Category Archives: Cooking

Day 11: Salted Caramel Sauce with Maple Bourbon

There’s not much I can say about today’s gift besides saying it might be the best thing I have ever made.  It is so delicious that I found myself standing by the stove and scraping up every last bit that was left in the pot to eat.  If I could have stuck my face in the pot, I might have done just that.  Even my husband loved it, which is saying something because he does not generally like sweet things.  But, though this is a caramel sauce, the added sea salt helps to temper the sweetness and the bourbon gives it a kick that, frankly, most of us need right about now.

The secret to the sauce is this new bourbon that I got: Knob Creek’s Smoked Maple Bourbon.

It’s fantastic.  For this recipe, I used a new approach to making caramel that I had not tried before.  First, you melt a stick of butter in a saucepan.  Then, add a cup of sugar.  You cook this together for awhile.  It looks ugly.  The sugar is a weird consistency and the butter and sugar do not mix together.  At this point, I was pretty sure I was going to have to throw it all away and try again.

But, then it started to smooth out and all the crystals melted.

After adding the cream, it did freeze up a bit, but most of it gets melted back into a nice smooth sauce after a little more heating.  Some of it did not dissolve back in, as you can see on my whisk.

I just strained it to get all the lumps out and was left with the most wonderful sauce.  Yummy!  Of course, you can use any alcohol you want here.  Plain bourbon would be good as well as rum or use more cream if you want a plain salted caramel sauce.  If you can get the maple bourbon, though, I highly suggest you try it.

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If you need a quick gift for someone, this recipe takes just 10-15 minutes, which is good because if you give it away, you will want to make another batch for yourself.  It’s a good thing it is easy.

Have you ever made something as a gift and then liked it so much that you had to keep it?  Tell me about it in the comments and be entered into a drawing for the fun gifty box.  I am not sure if a jar of this sauce will make it into the box.  I would have to make another batch because we’ve eaten most of this one!

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Salted Caramel Sauce with Maple Bourbon

makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 Tablespoons, 4 ounces or 1 stick of butter

1 cup or 7 ounces granulated sugar

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup Maple Bourbon

1 teaspoon flaky sea salt

Melt the butter in a medium sized heavy saucepan over medium heat.

Add the sugar and stir.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the sugar starts to take on some color.  Then, stir frequently until the sugar is just a little lighter that the color you would like your sauce to be.  I like mine on the dark side, but you want to be careful not to burn it because that doesn’t taste very good.  Remove from heat.

Add the cream carefully;  it will bubble up furiously, so stand back!  Once the bubbling has subsided, put the pot back on over medium heat and stir until all the solid bits are dissolved into the sauce.

Add the bourbon and salt.  Strain the sauce into a bowl or jar.  Serve over ice cream, fruit, or just eat it straight from the jar.  It should keep in the fridge for several weeks.  To restore it to sauciness after being chilled, just microwave it in 10 second spurts until it is a loose sauce again.

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Day 7: Buttermilk Waffle Mix

Every year for the past dozen or so years, we have gathered with some very close friends for a post Christmas brunch that we affectionately call brunchmas.  We started this tradition the year we moved into the first house house we bought, which we recently sold.  Sadly, we are not able to host the brunch this year as we now live a six hour drive away from those cherished ones.  Hopefully, the brunch will still happen, though, as we plan to travel down and one of the other families has offered to host.

That first brunchmas, I got this fantastic waffle iron for my birthday just a couple of weeks beforehand and so I made buttermilk waffles.  They were such a hit that I now make them every year and we have them frequently throughout the year as well.    The recipe is easy and multiplies easily as well.

To take with us, I quadrupled the recipe and was able to fit it into a quart sized mason jar with some tapping on the counter to get the flour to settle.  I intend to make the whole jar all at once (there are fifteen of us, actually 16 but one is not born yet) so I did not bother to mix the ingredients together.  If you want to make a big batch and then store it to measure out a cup or two at a time, I recommend that you do it in a bug bowl and give all the ingredients a good stirring so that all the leavenings and salt get evenly distributed.

This recipe does call for buttermilk when it is time to mix, but if you want to make your mix even easier to make, add 3 Tablespoons of buttermilk powder per cup of flour.  Then, when you go to make them, increase the amount of mix used to a scant 1 and 1/4 cup  and use 1 cup of water instead of the buttermilk.  The butter and egg should remain the same.

