Tag Archives: homemade

Recipe: Gingerbread Caramels

21 Dec

Christmas, oh Christmas.

I’m not religious but Christmas is  my guilty pleasure. I love the holiday season in general-that magical time between Halloween and New Year’s makes me all gooey. It’s probably all of the alcohol and baked goods you’re encouraged to imbibe. (Hey-o!)

Since my fiance joined me on the east coast a year ago, we’ve only gone back home for one holiday a year, which means picking between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year we went home for Xmas. This year was Tgiving. And so, schmoops and I will be celebrating Christmas with our cat this year. Honestly? I’m really excited about it. I’m making epic Christmas brunch, we’re going to lay around in our pjs, open presents, and maybe go to a movie. Our theatre here has a bar inside of it so, because it’s Christmas, I’ll probably splurge and buy us movie-themed adult beverages to enjoy. You know. Live it up.

The downside of spending Christmas (almost) alone 3,000 miles away from the rest of your family is that Christmas presents begin to pose a problem. Add to that the fact that you’re broke and you’ve been unemployed for 5 months (guilty…) and you see what I’m talking about. This called for creativity. What could I send loved ones that would be inexpensive, easy to mail (to three different countries), and universally well received?

CANDY!

Specifically, caramel. Gingerbread caramel. Thank you, Ms. Martha Stewart.

Gingerbread Caramels

4 cups (2 pints) heavy cream

2 cups light corn syrup

4 cups granulated sugar

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup unsulfured molasses

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

A quick note about the corn syrup-I really didn’t want to use it. I’m a giant hippie deep down inside so I think corn syrup is the devil. Also, my best friend’s little daughter is allergic to it and I wanted her to be able to eat these things. However, at the last minute I got lazy (and I had a random bottle of the stuff) that I wanted to use. If you’re interested in corn syrup substitutions, there are lots of suggestions on the ol’ interwebs. The best ones I found were to make a thick simple syrup  from water and sugar, or to use honey. I think you can also use tapioca syrup and/or agave syrup.

ONWARD.

Prepare your pans. This is what you will be pouring the hot caramel into to cool. The recipe suggests using a 12×17 inch rimmed pan, but I didn’t have one of those so I just used what I did have, and made sure that the sum of their measurements matched. The caramel is crazy sticky, so you have to grease the bottom and sides of all the pans. Then, line the pans with parchment or wax paper, and grease the paper as well. Trust me on this. You want to do it.

Bring the cream, corn syrup, sugar, butter, and molasses to a boil. Continue to cook over medium-high heat until it reaches 248˚F. The amount of time it takes to do this will vary depending on your altitude and what you put in the caramel. I swear it took me almost an hour. The thing is-it is very important that you reach that 248˚ mark. If you don’t the candy won’t be thick enough and it won’t harden properly.

Boiling boiling.

Once it reaches 248˚, turn off the heat and stir in the spices, the salt, and the vanilla.

Pour the mixture into your prepared pans. Allow to sit undisturbed for 24 hours. This is to make sure the caramel cools completely. Also, I would recommend that you lightly cover the pans with a clean dishcloth. Caramel is sticky. You don’t want any dust or..whatever else getting in it.

The next day, get yourself a cutting board and a knife. I used my pizza cutter, which, incidentally, I have never used to cut a pizza. Grease the cutting surface and your cutting implement. Turn the caramel over onto your prepared surface. You might have to use a knife to loosen the parchment overhang, but if you greased properly this should be easy. Then you’ll have to peel the paper from the back of the caramel.

Cut the caramels into 1″ pieces. I actually used a ruler and traced a light grid onto the caramel before I cut them. You don’t have to do that if you don’t want to, but I found it helpful.

Wrap the individual pieces in wax paper or parchment paper.

Twist the sides to make them look like real candy.

If you’re giving them as gifts, you can put them in fun little cellophane bags. I used a free template to print those stickers, which can be found here.

The whole process was really quite easy, if time consuming. I hand-wrapped over 100 caramels, you guys.

❤ stef

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How To: Creme Fraiche.

30 May

Alrighty. Creme fraiche. So it turns out creme fraiche is ridiculously easy to make. All you need is some heavy cream, culture, and a warm-ish windowsill. Emphasis on the warm-ish windowsill. I made this stuff in early May and Boston was still dealing with some shitty weather, so although I left my jar out for almost two and a half days the creme fraiche did not thicken correctly. I ended up sticking it in the fridge and then leaving it out for again for about an hour when the sun finally showed up, and it thickened almost immediately. Bacteria yay?

