Category Archives: Caramel

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsFor a short week, this one has seemed endless. There has been change and growth and letting go and construction and a migraine that began on Tuesday night and continued well into Wednesday afternoon.Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsWhat I’m saying is that I could use a treat. Luckily, I have a refrigerator full of these Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars, which are the perfect chewy, gooey, crispy-edged, chocolate-studded sweet to counteract all the negative energy in my immediate vicinity.Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsIn addition to being a perfect flavor and textural combination, these bars are super easy to make. The cookie layers are simply a chocolate chip cookie play on the crumb I used in my Sweet Cherry Sugar Cookie Crumble. It comes together in five minutes and only requires one bowl—score!Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsA little more than half of the cookie mix gets pressed into the bottom of a 9-inch square pan. Then comes the salted caramel, which is simply a bag of soft caramel candies that are melted with salt and heavy cream.Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsSalted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsThe remaining cookie mix is scattered over the top of the caramel and then everything is baked until the edges are crisp and the caramel is starting to bubble up through the cookie crumble.Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsLet your bars cool completely before slicing. If you try to cut them before they’re cool, you won’t get the satisfaction that comes with clean edges and beautiful layers (if not perfect evenness).Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsAnd that’s to say nothing of the buttery chocolate chip cookie layers and the gooey, salty caramel filling, which are a match made in dessert heaven. So, so delicious.Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsI logically know that dessert is not going to change the world, but I can’t seem to look at these and see anything but goodness. Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars can’t solve my problems, but four bites of salty-sweet caramel sandwiched between layers of crisp cookie can certainly help soften the blow, am I right?!Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars
makes about 16 bars

Chocolate Chip Dough:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 reaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Salted Caramel Filling:
1 11-ounce bag caramel candies, unwrapped
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (or 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil and grease with butter. Set aside.

Make the chocolate chip dough. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add vanilla and melted butter and whisk until combined. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in mini chocolate chips. Set aside. Dough may seem crumbly.

Make the salted caramel layer. Combine caramels, heavy cream, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Firmly press about 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate chip dough into a thin, even layer at the bottom of the prepared pan. Pour caramel over the top and smooth to the edges. Scatter remaining dough mixture over the top. Try not to leave any huge areas of caramel uncovered, lest it burn.

Bake full pan for 23-26 minutes, or until turning golden at the edges. Caramel will be liquid straight out of the oven, but will set as bars cool. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Slice bars with a lightly greased chef’s knife, wiping the blade clean between cuts. Do not try to slice bars until they are completely room temperature.

Bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days. Layer them with wax paper to keep them from sticking together.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsSalted Caramel Chocolate Chip BarsSalted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars

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Monster Carmelitas

Monster CarmelitasWell, there goes one more January full of savory recipes (well, mostly savory). Loads of good weeknight meals, my favorite no-slow-cooker pulled pork, Cornmeal Biscuits, and fancied up pigs in blankets—all good things ❤ Monster CarmelitasI’ve gotta be real with you though: I’m glad to be back to making desserts. The annual sugar break was good for my mind and body, but I really missed serving up sweets! I’ve got some great new Valentine’s Day-appropriate recipes coming your way next week and there may be a couple more weeknight meals in the near future, but first…Monster Carmelitas.Monster CarmelitasY’all, these are a Super Bowl dessert, if I’ve ever seen one! Delicious and festive enough to celebrate a win, and just decadent enough for eating your feelings during a loss. Also, they’re handheld and don’t require anything more than a small plate or a napkin, so they’re perfect for snacking on in front of the TV 🙂 Monster CarmelitasThese simple-to-make bars are flavored with the popular “monster” combination of peanut butter, chocolate chips, M&Ms, and oats. Oh, and they’re jazzed up with a layer of soft caramel in the middle. YUM.Monster CarmelitasMonster Carmelitas are a texture lover’s dream! The egg-free (!) cookie layers are buttery and a little crumbly with melty chocolate and crispy, crackly M&Ms candy coating, while the caramel layer tows the line between sliceable and pleasantly gooey.Monster CarmelitasI mean, does dessert get better than this?!Monster CarmelitasMonster CarmelitasNo. No, it does not.Monster Carmelitas

Looking for more “monster” treats? Check out my Monster Blondies! For more carmelitas, check out this Salty Pretzel variation ❤

Monster Carmelitas
makes one 8-inch pan, about 16 bars

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup creamy-style peanut butter
2/3 cup M&Ms candy
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 11-ounce bag caramel candies
6 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil and grease heavily with butter. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, oats, light brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.