This mix could probably be used for pancakes as well, though I have never tried it that way, strangely enough.  It makes a light, crispy, and buttery waffle that soaks up maple syrup really well, though I often eat them plain.  Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge or freezer and toasted when needed.

It was really fun to read about everyone’s Christmas morning routines.  I love that so many of them were similar!  Today, I would love to hear about your favorite breakfast food.

BUTTERMILK WAFFLES

makes about 8 medium sized waffles to serve 3-4

1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons buttermilk powder (optional)

1 cup well shaken buttermilk or water if using the buttermilk powder

4 Tablespoons melted butter

1 large egg

Preheat your waffle iron.

Whisk all dry ingredients in a bowl that is big enough to mix your batter comfortably.  If you are making mixes, the dry ingredients can be packed away and stored in airtight bags or jars for up to six months at this point.

Pour in the buttermilk or water, the melted butter, and the egg.  Whisk until a thick batter is formed.  Spoon into your iron to barely fill the bottom.  To minimize leaks, underfill at first to give you an idea of how much your iron can hold.  Cook according to your iron’s directions and serve as soon as possible, preferably with butter and maple syrup.

Day 6: Hot Honey

I love to give handmade gifts, especially the edible kind.  They don’t tend to take up a lot of space in people’s houses and the same thing can be given year after year and people are still happy to get them.  This may not be so true about many other things that people tend to give.

One of the most memorable edible gifts I ever got was a giant Hershey’s kiss.  I must have been only eight years old and a friend of my mother’s gave it to me.  It was especially precious to me because I think that might have been one of those years that my mother decided not to “do” Christmas.  Christmas didn’t mean anything to her, so there were many years that she grudgingly celebrated, if at all.  It made sense to her to be that way since she did not grow up celebrating Christmas, but it was challenging for me growing up in a place where everyone, even those who did not go to church, celebrated Christmas.  Most years, I put up the artificial tree by myself (which she really only bought under the influence of another friend who insisted that we needed to celebrate Christmas, if only for me; that Christmas was one of the good ones) and I spent many a Christmas morning watching all the various special Christmas programs on tv by myself.  It was just another day off for my mother, not a day to do anything special.  Because of those times, I think I really treasure this time of year and this freedom that I have as an adult to create traditions and celebrate freely in the ways that are meaningful to me.   It’s also why I love to give gifts.

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Unfortunately, today’s easy gift idea did not totally turn out the way I had hoped.  I got the idea for this Hot Honey on the internet, but now I can’t find the link–sorry!  It’s basically honey that is infused with chili papers to make it a little spicy.  It sounded like a great idea because anything sweet and spicy always sounds like a good idea to me, but those directions said to just mix together and steep for a week.  However, I am an impatient sort and I did not want to wait that long, so I went with another recipe that I found which involved heating the honey in a double boiler and cooking the mixture together for a bit.

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Well, I guess I didn’t add enough chili peppers because it does not have the kick that I was hoping it would have.  There is a little warmth, but barely noticeable.  Sometimes there was a little heat and sometimes there wasn’t.  The good news is that it didn’t stop anyone here from enjoying it on our biscuits, fried chicken, and waffles, so I guess it wasn’t too bad.

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However, I recommend that if you make this, double the number of chilis I used.  There really is no set recipe here.  I used about 12 ounces of honey and five chinese chili peppers broken in half as well as a teaspoon of Szechuan peppercorns.  It spent about fifteen minutes cooking in the double boiler.  Next time, I would use double the amount of chilis.  Chilis vary in intensity, so it wouldn’t surprise me if that resulted in a super hot honey, ha!  If you get a good mix of flavors that you like, it would make a super gift.

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Unfortunately, I can’t include a sample in the fun gifts box for you to try.  I am afraid that the honey would spill out of the container, so you’ll have to try it yourself to have a taste.  Leave me a comment and tell me about how you like to spend your Christmas mornings.  We always open our stockings first thing and then have a nice breakfast of homemade bread and various other treats.  After we are well fed, we then open our gifts one at a time so we can really enjoy each one.  We play Christmas music and always have the Christmas pyramid lit up, which is my favorite Christmas decoration by far.

