Category Archives: Food

Salted Caramel Shortbread Final Step

DIY for the Average Jane: Salted Caramel Shortbread

DIY For the Average Jane: Salted Caramel ShortbreadThe salted caramel craze is taking over Pinterest, cooking blogs and dessert menus everywhere, and these sweet and salty treats are well worth the time they take to make at home!

Ever since the first time I tried kettle corn at a street fair, I have been smitten with absolutely any sweet thing that finds balance in just a pinch of savory salt. Yep, I’m one of those people who dips Wendy’s French fries into my Frosty to achieve this equilibrium of all things sweet and salty. But you don’t have to go through a drive-thru to get the perfect balance between the two.

As I was browsing Pinterest looking for an idea for this week’s tutorial, I kept seeing the same photo of salted caramel shortbread pinned again and again. The original pin was from the food blog Erica’s Sweet Tooth, who had amended the recipe from the salted caramel bars on the blog What’s Gaby Cooking.

So, yesterday, with my in-laws in town as the perfect tasting audience, I gathered the supplies and set to work making these delectable little shortbread bites. In the end, I think I could have let the caramel boil just a tiny bit longer, as mine began to melt a bit when out of the fridge for too long, but other than that, these were just right. Here’s how you can make your own:

Ingredients:

For the shortbread:

5 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

5 tbsp salted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg yolk

1-2/3 cups flour

For the caramel:

1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup light brown sugar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

2 tsp sea salt, plus more for sprinkling on top

4 tbsp sugar

4 tbsp heavy cream

1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Step 1: Line an 8×8″ pan with parchment paper or greased tin foil, letting the edges hang over to make it easier to remove the shortbread in the end.

Step 2: Mix butter, sugar and salt in a large bowl with a fork. Then, add the egg yolk and mix well.

Step 3: Stir in the flour and them combine the dough with your hands until it’s coarse and crumbly. Transfer the dough into the pan you prepared, and use your hands to press it into one layer. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

Salted Caramel Step 3

Salted Caramel Shortbread Step 3-2

Step 4: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake the shortbread layer for 25 minutes, or until the top begins to look golden brown. Set the pan aside to cool as you prepare the caramel.

Step 5: For the caramel, mix the butter, brown sugar, salt, sugar, heavy cream and corn syrup. Bring to a boil and stir until the caramel reaches the “soft ball” stage on a candy thermometer (about 230 degrees).

Salted Caramel Shortbread Step 5-1

Salted Caramel Shortbread Step 5-2

Step 6: Remove pan from heat, stir in the vanilla and pour the caramel evenly over the shortbread layer. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and then sprinkle with sea salt and cut into squares. Since these can get a little melty, it’s best to store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat them.

Salted Caramel Shortbread Step 6-1

Salted Caramel Shortbread Step 6-2

Salted Caramel Shortbread Final Step

 

Mini Triple-Treat Cupcakes

Everyday Food’s Mini Triple-Treat Cupcakes a Sweet-and-Salty Balance of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Wondering what to do with all that Halloween candy on hand? These Mini Triple-Treat Cupcakes are a must to make—especially if you love chocolate and peanut butter.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are to me what Kryptonite was to Superman. They are my chocolate-covered weakness, and I am rendered nearly powerless to resist them. That’s why it’s difficult for me to imagine why (oh why) they must be used as an ingredient in a recipe rather than being savored alone.

So imagine my surprise—and willpower—when I was able to part with two dozen of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup miniatures to make a recipe from the October 2011 issue of Everyday Food magazine. (OK, so I had to cut all the amounts in half because I ate the other two dozen cups that were called for.)

The Mini Triple-Treat Cupcakes employed my weakness as a way to add a little chocolate and boost the peanut butter flavor of bite-sized treats topped with candy corn. The recipe was one of five intended as festive favors for Halloween parties—or to make good use of those trick-or-treating leftovers.

Natural peanut butter gives a rich flavor to the batter, and that bakes up nicely around the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup placed in the center of each cupcake liner. Right out of the oven, the treats are topped with a piece of candy corn. But for variation, any small seasonal candy can be used.

The end result is good—really good—so good I’m thinking about putting it right up there with the Reese’s. The off-the-shelf is a perfect balance of sweet and salty, but the batter adds a little more on the salty side of the scale, while the candy corn boosts the sweetness.

In effect, the modifications the recipe makes to the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup evens out the ideal qualities of my favorite candy, and it’s so good you’ll think you’re eating the real thing. Almost.

How to Make Whole Living Pumpkin Muffins

DIY For the Average Jane: Whole Living Pumpkin Muffins

Whole Living Pumpkin MuffinOh the many wondrous things you can do with a little pumpkin pie filling and pumpkin spice. This week, we take on pumpkin muffins from Whole Living magazine.

