Beer and Pretzel Caramels- Stuff his stocking!

It was impossible to pass over this recipe when I saw it, baking with beer and pretzels was right up my alley . I haven’t had a lot of luck with caramels, but wanted to take a chance on these “Mans Man” caramels. Salty, Sweet and Beer- put them on the coffee table for all the bowl games coming up!

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These unique treats came from Taste of Home– It might seem like a lot of beer to let go, but the outcome is so worth it!

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Ingredients

1/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups miniature pretzels
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

CARAMELS:
4 cups dark beer
1 teaspoon plus 1 cup butter, divided
3 cups sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon kosher salt

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Directions

In a small bowl, combine sugar and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, combine the pretzels, oil and vanilla. Add sugar mixture; toss to coat. Transfer to a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. foil-lined baking pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350° for 18-22 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool completely. Coarsely chop pretzels; set aside.
In a large saucepan, bring beer to a boil; cook until reduced to 2/3 cup. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, line a 9-in. square pan with foil; grease the foil with 1 teaspoon butter and set aside.

In a Dutch oven, combine the sugar, corn syrup, 2/3 cup cream, water, salt and remaining butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 238°, about 20 minutes. In a small bowl, combine reduced beer and remaining cream; slowly stir into sugar mixture.

Using a pastry brush dipped in cold water, wash down the sides of the pan to eliminate sugar crystals. Cook, stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer reads 245° (firm-ball stage), about 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Pour into prepared pan (do not scrape saucepan); sprinkle with candied pretzels and kosher salt. Let stand until firm, about 5 hours or overnight. Using foil, lift candy out of pan. Discard foil; cut candy into 1-in. squares using a buttered knife. Wrap individually in waxed paper; twist ends.

Yield: about 3 pounds/81 Servings

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The guys will love these artisanal treats for sure!!

Marcona Almond and Duck Fat Brittle

I’ve been wanting to make this brittle for quite a long time, but for one reason or another it only made it as far as the back burner.  We all have those ideas/projects right?  But I thought about it being a perfect special touch to add to a salad for a special meal- maybe even a brunch! 🙂

I adore Marcona almonds, known as the “Queen of Almonds,” which are imported from Spain. They are shorter, rounder, softer, and sweeter than the domestic variety. When I was in Barcelona they became a staple while walking the streets of the city. I picked up the best I’ve had at the market, Las Ramblas- and have been searching for their match ever since. I may just have to return to the scene of the crime to get them again- CC: Sir Wes.

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Last fall a tub landed in our offices at work, and slowly shrank into crumbs. These Queens inspired a conversation regarding unique cookies with myself and the pastry chef, whom thought using duck fat in lieu of butter would make an interesting brittle. I couldn’t agree more as I thought of the Spain/Catalan influence with the duck and Spanish almonds.

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Ingredients 

  • 3 tablespoons + ½ teaspoon duck fat
  • 1 1/4 cups whole Marcona almonds
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Method

  • Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil, spread the ½ teaspoon of duck fat evenly over the foil and set aside
  • In a small sauté pan melt the duck fat over medium heat. Add the almonds and stir constantly, toasting them for 2 minutes, Remove pan from heat.

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  • In a heavy saucepan, over medium high heat, combine the sugar and water. Stir constantly until it comes to a boil. Use a damp pastry brush or a moist paper towel to remove any sugar particles from the sides of the saucepan. Without stirring allow to boil until the temperature reaches the hard crack stage, 310°, about 10 minutes
  • Remove saucepan from heat, and stir in almond mixture and baking soda.
  • Immediately pour the mixture onto prepared baking sheet, spreading the brittle quickly into a ¼ inch layer with a metal spatula. Let set for 30 minutes or until hardened. Break into pieces.

Makes about a pound of brittle.

The brittle came out super light from the baking soda which makes it very easy to eat. Not at all the kind of brittle that breaks teeth.  The flavor with the richness of the duck fat and sweet nuttiness of the Marcona almonds is balanced and perfectly decadent.

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This has been on my mind ever since our inspired collaboration and thought they would be make a great addition to a salad on a brunch. I added tuna, plums and goat cheese crumbles but would also be lovely with simple greens and raspberries. You can also serve the brittle alone in a nut or candy dish.

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While this brittle  isn’t the same as the treasured bag of almonds from the Barcelona Market, it is quite inspired by them and the search for the Barcelonan Almonds led me to that cookie discussion with the pastry chef.   Anyone ever been “biten” by the search for that perfect bite again?

#BrunchWeek has been filled with so many great ideas and tasty looking items- Special thanks to Terri at Love and Confections and Christine at Cook the Story, who have spent so much time putting the event together!  And thanks to our sponsors who made #BrunchWeek so much better!  California WalnutsLodge Cast Iron, Vidalia Onions-The Flavors of Summer, Black Gold Farms, the Food and Wine Conference and Sunday Supper, Bob’s Red Mill, Whole Foods Market -Orlando, and Stonyfield Organic

There are still a lot of incredible prizes to win- click on this link and sign up- very simple and safe too! . a Rafflecopter giveaway

This list looks amazing- I can’t wait to see everyone’s posts!!