 

 

Day 11: Turkish Delight

My first knowledge of Turkish Delight came from C.S. Lewis’ book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when it is used by a wicked witch to tempt one of the main characters. Having never heard of the candy before, I naturally wondered what it was. It must be really good to tempt a child to go with someone so clearly wicked. Sadly, Turkish Delight is almost impossible to find int his country. The husband and I were finally able to try it when we visited London five years ago. Here, we have only been able to find it at Russ and Daughters in New York.

If you have never had the candy, it is really hard to describe. It’s super sweet, made even sweeter by a coating of powdered sugar and cornstarch. The texture is like one of those citrus jelly candies, but softer, and it often has nuts suspended in it. Most are scented with rose water and tinted different pastel colors.

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I almost did not make this candy because every recipe I looked at involved constant stirring for at least 30 minutes and some up to an hour. Now, I like to cook and all, but I am not much for standing over a stove for an hour. However, I kept thinking about Narnia and how it was always winter there and never Christmas and I knew I would wonder about it until I made it. When I found this recipe, which has all metric weights for the ingredients, I knew I had found the right recipe to try.

There are two stages to making this candy. First, you have to boil a honey and sugar syrup to a certain temperature

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while simultaneously boiling a cornstarch mixture.

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After the sugar syrup is ready, you combine the two together. This was the hardest part, especially since the boys were out and I had no extra hands to help me. I’m afraid I wasn’t wholly successful in combining the two well enough because the mixture looked grainy to me.

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Then, I stirred the mixture. And stirred. And stirred some more.

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Basically, I stirred until my spatula head kept getting stuck in the candy and coming off. And then I stirred a few minutes more until I literally could not move the mixture around in the pot any more. Then, I had to stir in the nuts and orange flower water.

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I did the best I could to spread it into the pan in an even layer, which was no small feat as it was very sticky and thick. A greased spatula helped with this job and then I covered it and let it sit for a day to set. Once it was cut up, it got rolled around in powdered sugar and cornstarch so they would not stick together.

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Well, how was it, you ask? It was pretty good. We all liked the candy base and stood around the pot right after it was made, scraping up the bits left and eating them. The honey flavor really shines through and the texture seemed right. However, I did make one mistake with the recipe. I used salted pistachios instead of unsalted because that is what I had on hand. The final candy is a bit weird with the sweet gel and the salty nuts. It’s not bad, just not quite right if you have had the real stuff.

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Also, the texture is not as smooth as it should be, but for a first try, I am actually pretty happy with it. This was the most difficult candy to make so far and the fact that it is edible makes me pretty happy. I’m not sure if it would tempt any kids into following the White Witch, but that’s just as well since Christmas is well on its way in this house!

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Now, I want to read the Narnia books again. We’ve been listening to Charles Dickens’ story, A Cricket on the Hearth. What is your favorite Christmas story?

Little Tid Bits

Here is a small collection of things I have been meaning to share with you lately. None of them would really make for an entire blog post, but maybe altogether, they can work together to make something interesting, albeit a bit random.

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Awhile back, I made this neopolitan bundt cake for the younger’s birthday. It was pretty easy and tasted delicious. It came from America’s Test Kitchen Best Summer Desserts. The texture was dense like a pound cake and is one of the only cakes we thought tasted just as good cold as at room temperature. Ice cream is almost a necessity with this cake and I love the wow factor that it has.

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The rotisserie attachment that I got for the husband for an anniversary/father’s day present has turned out to be the present that just keeps on giving. Here, he did a roast beef, which we ate with cheesy herbed popovers and green beans.

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Last Sunday, we splurged and did a roast duck, chinese style.

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Served with rice, green onions, and szechuan pepper salt in a lettuce wrap, the duck was heavenly. Unfortunately, my older son liked it so much that I think we will have a hard time restraining him from ordering duck wherever we go now.

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More yarn has arrived in the house. The skein on the far left is the one I got as a prize for finishing all the camp loopy projects successfully and the other two came along for the ride. For some reason, light blues and pinks and oranges has been on my mind lately.

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See? Pinks and oranges here too. This yarn is destined to become a shawl in Susanna IC’s Autumn Mystery Knit Along Shawl. I did one earlier in the year and had a blast, so when she announced this one, I jumped on board immediately. I have got to pick some beads and then I will be ready to cast on when the first clue comes out this weekend. What color beads would go with all these colors?

Sigh. I am still working on chocolate chip cookies, but I suspect you don’t want to hear me moaning about that again, so I won’t bother you with it.

That’s the story from here. What’s new with you?