And so, the pumpkin/pumpkin spice craze continues… this time in the form of delicious and chewy caramels.
Last weekend I had a long-standing kitchen date/caramel-making lesson with my friend, Carissa. I’m always happy to forgo my diet in the name of helping others! After we finished our first batch of basic salted caramels, which I was impressed only took us one try (I suppose at this point I’m a little more seasoned in the dangerous art of caramel), we decided to make a second batch with a seasonal spin. So Carissa whipped up some homemade pumpkin spice (I’d recently run out-big surprise), and we added it to our base recipe. What I love about caramel-making is once you master the basics, its so easy to customize the flavor, especially since the ingredient list is minimal and the process is rather quick, you can easily whip up multiple batches in one afternoon.
The caramel recipe we followed comes from The Kitchn, and I highly recommend heading over there to read their long and informative post before diving into the recipe. Caramel-making may seem simple but it really is a science, and there are little things you need to pay attention to yield the results you’re after. One thing that perplexed us after our caramels were cooled and ready to cut and wrap, was that while our salted caramels turned out lighter in color, they were firmer; and even though we cooked our spiced caramels a tad longer to achieve a dark amber color, they were much softer. Some of the sweet mysteries of caramel-making are still lost on me, but I just chalk them up to delicious happenstance!
Homemade Pumpkin Spice
- 4 TBSP cinnamon
- 4 tsp nutmeg
- 4 tsp ginger
- 3 tsp allspice
Pumpkin Spice Caramels
From The Kitchn. Makes about 55 caramels.
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin spice
- 8×8 baking dish (or similar size)
- Parchment paper
- 2-quart saucepan
- 4-quart saucepan
- Instant-read thermometer or candy thermometer
- Wax paper
1. Prepare the caramel mold. Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment so that excess paper hangs over the edges. Spray the parchment and the sides of the pan with nonstick spray.
2. Melt the butter in the cream. Over medium heat, warm the cream, butter, and salt in the 2-quart saucepan until the butter melts. Remove from heat, but keep the pan close by.
3. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. In the larger 4-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir until the sugar is evenly moistened and you form a thick grainy paste. Wipe down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush so there are no sugar crystals above the surface of the sugar mixture. Clip the instant-read thermometer to the side of the pan so that the heat sensor is immersed in the sugar. Do not stir the sugar after this point.
Note: The large saucepan is necessary because the sugar will bubble up and triple in size when you add the cream. Do not substitute a smaller pan.
4. Cook the sugar syrup. Place the pot with the sugar mixture over medium to medium-high heat. Let the sugar syrup come to a boil without stirring. At first, you will see small bubbles around the edge of the pan, which will eventually move inward. Around 250°F, the sugar syrup will turn transparent and boil rapidly. Around 320°F, the syrup will darken slightly and smell caramel-like. You can proceed to the next step any time after the syrup reaches 250°F and before it reaches 325°F.
Note: If your instant-read thermometer isn’t quite submerged into the sugar, you may need to tilt the pan to get an accurate reading. Simply tilt the pan by the handle until the thermometer is submerged a few inches in the sugar syrup. If the syrup hasn’t reached 250°, wipe down the sides with a pastry brush again. If it has, there’s no need.
5. Whisk in the cream and butter. Turn off the heat under the sugar syrup. Slowly pour the warm cream and butter mixture into the sugar syrup while whisking the sugar syrup gently. The sugar syrup will bubble up and triple in size. Stop whisking once all the milk and butter mixture has been added.
6. Heat the caramel to 245°F – 250°F. Return the pan to medium to medium-high heat. Let the caramel come to a boil without stirring. It will start off as a soft buttery yellow and eventually darken to reddish-brown caramel. Remove from heat when the caramel reaches 245°F to 250°F.
7. Whisk in the vanilla and pumpkin spice.
8. Pour the caramels into the mold. Immediately pour the caramels into the mold. Do not scrape the pan (there are sometimes hard burnt bits on the bottom). Knock the pan agains the counter a few times to help air bubbles work their way out.
9. Let the caramels set. Set the caramels somewhere out of the way to set, for at least two hours or (ideally) overnight. Once the caramels have cooled to room temperature, you can cover the pan.
