Candy

Gingerbread Caramel Popcorn

by Shawnda on December 16, 2013

in Appetizers,Candy,Christmas,DIY

Gingerbread Caramel Corn

I am all cookied out. Every single cookie that I brought home from last weekend’s exchange is gone. I didn’t eat them all, because that would be a terrible idea, but I had my share. And now I can’t even bring myself to edit the photos for the butterscotch cookie post that’s hanging out in my drafts folder.

I’m so over cookies that I’m actually looking forward to a spinach salad for lunch.

Gingerbread Caramel Corn

What I am not over, besides that salad, is caramel popcorn. But not just any caramel corn. Caramel corn spiked with a generous dose of gingerbread spices.

It’s Christmas in a bowl… you know, if you’d ever put Christmas into a bowl and then try to ruin it by sitting on the couch to hate-watch a Homeland mini-marathon. But at least while the frustratingly empty minutes tick by, your house smells like gingerbread and you have handful after handful of spicy, crunchy gingerbread caramel corn to keep you company.

Gingerbread Caramel Corn

Caramel popcorn gets a holiday makeover with a generous dose of gingerbread spices.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups popped popcorn (the yield from 1/3 rounded cup of kernels)
  • Cooking spray or parchment paper
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar*
  • 3 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Scrapings from 1 vanilla bean (can substitute 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste)
  • 2-3 tsp gingerbread spice (purchased or homemade)
  • * I don't buy brown sugar so I substitute with 1 tsp molasses + 1/3 cup granulated sugar.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300.
  2. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray or line it with parchment. Have a rubber spatula handy.
  3. Pop the popcorn and transfer it to a large bowl.
  4. Heat the butter, sugar, molasses, corn syrup, and salt in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.
  5. Once the mixture comes to a boil, add 2 tsp gingerbread spice and cook another 5 minutes.
  6. Let a little of the mixture cool on a spoon and then taste - not gingerbread-y enough? Add another tsp of spices.
  7. Remove from heat and add the vanilla.
  8. Stir and immediately pour over the popcorn.
  9. Use a rubber spatula to stir until the popcorn is nicely coated and then transfer to the baking sheet, spreading out to an even layer.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
  11. Let cool ~15 minutes before eating.
  12. Store leftovers in a ziptop bag on the counter... if you have leftovers.

Notes

Yields: 6 1-cup servings

Adapted from Bourbon Caramel Popcorn

Estimated time: 45 minutes

{ 5 comments }

Bourbon & Salted Caramel Popcorn

by Shawnda on October 17, 2013

in Appetizers,Candy,DIY

Bourbon & Salted Caramel Popcorn

I hesitate to oversell and call that bowl of awesomeness “amazing” because it’s “just” caramel popcorn. But if caramel popcorn can be called amazing, then that stuff most certainly is amazing.

It’s “just” popcorn coated in caramel sauce and baked. But that super easy caramel sauce is made in barely 10 minutes, without even requiring a candy thermometer.

Bourbon & Salted Caramel Popcorn

And then that super easy caramel sauce is spiked with a generous bit of salt, a vanilla bean, and an ounce of bourbon. That bag of sweet and borderline-stale stuff you get in the foil bag at the baseball game? It has nothing on the molasses and vanilla notes in this grownup version.

“Just” amazing? Yeah. It totally is.

Bourbon & Salted Caramel Popcorn

I imagine that just about any whiskey would work. The first batch disappeared so quickly and used the last of the bourbon that I had to make a second batch with Crown Royal Black.

But I like run and stuff and therefore have no problems justifying caramel popcorn for dinner. Or breakfast.

