, bound with an espresso whiskey spodee buttercream, coated in chocolate.
  • Spodee Manhattan: Cherry cake made with Spodee, bound with a whiskey spodee cherry chocolate truffle, coated in chocolate.

These cake balls can be completed in an afternoon (depending on how many of the recipes you make) or over the course of a weekend. Once they’re finished, place them in mini cupcake wrappers, tuck them into a pretty box and gift away!

Spodee Neat Cake Balls

Spodee Neat Cake Balls

Yields: 14-16 cake balls

  • Spodee Cake Ingredients
  • 11 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp Spodee
  • Pink gel food coloring (optional)
  • Spodee Syrup Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 tsp water
  • 1/3 cup Spodee
  • Spodee Glaze Ingredients
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1/3 cup Spodee

Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position the racks toward the center. Lightly grease a 6-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cocoa, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, whisk the milk and egg until combined.

Add the egg/milk mixture to the dry and stir to combine (it will be very sticky). Add the melted butter, and whisk until smooth.

Add the Spodee, whisk to combine.

If using the pink gel food coloring, add a few drops and gently stir until the color is mixed throughout the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, scraping the bowl clean.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top of the cake is springy and a toothpick, when poked into the middle of the cake, comes back clean.

Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a cooling rack, then turn out of the pan onto wax paper on a rack. Cool completely.

To make the Spodee syrup, combine the water and sugar in a pan and bring to a bowl over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Boil for 30 seconds and remove from the heat.

Let cool 5 minutes, then add the Spodee. Pour into a measuring cup (for use later) and cool fully.

Once the cake is cool, break it up into a large mixing bowl. To get the crumb finer, use a pastry blender.

Slowly pour in some of the syrup and begin mixing by hand to combine. Add more syrup as needed; the mixture is ready when you can scoop some up and form it into a firm ball that doesn't fall apart.

Scoop and form 14-16 cake balls, placing them on wax paper in the freezer to chill until firm, 20-30 minutes.

While the cake balls chill, make the Spodee glaze.

Combine the sifted confectioners sugar with the Spodee, whisking to combine. The mixture should be thick, yet fluid.

Pour into a 2-cup measuring cup and use once the cake balls are firm.

To dip the cake balls, drop the ball into the glaze and submerge with 2 forks, making sure the cake ball is completely covered.

Let excess glaze drip off the ball, then place onto a wire rack in a baking pan lined with wax paper (to catch the dripping glaze and minimize cleanup).

Once all the cake balls are dipped, let them sit for 10-15 minutes. Then dip again.

Let air-dry until the glaze is set. Do not store in the fridge, as this will make the glaze melt into the cake balls.

Spodee & Joe Cake Balls

Spodee & Joe Cake Balls

Yields: 14-16 cake balls

  • Espresso Cake Ingredients
  • 11 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp Spodee
  • Espresso Whiskey Spodee Buttercream
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 2 tbsp whiskey
  • 2 tbsp Spodee
  • Chocolate Coating
  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tbsp canola oil

Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position the racks toward the center. Lightly grease a 6-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, instant espresso powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, whisk the milk and egg until combined.

Add the egg/milk mixture to the dry and stir to combine (it will be very sticky). Add the melted butter, and whisk until smooth.

Add the Spodee, whisk to combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, scraping the bowl clean.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top of the cake is springy and a toothpick, when poked into the middle of the cake, comes back clean.

Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a cooling rack, then turn out of the pan onto wax paper on a rack. Cool completely.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Combine the whiskey and instant espresso, stirring to combine.

Beat in the sugar, followed by the whiskey-espresso mixture and the Spodee. Whip until light and fluffy.

Once the cake is cool, break it up into a large mixing bowl. To get the crumb finer, use a pastry blender.

Add about half the buttercream and begin mixing with a spatula to combine. Add more buttercream as needed; the mixture is ready when you can scoop some up and form it into a firm ball that doesn't fall apart.

Scoop and form 14-16 cake balls, placing them on wax paper in the chill in the fridge until firm, 20-30 minutes, or overnight if you're splitting up the project over 2 days.

While the cake balls chill, make the chocolate coating.

Melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe 2-cup measuring cup. Add the canola and stir to combine, making sure the coating is thick, yet fluid. Use once the cake balls are firm.

To dip the cake balls, drop the ball into the chocolate and submerge with 2 forks, making sure the cake ball is completely covered.

Let excess chocolate drip off the ball, then place onto a baking pan lined with wax paper (don't use a rack ... the chocolate will harden and stick to it).

