baking, christmas, dessert

Christmas Deliciousness

For Thanksgiving (in addition to my yearly apple pies), I made cake bombs. One of my cousin’s asked me what Christmas’ treat would be. I stumbled across two caramel recipes on two different blogs and decided to try both of them. The first was from Not Quite Nigella.

http://www.notquitenigella.com/2010/01/13/salted-bacon-honey-maple-caramels/

She’s from Australia where they don’t carry Karo Syrup, hence the honey-maple. Quite a few people commented on the honey taste. It doesn’t taste quite like caramel and it dangerously spattered much more than making caramel with Karo Syrup, even at a much lower temperature. Next time, I would like to try them with Karo Syrup to have more of the caramel flavor. I also dipped them in Ghiradelli’s 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips, which made them more heat stable and much more delicious. A lot more people tried them than I expected and most seemed to like them.

I discovered my new favorite combo while making this- maple syrup & heavy cream are delightful together!

…and my new favorite bacon- Oscar Meyer Center Cut. Baked quite crispy here for the caramels.

Jack, stealing my bacon while I was tending to the caramel.

Very bubbly maple-honey caramel- it couldn’t be cooked over medium-low so it took quite awhile for the caramel to reach the right temperature.

Hardened caramels, but not quite finished for my liking.

I labeled the caramels for those weary of meat in their sweet treats. I dipped them in Ghiradelli’s 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate chips, which made them more heat stable and was the flavor they needed to complete them.

Next treat, Caramel Shortbread from How Does She? This one sounded really amazing to me. I have quite an unnatural love of butter. The shortbread called for egg, so I should have known that it wasn’t a true shortbread. It tasted okay, but more like a sweet biscuit. I made the caramel, but wanted to make it a bit harder than the bacon caramels. I had a grand terrible idea to cook it in the middle of soft and hard caramel- keep reading to learn from my mistakes. Turns out that cooking to a middle temperature just makes it like caramel flavored gum. It still tastes delicious but you eventually have to spit it out because your jaw is aching. I tried pulling off the caramel layer so that I could save the shortbread (I wish I had taken a picture of my sad caramel gum on the counter) but it didn’t quite work out and I didn’t like the first shortbread anyway. So, I started from scratch with a new shortbread recipe. This one was delicious. I snacked on the batter quite a bit (no eggs!). It was a bit sweet with the caramel though. The next morning, I made the caramel again, poured in on the shortbread and ran out the door to for Christmas at Nana’s. These were also popular, but they were very sweet and you can’t eat more than a bit at a time. Also, as evidenced from the picture just above, the caramel quickly melted off the shortbread. A few people commented on this on How Does She?. One person suggested putting each square in a muffin cup to keep them from getting stuck to each other, but then you’re having to eat around little bits of paper on the caramel. I need to find a new caramel recipes that isn’t so drastically soft (but not chewy like gum!).
http://www.howdoesshe.com/salted-caramel-shortbread-squares

Finished shortbread & foamy (but not bubbly!) caramel.

Finished caramel, deceivingly delicious looking.

Very un-heat stable caramel- melted after being out for about an hour and half on Christmas.

One last treat, we finally invited my family over. My dad had only seen our place when we first moved in and my mom hadn’t seen it at all. David made the best mashed potatoes ever (we did not add the sugar) and I made “romantic steak” and a greek salad. We bought ice cream from Mariposa, down the street from us. We highly recommend them, if you are ever in Normal Heights. I pulled out our double broiler for the first time and made hot fudge from Smitten Kitchen. David and I thought it was super tasty. The flavor tasted like Ghiradelli’s (the best hot fudge in the world) but the texture was too thin. It looks thick on the photos on Smitten Kitchen. I added the vanilla too soon and I may not have cooked it long enough- I guess I’ll have to try again! It also was grainy when cold but completely smooth when warmed up. David and I recommend it but I don’t think that my sister liked it and Jack said “yuck, tastes like dark chocolate.”

http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/02/hot-fudge-sauce/

Our double broiler out of the box!

My hot fudge

Okay, I have one last treat from my all time favorite breakfast cookbook, California Bed and Breakfast Cookbook (less then $5 on Amazon!). My aunt gave this to my mom years ago and I pull it out every year for Christmas breakfast. My old standby is the hashbrown casserole (with eggs and bacon). I’ve also made eggnog french toast, a quiche, coffee cake and probably a few other things too and they never disappoint. This year, in addition to the hashbrown casserole, I made the Cranberry Pumpkin French Toast. By “I made it,” I mean that I chose the recipe and bought the ingredients and David did all of the work. When I met him, he ate Hawiian rolls and ham. A lot. When he was feeling fancy, he would make spaghetti. He has come a long way in the last 5 years (although, in his defense, he has always been able to make a mean homemade pizza). Anyway, back to the Cranberry Pumpkin French Toast- it had no sugar in it, so I think that probably 1/2 cup of maple syrup in the batter would make it pretty excellent (the recipe was also halved, which was more than enough for 5 adults). It wasn’t perfect tasting, but it looked like Christmas!

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