I seem to have pumpkin on the brain right now, as this is my second tutorial of late that has in some way or another involved the giant orange squash. First it was the pumpkin spice latte and this week I’m taking on Whole Living magazine’s pumpkin muffins.

When I saw the photo for these delectable little fall treats I knew I had to make them. A perfect snack or breakfast, these surprisingly light muffins get their richness from plain yogurt and pumpkin puree instead of cream or butter. In fact, there’s not a bit of butter or salt in these little guys, but they’re absolutely delicious! Here’s how you can make them at home:

Whole Living Pumpkin Muffin Tutorial

 Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
  • 1 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 c. pumpkin puree
  • 1 c. plain low-fat yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 c. turbinado sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts

Steps (Correlating with Photos):

Photo 1: Preheat oven to 350. Grease muffin tins with oil. (The recipe calls for jumbo pans, but I just used two regular-sized pans for 24 muffins). Set aside.

Photos 2-4: Whisk together flours, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and baking soda. Set aside.

Photos 5-7 In another bowl, whisk oil, pumpkin puree, yogurt, eggs and 1 c. sugar together. Add walnuts.

Photo 8: Add all dry ingredients and mix until moist but not overmixed.

Photo 9-10: Fill muffin tins with batter and sprinkle tops with remaining walnuts and sugar. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean (about 30 minutes).

Photos 11-12: Let muffins cool for 5 minutes. Enjoy!

CREMA latte art

How Do I Buy Good Coffee?

CREMA latte art

Photo courtesy of CREMA

A coffee expert and Barista Trainer at the Nashville “brewtique” CREMA, Nathanael Mehrens answers the question we’ve all asked more than once: How do I know I’m buying good coffee and where do I get it?

As a coffee professional, one of the questions I get most often from those new to specialty coffee is “How do I know what to buy and where to buy it?” It can be complicated, and the industry makes it worse with buzzwords and unfamiliar terms. Shade-grown this, Fair Trade that – what does it mean and, more importantly, how good is it?

Sadly, I can’t explain everything in a blog post, but what I can do is give you some pointers to help you cut through the mess and set you on your way to a good cup.

WHAT TO BUY:

1. Buy whole beans – grinding fresh is super important. Trust me.

2. Try something new – There’s no one way that coffee should taste. Coffee is actually more complex than wine (chemically and otherwise), and though that can be intimidating, it can also be endlessly entertaining. Be open to new experiences, and you’ll have a better time of it.

3. Keep it “light” – I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: Dark roasted coffee is burnt coffee. That’s really all there is to it. Once you reach a certain stage in the roasting process, all of the individual characteristics of the bean disappear and are quickly overshadowed by the taste of carbon and/or burning.

What is “dark roasted” coffee? I say anything with surface oils on the beans. This indicates the roast was taken to “second crack,” an exothermic reaction that basically means most of the goodies that used to be on the inside of the bean are now on the outside and are quickly degrading. No bueno.

4. Keep it fresh – Coffee is a perishable food. Its exact lifespan somewhat depends on the coffee, but generally it’s best up to two weeks after being roasted (you can totally get away with a month, though). This means that when you are buying beans you should be looking for a roast date not a use by date. Use by dates are pretty useless.

5. See information as your friend  – Even if you have no idea where Huehuetenango is, how to pronounce that farm name, or how elevation affects what you’re drinking, the very fact that the coffee company in question knows these things means they care about them and will, hopefully, honor them with a roast that compliments the coffee.

WHERE TO BUY:

Wherever it’s freshest. This generally means at a cafe or roastery. In rare instances you can find specialty stores that keep decent tabs on their stock, but this is sadly not usually the case. If you don’t have access to good, fresh coffee in your area, there are several great roasters out there with coffee subscriptions (try Intelligentsia, Counter Culture or Stumptown for starters), and a few coffee of the month clubs (check out citizenbean.com). Soon, you’ll also be able to order CREMA’s coffee online at crema-coffee.com.

Good coffee is an adventure.

Bon Voyage.

DIY For the Average Jane: The Perfect Caramel Apple

DIY For the Average Jane: The Perfect Caramel Apple

The Perfect Caramel AppleIt may seem simple enough to make a caramel apple, but to make a picture perfect caramel apple, well that’s a challenge.

One of my favorite autumn traditions is making caramel apples. Tart apples enveloped in sugary caramel–it just doesn’t get much better than that.

And while the basic concept is to dip the apple into the caramel and let it cool, there are some underlying challenges to making a perfect caramel apple (and let’s face it, appearance does matter with these.)

