Salted Caramel Sauce

Welcome to the 200th post on Lingonberry Jam! Although I’m just a hobbyist who’s nowhere near the 1000 posts of my favorite food blogger, it’s still fun to take a moment to reflect on these past few years and how my blog has evolved. Indulge me for a moment as I get all infographic crazy.

Lingonberry Jam Infographic

A few takeaways:

  • People like posts with hyphens in them. Oh, and being on Buzzfeed helps.
  • I wonder how many people are looking for my blog, and how many are just hoping to learn about those tart Swedish preserves they sell at Ikea.
  • My mom rocks. :)

As my 200th post neared, I found myself wondering what recipe I should post to mark the momentous occasion. Perhaps that homemade nutella that I still haven’t quite gotten right? Or a fancy dancy homemade cheese? How about a celebratory cake?

In the end, I decided to go for something simple and versatile: salted caramel sauce. It’s a recipe I’ve made many, many times. It’s something that any dessert lover should learn to master. It’s SO much better than buying caramel topping from the grocery store. And it can be made with a few ingredients you probably already have on hand.

It’s a winner.

Soon I’ll share a fantastic dessert that I topped with this sauce, but for now just enjoy this on ice cream, brownies, apple slices, or by the spoonful (guilty). And thank you SO much for following along with all my cooking adventures!

Salted caramel sauce

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Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 Tbs. butter, cut into six pieces
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp. kosher flake salt

In a small saucepan with tall sides, heat sugar over medium heat. Stir occasionally with a heatproof spatula or whisk as the sugar melts. The sugar will clump up and then start to liquify and turn a dark amber color. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn.

When the sugar is completely melted, add the butter, stirring constantly. The mixture will become quite bubbly, so be careful. When the butter is completely melted, slowly stir in the heavy whipping cream. Again, the caramel will bubble up angrily. Boil the mixture for one minute, then remove from heat and stir in the salt.

Let cool, and transfer to an airtight container. Caramel will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. (If it becomes too thick to stir after refrigeration, reheat in the microwave for 30-60 seconds before using. You might want to store it in a microwave-safe container just in case.)

Makes about 1 cup.

Source: Sally’s Baking Addiction.

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Salted Carmelita Bars

This blog has seen a lot of kitchens. I started writing it while we lived in Madison, in an apartment with an L-shaped kitchen so small I had to store my KitchenAid mixer on a shelf in the bathroom. Then we moved to Boston, and I cooked out of a tiny kitchen that (astonishingly) had no drawers.

Our second apartment in Boston had an awesome kitchen with white cupboards and granite countertops that I still dream about, but we weren’t there for long. Our Minneapolis apartment has the biggest kitchen yet, but the countertop edges are so sharp I have actual scars from running into them.

So many kitchens. So many culinary trials, tears, and triumphs. And now, it’s time to move on to yet another kitchen. In a few short weeks, we’re bidding adieu to our beloved Minneapolis and moving to Los Angeles. Our belongings will follow on a truck a few weeks later, and I will be anxiously waiting their arrival. Because then I can start to organize yet another kitchen, and then it will start to feel like home.

Salted carmelita bars

Carmelita bars are a Minnesota classic, originating (as far as I can tell) in the Pillsbury Bake-off Contest in 1967. The original recipe is delightful, but then I discovered a version that calls for homemade salted caramel sauce and it knocked my socks off. So look out, California friends, because I’m bringing some good ol’ Midwestern cooking like this your way. But it’s gonna come with some long vowels and a lot of me yelling “Gladys, we need more bars!” Okay then? Ohh-kay.

Salted carmelita bars

Salted Carmelita Bars

Bars

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream at room temperature (I used lactose-free half ‘n’ half)
  • 3 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350° F and lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish with butter. Set aside.

Make bars: In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, oats, brown sugar, and baking soda. Chop the butter into pieces about 1/2-inch square. With the paddle attachment fitted to the mixer, add butter to the oat mixture and stir at low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is broken into small chunks. Press about 2/3 of the oat mixture into the bottom of the 9×13 pan.

Bake crust for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Set aside.

Make caramel sauce: In a medium saucepan, stir together granulated sugar and water. Place over medium heat and let the mixture come to a boil, without stirring. Place a lid on the saucepan and continue boiling for three minutes, so any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan get steamed off.

Remove the lid and continue boiling the sugar mixture– still without stirring– until it’s a deep amber color. Remove from heat. Add the cream carefully; the mixture will violently bubble up. Whisk in butter and salt until smooth and well combined. If there are chunks of hard caramel in the sauce, stir constantly over low heat until they’re melted. Whisk in the flour.

Pour the caramel sauce over the chocolate chips and oatmeal crust. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the caramel sauce. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the topping is lightly browned. Let bars cool completely before slicing and serving. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes 24 bars.

Source: Adapted from Erlyce Larson via Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. 

Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Hi friends. Hello again. Sorry for the radio silence. I can blame my lengthy absence from this blog on being very busy and important, but that’s a pretty lame excuse. We’re all busy.  Truth is, with Gabe gone last summer, most of my meals consisted of summer vegetables, baguettes, and cheese, so there wasn’t much to post about. And then after we got married and he was home with me again, I was more interested in cooking and eating food than making my poor husband wait while I photographed our supper in just the perfect light.

But guess what? I missed this space. I’ve still been cooking and recipe tweaking like crazy, but I really missed the creative challenge of food photography. So I’m back. Even though it’s February in Minnesota and the light is mostly gray and the produce is uninspiring. I’m back, and I’m hoping to be seen a little more frequently around here.

Along those lines, here’s an unorthodox recipe for February: ice cream. Cookie dough ice cream, to be exact. I have fourteen ice cream recipes on this blog, so adding one more seems like just the ticket for getting back in the blogging game. Consider it a thank-you from me to you. Thanks for still being here!

Cookie dough ice cream

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Cookie Dough Ice Cream

ICE CREAM

  • 1 cup whole milk*
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream*
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

COOKIE DOUGH

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbs. milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Make ice cream: Whisk together milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream, and salt in a medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat until steamy, stirring occasionally and being careful not to scorch the bottom. Remove from heat and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the saucepan. Place the pod in the mixture as well, cover, and remove from heat. Let steep for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1 cup cream and 3/4 tsp. vanilla into a large bowl. Set a mesh strainer on top. Whisk together the egg yolks in a separate medium bowl. Slowly and carefully pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat again. Heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon. (If you’re using an instant read thermometer, it should read between 170° and 175° F.)

Immediately pour the egg yolk mixture through the mesh strainer and into the cream. Stir and chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

Meanwhile, make the cookie dough: Cream together sugars and butter in a medium bowl. Stir in vanilla, milk, flour, and salt until well combined. Stir in mini chocolate chips. Scoop into balls and place on a cutting board or cookie sheet. Freeze for a couple hours, then chop into smaller pieces. Keep frozen until ready to use.

Freeze ice cream in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the ice cream is done churning, stir in remaining 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips and cookie dough chunks. Store the ice cream in the freezer.

Source: Ice Cream from The Perfect Scoop, cookie dough adapted from Allrecipes.com, following some of the modifications posted by someone named giggletush (seriously). 

* As always, I use equal amounts of lactose-free half-and-half in place of the milk and cream in this recipe.

A “Grown-up” Airplane Birthday Party

Last week Gabe and I hosted a dozen friends to celebrate his 27th birthday. A few years ago I threw him a Star Wars-themed birthday party, and this year I went with another one of his favorite things: airplanes. This guy of mine has loved airplanes since he was little, so it was a fun opportunity for us all to goof off and act like kids again.

Decor was super simple. Silly signs welcomed guests past the “security checkpoint” and guided them to the baggage claim (front hall closet), lavatory (bathroom), and flight deck (balcony).

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Upon entering, everyone had to grab two name tags at random: their pilot name and their vehicle. Gabe had lots of fun brainstorming names from movies, video games, and real life. My favorite was when a pregnant friend got to be Han Solo flying a big balloon, which worked well with her adorable protruding belly.

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I used the silhouettes and names of WWII airplanes to make little food signs. The food was pretty low-key, since I’ve had a crazy couple of weeks and didn’t have hours to spend in the kitchen. We interspersed homemade goodies with store-bought snacks, and everything was a recipe I’d made before so I wasn’t too stressed.

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Here’s the menu:

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For drinks we did a DIY beverage station with little recipe cards for each cocktail:

  • Dauntless dark and stormies (2 oz. dark rum + 6 oz. ginger beer)
  • Engine and tonic (1 oz. Tomr’s tonic syrup + 2 oz. Prairie gin + 3 oz. soda water)
  • We also had a crazy assortment of beer. I couldn’t find any beers with airplanes on the labels so I was thrilled when friends managed to do it for me, showing up with Schell Shocked Grapefruit Radler and Alaskan ESB, among many others.

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For entertainment, I printed off paper airplane templates for people to construct, but the big hit of the night was a whole bunch of foam airplane gliders from Oriental Trading Company. Forty-eight gliders, to be exact. It was a mad melee of flying airplanes soaring every which way, and then a remote control helicopter somehow got in the mix and was bombarded with planes. So ridiculous and silly, but so much fun.

Thanks to all our party-goers for making the night a blast!

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(P.S. While planning this fun birthday bash, I was inspired by several other blogs, including two parties from Hostess with the Mostess here and here, and the blog I’m Topsy Turvy.)

2014 Food Resolutions

Happy 2014! Last year was a big transition for Gabe and me food-wise, instigated by a desire to be healthier and my avid reading of books and articles about the food industry. We still live in 21st-century America, but we’re trying our best to say goodbye to most highly processed foods. It’s actually kind of amazing and depressing that we no longer go down half of the aisles in the supermarket because there’s nothing good to be found.

