Fleur de Sel Caramels with Vanilla Beans

Fleur de Sel Caramels with Vanilla Beans

I can’t believe Christmas is 3 days away and I have not done any baking.  This is very unusual for me and not because I haven’t wanted to or haven’t been prepared.  I have sprinkles galore, I have sugar, flour, molasses (for THE best gingerbread cookies ever), and cute cookie cutters.  I also have a dissertation timeline that is a bit tight and since I set my final defense date (wow to see that in writing is exciting but also scary) there is no turning back.  I was only going to give myself Christmas day off, but as it approached I became a bit sad.  We already had decided to stay home for Christmas due to my tight deadline and now I was denying myself the joy of baking? It is a tradition to bake cookies, rum cake, and other goodies and I would be denying myself of this joy.  So last Friday I ordered some fun decorating sugar and decided I would treat myself to a day of baking on the 24th.  Baking is my therapy and I especially love it during the holidays because I turn up the Christmas music and get lost in baking.  Now the next two days will be difficult because my sparkly sugar arrived and all I want to do now is bake.  Looking at data and revising a manuscript seem much less exciting than decorating sugar cookies.  I did take some time this past weekend to make these caramels.  They were a huge hit, I just wish I had made more 🙂  I used fleur de sel I bought in Paris this summer, but you can find it online, possibly at your grocery store, or at places like Williams Sonoma.  You may be able to use regular sea salt in the grocery store, although it tends to be a bit larger grain.

 Fleur de Sel Caramels with Vanilla Beans 2

Fleur de Sel Caramels with Vanilla Beans
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Ingredients
1 cup heavy cream
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean pod
1 1/4 teaspoon Fleur de Sel (sea salt) + more for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup (can substitute light corn syrup)
1/4 cup water

Directions
1.  Line the bottom of an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, coat parchment paper lightly with butter.
2.  Split vanilla bean pod in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds (keep both).
3.  In a small saucepan, mix butter, cream, vanilla, vanilla pod, vanilla beans, and fleur de sel.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and set aside.
4.  Boil sugar, syrup, and water in a 3-4 quart heavy pan.  Stir, until the sugar has dissolved.  Boil mixture but do not stir once boiling, gently swirl pan.  Continue to boil until the mixture is a light golden caramel color.
5.  Remove the vanilla bean pod halves and very carefully add cream mixture to the sugar mixture (the mixture will bubble so be careful).   Stir frequently, until the mixture reaches 248F on a kitchen thermometer.
6.  Pour the mixture into the prepared 8-inch pan and let cool for 30 minutes.
7.  After cooled for 30 minutes, sprinkle fleur de sel on top.  Let cool completely.
8.  Using a buttered pizza cutter, cut into 1-inch pieces.
9.  Wrap using 3-inch squares of wax paper and twisting the ends together.

Makes about 64 1-inch caramels.

Mangia!
Lindsay Lou

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride originally adapted from Gourmet, 2004

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Caramel Brownies

This post is dedicated to my official taste-tester, my loving  @font-face { font-family: “MS 明朝”;}@font-face { font-family: “MS 明朝”;}@font-face { font-family: “Cambria”;}p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria; }.MsoChpDefault { font-family: Cambria; }div.WordSection1 { page: WordSection1; }fiancé who likes to ask when I will be baking since this is a cooking AND baking blog 😉

Randomly, we receive a section of the Baltimore Sun and it is usually about food.  I actually get excited when I see the rolled up paper on our lawn as I know there will be some kind of yummy recipe inside.  When I saw this recipe I knew I needed to make it and as soon as possible.  I made these brownies to go with soup and bread I took to friends who are new mothers so they would have a couple nights off from worrying about dinner; which would give them more time to spend with their adorable new babies and husbands.  These brownies were amazing.  They were super simple to make and absolutely decadent.  The most time intensive part is to unwrap all the caramels.  I am not usually a cake mix kind of girl but I would highly recommend these and will be making these again.  Since I was taking them to friends I sprinkled pecans on half of the brownies, just in case someone didn’t like nuts. 