Combine butter and peanut butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until melted. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold it into the dry ingredients—mixture may be crumbly, but should hold together when pinched. Ensure that the dough is not too warm before folding in M&Ms and chocolate chips. Set aside.

Combine caramels and heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Firmly press about 2 1/2 cups of the dough into an even layer at the bottom of the prepared pan. Pour caramel over the top and smooth to the edges. Scatter remaining dough mixture over the top. Use the palms of your hands to gently pack it into a even layer, covering the caramel.

Bake full pan for 23 minutes, or until turning golden at the edges. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack,

Slice bars with a lightly greased chef’s knife, wiping the blade clean between cuts. Do not try to slice bars until they are completely room temperature.

Bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days. Layer them with wax paper to keep them from sticking together.Monster CarmelitasMonster Carmelitas

Salty Maple Caramel Corn

Salty Maple Caramel CornI’ve got maple syrup on my mind, y’all! Last week, it was in the form of a Maple Layer Cake. Today, it’s Salty Maple Caramel Corn!Salty Maple Caramel CornY’all—this stuff is phenomenal. Phe-nom-e-nal. Crispy, crunchy, sweet and salty. Oh, and easy. Salty Maple Caramel Corn comes together in four simple steps.Salty Maple Caramel Corn

Pop some popcorn.

I pop my popcorn in a heavy-bottomed pot on the stove. Just heat a tablespoon of oil with a few kernels in it over medium heat. When they start popping, add the rest of the kernels, put a lid on it and jostle until all your corn is popped!Salty Maple Caramel Corn

I used Pop-Secret Jumbo Popping Corn in all my testing. I found that 3/4 cup unpopped kernels usually yielded 12 cups of popcorn, but I know that other brands act differently. I’ve seen some that purport to make 16 cups from 1/2 cup kernels! Basically, what I’m saying is to measure your popped popcorn to make sure you have the necessary 12 cups for this recipe 🙂 Salty Maple Caramel Corn

Make the salty maple caramel.

This is one of the easiest caramels you will ever make. There is no pot-watching or streaming heavy cream into molten sugar. You don’t need a candy thermometer either!

Just put sugar, maple syrup, salt, butter, and water in a pot and boil for five minutes. Don’t stir, swirl, or otherwise agitate the pot in any way—this will lead to crystallization and sad, dull caramel corn. No, thank you! Just add the ingredients to the pot (without stirring) and turn on the heat. I promise you, the caramel will form properly on its own.

Once the boiling time is up, turn off the heat. Stir in some vanilla and baking soda. The caramel will bubble up once the baking soda dissolves.Salty Maple Caramel Corn
Two quick recipe notes:

  • I chose to use granulated sugar in this recipe, rather than the usual light brown sugar. While brown sugar is very delicious in caramel corn, I found that the molasses in it competed too much with the maple syrup. If I’m going to use pricey maple syrup in a recipe, I want to be able to taste it!
  • This recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of salt. It will give the finished caramel corn a salty finish, but shouldn’t be overwhelming. If you think it’s too much for you, feel free to reduce it to 1-1 1/2 teaspoons.Salty Maple Caramel Corn

Toss the salty maple caramel with the popcorn.

This sounds mindlessly easy, but I’m going to talk about it anyway.

This recipe calls for tossing the popcorn and caramel together in a large oiled bowl with oiled silicone spatulas before spreading it onto oiled rimmed sheet pans. Don’t be tempted to skip the bowl and do the tossing on the pans. Many recipes recommend this, but I burned the everliving crap out of my hand using that method. If you think hot oil burns are the worst, it’s only because you haven’t experienced the unrelenting torture of a molted sugar burn.Salty Maple Caramel CornFor the same reasons, don’t touch any pieces of coated popcorn that fly out of the bowl during mixing. Wait until they cool for a few minutes before picking them up.Salty Maple Caramel Corn

Bake at a low temperature and stir occasionally.

