Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Cinnamon Rolls

We have started a new tradition with my new family of having fresh homemade cinnamon rolls each year for Christmas. They turned out so well this year, I think we need to do this more often than just annually. 

Here they are all nicely rolled with butter, brown sugar and fresh ground cinnamon all ready to be baked for our Christmas morning pleasure.

 Fresh out of the oven and smothered with icing. 

My cinnamon roll all ready to enjoy on my favorite Christmas plate with a hot mug of coffee. 
Merry Christmas! 

Recipe for Cinnamon Rolls
Follow Paula Deen's Food Network recipe, but substitute brown sugar and fresh ground cinnamon for the filling

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Salted Caramels

I have to be careful what I sign up for. But, when I sign up for something, I will give it my all.  This is one example of that.  Knowing I like to bake and cook, a fellow parent at school asks if I would like to make something homemade for the teachers (ALL the teachers and faculty in the school).  I later found out that this was 55 people. So, I thought little caramels would be easy.  Make the caramels, pour them in a pan and cut them up. Easy, right?  Well, the "Easy Salted Caramels" recipe that I sourced from Pinterest seemed so, but the overall process to create enough to make cute little baggies of 5 caramels for each faculty member was more arduous than I thought.  Luckily, I had the help of my cousin staying with us and my amazing husband. 

We made over 300 of these sweet little caramels.  The recipe below is for one batch, but we made 4-6 batches total. 

Here is the water and corn syrup boiling. 

Then we added the butter and heavy cream and continued cooking. 

Once our caramel reached about 245 degrees, we poured it out onto a baking sheet covered with parchment. We left some edges to the parchment and it easily came off the baking sheet to be able to cut.  We placed it on a measure sheet and cut them into (almost) equally sized pieces.  The tough part was just keeping it from sticking to the parchment.  

Because we were packaging them for gifts, we cut several pieces of waxed paper and wrapped the caramels individually, which took some time, but looked very nice. We packaged five or more in cellophane bags to give as gifts. The teachers loved them and we also enjoyed a few ourselves :-)

Recipe for Salted Caramels
From Inspired Taste (Adapted from Jacques Pepin)

Yields 35-40 caramels

1/2 C. unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 C. heavy cream
3 T. water
1/2 C. light corn syrup
1 C. granulated sugar
1/2 t. flaked sea salt (I used Maldon)

Lightly oil a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan then measure and cut a piece of parchment paper that will fit inside the pan and come up the sides by at least 1 inch. Next, lightly oil the parchment paper and place into the pan. Set the pan aside.

Cut butter into 8 pieces then combine with heavy cream in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes until hot and butter has melted. Set aside, we will use this later. I don't have a microwave, so we melted the butter in the heavy cream on the stove.
  1. In a small saucepan combine the water and corn syrup. Then, add the sugar, but try your best not to splatter the sugar up the sides of the pan. Now, use a spoon to gently stir the sugar into the water and corn syrup, just moistening the sugar.
  2. Heat over medium heat until the sugar has come to a boil. Then, cover with a lid for 1 minute. This adds steam/moisture to the pan, so any sugar that may have stuck to the sides of the pan melts and falls back into the boiling sugar.
  3. Remove lid then attach a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan. Then, cook sugar for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar reaches a temperature of 320 degrees F (160 degrees C). At this temperature, the sugar will take on a light amber color around the edges of the pan.
  1. he moment the sugar reaches 320 degrees F (160 degrees C), carefully pour about a sixth of the butter and cream mixture then stir, using the base of the candy thermometer to incorporate it. Repeat with the remaining cream and butter (adding a sixth of it at a time then stirring). The sugar will bubble violently as you add the butter and cream - so do this carefully and slowly to prevent the mixture from bubbling over the sides of the saucepan.
  2. By adding the cream and butter, the temperature will drop. Now, continue cooking for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the caramel reaches a temperature of 240 degrees F (115 degrees C). This will create a soft caramel, if you want slightly harder caramels, bring the temperature closer to 245 degrees F (118 degrees C).
  1. The moment the caramel reaches your desired temperature, pour into the prepared loaf pan. Cool 20 to 30 minutes then scatter the salt over the caramel. Then, let the caramel cool 3 1/2 hours.
  2. Unmold the caramel. If the caramel is too soft to work with, place into the refrigerator 30 to 45 minutes to firm up. Then, use a large sharp knife to cut into your desired shape. You may want to run the knife under hot water periodically to be able to cut the caramel easily. We like to cut into 1-inch by 1/2-inch rectangles.
  1. Wrap caramels in plastic wrap or waxed paper and enjoy immediately, or you can refrigerate or freeze for enjoying later.