In retrospect, “eating fewer highly processed foods” was an incredibly easy resolution to keep. I have a (slightly crazy) desire to challenge myself in the kitchen, we don’t have small children constantly begging for sugar, and we were both 100% on board with the change. We have absolutely no desire to go back to eating all those packaged food-like products, and I know we’ll continue to make strides on this journey. But now it’s another year, and I have three new cookbooks to delve into. So here we go!

Krista’s food resolutions for 2014:

  • Make things from scratch, scratchier. I’d love to learn new/old techniques like canning and how to soak beans. And I got a food grinder for Christmas so this girl is gonna try grinding her own hamburger!
  • Try my hand at sourdough bread. I have to admit, this one makes me nervous. A bubbling, fermenting sourdough starter in my fridge? Egad. And do I need to wait until spring to have enough wild yeast in the air? Lots of research to do before my first attempt.
  • Only buy humanely raised meat, locally if possible. If only based on price alone, this goal will definitely lead to us eating a lot less meat. I’ll also need to spend more time in a nearby co-op, although our local Target amazingly carries Thousand Hills beef.
  • Try making more dishes from other cultures. This one also scares me. I’m very content making Italian food or Americanized versions of Mexican and Chinese. But I asked for (and received) the cookbook Jerusalem for Christmas, and I’m gonna give it a whirl. I’ll probably start with hummus to reassure myself that I can handle the challenge, and then go from there. Wish me luck!
  • Eat more vegetables. Always.

In the same vein, Mark Bittman wrote an interesting list of food resolutions in the NY Times that has a lot of great ideas to adopt. What are your food (or non-food) resolutions for 2014?

Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

Last Sunday was my sister’s birthday. I woke up bright and early on Saturday (early because my butter was tragically frozen solid the night before), determined to whip up her favorite birthday combo: yellow cake and chocolate frosting. I don’t know about you, but I can bounce out of bed before sunrise if it means I get to play around with cake batter and frosting.

Yellow cake with chocolate frosting

It was a lovely Saturday morning. Sprinkles and frosting abounded. And then Gabe, his best friend, my sister, and I all drove down to our old college town to frolic in the sunshine.

And then something bigger than yellow cupcakes and chocolate buttercream happened.

Yellow cake with chocolate frosting

This quiet weekend suddenly became a dizzying combo of laughter, tears, champagne, ridiculously good food, balloons, candles, racing hearts, and giddy joy.

And at the end of it all, bleary-eyed and overjoyed, I snuggled up to my guy and enjoyed a leftover cupcake with chocolate frosting. Simply perfect.

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 Yellow Cupcakes

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs and 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350° F and line two muffin tins with paper liners. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Using a stand mixer, cream together sugar and butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, until well combined. Be sure to stop and scrape the bowl occasionally.

In a small bowl, stir together sour cream and vanilla extract. With mixer on low speed, alternate adding flour mixture and sour cream mixture a little bit at a time, starting and ending with the flour.

When batter is smooth and well combined, pour into prepared muffin tins. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes and place on a rack until cool. Frost as desired.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher flake sea salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla or hazelnut extract
  • 2 Tbs. milk or cream

Whip butter on medium speed in a stand mixer for about 2 minutes. Turn off mixer and add powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Slowly stir until the sugar and cocoa are well combined, then add salt, vanilla extract, and milk. Turn the speed up to medium and whip for 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Pipe on cooled cupcakes and serve.

Makes 3 cups frosting.

Source: Cake from Annie’s Eats. Chocolate buttercream very slightly adapted from Savory Sweet Life.

Soufflops

Holy schmoly, it’s been a whole month since I’ve posted. Uffda. First there was Hawaii, then the Cape, then the end of my internship, then the start of a new semester. My cooking this month has basically revolved around sandwiches and sausages. And one happy batch of popovers.

Last night I decided to get myself back into cooking mode– something I’ve desperately missed– by trying my hand at chocolate soufflés. I understand the basic principles of soufflé-making and have used the techniques in other recipes before, like molten chocolate cakes. Nothing was terribly new or frightening.

But last night was a bust. I turned away from my mixer for one second and looked back to find clumpy, overbeaten egg whites. Being stubborn (or curious?) I decided to forge ahead, knowing in my heart of hearts that the soufflés wouldn’t rise but hoping I could prove the laws of physics wrong.

Nope. Physics won. And while the dessert still tasted okay, it didn’t have the airy texture or dramatic puff intrinsic to a true soufflé. Sufficiently humbled, I sighed and vowed to try again someday.

Luckily I’m resilient (or naive) enough that experiences like this don’t dissuade me from kitchen challenges for long. Besides I just saw a recipe in Food Network Magazine for homemade candy corn. Bring it on.