Brunch Beverage Recipes

Irish Cream Coffee by Sweet Remedy
{Grown-Up} Lemonade by {i love} my disorganized live

Brunch Egg Recipes

An Easy Italian Egg Recipe by Cook the Story
Asparagus Tomato Frittata by Big Bear’s Wife
Sausage and Egg Muffins by Small Wallet Big Appetite
Mennonite Gold Hash & Eggs by The Vintage Cook
Eggs Over Wilted Spinach by The Vintage Cook
Brie and Herb Omelette by Noshing With The Nolands
Hangover Breakfast Burrito by Cooking In Stilettos

Brunch Recipes for Breads, Grains, Cereals and Pancake-Type Yums

Almond Croissants by Love and Confections
Granola Pancakes by Jane’s Adventures in Dinner
Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze by Katie’s Cucina
Strawberry Scones by Real Housemoms
Blueberry Vanilla Muffins by Take a Bit Out of Boca

Brunch Dessert Recipes

Marcona Almond and Duck Fat Brittle by Vanilla Lemonade
Kiwi and Rose Cream Trifle by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Banana “Ice Cream” by Amanda’s Apron
Chocolate Coated Mini Donuts by Kokocooks

Halloween Bacon Oreo Bark

I know friends are starting to talk in amazement about Christmas decorations going up, and Black Friday Sales being advertised before Halloween has come and gone.  But I’m still stuck in wonderment that Halloween is this week- How did that happen??  Correct me if I am wrong but weren’t we enjoying a long Labor Day weekend a few days ago?? 

Obviously it’s been busy and here we are going to a Halloween party tonight- Bring your best treat.  Awesome.   When it comes to “on the fly” treats, one of the best options is the bark road.  If you have even a little bit of a sweet tooth you are likely to have a bag of chocolate in your house.  Melt that chocolate and throw in whatever looks good- candy, salty snacks, herbs, dried fruits, cereal, marshmallows, ect and you’re done in 15 minutes.  I did this in shorter time then it took Sir Wes to fill out his absentee ballot this morning.

The kiddos are able to help with making bark as well- I know my niece and nephew, Lady Corree and Sir Sully would love it! 

Ingredients

  • 12 ounce semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable shortening
  • 10 Halloween Oreo’s, crushed
  • 4 slices cooked bacon, rough chopped

Method

Line a 9×13 baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.  Place pot with water on stove over medium heat, and place a metal bowl on top creating a double boiler.  Add chocolate and vegetable shortening and stir while the chocolate slowly melts.  When the chocolate is smooth add the crushed Oreo’s and bacon and mix well.  Pour onto the lined pan and spread evenly.  Pop in the refrigerator until set and then break into pieces. 

Serves 1-8 people, depending how piggy!

Here is to hoping Thanksgiving still happens and we don’t just skip to Christmas!  Because we all know- Thanksgiving is the best food holiday! 

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Stuffed Jalapenos- Ole!

Jalapenos and peanut butter….jalapenos and peanut butter.  Something I could not get out of my head since about 2 years ago when a friend requested I bring some to a meeting we would both be attending.  The friend claims to be from Mexico, and claims that jalepenos and peanut butter are a delicacy when you hit the roads south of the border. Jalapenos and peanut butter….  2 years later, in celebration of Cinco de Mayo…I had to try them. 

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Stuffed Jalapenos

Sir Wes has a nice little jalapeno pepper plant growing in the backyard, which I helped myself to.  After washing them I carefully split them length wise, not cutting the top part.  I swirled my paring knife around a bit and then I gently tapped out the seeds. 

Dessert from the backyard!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup confectioner sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 small jalapenos, seed and inner flesh removed
  • White and dark chocolate coins

Method

Blend the peanut butter, sugar and salt together until smooth.  Carefully fill each jalapeno and wipe any excess peanut butter.  Melt chocolate in a double boiler as directed by the package instructions.  Gently dip the filled jalapeno into the melted chocolate and place on parchment paper until the chocolate coating is set.  Refrigerate up to a week.

Sweet and Spicy!

The jury is still out on jalapenos and peanut butter, but all have agreed they are not for the meek! 

Who is willing??

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  Ole!!

Blue Cheese Truffles

I am a curious chef- I often wonder …Can this work? …Will this taste good?  What if…?  Streeeeeetch the imagination…..!  That’s how good, better, and finally best comes around.   I saw Blue Cheese Truffles on a chocolatier’s website a few weeks ago and have not been able to let go.  Hmmm…sounds good… sounds gross…maybe…eh..

Blue Cheese Truffles

 

One bite and I was convinced.  Blue Cheese Truffles are undoubtedly delicious.   Forget Vosges. 

Blue Cheese- Most people love it or hate it!