10. Cut the caramels. When the caramels have set, lift them out of the pan by the parchment paper flaps and onto a cutting board. Cut the caramels into candies with a very sharp knife. If the caramels stick to your knife, spray your knife with nonstick cooking spray.
11. Wrap the caramels in wax paper. Cut squares of wax paper a little longer than your caramels. Wrap each caramel in wax paper and twist the ends closed. Caramels will keep at room temperature for about two weeks.
Since you can probably tell I’ve been pretty good at sticking closely to the Paleo lifestyle lately, this post may come as a shock; not unlike the insulin shock these sugar-bombs had on my system at 11pm last night, keeping me up past my early-workout bedtime! However, this weekend is my ultimate best bud / step-sister, Ashley’s birthday, and birthdays always call for indulgent treats!
These rich and sinful delights come from the awesome cookbook, Baked Explorations, but I decided to make cupcakes instead of the beautiful 3-tiered creation in the book so that Ashley could more easily share these at work. The result is a not-too-sweet, rich but delicate chocolate cake, topped with an oh-so-fluffy coffee buttercream (made with a technique I’d never heard of before, but will gladly try again!). I opted to dip the cupcakes in the ganache before frosting them which is not only easier, but it looks great and ended up hiding any imperfections in the cupcakes due to some of them rising over the edges of the pan and breaking apart a bit (lesson learned: don’t try to make a perfect 3 dozen if it means you’re putting too much batter in each one! No harm in making an extra few!)
So, enjoy the chocolatey goodness, and most importantly HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ASHLEY!
Chocolate & Coffee Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Ganache
adapted from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Makes 3 dozen.
- 3/4 cups dark unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2/3 cup sour cream
- 2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cups (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1″ cubes, softened
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons coffee extract
- 8 oz. good-quality (60-72%) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1/2″ pieces
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 3 dozen chocolate covered espresso beans
Make the cupcakes
Make the Coffee Buttercream
Make the Chocolate Glaze
After being mostly Paleo for a year and a half now, and being more conscious of the quality and source of our food (and less conscious of our wallets), Scott and I finally went all in and bought 1/8 of a cow through Philly Cow Share. We picked up around 43lbs of wholesome, local, grass fed beef last week. Complete with ample steaks, some ribs, roasts, ground beef, and stew meat. Our freezer is packed and we couldn’t be more excited!
For our first meal, we decided to celebrate the cooler weather and cook up a nice pot of stew using some of the pre-cut stew meat along with two beef shanks (osso buco); Because yes, there are a few cuts that have been divided between the 8 groups that just don’t add up to full meals on their own. Luckily, we have full confidence in the kitchen when it comes to meat and we knew that the osso buco would cook up deliciously and tenderly in a pot of stew while the bits of marrow from the shank bones would help boost the richness as well. However, feel free to go ahead and use the original 3lbs of stew meat if you are shank-less.
This recipe is adapted from our favorite cookbook, Braises and Stews by Tori Ritchie. However, having tried this in the past and made note of the intensity of the wine, I played with the ratio of broth to wine a bit to result in a more even flavor and to cut down on the sugars. Also, staying true to our cavemen ways, I omitted the small amount of flour and sugar the original recipe called for.
- 3lbs beef stew, preferably grass fed chuck; or 2lbs beef stew and 2 osso buco shanks
- kosher salt and black pepper
- coconut oil
- 2 TBSP butter
- 3 yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 1/2 cups low sodium beef broth (If you have homemade or 100% stock, use that! We were unfortunately stuck with organic, yet chock-full-of-additional-ingredients store-bought broth)
- 2 TBSP tomato paste
Cut the stew meat into 2-inch pieces and pat dry with paper towels. If using, dry the beef shanks as well. Sprinkle all meat generously with salt and pepper. Coat the bottom of a 5-7 quart dutch oven with coconut oil and set the pot over medium-high heat.
When oil is hot enough, add meat in one layer and sear it on both sides until meat lifts up easily, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat in batches with the remaining meat, being careful not to overcrowd it. Once all the meat is seared and set aside in a separate bowl, add the butter to the pot along with the onions. Cook onions for 3 minutes, until softened, then turn the heat down to low and let onions cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden.
Stir in the thyme, wine, and broth and increase heat to high. Let it come to a boil then stir in the tomato paste. Return the meat to the pot, along with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl. Let liquid come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
If you’d like, add frozen vegetables to the stew near the end; Such as carrots, zucchini, green beans, or peas! Let them cook until softened and warm.
