Tag Archives: Caramel

Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift Guide

Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideI know what you’re thinking. “Hasn’t Caramel Sauce already been on here?” Well yes, a few times, but it’s never had its own post and don’t you think it deserves that tiny amount of recognition? I do. Also, it’s my blog and I can do what I want.Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideSo, why am I posting Caramel Sauce now, at the holidays, instead of mid-summer like every other ice cream topping and dessert sauce in my archives? Because it is perfect for food gifting. Perfect! It’s easy, you can make it days or weeks ahead (watch the dates on your dairy), and who wouldn’t be absolutely thrilled to receive a little jar of homemade Caramel Sauce from someone they love? A monster, obviously.

(Why am I phrasing everything as a question today?)Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideTruth is, I’ve been meaning to write a little homemade food gift guide for years, but am just now getting around to it. I am a big proponent of homemade gifts, having done everything from making clay ornaments to puffy painting to sewing stuffed animals. I can tell you from experience that food is definitely the quickest, easiest and cheapest in terms of DIY gifting, and as sugar, butter and flour have been my artistic media of choice for the last 7.5 years, I have learned a lot about what makes for quality food gifts.Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift Guide
Want to give something saucy? People love an ice cream topping, even in the dead of winter. I’m obviously out here shilling for Caramel today, but you can do Peanut Butter Caramel, Butterscotch or even homemade Hot Fudge without much hassle. You could also go super easy and just microwave a bunch of Chocolate Shell! Just make a batch of any of the aforementioned sauces and divide it among heatproof jars. The jars pictured today are 4-ounce mason jars that I keep on hand, but 8-ounce jars would be great too.Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift Guide
Looking to give cookies? You’re in luck! There are so many holiday cookie recipes that are beyond perfect for gifting. Not only do they look beautiful all boxed (tinned?) up, but they keep incredibly well, especially crisper offerings. Think Iced Sugar Cookies, Candy Cane Cookies, Stained Glass Cookies, Maple Spice Stars, Brown Butter Shortbread, Orange Cardamom Pistachio Shortbread, Gingersnaps, this week’s Peppermint Bark Cookies, Pinwheels, vegan/gluten-free Oat-Pecan Linzers, Pretzel Shortbread, Red Velvet Cheesecake Thumbprints…the list goes on and on.Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideDon’t forget that brownies and blondies are technically cookies, too! Pro tip: you can easily double most of my 9″ square recipes and bake them up in a 9×13″ pan without changing much of anything.Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift Guide
Candy on your mind? I am not the world’s most proficient candy maker, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve. I love a good homemade truffle, especially these vegan Five Ingredient Salted Marzipan beauties. You could also make easy Peppermint Mocha Fudge or Peppermint Mocha Buttercreams. Yum!Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideIf I were to gift candy this year, I’d go for popcorn. People LOVE popcorn. <–that’s me, I’m people. The Super Sprinkle Popcorn I made over the summer could easily be transformed with some holiday sprinkles. And then there’s Salty Maple Caramel Corn. Ohhh my. It’s salty-sweet easy, gluten-free, and makes enough for several tins. You could even get a little wild and make Sriracha Cracker Jack. Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift Guide
In the mood to make cakes? Well, you’re the kind of friend I’d like to have. Cake definitely takes a little forethought, but if you were to wrap a Boterkoek {Dutch Butter Cake}, Meyer Lemon Drizzle Cake or Eggnog Bundt in cellophane, or deliver a grain-free Winning Hearts & Minds Cake in a (clean) small pizza box, you might just…win hearts and minds. And make someone feel incredibly special.Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift Guide
Don’t want to bother turning on your oven? I’ve got you there, too. Make a homemade mix! You can easily jar individual brownie and hot chocolate mixes! Just make yourself an assembly line and write (or print out) little tags with instructions for how to make your brownies or hot chocolate. This will give your friends a little low-maintenance something to do and enjoy during this weird AF holiday season.Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideThis is just the tip of the food gifting iceberg–I could go on forever. I hope this guide inspires you to treat your friends to something sweet this month. It’s going to be strange and solitary holiday for many of us, and I know a little homemade something would do us all some good.Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift Guide

Caramel Sauce
makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Place sugar in a 2-3 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk sugar until the sugar melts and turns a deep copper color. Whisk in butter until completely incorporated. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in heavy cream. Caramel will bubble violently, but will quickly relax into a smooth sauce. Whisk in vanilla and salt. Transfer sauce to a jar and let cool to room temperature.

Leftover caramel sauce should be kept in the refrigerator. Microwave in 15 second bursts, stirring in between, to reheat.

Caramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift GuideCaramel Sauce & a Food Gift Guide

