Monday, April 18, 2011

It sounded easy.... maybe too easy...

This weekend I made my first attempt at salted caramels. Though the end product tasted great, I wasn't able to easily remove them from the pan, nor easily package them, so overall it was a bust. But I'm trying again...

I used this recipe from the food52 blog. My first mistake was doubling the recipe. I had plans to bring caramels with me to several friend visits on Sunday, so I thought a double batch might be needed. Three cups of sugar takes AGES to melt on the stove- I even added a bit more water thinking it would help melt the sugars (ie, mistake #2). So, 45 minutes of stirring later I gave up and just turned up the heat to let the sugars carmelize and to hell with it if they're a bit grainy! It took way less than the recommended 15 minutes for the mixture to get amber in color, but I took it off the stove just before burning, mixed in the cream, butter, salt (a bit too much salt probably - mistake #3), and vanilla (bit too much there too), then poured the mix into a foil lined 9x13 pan. I sprinkled the top of the caramel with more sea salt and let the whole thing cool for about an hour and a half, during which time I cut a ton of small squares of waxed paper to wrap them in.

I removed the caramel from the pan by lifting the foil - at which time I discovered that my foil lining had a small hole through which much of the caramel had run. Oops! (Mistake #4) I put the whole thing down on a paper towel on my counter & started slicing the block into squares with my big chef's knife. It looked promising - I was able to easily cut through the bar. Then I picked up a square - and it was totally stuck to the foil. Argh! I checked a few more, and the same thing - this was a disaster. I couldn't pull a clean square away from the foil. Then I feared getting bits of foil into the caramels that I could somewhat pull away. Definitely wasn't going to serve these to my friends! I managed to pull a few away, and they were just way too soft. Delicious, but soft. So much for a "firm caramel".

While this batch was a disaster, I'm definitely going to try again. This time without the double batch, and with some of that "non-stick" foil, and butter the foil... Oh, and carefully measure the salt and not add the extra water... Maybe chill the caramels before cutting... There were many mistakes in this batch, but it's all just a learning experience, right?

Fingers crossed, dear readers, that the next batch is more of a success!

Brownie version of a kid classic

Last weekend I went over to a friend's house for an early season BBQ. It was just three of us, but I was in the mood to bake, and I always bring brownies to BBQs at this friend's house, no matter the size of the crowd. I looked in my cabinet to see what I had to add to my usual dark chocolate brownie mix. The pickins' were slim - a bag of peanut butter chips, a handful of bittersweet choco chips, walnuts, and mini-mallows. I was feeling the PB, but wanted to jazz it up a bit.... Then it hit me - MALLOWS! Fluffernutter brownies - pb chips mixed in, mallows browned on top - this could work!

So I baked up the usual brownies with pb chips (using the mix & my usual add-ins of extra vanilla and sea salt), then sprinkled the top with mini-mallows and stuck the pan under the broiler for a few minutes until they were brown. Overall, a success, though I should have cut them when they were warm 'cause the mallow just stuck to the knife... or warmed the knife prior to cutting....

This combo will definitely make the rotation, though I think I may save a quarter cup of the pb chips to melt and drizzle over the top next time, or maybe even mix some pb into the brownie batter to amp up the pb flavor. (I only had crunchy pb at home, and one of my boys doesn't like nuts in his brownies...)

One of the boys took the leftovers to work & said they were a hit! (I had made a 13x9 pan - three of us weren't finishing that off.) Always good when strangers like your food!