Bourbon & Salted Caramel Popcorn

A grown-up homemade caramel popcorn spiked with bourbon and vanilla bean.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups popped popcorn (the yield from 1/3 rounded cup of kernels)
  • Cooking spray or parchment paper
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar**
  • 3 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • Heaping 1/4 tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling**
  • Scrapings from 1 vanilla bean (can substitute 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste)
  • 4 Tbsp bourbon (or other whiskey)
  • * I don't buy brown sugar so I substitute with 1 tsp molasses + 1/3 cup granulated sugar.
  • ** Don't dig your caramel salty? Use a level 1/4 tsp of salt.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300.
  2. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray or line it with parchment. Have a rubber spatula handy.
  3. Pop the popcorn and transfer it to a large bowl.
  4. Heat the butter, sugar, molasses, corn syrup, and salt in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.
  5. Once the mixture comes to a boil, cook another 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and add the whiskey (watch up for splatters) and vanilla.
  7. Stir and immediately pour over the popcorn.
  8. Use a rubber spatula to stir until the popcorn is nicely coated and then transfer to the baking sheet, spreading out to an even layer.
  9. Taste a couple of kernels - not "salted caramel" enough? Sprinkle with more salt.
  10. Bake for 35 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
  11. Let cool ~15 minutes before eating.
  12. Store leftovers in a ziptop bag on the counter... if you have leftovers.

Notes

Yields: 6 1-cup servings

Adapted from Real Simple

Estimated time: 50 minutes

{ 16 comments }

White Chocolate-Peppermint Chunk Cookies

It’s a cookie hangover kind of Monday.

Yesterday I took 6 dozen cookies to a cookie exchange… and came home with 6 dozen different cookies. Chocolate-covered cherry cookies, chocolate-peppermint sandwich cookies, peanut butter truffles, chocolate-ginger cookies, cinnamon-chocolate chip…

In between baking and packaging up 6 dozen cookies and the tummy full of deliciously sweet shame that I have now – bottomless glasses of Prosecco. We kind of know how to party. And by kind of, I mean our hostess is a rockstar.

My contribution this year was White Chocolate-Peppermint Chunk Cookies from Pink Parsley. I couldn’t find the Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips that she used (but there was plenty of the regular chocolate & green mint kinds everywhere), so I made my own with white chocolate baking chips, crushed peppermint, and peppermint extract.

White Chocolate-Peppermint Chunk Cookies

The resulting chunks were creamy but still had little crunchy bits of candy in them. Folded into a chocolate chip cookie dough base, they made a deliciously chewy and festive cookie perfect for a boozy cookie exchange.

White Chocolate Peppermint Chunk Cookies

A festive, chewy cookie studded with white chocolate peppermint chunks.

Ingredients

  • For the white chocolate peppermint chunks:
  • 12 oz bag white chocolate baking chips
  • 16 peppermint candies, unwrapped
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • For the cookies:
  • 2 cups + 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 2 cups white chocolate peppermint chunks

Instructions

  1. Line a dinner plate or small tray with plastic wrap.
  2. Finely crush/grind the peppermint candies until most of the candies are very small pieces.
  3. Place the white chocolate in a medium bowl and microwave at 70% power for 1 minute.
  4. Stir and microwave another 30-60 seconds until smooth.
  5. Add the crushed peppermint and give a few stirs.
  6. Sprinkle the peppermint extract over top and give it a few more folds - your texture is going to go from flowy to something that looks feels more like buttercream frosting.
  7. Transfer the white chocolate mixture to the prepared plate and use a spoon to spread it around to an even thickness.
  8. Lay another piece of plastic wrap on top and use your hands to smooth and spread the white chocolate.
  9. Refrigerate ~15 minutes until solid.
  10. Turn the white chocolate disk out onto a cutting board and cut into small chunks.
  11. Preheat the oven to 325 and line two baking sheets with parchment or Silpat.
  12. Stir flour, salt, and baking soda together and set aside.
  13. Beat butter and sugars together on medium-high 1-2 minutes until mixed (I usually just let the mixer run while I'm gathering and measuring out dry ingredients and such).
  14. Scrape down the sides and add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and beat until uniform.
  15. Turn the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.
  16. Add the white chocolate chunks and let the mixer run a few more seconds until incorporated.
  17. Drop heaping tablespoons onto the prepared pan and bake ~18 minutes until the edges begin to brown, rotating sheets halfway through.
  18. Let cool on the baking sheet and transfer to an airtight container for storage.