Peanut Butter Carmelitas

Peanut Butter CarmelitasSometimes you—and by “you,” I mean “I”—want a dessert that is purely about peanut butter. No chocolate or candy or jelly or Oreos—just peanut butter in all its glory. You could, of course, remedy this by going directly to the pantry and dipping into the jar with a spoon, or you could make a batch of these Peanut Butter Carmelitas. Peanut Butter CarmelitasYou should make these, period. They’re a peanut butter lover’s paradise! Two layers of crispy peanut butter cookie are sandwiched together with a thick layer of peanut butter caramel and then sliced into crumbly, chewy bars. It’s like someone—and by “someone,” I mean “I”— took my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe and turned it up to 11. Oh my word, these are good.Peanut Butter CarmelitasThey’re easy to make, too! Start by mixing up a crumbly peanut butter and oat dough, tossing in some chopped roasted peanuts for good measure. Pack half of it down, and then drizzle on a bunch of caramel candy that you’ve melted with peanut butter and heavy cream. Mmhmm.Peanut Butter CarmelitasPeanut Butter CarmelitasFinish it all off with the remaining dough and then bake until the edges are golden and the caramel bubbles up in a few spots and then—and this is very important—let them cool completely.Peanut Butter CarmelitasI’m serious! Don’t be tempted to slice these (or any carmelitas) while they’re still warm. I know gooey peanut butter caramel is extremely tempting, but the mess isn’t worth it. I promise you that the middles of these carmelitas are just as enticing at room temperature. We’re talking soft, stretchy peanut butter candy magic, y’all.Peanut Butter CarmelitasYes, the caramel is the star of this show, but don’t sleep on those cookie layers. Crispy, crunchy, buttery, salty-sweet, crumbly cookie held together by caramel? Sign me up! These bars will crumble at bit when you bite in, but it’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing.

Very good.Peanut Butter Carmelitas

Peanut Butter Carmelitas
makes one 8-inch pan, about 16 squares

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
1 cup roasted peanuts (salted or unsalted), roughly chopped

Caramel Layer:
1 11-ounce bag caramel candies
1/4 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1/4 cup 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 chopped peanuts. Set aside.

Combine caramels, peanut butter 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.Peanut Butter CarmelitasPeanut Butter CarmelitasPeanut Butter Carmelitas

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

Caramel Pretzel Pie

Caramel Pretzel PieHave you ever seen the movie Waitress? It’s one of my very favorites—it’s about a small town pie waitress who is saddled with the worst sort of husband and a lifestyle of which she doesn’t see a clear way out. Her passion is pie, and throughout the film she thinks in pie recipes with very specific names: Marshmallow Mermaid Pie, Bad Baby Pie, Lonely Chicago Pie…you get the idea. I won’t ruin it further. You can and should stream it on Prime for $4.Caramel Pretzel PieAlternatively, you can come to NYC and see Waitress the musical, which has been running on Broadway for three years and is every bit as good as the film that inspired it! I nabbed tickets when my dear friend, Tad, was here a few weeks ago and I already want to see it again.Caramel Pretzel PieWhen we left the theater and headed for the subway, I knew two things:

  1. I wanted to download the soundtrack immediately.
  2. I needed to make pie.

Caramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel PieDone and DONE. Caramel Pretzel Pie, y’all. It’s sweet, salty, and full of creamy caramel flavor!Caramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel PieOne great thing about Caramel Pretzel Pie? It’s almost-no-bake. I had originally intended for this beauty to be oven-free, but the idea of a slightly-toasty pretzel crust won out. I think you’ll agree that the ten minutes of oven time required to set the crust are absolutely worth it.Caramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel PieAnother great thing? This pie is very quick and simple to make, especially if you make your caramel sauce ahead. You could swap in a store-bought caramel sauce if that’s more your speed (I hear Trader Joe’s has a good one), but homemade is super easy to make and is far better than anything I’ve ever found in a grocery store.Caramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel PieThe creamy, cloud-like caramel filling comes together in minutes and has a nice tang from a hit of cream cheese.Caramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel PieAfter a few hours chilling in the fridge, the pie is finished off with whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel sauce, and a few broken pretzels.Caramel Pretzel PieIt’s so delicious, it’s ridiculous. I always love a salty-sweet dessert, but the toasty pretzel crust, creamy filling, and the teetering-on-the-brink-of-burnt (-but-in-a-good-way) flavor of the caramel really make this pie something special.Caramel Pretzel PieAll it’s missing is a very specific name. Somehow Feminist Movie/Musical Inspo Pie doesn’t sound quite right 😂 Maybe you can come up with something when you make this for every cookout this summer. Believe me–this one is a guaranteed hit.Caramel Pretzel Pie

Caramel Pretzel Pie
makes one 9-inch pie

Pretzel Crust:
1 1/3 cup finely-crushed salted pretzels (I used 63 thin pretzels)
2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

3/4 cup heavy cream, very cold
8 ounces (1 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup caramel sauce (recipe below), room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Topping:
3/4 cup heavy cream, very cold
2-3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
caramel sauce (recipe below)
broken salted pretzels

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together finely-crushed salted pretzels, brown sugar, and melted butter until combined. Transfer mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a pie plate. Bake 10 minutes to set. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Do not overwhip. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar and salt until fluffy. Add caramel sauce and vanilla and mix until combined. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream. Working in 2 installments, carefully fold in remaining whipped cream until combined. Transfer to chilled pie crust. Chill for 3 hours or overnight.

Make topping. In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine heavy cream, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla. Use an electric mixer to whip cream until stiff peaks form. Top pie with whipped cream. Drizzle with caramel sauce and scatter broken pretzel pieces over the top, if desired.

Slice and serve. Leftover pie will keep covered in the refrigerator for a few days. Broken pretzel topping will soften over time.

Caramel Sauce
makes about 1 1/4 cups

1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Place sugar in a 2-3 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk sugar until the sugar melts and turns a deep copper color. Whisk in butter until completely incorporated. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in heavy cream. Caramel will bubble violently, but will quickly relax into a smooth sauce. Whisk in vanilla and salt. Transfer sauce to a jar and let cool to room temperature.

Leftover caramel sauce should be kept in the refrigerator. Microwave in 15 second bursts, stirring in between, to reheat.Caramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel PieCaramel Pretzel Pie

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