Once all the cake balls are dipped, chill in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes. Take the remaining chocolate and drizzle over the cake balls, chilling again until firm.

Spodee Manhattan Cake Balls

Spodee Manhattan Cake Balls

Yields: 14-16 cake balls

  • Cherry Cake Ingredients
  • 11 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp Spodee
  • 1/8 cup chopped cherries (I used frozen pitted sour cherries)
  • Whiskey Spodee Cherry Chocolate Truffle Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup cherries (I used frozen pitted sour cherries)
  • 1/2 cup Spodee
  • 1/4 cup whiskey
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 5 oz semisweet chocolate
  • Chocolate Coating
  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • Red sugar crystals to garnish

Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position the racks toward the center. Lightly grease a 6-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle in the chopped cherries and toss to coat. Set aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, whisk the milk and egg until combined.

Add the egg/milk mixture to the dry and stir to combine (it will be very sticky). Add the melted butter, and whisk until smooth.

Add the Spodee, whisk to combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, scraping the bowl clean.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top of the cake is springy and a toothpick, when poked into the middle of the cake, comes back smooth.

Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a cooling rack, then turn out of the pan onto wax paper on a rack. Cool completely.

To make the Whiskey Spodee Cherry Chocolate Truffle, combine the cherries and Spodee in a pan over medium high heat and simmer until the Spodee has reduced to about 2 tbsp.

Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes before pureeing in a food processor. You should have 1/4 cup of cherry Spodee puree.

Measure the chocolate into a heat-safe bowl and set aside.

Bring the heavy cream, cherry Spodee puree, whiskey and butter to a boil.

Take off the heat and pour over the chocolate, letting it sit for 5-10 minutes.

Stir to combine, then chill for at least 30 minutes.

Once the cake is cool, break it up into a large mixing bowl. To get the crumb finer, use a pastry blender.

Slowly add some of the truffle mixture and begin mixing with a spatula to combine. Add more truffle as needed; the mixture is ready when you can scoop some up and form it into a firm ball that doesn't fall apart.

Scoop and form 14-16 cake balls, placing them on wax paper in the fridge to chill until firm, at least 20-30 minutes, or overnight if you're splitting up the project over 2 days.

While the cake balls chill, make the chocolate coating.

Melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe 2-cup measuring cup. Add the canola and stir to combine, making sure the coating is thick, yet fluid. Use once the cake balls are firm.

To dip the cake balls, drop the ball into the chocolate and submerge with 2 forks, making sure the cake ball is completely covered.

Let excess chocolate drip off the ball, then place onto a baking pan lined with wax paper (don't use a rack...the chocolate will harden and stick to it).

Sprinkle on the red crystal sugar while the coating is still a bit wet.

Once all the cake balls are dipped, chill in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes.

 Disclosure: Quaker City Mercantile provided me with Spodee so I could develop these recipes. My opinions are my own.

 

 

Review: Cake Balls by Dede Wilson

Cake Balls by Dede Wilson

You’re probably familiar with cake pops, due to the work of Bakerella and her popular confection on sticks. Now, a cake ball is just like a cake pop, sans stick. And I think I prefer them that way.

There’s a bit more work involved in creating cake balls and pops than in cupcake making, since you’re baking the cake, cooling it, breaking it down into crumb, and then reconstituting it into bite-sized balls with a binder and final coating. It’s not difficult, but you’ll want to set aside enough time (or break it into multiple days), and having a good resource for recipes makes things much easier.

Enter Cake Balls: More Than 60 Delectable and Whimsical Sweet Spheres of Goodness by Dede Wilson. The books begins with a great upfront section that walks you through Dede’s techniques, preferred ingredients and equipment. If you take the time to read through her process, you are guaranteed to make perfect cake balls (granted you follow your recipes correctly!)

I like that she provides the baker with a wide assortment of bases, ranging from yellow and chocolate cake to brownies. From there, she provides a variety of binder recipes and finishes up with some coatings. I even learned that frosting isn’t your only option for binding; you can use jam, ganache, even liqueur!

Following this section, the reader is greeted by a variety of cake all recipes, many with gorgeous photos accompanying them. Dede has a recipe for everyone, and it seems easy enough to customize them even moreso to your liking (something I do a lot).

My only complaint is the book’s binding (picky, I know). The book is spiral bound with a perfect cardboard binding surrounding it. The spiral binding roughed up some of the pages, and also makes it sometimes difficult to turn the pages, but that’s certainly forgivable, given that you have so many recipes to play with.

Check back later in the week to see what kind of wild and booze-infused cake balls I came up with using Wilson’s book.

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher. However, my opinions are my own.

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