Today I bring you a short and sweet post with a recipe for some delicious and nutritious juice. The star of which, is the ever-polarizing beet. When it comes to beets, I’ve only ever heard people proclaim they love them, hate them, or have no idea what to do with them. So with this recipe, I hope to appeal to the masses and perhaps convert some haters and enlighten the beet-naive.
Beets rule. They’re rich in nutrients (like folic acid, magnesium, calcium, and iron), have detoxifying properties, and that sweet demeanor of theirs provides you with a good source of carbohydrate energy. They’re also a stunning example of the bold natural dyes that nature produces.
The reason I like this juice combo so much is that the addition of pineapple (besides adding a Vitamin C boost to kickoff this cold and flu season) adds just enough tartness to tame some of the “earthy/dirt” flavor that may make beets less-than-delicious to some folks. With just three ingredients (four, if you count the beet greens as a separate ingredient), why not give this juice a try?
Beet, Pineapple, and Celery Juice
- 1 bunch of beets, with about 3 medium-large beetroots, or rough equivalent in smaller beetroots
- 1 pineapple
- 1 head of celery
Remove beetroots from the stalks and leaves (don’t toss these!), and scrub them well with a produce brush to remove any dirt. Cut the beetroots into 1-inch cubes. You may want to wear gloves while handling the beets to avoid staining your hands red. Clean and roughly chop the beet greens, and set aside.
Peel and slice your pineapple into 1-inch chunks. Wash celery and slice into 1-inch pieces as well.
Slowly feed all ingredients through your juicer, alternating between the greens and the juicier pieces, to avoid clogging the feed tube.
If you’d like, strain the juice with a fine-mesh strainer at the end to remove any residual pulp.
This week is my lovely friend, coworker, and bridesmaid Allie’s birthday. And if you know me at all, you’d know that I’ll jump at the opportunity to whip up something sweet, especially for one of my sweetest friends!
At the moment, I’m taking this month to get back on the Paleo horse to recover from a summer of too many “cheats,” as well as to help me begin training for the Philadelphia Half Marathon this November, and to start kicking it into high gear and get into wedding shape! So, when I decided to bake Allie a birthday treat, pie made the most sense. No bowls of batter or frosting to tempt me, and no “extra” cupcakes/cookies laying around that just can’t go to waste!
This recipe comes from the ever-drool-inducing Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts, and the timing is perfect as fresh and local peaches are everywhere right now! What’s great about this pie, is the combination of a crumb topping and creme fraiche that, when baked up together, create a custard-like texture. The crust for this pie is also a first for me; I’ve made Martha’s Pate Brisee (your standard pastry crust) many times, but this Pate Sucre is slightly sweeter, sturdier and easier to work with.
Peach and Creme Fraiche Pie
(from Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts)
FOR THE PATE SUCREE:
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup cold (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed
- 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup cold (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
FOR THE FILLING:
- 1 1/2 pounds ripe (4 to 5 medium) yellow peaches, pitted and quartered
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 5 tablespoons creme fraiche
- Make the pate sucree: Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter; process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. add egg yolk, and pulse. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube until dough just holds together. Turn out dough onto a work surface; shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour (up to 2 days).
- Make the streusel: Sift together sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Using your hands or a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thick. Fit into a 9 1/2- or 10-inch pie plate (about 1 1/2 inches deep). Trim edge to 1 inch; fold under, and crimp as desired. Pierce bottom of dough all over with a fork. Transfer to freezer for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover edge of crust with foil. Line crust with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake, covered, 10 minutes. Remove weights and parchment (keep foil on edge). Bake until pale golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly; remove foil; reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
- Make the filling: Put peaches into a medium bowl, and sprinkle with sugar and salt; gently toss to coat. let stand 15 minutes. Spread 2 tablespoons creme fraiche onto bottom of crust; sprinkle with one-third of the streusel. Arrange peaches on top; spread or dot with remaining 3 tablespoons creme fraiche. Sprinkle with remaining streusel.
- Bake pie until creme fraiche is bubbling and streusel is golden brown, about 50 minutes. Cover edge of crust with foil if it’s browning too quickly. Let cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.