Salted Caramel

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October 2014 023Confession time.  I don’t really like caramel – gasp!  I know.  Crazy, right?!  But my kids love to dip their apples, top their ice cream, and drizzle it over a nice slice of apple pie.

It also helps that this caramel is the best caramel that I’ve ever had – and that’s saying a lot!  So maybe I do like caramel after all.  :-)

Salted Caramel Adapted from Baked Explorations

1 cup heavy cream

2 scant teaspoons Maldon salt

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

4 Tablespoons corn syrup

1/2 cup sour cream

In a small saucepan add the heavy cream and Maldon salt.  Set on low and whisk occasionally to dissolve the salt and raise the temperature of the heavy cream so that the caramel doesn’t seize when added to the sugar syrup.  If possible leave a long-handled whisk in the milk mixture to warm up the metal as well.

In a medium saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and corn syrup – stir to combine.  Wash the sugar crystals off the sides of the pot using a pastry brush dipped in water.

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Cook the mixture over high heat (about a 5-6 on a gas burner) for about 15 minutes without stirring.  Towards the end of the cooking time keep an eye on the caramel, as it can go from clear to yellow to burned in a matter of seconds.

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This sugar syrup is almost ready – see the color difference?!

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This is what it should look like!  Take the syrup off the burner and let it set for 1 minute.  After one minute.  Carefully whisk in the warm heavy cream mixture – it will foam up like crazy.  The foam actually made it to the top of this pot – so be careful!!

Once the mixture is smooth (it’ll seem like caramel water), whisk in the sour cream until combined.  Then pour the caramel into a heat-proof container (preferably a glass jar) and let it cool to room temperature.  The caramel will thicken as it cools.  Store covered for up to 2 weeks.


Halloween Cookie Decorating Party


Halloween Party GoodiesMy girls convinced me to host a neighborhood Halloween party this year.  I kept thinking I was a lunatic for agreeing!  I love baking, cooking, and party planning – I just don’t love the house cleaning!

Here are some of the fun ideas we used for our Halloween party. . .

Apple slices with caramel is usually a big hit with kids – I peeled and sliced the apples and soaked them in Sprite for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure every apple got some love.  Then I patted them dry, and refrigerated them (covered) until needed.  Pat them dry again before placing in the caramel and serve immediately, otherwise the apples can make the caramel watery.  Salted caramel recipe coming soon!

All of the kids got to decorate three sugar cookies to eat or take home: there was a ghost, a pumpkin, and a bat.

My oldest wanted to make a spider web pizza.  So she sprinkled the cheese in circles and we split medium (pitted) olives in half and used those as the spiders bodies.  Then we cut sliced olives in half to make the legs.

I made plain ole American buttercream for the frosting and tinted it purple, green, and orange with gel frosting colors.  I purchased these silicone bowls and placed disposable knives in each to keep the colors from mixing.

The kids had fun decorating their cookies and using tons of sprinkles!

Later, some of the kids made these oreo witch shoes.  I used hot glue instead of double sided tape to glue the shoes together, and I opted to use the Wilton treat bags instead of cellophane sheets.

These clear cups were painted (on the inside) with melted chocolate.  Once the chocolate is set you can pour in the drink of your choice.  This one is filled with homemade eggnog.  Recipe coming soon!

For the cookie decorating table, I covered a folding table with kraft paper and used sheets of scrapbooking paper as placemats.  Then I place a large paper serving tray on each and placed one of each cookie for decorating.  Each girl also had an orange paper cup and down the center of the table were foam stickers for (table décor) and decorating their cups.

We also made a lime sherbet ice cream punch.  I grew up in the 80s and this punch was served at most of my school functions – I just had to make it for nostalgia.  I have learned that it’s best if you let everything melt together before serving.  Recipe coming soon!