It is very fun to make. Very. It doesn’t involve much active process, but you feel triumphant anyway. Like an ass-kicking pioneer woman who is about to blow your bloody MIND.

1 container heavy cream

1 TB buttermilk or 2 TB yogurt – I used yogurt

jar

This picture makes me believe that the cream is ready to conquer the WORLD.

So. Pour all of your cream into a jar and add the buttermilk or yogurt. I used 2TB of greek yogurt. I had read that the cultures in yogurt aren’t as “strong” as the ones in buttermilk so I doubled the recommended amount. The yogurt you use will impart a slight flavor to your finished creme fraiche. For example, I used a tart greek yogurt and my creme fraiche was likewise slightly tart.

Stir in the yogurt/buttermilk and leave it (preferably uncovered, unless you’re worried about bugs) at room temperature for 24-48 hours. Keep in mind that it will continue to thicken slightly once you move it to the fridge.

I left it out longer (2.5 days).  On a warm day I would probably leave it for 12 and then check on it to ensure that it is thickening correctly, but you likely won’t need to leave it out for so long. Mine, even after 2.5 days, was initially very thin. I then left it out in the sun for maybe an hour and it thickened right up.

This is how it looked after 2.5 days.

As you can see, it wasn’t coagulating correctly. It still tasted good, it just didn’t quite have the texture I was after. If you end up with runny creme fraiche, remember that you can always whip it like whipped cream if you wish. I was actually planning on doing that until the sun finally showed up.

You can use the finished product in so many ways, just be sure to use it up in a week-ish. (I’m a little lax with expiration dates…I basically use something until it starts to smell.) (TMI?) Things I made:

Scrambled eggs

Pancakes

Creme fraiche/nutella strawberry dipping sauce (you just swirl the two together).

Enjoy!

❤ stef

How To: Pumpkin Puree

4 Oct

Alright ladies and gents. It’s that time of year again, the time when most Americans begin to experience uncomfortably desperate pumpkin cravings. You know who you are. You’re the one in the corner mainlining pumpkin spice lattes. Don’t try to hide! YOU’VE BEEN SPOTTED.

Ahem.

Sugar pie pumpkins and all manner of squash are currently on sale at Whole Foods for 99 cents a pound, which is what made me want to buy one. That and “sugar pie” pumpkin is such a cute name. Don’t you want to go buy one now? Sure you do. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

I’ve never actually been a fan of pumpkin pie (one of the only pumpkin incarnations I am aware of, I’ll admit) and I’ve recently decided that this might be because my grandma uses canned pumpkin. I know, I know, apparently there are really awesome and good quality canned pumpkin products out there, but this is just my THEORY. I really want to like pumpkin pie. I feel like I might be missing out on something.  In any case, making your own puree is really easy, and if you get the pumpkin on sale it is SO CHEAP. My pumpkin cost me about $1.50. You’re welcome.

The first step is to grab your pumpkin. Hello pumpkin! He is a sugar pie pumpkin, one of the smaller, sweeter varieties best for dessert making, and he weighs approximately 1.5 pounds. Aww.

Now, wash him. Cut off his stem and then cut him into quarters. This is his better half.

Use a spoon to scoop out all of his insides-seeds and stringy pulpy bits. Put it all aside because you can use the seeds for roasting, or making pumpkin brittle.

Put the quarters on a baking sheet, cover with foil, and roast in a 400˚ oven for 35-40 minutes.

My pumpkin has battle scars.

When it’s done, the pumpkin should be soft enough for you to scrape the shell off with a spoon. I left mine for 35 minutes and it was perfect.

Allow the pumpkin to cool for 10-20 minutes, then take a spoon and scrape the shell off.

Using some sort of mixing or mashing device, puree your pumpkin! I used my very favorite immersion blender that I use for everything. You might prefer a cuisinart, or a fork. I just don’t know.

The puree will keep for a few days in the fridge. I am still trying to decide what to so with mine. Right now, I’m thinking either pumpkin cheesecake or pumpkin pavlovas. I’ll decide in the next few days and post the results next Monday. In the meantime, happy pumpkin making!

❤ stef

Recipe: Goat’s Milk CHEESE!

28 Feb

I finally got around to hauling out my kit from Urban Cheesecraft and making some queso.

And it was AWESOME.