 

Ingredients

Blue Cheese Truffle Mise en Place

 

Filling

  • 2 ounces blue cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried cherries, finely chopped

Coating

  • 4 ounces dark chocolate

I added dried cherries and almonds, but you can skip them if you want, or you can substitute with bacon.

Method

Bring cheese to room temperature; it should be soft enough to blend with a fork.  You can microwave it for a few seconds if necessary.  Add in the sugar and blend well.  Add chopped almonds and cherries.  Melt 2 ounces of chocolate in a double boiler and blend into the cheese mixture.  Refrigerate until mixture is firm.  Scoop into teaspoon size balls and place in refrigerator until ready to dip.

Blue Cheese Truffle Filling

Melt remaining chocolate in double boiler.  Dip balls in chocolate and allow excess chocolate to drip off.  Place truffles on parchment paper and let the chocolate set. 

Dipped Blue Cheese Truffles

 

They are best served the same or next day.  They do need to be refrigerated if serving the next day, but bring to room temperature before serving.

Blue Cheese Truffles- Take a chance!

 

This recipe makes about 10 truffles, delicious truffles…

Blue Cheese Truffles

 

Enjoy!  And encourage your friends and family to step out of their comfort zone- this is where the best surprises are discovered!

Benne Wafers- A Charleston Treasure!

On the 7th Day of Christmas Cookies I pretended to be back in my favorite place in the world, Charleston, SC.  I spent about 5 years there while I was going to the College of Charleston and now my parents reside there.  There truly is no place like home!  And when home is Charleston you are one of the luckiest- Especially if you are a food lover!   The Low Country is packed with history and tradition, creativity and inspiration.  Chefs today redefine the Charleston classics while pushing the envelope in the culinary world- a chef’s playground! 

Benne Wafers

Among other treasures you can find in Charleston are these famous treats- Benne Wafers.   They are light and crisp, native to the Low Country.  It is said that sesame plant was first grown in Africa, and that the West Africans, as slaves, brought it to this country in the 17th and 18th centuries, calling sesame “benne”.   Legend has it that eating sesame seeds brings good luck.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Racks and Racks of Benne Wafers

Method:

Blend butter and sugar together until creamy. Add vanilla and egg; beat until light and fluffy. Mix in sesame seeds, flour, baking powder, and salt. Drop by half teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheets, allowing enough room for spreading. Bake at 375° for about 10 minutes. Remove from pans immediately.

 Makes 5 dozen cookies.

One of Charleston's Best Treats!

 Happy Eats!

Salted Caramel Candies

On The Third Day of Christmas Cookies… I found the Sea Salt!

Melt in your mouth perfect!

This is a recipe from the Ritz Carlton in Amelia Island, straight from the Bakery.  There is an amazing restaurant, Salt, at the resort, which Sir Wes and I love to indulge at for our anniversary.  On the last trip to Amelia, we discovered these indescribably, ridiculous, caramels, made from the restaurants specialty sea salt collection.  They are amazing! 

I followed the exact recipe from the Ritz Carlton kitchen-

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.7 pounds       Unsalted Butter
  • 2 cups               Heavy Cream
  • 1 Tbsp              Fleur Del Sel (salt)
  • ½ cup               Glucose Syrup
  • 5 cups               Sugar, Granulated 
  •                           Water

 PREPARATION:

  • In medium sauce pan, heat butter, heavy cream, and fleur del sel salt until mixture starts to simmer. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • In large pot, place the sugar and glucose, add enough water to the sugars so when mixed, the sugars resemble wet sand. Using a pastry brush, wash the sides of the pot with water so that there is no sugar on the sides (otherwise your sugar will crystallize).
  • Cook the sugar on high with a lid. Remove the lid once the sugars have dissolved and the mixture is bubbling.
  • When the sugar reaches a light amber color, slowly pour the cream mixture on top of the sugar. Pour about a third of the cream and then whisk, repeating until you have used all the cream. CAUTION! The mixture will bubble up and release lots of steam.
  • Place your thermometer into the sugar. Continue to cook the sugar until it reaches 125 Celsius. Occasionally whisk the sugar while the temperature is rising. Have your silpat-lined tray ready on a heat resistance surface.
  • Once the caramel reaches 125 Celsius, pour onto the silpat covered tray. Be careful as sugar is extremely hot. Let set for 4 hours.
  • Run knife around the sides of pan and flip caramel onto cutting board.
  • Sprinkle with extra fleur del sel salt, cut into pieces and enjoy!

    Just the right amount of salty and sweet!

 

Notes:

Glucose Syrup may be purchased in most craft stores (i.e. Michaels) in the cake decorating or candy sections. It is extremely sticky. The best way to measure it is by using a glove. Fleur Del Sel salt is available in our Salt Shop at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island and may be found in an upscale grocery store.

Youll need a silpat (silicone non-stick baking mat available at Williams Sonoma) to line the tray you pour the caramel. Use a candy thermometer or digital thermometer to read temperatures up to 125 Celsius.

Salted Caramel Candies

 Salted Caramels….I don’t think I can ever go back to Caramel Squares- Sorry Kraft!