Not shown: Halloween Bingo.  I don’t have a photo of it, but I want to include it because Bingo is such a fun game.  I bought the Bingo cards at Target and then I purchased a large bag of Hershey kisses to use as place markers.  I took the extra time to count out enough Hershey kisses for each kid to get blackout Bingo (25, for this particular card).  I placed the Hershey kisses in a free standing baking cup that was green and white striped.

For Bingo prizes, each child won their choice of an assortment of full sized candy bars the first time they won.  Every time they won after that, they were able to choose a fun/miniature sized candy from a tiered stand.  Plus, they were able to take home their Hershey kisses when the game was over.






Doughnut Witch’s Broom Treat Bags

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January 2014 110Halloween is without a doubt one of my favorite holidays – it’s right up there with Thanksgiving and the 4th of July.  They’re my favorite because you get to celebrate with friends and family, eat crazy amounts of delicious food, and just kind of hang out.

Looking back I’m not sure I’ve ever had a “bad” Halloween.  Unless you count the time that my neighbors gave us pennies instead of candy, or the time we got instant powdered breakfast mix.  Not so good.  The moral – if you don’t have Halloween candy, just turn your porch light off!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way.  Let’s talk doughnuts!

I saw these Witch’s Broom Party Favors on Martha Stewart years ago, and thought they would be awesome filled with doughnuts!!!  I think in food, I just can’t help it!

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As you can see I crammed three regular-sized doughnuts in there, if you want more of the pretzel showing on the top, then just simply place two doughnuts in the bag.

This would also be fun to do with doughnut holes – although I haven’t tried it.  I rather liked the idea of the pretzel rod being held in place (somewhat) by the holes in the center of the regular doughnuts.  I have tried to make these with chocolate glazed doughnuts, but as you can imagine the glaze stuck to the bottom of the doughnut above it, which was less than ideal.

For the craft part, you’ll need. . .

brown paper lunch bags (2 per favor)

baking twine

large pretzel rods

3 regular size doughnuts (per favor)

You could cut corners and purchase doughnuts or you could make these lovelies from scratch.  Just be aware that freshly made homemade doughnuts are best eaten the day they are fried.

Berliner Doughnuts Adapted from Glazed, Filled, Sugared, & Dipped

3 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 1/2 cups whole milk, room temperature

3 cups bread flour

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Place the paddle attachment onto the stand mixer, and in the bowl, add the yeast and milk and paddle on low for about 3 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, salt, and nutmeg.  Pour mixture into the yeast and mix just until combined.

On low speed add the egg and vanilla to the batter and mix for just a few seconds.  Next add in the butter, paddling until incorporated.

On medium speed, paddle the batter for 5-8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the bowl.  It’s okay if it’s a little sticky – that means moist doughnuts!

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it into a ball.  Place in a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and place a dishtowel on top.  Let the dough rise until tripled – about 30 minutes to an hour.

In the meantime, place a paper towel on a large plate – set aside.  Then heat at least 2 inches of oil in a large pot until it reaches 350 degrees.

When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, using a rolling pin roll to the dough to 1/2 inch thick.  Cut the dough with a doughnut cutter.

Fry 2 -3 doughnuts at a time for 1.20 minutes per side, then flip and repeat.  Drain the doughnuts on the paper-towel lined plate.  Glaze while doughnuts are still warm.

Butter Glaze Adapted from Glazed, Filled, Sugared, & Dipped

1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

pinch of salt

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, sugar, and water.  Whisking to break up lumps.  Add vanilla and salt.  Simmer, then remove from heat.  Pour through a sieve and use immediately!

Dip warm doughnuts into the glaze and set on a wire rack to dry until they are no longer wet (about 30 minutes) before packaging them.







Monster Toes

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October 2014 184Just in time for Halloween – Monster Toe cookies!  Super fun to make, and one recipe makes a lot (over 6 dozen).  The trick to making these cookies is to roll a sparse amount of dough, because they do spread, and I like for them to be proportionate to the peanut M&M.

Regardless of how big they are, they are delicious.  So get your little monsters in the kitchen and bake up some fun!