This is the easiest of all the steps. Bake the coated caramel corn at 250F for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes to prevent burning. It’s a lot like making granola.Salty Maple Caramel CornSalty Maple Caramel CornThe caramel corn will seem very wet at first, but will harden to a crispy, glossy finish. Once the hour is up, scatter the caramel corn onto a big piece of parchment and let it cool to room temperature. After that, snack away!Salty Maple Caramel CornYou’re going to love this Salty Maple Caramel Corn! It’s a great sweet & salty snack or dessert. I think it would make for a wonderful finishing touch on a bowl of ice cream. You could even pile it high as a finishing touch on a Maple Layer Cake!Salty Maple Caramel CornI highly recommend making a batch over the next couple of days. It’s a guaranteed way to upgrade your weekend ❤ Salty Maple Caramel Corn

Salty Maple Caramel Corn
makes 12 cups

1 tablespoon neutral-flavored oil
3/4 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, sliced into 8 pieces
3 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda

Pour oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add 4-5 popcorn kernels. Heat over medium heat until kernels begin to pop. Add remaining kernels and cover with lid, leaving it a little bit ajar. Jostle constantly while popcorn pops, until pops are 2-3 seconds apart. Do not burn.

Remove pot from heat and pour popcorn into a bowl. Measure popcorn to ensure there are 12 cups. Set aside excess or pop more, as needed to meet the 12-cup requirement for this recipe.

Preheat oven to 250F. Heavily grease two rimmed sheet pans, your largest mixing bowl, and 2 silicone spatulas with oil or non-stick spray. Put popped popcorn in the bowl. Set aside.

Without stirring or jostling, combine sugar, maple syrup, salt, butter and water in a 4-quart pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Let boil 5 minutes. Do not stir. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and baking soda; mixture will bubble up.

Pour maple caramel over popcorn and use greased spatulas to toss together. Do not touch any coated pieces that fly out of the bowl—the molten sugar will burn you. Wait til they cool a bit before picking them up.

Divide coated popcorn among sheet pans. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Line a sheet pan or a surface with parchment. Pour baked popcorn on top. Let cool to room temperature. Serve

Leftover Salty Maple Caramel Corn will keep in a ziptop bag for up to 2 weeks. It may soften slightly on humid days.
Salty Maple Caramel CornSalty Maple Caramel CornSalty Maple Caramel Corn

Salty Pretzel Carmelitas

Salty Pretzel CarmelitasI’m on the first of two back-to-back trips to Maine, but I’m popping in to tell you something important:Salty Pretzel CarmelitasYou should make these Salty Pretzel Carmelitas ASAP. Like tomorrow. Or tonight. Or right now. Call in sick, go get yourself some pretzels and a bag of caramels, and get ready to fall in love.Salty Pretzel CarmelitasOkay, maybe don’t skip work, but definitely do make some time for these. Salty Pretzel CarmelitasSalty Pretzel Carmelitas are everything. I’m not exaggerating. They’re sweet and salty…Salty Pretzel Carmelitascrispy, crunchy…Salty Pretzel Carmelitaschewy, gooey…Salty Pretzel Carmelitaseasy peasy bites of magic. Magic, I tell you.Salty Pretzel CarmelitasSalty Pretzel CarmelitasI really feel like I could just leave it at that, but perhaps you need a more convincing argument as to why you absolutely should make these this weekend.Salty Pretzel CarmelitasBut if two layers of salted, brown sugary, pretzel- and chocolate chip-studded cookie…Salty Pretzel Carmelitasand stretchy, glossy caramel don’t have you running to the kitchen, I don’t know what will.Salty Pretzel Carmelitas

Salty Pretzel Carmelitas
makes one 8-inch square pan, about 9-16 bars

3 cups salted pretzels
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted & cooled slightly
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips + more for sprinkling (optional)
1 11-ounce bag caramel candies, unwrapped
6 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil and grease with butter. Set aside.

Place pretzels in a large zip-top bag. Seal bag and place on a counter or other hard, durable surface. Use a rolling pin or heavy pan to crush pretzels until the largest pieces are no more than 1/2-inch in length. This should yield about 1-1 1/3 cups crushed pretzels.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and crushed pretzels. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in melted butter—mixture may be crumbly, but should hold together when pinched. Ensure that the dough is not too warm before folding in chocolate chips. Set aside.

Combine caramels and heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Firmly press half the dough (about 2 cups) into an even layer at the bottom of the prepared pan. Pour caramel over the top and smooth to the edges. Scatter remaining dough mixture over the top. Use the palms of your hands to gently pack it into a even layer, covering the caramel.

