Desserts

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

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Orange and Cranberry Curd Squares

This truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

After our Fairy Mermaid Princess (Princess Mermaid Fairy?) waved goodbye to the last of the trick or treaters, we turned off the lights and gave The Little her choice of Hocus Pocus or Charlie Brown to help wind down from the excitement of the night. Because nothing blows a 3 year old’s mind more than seeing other kids dressed in a costume.

Momma, look! That boy has a face on top of his other face!

She, who ended up sleeping in her Mermaid Fair Princess tutu-dress thingy – again – chose Charlie Brown… Christmas. So here we are, on November 1st with the first holiday dessert of the year already half gone.

Orange and Cranberry Curd Squares

In my defense, we didn’t have a single piece of Halloween candy left over. So we went with the next best thing for breakfast today: Orange & Cranberry Curd Squares.

You might recognize the recipe from its cousin post, Grapefruit Curd Squares. Because next to a margarita, those bars are still the greatest things to happen to a grapefruit.

And these bars aren’t that far from being the greatest things to ever happen to cranberries. Or cranberry juice, I should say.

Orange and Cranberry Curd Squares

Pies will get their moment to shine but for now, we’re perfectly happy ushering in the holiday season with a batch of beautiful citrusy & tart cranberry bars.

Plus, it’s far harder to pass off a piece of pie as breakfast.

Orange-Cranberry Curd Squares

A citrusy shortbread cookie topped with a beautiful red cranberry curd.

Ingredients

  • For the cookie base:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Zest from 2 small oranges, divided (and fruit reserved for juicing later... or just eating)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cold and cut into 8 pieces
  • For the cranberry curd:
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice*
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp yogurt or sour cream
  • Powdered sugar, for serving
  • 1-2 drops red gel coloring (optional)
  • *We're talking about the pure, unadulterated 100% "why did I wear white today" cranberry juice, brands like RW Knudsen. Not the juice cocktail kind with pear and apple juice.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spray an 8x8 baking pan with non-stick spray.
  3. Add flour, salt, sugar, 2/3 of the orange zest, and butter pieces to the small bowl of your food processor and process for ~1 minute, until the butter has been completely distributed into the dry ingredients and there are no traces of powder left. (You can do this by hand, it will just take a few minutes longer - just smash the sugar with the orange zest first to better distribute the orange flavor.)
  4. Spread mixture evenly into the prepared baking pan and press down firmly.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, until the edges brown.
  6. Let cool for 20 minutes.
  7. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  8. Whisk in the remaining orange zest, cranberry juice, eggs, and yogurt until thoroughly combined and lump-free.
  9. Not overall thrilled with the color of the mixture? Consider adding just a drop or two of red gel coloring. Happy now? Great, let's move on.
  10. Pour over cookie crust and bake for 20-25 minutes, until just set - the center should jiggle but not be fluid when you gently shake the pan.
  11. Let cool in pan for 30 minutes and then run the tip of a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen.
  12. Allow to cool completely before cutting into 12 squares and serving dusted with powdered sugar.
  13. Leftovers will keep a few days covered, at room temp or in the fridge.
  14. Fabulous eaten cold and called breakfast. Not that I'd know.

Notes

Yields: 12 servings

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma's Lemon Curd Squares

Estimated time: 2 hours

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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

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Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

After spending a week learning about cooking and nutrition at her preschool, my sweet(ish) little(ish) Landry Kate came home with a chef hat, an apron, and an intensely unwavering interest to help me brownies.

Can we make brownies? Can we make brownies now? [yelling from inside the pantry] I can’t find the box of brownies!

Intensely. Unwavering. Interest.

Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

But only in the “making brownies” part. (Maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll focus on Unloading the Dishwasher 101 next week.)

Like any 3 1/2 year old, some of her favorite things are measuring, scooping, whisking, and stirring. And like any human, her absolute favorite part is licking that last bit of batter from the spoon, scoop, or spatula. But not the whisk! You only have to get your tongue pinched once before you realize that thing is the devil.

We made peanut butter cookies last week and as we’re getting ready to scoop out the dough, she throws her hands out and yells in that panicky, shrill tone that sends a mother’s heart into high gear fight mode: Oh, no Mommy! We forgot the chocolate!

Drama. We has some around here.

Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

There have been many times when I’ve joked whether or not she might have been switched with another baby at the hospital. Like that time when she ran up to pet the weird giganti-lizard on a leash at the zoo. [shudder] And that time when she brought me a “brown lady bug” (a June bug). [double shudder] Or all those times she peeled open a quesadilla, ate the meat and cheese and left the tortilla virtually untouched.

But today? When the world temporarily came to a screeching halt so we could pair our favorite chewy peanut butter cookies with some chocolate? Today was not one of those days.

Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chewy Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Soft, chewy peanut butter cookies studded with chocolate chips.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment or a baking mat.
  2. Cream the butter and peanut butter on medium high for 1 minute.
  3. Add sugars and beat at med-high for another minute. Add egg and vanilla and mix until smooth.
  4. Add flour, baking soda and salt on low speed until thoroughly combined. Mix in chocolate chips (the dough will be quite soft).
  5. Chill dough for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Drop the dough by the small scoopfuls onto a lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes until edges are golden brown. For a crispier cookie, allow the entire cookie to brown. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Notes

Yields: ~24 cookies

Slightly adapted from The Pastry Queen

Estimated time: 45 minutes

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