Monster Toes Adapted from Ghoulish Goodies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup smooth peanut butter (I use Skippy Natural)

1 cup sugar

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 3/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large package of peanut M&Ms

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a cookie sheet with parchment.  Set aside.

Using your beaters, cream the butter, brown sugar, sugar, and peanut butter together until creamy.  Add the eggs and vanilla – beat until combined.

Add the baking powder and salt.  Beat until combined.  Then beat in the 2 3/4 cups flour until it is completely incorporated.

Pinch off roughly a teaspoon of cookie dough and roll the dough in between your hands to make a ball, and then a cylinder, then place it on the parchment-lined baking sheet.  Next, make lines in the dough with a fork tine (I use the side of the fork so I don’t squish the dough – you could also use a wood skewer).

Place a peanut M&M (word side down) on the end of the dough and taper the dough in around the M&M.  Then sprinkle the rest of the toe with chocolate jimmies.

Bake for 6 – 8 minutes.  Let cool completely before removing from parchment.

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Candy Corn Cheese Platter

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October 2014 075I have been to countless school Halloween parties.  And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that cheese platters are popular.  So I thought it would be fun to make a Halloween version – which is insanely easy to do + it includes all the cheeses that most kids love.

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Just add crackers around the edge and your done!  I used Colby Jack for the bottom layer, Sharp Cheddar for the middle, and Mozzarella cheese sticks for the top.  You could also use fresh Mozzarella, but it tends to weep, and a wet cheese platter is a bad cheese platter.

The Best Blueberry Muffins

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I couldn’t very well post a packaging idea featuring these yummy blueberry muffins without sharing the recipe with you all!  I love making these – they are so soft and delicious.  The secret to all that deliciousness is the sour cream and the mini blueberries (I buy Wyman’s frozen Wild Blueberries*).

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You know those Duncan Hines Blueberry mixes with the mini blueberries in the can?  I used to buy the mixes just to get those tiny berries to mix into my own batter.  So I was elated when I found the Wyman’s frozen blueberries at my local Fresh Market – I may or may not have bought 8 bags on the spot.

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What can I say?  Walmart has conditioned me to buy excessively (because as you know, if you see it there once it may never be back).  Or maybe it’s back, but hidden in a different location.  Don’t get me started!!!

The Best Blueberry Muffins Adapted from Gluesticks

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 cup canola oil

1 egg

1/3 cup sour cream, full fat

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup rinsed frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a standard muffin pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.  Then add all of the wet ingredients and stir together – the dough will be stiff.

Stir in the blueberries – if there are a few bluish purple streaks in the batter that’s okay!

Scoop the batter into the muffin liners using a Zeroll #30 disher (1.03 ounce).

Makes 12.

*This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that Wyman’s and The Fresh Market did not compensate me for this post in any form.  In fact, they don’t even know I exist!  I just happen to be a really big fan of Wyman’s Wild Blueberries (and I can only purchase them at the Fresh Market) and had to share them with you all because they’re just too good to keep to myself.


Kraft Cookie Bag (A Gift Idea)

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I’m always on the lookout for cute packaging ideas that don’t break the bank.  I found this idea in Picture Perfect Parties, which is a gem.  It’s loaded with lots of creative and fun party food and presentation ideas.

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The idea in the book was to hold olives inside the bag with a plastic liner, but I immediately decided the bag would be perfect as a vessel for homemade cookies and muffins.  I can just drop them off, and the recipient can recycle the bag – no storage issue for either one of us!

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And because I’m crazy about protecting my baked goods, I just layered plastic wrap sheets on top – you could also use parchment.  So get yourselves some Kraft paper bags with handles – like these, and just cut off the top near the handles and roll down the rim of the bags.  Fill with baked cookies or muffins and you’re done!

The cookies shown above are Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and the Thin Chocolate Chip Cookies.

If you have time, you can also swipe on two coats of chalkboard paint (dry between coats) and label your goodies with a liquid chalk pen.

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