Bake full pan for 23 minutes, or until turning golden at the edges. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack (you can speed this up in the refrigerator).

Slice bars with a lightly greased chef’s knife, wiping the blade clean between cuts. Do not try to slice bars until they are completely room temperature. If you cooled them in the refrigerator, let them return to room temperature before slicing.

Bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days. Layer them with wax paper to keep them from sticking together.

Salty Pretzel Carmelitas

Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1: Caramel Pudding

For Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 2, click here. For Vol. 3, click here.

Caramel PuddingIf you’ve been on my social media in the past few days, you know I’ve been busy lately. Aside from working and blogging and petting dogs and being a person in New York City, I’m making a wedding cake!Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1One of my nearest and dearest friends is getting married on Sunday, and asked yours truly to make a big, beautiful cake for her and her dream man. I said yes—it was a proposal this baker couldn’t refuse. Of course, July 15, 2018, seemed very far away when I agreed to this last summer. In fact, it didn’t start feeling imminent until May, when she and future hubs planned a trip home to NYC to make some final arrangements, including a cake tasting.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1Cut to June 4th when I showed up to the bride’s mother’s apartment with three little layer cakes: all vanilla, two with traditional Swiss Meringue Buttercream, one with Seafoam (brown sugar) Swiss Meringue Buttercream, two with mocha filling (the bride’s request), and one with caramel (the groom’s favorite). I wasn’t too confident, not because I didn’t think the cakes would taste good, but because this isn’t just any ol’ cake, you know?Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1The original plan was that they would choose one filling and one frosting and that would be that. About five minutes into the tasting we were all in agreement—vanilla, mocha, and bright-white Swiss Meringue Buttercream. But that was before the mother of the bride randomly stacked a bite of the caramel-filled cake on top of a bite of the mocha-filled cake and then insisted the rest of us do the same. Just like my friend and her betrothed, each filling was fine on its own, but they were better together—the combination of chocolate, espresso, and dark caramel is divine. And so, it stands that this cake will be vanilla layers with Swiss Meringue Buttercream and alternating mocha and caramel fillings.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1Since this cake has to be made, transported, and assembled in the middle of a hot, humid NYC July, I had to take melting into consideration when developing the recipe(s). Traditional American Buttercream (butter + confectioners sugar + vanilla + heavy cream, AKA most of the frostings on this site) was out as a filling/frosting option—too prone to melting. Instead, the fillings and frosting are all at least partially egg-based. Eggs are textural and structural powerhouses in cooking and baking, and most importantly, they don’t melt.Caramel PuddingThe frosting, which I’ll write more about on Friday, is made from egg whites, while the fillings are made with the yolks. The mocha filling is simply my chocolate pudding with a tablespoon of espresso granules added to the dry ingredients—easy peasy. I’ve already gone on and on about its richness and depth, and used it as a cake filling.Caramel PuddingToday is all about the caramel filling—this rich, silky, insanely delicious pudding that is practically like eating a little bowl of pure caramel! So freaking good.Caramel PuddingCaramel Pudding is a streamlined spin on the Butterscotch Cream Pie filling I made last fall. It’s super quick and easy to make, coming together in just 15 minutes on the stovetop. You may absolutely enjoy it without any accoutrements, but I especially love it with whipped cream and a drizzle of homemade caramel sauce.Caramel PuddingAnd, of course, it also works well as a cake filling, if whispers of dark caramel between layers of buttery vanilla cake are a thing you’re into.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1They are definitely a thing I’m into.Let’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1

Caramel Pudding
makes 4 servings

1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For serving (optional):
whipped cream
caramel sauce

Combine sugar, light corn syrup, apple cider vinegar, cornstarch, and salt in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Whisking constantly, cook until dark amber, about 7-8 minutes. Do not burn. Whisk in milk. Mixture will bubble violently and caramel may briefly seize, but keep whisking until it has smoothed out and boiled for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Whisk 1/3 of the mixture into the egg yolks. Return egg yolk mixture to pot and place back over medium-high heat. Whisking constantly, bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla and butter.

Push through a sieve to remove lumps. Divide mixture among 4 4-ounce ramekins. Press a piece of plastic wrap to the surfaces. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours, or until cold.

When ready to serve, top with whipped cream and caramel sauce, if desired.

Caramel Pudding will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Caramel PuddingLet’s Make a Wedding Cake, Vol. 1