Caramel Brownies
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Makes 24 Brownies

Ingredients
1 (18.25 ounce) chocolate cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge*)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted
2/3 cup evaporated milk, divided (1/3 and 1/3)
1 bag (14 ounce) caramels, unwrapped
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Optional
1 cup chopped pecans

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Grease a 9×13 inch pan (I used my glass one)
3.  Unwrap caramels and set aside
4. In a bowl mix the cake mix, butter, 1/3 cup of the evaporated milk (optional:  you could mix the nuts in at this step if you would like).
5.  Divide the dough and press 3/4 of it in the bottom of the 9×13 pan, set aside the rest of the dough.
6.  Bake the dough you have pressed in the pan for 6 minutes.  Melt caramels (see next step) while dough is in the oven.
7.  Melt the caramels and remaining 1/3 cup of evaporated milk over medium heat in a medium saucepan.  Make sure to stir frequently – this can burn easily!
8. Remove the pan of brownies from the oven, sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the warm dough and pour the caramel mixture over the chips.  Using an offset spatula or regular spatula, spread the caramel.
9.  With the rest of the brownie dough, flatten small pieces and scatter across the top of the caramel.  You will not cover the entire dough so this will allow caramel to bubble up in between.
10.  If you haven’t added nuts to the dough, you can sprinkle nuts on the top or on half or none at all
11.  Bake brownies for 20 minutes, rotating pan half-way through baking time.  The brownies will look gooey but they will be done after 20 minutes.
12.  Let the pan cool on a wire rack then refrigerate for 1 hour before cutting.

Just thought I should include one more gooey picture to convince you to make these this weekend.

Mangia!
Lindsay Lou

Source:Ever so slightly adapted from The Baltimore Sun Recipe Finder Section submitted by Tzippie Mahr, originally from Mr. Food
*This is not a paid advertisement from Duncan Hines – I just saw this cake mix in the grocery store and I think I might have heard a chorus of angels sing so I bought it.

Old Bay Peanuts

The Super Bowl is tomorrow and these are a perfect snack to have on hand.  They are super easy to make (requiring only 3 ingredients).  Below you will find more Super Bowl friendly snacks.  Happy Snacking!

I don’t know that I had heard much about Old Bay Seasoning* when I lived in the Midwest.  In Maryland you can’t get away from it (not that I would ever want to).  It is a must-have in your pantry, at least here.  I use it on fish, homemade chips and fries, chicken, and anything else standing still long enough 😉  There are Old-Bay chips you can buy, lunch meat, chicken wings, and they even give free sample packets out at the seafood counter.  You may have also heard it referred to as Chesapeake Bay Seasoning as Old Bay is one of the brand names.  It has a slight kick and is salty – a perfect combination.

I have taken Old Bay Peanuts as hostess gifts, included them with homemade spices for Christmas gifts in 2009, and have made them for company to snack on.  These will definitely make an appearance at our house tomorrow during the Super Bowl. 

Make sure to use unsalted peanuts or they will be too salty.

Old Bay Peanuts
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Ingredients
3 1/2 cups (or 16 oz container) Unsalted peanuts
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1-2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning (This depends on your taste – the more you use the more of a kick it will have so if you have never had Old Bay you may want to start with 1 tablespoon.  I have added a little bit extra after they have come out of the oven if you want to start out light and add more). 

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 300F
2.  Place peanuts in a large bowl, set aside
3.  Mix butter and Old Bay Seasoning, add to peanuts and mix to coat peanuts
4.  Place aluminum foil on a cook sheet with sides (I use a jelly roll pan).  Spread peanuts out in a single layer.  Bake for 30 minutes, stirring half-way through.
5.  Let cool and serve.

Mangia!
Lindsay Lou

Source: Lindsay Lou

*Old Bay has not paid me to endorse their product.  They don’t know me or my peanuts 😉

Other Snack/Meal Ideas for the Super Bowl:

Appetizers
Fried Onion Straws with Spicy Straw Sauce
Salsa
Guacamole
Homemade Tortillas 

Main Meals
Tomato Bruschetta Burger with Pesto
Pizza Margherita
Chicken Taco Stew (serve with chips, guacamole, sour cream, and cheese)
Turkey Empanadas 

Desserts
Oreo Truffles
Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Texas Spice Rub


Need a gift for someone who likes to grill? Well, just make some of this spice rub and put it in a tin or in a nice jar. This spice rub was part of my gift packages last year and was a hit. This rub will keep up to 3 months in an airtight container and is good on steak, pork, or chicken. You can multiply this recipe as needed, if you are giving this to more than one recipient.

Ingredients
1 cup packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried mustard
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon paprika

Instructions
1. Combine all the ingredients. Store in an airtight container up to 3 months.
Use 1 tablespoon of spice rub on 8-ounce portion of meat.

Mangia!
Lindsay Lou

Source: Martha Stewart Weddings