Notes

Yields: ~20 cookies

Slightly adapted from Pink Parsley

Estimated time: 45 minutes

{ 13 comments }

Gingerbread Caramels

by Shawnda on November 29, 2012

in Candy,Christmas,Holiday Favorites

Gingerbread Caramel

This is a very exciting Christmas on the “Christmas as a Parent” scale. The first Christmas was all about watching your sweet bundle of drool staring hypnotically at the blinking tree. That’s also the one where you learn that no matter how awesome or noisy or flashy that toy is, the box or bag or wrapping paper that encased it is a thousand times better.

No – 10,000 times better.

The second one is when you learn that those glass ornaments you’ve used for the last 4 years have to go back into the attic for the next 16. But they’re far more excited about play kitchens and trains and puzzles and slide-erasable etch-a-sketch thingies than they are the paper it was wrapped in.

Christmas Christmas
Christmas Christmas

But this Christmas, this is the one where she is just old enough to start to understand the concepts of the holidays, from Tebowing in front of the Christmas tree (not really; but what’s up, Kim), to celebrating with family (I see my Gia and PaPaw?!), to celebrating the birth of Jesus (we make cake for Jesus burt-day party?), to Santa Claus (Mr. Boogie scare Santa?).

And until a week ago, the only thing that my daughter could tell you about Santa Claus had to do with The Nightmare Before Christmas. Oops.

But we get to start fun new traditions this year. Like listening to Bing Crosby while we put up the Christmas tree in our pajamas. And frothing milk for hot chocolate with Shrek the Halls on in the background. Hanging stockings, decorating the mantle, and reading The Elf on The Shelf (I caved and conformed) with the smell of gingerbread filling the house.

Gingerbread Caramels

The fastest way to get into the holiday spirit is to put up a bunch of plastic decorations, set out a creepy toy elf, and make your house smell like gingerbread.

True story.

I whipped up a batch of my favorite caramel recipe the other night and spiked it with a generous dose of gingerbread spices. Mom’s gingerbread was always spiced with plenty of black pepper and plenty of cloves. The warmth from those spices really set her cookies (and bread, and cakes) apart. And it’s just not Christmas without it.

Gingerbread Caramels

Chewy, buttery caramels full of warm gingerbread spices makes a great grown-up Christmas candy.

Ingredients

  • For the homemade gingerbread spice mix:
  • 1 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp fresh finely ground black pepper
  • For the caramels:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp vanilla or vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp gingerbread spice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup or Lyle's Golden Syrup
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp cloves (optional)
  • Finely ground black pepper (optional)

Instructions

  1. Stir together the ingredients for the gingerbread spice in a small bowl until mixed well, making sure to press out any lumps with a spoon.
  2. Leftover spice can be stored in a small airtight jar or a zip-top bag.
  3. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with buttered parchment paper.
  4. Bring cream, butter, vanilla, salt, and 1 Tbsp gingerbread spice just to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Boil sugars, corn syrup, molasses, and water in a 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Attach a candy thermometer and continue boiling without stirring (just gently swirl the pan occasionally) until mixture reaches 310-315.
  6. Carefully pour in the cream mixture into the caramel (take care, mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 246.
  7. Around softball stage (~240), I took a small spoonful of caramel sauce, cooled it down in a small bowl of ice water, formed it into a ball, and tasted it - I decided I wanted more cloves and a few more grinds of black pepper and just sprinkled those over top.
  8. Pour into baking pan and cool completely (about an hour).
  9. Cut into 1-inch pieces (a buttered pizza cutter or very sharp knife is your best friend), and then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.

Notes

Yields: 64 candies

Adapted from Sea Salt Caramels with Vanilla Bean

Estimated time: 2 hours

{ 20 comments }