For example, the caramel can be too runny, the apples can be too soft, the caramel can be too bubbly (see my outtakes at the end of this post), etc. For this tutorial, I used pieces of caramel that I bought from the store, but if you’re feeling especially artistic, you can make your own caramel from scratch with this recipe from the Food Network.

Ingredients:

-4 of your favorite apples (sometimes tart apples like Granny Smith are best)

-1 bag of caramels (unless you make your own)

-Lollipop sticks or popsicle sticks

-1 tbsp water

Step 1: Prepare the apples. Wash your apples, insert the sticks and get ready to dip them!

DIY For the Average Jane: The Perfect Caramel Apple Image 1

Step 2: Prepare the caramel. Unwrap all of your caramels (or follow the Food Network recipe and make your own). Then, place caramels in a small pot and add 1 tbsp water.

The Perfect Caramel Apple: the wrapped caramels

The Perfect Caramel Apples Step Two

Step 3: Melt the caramel. Turn your stove to medium and let the caramel melt, stirring occasionally. Here, you have to be careful not to let your caramel burn or boil. If it boils even the slightest bit, you’ll end up with bubbles on your apples (see my outtake).

The Perfect Caramel Apple: step three

Step 4: Dip the apple. Now we get to the fun part. Grab an apple, dip it in the caramel and spin it around until the excess caramel drips off. Remove excess caramel from the bottom of the apple by scraping it off on the side of the pot. Then, place your apple on a baking sheet covered in buttered wax paper.

The Perfect Caramel Apple: dipping the apple

The Perfect Caramel Apple: Dipping the apple two

The Perfect Caramel Apple: set on baking sheet

Step 5: Be creative. If you want to add sprinkles or nuts or chocolate to your apple, be creative and add whatever you want. If you want your sprinkles to stick to the apple, be sure to add them right away before the apple cools.

The Perfect Caramel Apple: Step 5

The Perfect Caramel Apple

Outtake: While it’s tempting to make it look like I got this right on the first shot, I have to be honest that I had one apple turn out a little bit funky since my caramel began to boil before I removed it from the heat. But, hey, if you’re looking for a warty, monstery Halloween idea, here’s the perfect project for you!

The Perfect Caramel Apple Outtake

DIY For the Average Jane: Caramel Apple Tutorial

Here's a tutorial photo you can pin to Pinterest!

DIY for the Average Jane: The Pumpkin Spice Latte

DIY For the Average Jane: The Pumpkin Spice Latte

In this new series, blogger Brittany Cooper (an average Jane) tackles weekly DIY projects, giving you tips from her successes–and mistakes!

Finished Pumpkin Spice LatteWelcome to the new series, “DIY For the Average Jane.” True, my name isn’t Jane, but it’s the best way to describe myself when it comes to the DIY realm. I do a little of this and a little of that, and I love DIY blogs, but you won’t find me sewing outfits for my entire family or hand-painting designs on my walls to give them the appearance of vintage wallpaper.

This series is dedicated to simple, quick and doable DIY projects that you can actually do yourself. So, if you love the touch of handmade but don’t have hours and hours to spend, I invite you to join me each week as I tackle these fun, bite-sized projects.

This week’s challenge: Crafting a deliciously homemade pumpkin spice latte (à la latte to the upper right). I love this seasonal drink with just the right amount of sweet pumpkin, milk, espresso and spice. To me, it signifies that fall has arrived. And while I celebrate the drink, I don’t get so skippingly happy about the price tag that accompanies it at certain mega-chain coffee shops. Solution? Learn how to make the lovely little latte myself.* Here’s how you can do the same:

Ingredients: (Makes enough for at least 2 lattes)

-2 cups of milk (skim is healthier; whole is more delicious)

-1 to 2 shots of espresso (or 1 cup of strong coffee)

-2 tbsp canned pumpkin

-2 tbsp vanilla extract

-2 tbsp sugar (I used turbinado sugar)

-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, plus more for sprinkling

-Whipped cream

Step 1: Boil the milk and pumpkin pie filling over medium heat until it starts to steam. You can also do this in the microwave, but I thought the stove was simpler.

Making a Pumpkin Spice Latte Step 1-2

Step 2: Once the milk starts steaming, remove from heat, add the pumpkin spice and whisk it, whisk it good …

Making a Pumpkin Spice Latte Step 2

Step 3: Pour about a cup of the milk into a mug, and then pour 1/2 cup of coffee or 1 shot of espresso over the top.

Step 4: Top with whipped cream and pumpkin spice and enjoy!

*I originally found a recipe for a pumpkin spice latte here.

Pumpkin Spice Tutorial