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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.

Day 6: Bourbon Balls

Today’s confection is half cookie and half candy. It’s pretty quick to make, though it does benefit from sitting for a day or two before eating to let all the flavors mingle together. This makes it easy to fit into the holiday schedule. Also there is no cooking involved, aside from melting chocolate, so could be made by anyone, even kids, though a responsible adult may want to handle the bourbon, ha. Many recipes for Bourbon Balls call for store bought cookies, but I had a whole bunch of leftover cookies from another event, so I decided to use those instead.

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It was quick work to grind them all up in the food processor.

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These get stirred into some melted chocolate along with a hefty dose of bourbon and a few other things.

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The resulting mixture is a little odd, sorta gooey and wet at the same time.

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One of my boys helped me with the sugar rolling process. Some recipes called for rolling these in nuts, but we thought that the sugar would be more festive and sparkly.

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I put them in the fridge to firm up and get all settled. Right after we made them, the bourbon flavor was quite pronounced, but that mellows out after a few hours.

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They are pretty good! I used this recipe except I substituted 13.5 ounces of cranberry chocolate chip cookies that I had sitting around. Cold, they have a fudgey consistency and at room temperature, they melt in your mouth a bit more. Next time, I will try rolling them in chopped nuts since the sugar made them a bit gritty. I love the little bit of bourbon because at this time of year when things are getting busy and stressful, a little bourbon helps!

Bourbon Makes Everything Better, Part 2

I don’t know about you, but we are already counting the days until our summer break, well, at least, I am.  This can be a trying time of year.  The weather is getting warmer, but the allergies keep us inside.  We’ve completed all of our “requirements” schoolwise for the year, but I still have 6 weeks of instruction left in at least one subject.  There are finally good looking strawberries and asparagus at the store, but not much else.  I have gone to the store several times in the last few weeks, hoping/searching for some good veggies and fruit to bring home, but have been disappointed every time.  The apples and oranges are past their prime.  The berries have not fully come in yet and forget stone fruits.

Then I remembered some jars of peaches that I put up last summer.

Last August, after we went peach picking, we had an overabundance of peaches and I decided to can some.

It was an ordeal.  Lots of boiling water.  Slippery peaches.  Sticky syrup.  I only managed to make four jars before I called it quits.  Then, I stuck them in the back of the cabinet and just let them sit.  Every time I looked at them I was a little afraid.  I’m not really sure why.  I guess I had visions of rotting fruit or mold or something.  It’s not that I haven’t canned stuff before, but I dunno, I just had a bad feeling about it.

Well, after yet another disappointing trip to the grocery store last week, I decided to get out a jar and have a try.  Actually, to be honest, I made the husband try it.  Ever since that time over a dozen years ago when I ate some bad cheese that I couldn’t tell was bad (and then got really sick), the husband has become the official taster.  I fished out a piece of peach and gave it to him.  When his eyes lit up, I knew they were good.  Then I tried them and Wow!  They were good.  They were better than your run of the mill canned peaches and not just because we picked them and canned them ourselves.  Do you want to know why they were so good?

I’ll tell you why.

Bourbon.  Yes.

I followed this recipes from the New York Times for brandied peaches, only I didn’t have any brandy, so I subbed in bourbon.  And boy, does that really take these peaches to another level of yummy goodness.  They are not overtly boozy, but they had just enough kick to make you want to eat the whole jar.  And the boys loved them.

We had them with some plain greek yogurt and granola and it was delicious.  They would be really good with ice cream or, if you really want to accentuate the bourbon, with some bourbon whipped cream.  I will most certainly be making more of these when we go peach picking this year and I won’t be making four measly jars, either, even if I get steam burns.  It will be worth the pain to have these peaches in the dead of winter or in the spring when we are longing for summer.

Bourbon Makes Everything Better

Last year (or was it two years ago?  Time goes by so fast, it’s hard to be sure), we discovered a yummy new cake at one of our favorite restaurants.  Since then, I have tracked down and tried a couple of recipes for this new favorite cake.

Pear Upside Down Gingerbread Cake.  I can’t remember which recipe I used for the cake that is pictured here.  It was either this one or one from this book.

I could talk about the soft caramelized pears and how it was a perfect counterpoint to the gingery cake.  I could talk about how the pears and cake together almost melted in your mouth.  I could also talk about how it was divine served warm.  These things are all worthy topics, but the star of the show was the bourbon whipped cream.

The whipped cream was just slightly sweet with a little kick of bourbon at the end.  The warmth of the cake caused the bourbon on the whipped cream to evaporate and stand out even more on the palate, so much so that the husband kept asking how much bourbon I had put into it.

Just one or two tablespoons, really!

But, it tasted like more and we were tempted to withhold it from the boys, but decided it really wasn’t necessary.  This whipped cream would taste good with any number of desserts: bread pudding, pumpkin pie, plain gingerbread, a rich chocolate cake, etc.  Somehow, the bourbon takes the whipped cream to a level that causes us normally civilized people to contemplate licking the plate.  Some of us may have tried this.  And if you are tempted to do the same, I won’t tell anyone.

Anyway, I think it goes without saying that on this Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for bourbon (hehe!) whipped cream.   It is really easy to make.  I don’t really even need to give you an official recipe.  Just take a cup of whipping cream, whip it to soft peaks, then add a tablespoon each of sugar (brown is nice) and bourbon.  Whisk these additions in manually and serve with or without a dessert!   Consider adding this to your holiday dessert table.  I know it will be on mine.