I love making things that you usually have to buy (marshmallows, anyone?) because it makes me feel oddly powerful. Like, eff you world! I can MAKE SHIT. If the zombie apocalypse came tomorrow, you would definitely want me with your roaming band of survivors. I’m not a big fighter, but I can knit (which means I carry pointy sticks, more conducive to vampire slaughter, but still), I can sew, and I can cook. I know how to make bread and butter, though we will have to find a suitable lactating animal for the latter. You know, cow or goat. When the zombie apocalypse hits you won’t want to be too picky. For all you smartasses who think you can’t make butter from goat milk, YOU’RE WRONG.

So my cheese-making experience was fantastic, except that I almost over heated my milk. One of the crucial steps in cheese making is separating the curds from the whey, which occurs when you heat your milk. I assumed that I would be able to very visibly see the curds separate, that they would be able the size of cottage cheese curds. Not so! The curds were so tiny I could hardly see them and I thought I hadn’t heated the milk enough. Fortunately I read the FAQ over at Urban Cheesecraft and discovered that not all curds are large. In my case, I ended up dipping a metal spoon into the heated milk, and when I pulled the spoon out it was dotted with tiny white specks. Curds!

So, what follows is your basic goat cheese making technique, found in the recipe book that came with my Urban Cheesecraft kit. You can find online recipes, too, but I highly recommend buying a kit from the good people at Urban Cheesecraft! It’s not as though you can’t make cheese without it, but they make it so much easier. Mine came with yards of butter muslin, molds, a thermometer, vegetable rennet, citric acid, cheese salt, and recipe booklets.

Soft Goat’s Cheese

I cut the original recipe in half.

1 quart goat’s milk

1/2 tsp citric acid

1/4 C water

cheese salt (which is just flaked kosher salt). Make sure the salt you use doesn’t have iodine or anti-caking agents.

butter muslin (very fine cheesecloth)

thermometer

colander

big bowl

cheese mold (optional)

Grab your goat’s milk.

This is the first time I had ever bought goat’s milk. I was understandably curious.

Tastes just like moo cow milk. Yum!

Dissolve the citric acid into the water and put aside.

Pour your goat’s milk and the citric acid/water mix into a large pot and clip a thermometer to the side of the pot. You want to make sure your thermometer tip is not touching the bottom of the pot, it should be suspended in the middle of the milk so it can take an accurate reading. Don’t use an aluminum pot, either.

Slowly heat the milk to 185˚F, stirring occasionally. Keep the heat at medium-low. You do not want to over boil the milk, nor do you want to over stir. (So, just make sure you aren’t stirring constantly and you’ll be fine!)

Once the temperature reads 185˚ the curds should have separated from the whey. If you can’t tell (and like I said, I couldn’t), grab a metal spoon and dip it in to the milk and take it out. If it has little white dots on it, the curds have officially separated.

These are curds. I know, I can't see them either.

Turn off the heat and let the milk sit for about 10 minutes. While you are waiting, grab your colander, line it with the cheesecloth, and put it over a large bowl.

Slowly pour the milk into the cheesecloth lined colander, and allow to drain for 15 -30 minutes.

Once it has drained, add the salt and herbs if you like. I added a bit of rosemary, but although it flavored the cheese well, the rosemary itself was a little bitter. If I were to do it again, I would use something sweeter like basil or thyme.

Gently stir to combine.

Line a cheese mold with cheesecloth and place it over another bowl or a plate. Scoop the curds into the mold.

If you don’t have a mold that’s ok. You can just scoop the curds into a piece of cheesecloth and tie off the top. This way would probably work better if you suspend the bag over a bowl somehow, maybe by tying it to a cabinet handle with a bowl on the bottom. The reason you’re scooping the curds into the cheesecloth bag or mold is to further drain and shape the cheese. The longer you leave it to drain, the more firm your cheese will be. Regardless of which method you choose, allow to drain anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours. I left mine for about an hour.

Now that your curds are chillin’, you’ve got lots of whey to worry about.

Pour it into an airtight container. It will keep for about 2 days. Urban Cheesecraft gives lots of suggestions for how to use whey. You can feed it to your kitty, use it in place of broth in soups and stews, or make hot chocolate with it instead of using milk or water. Basically, you can use it in any recipe in place of milk or water. They do give this warning, though-whey has LOTS of lactose.

When your cheese is ready, remove it from the cheesecloth or mold and put it in a container. The cheese will keep for a week or two.

You can use it however you like! The first thing I did was put it on some leftover caramelized onion pizza.

I also made two batches of pasta – sun dried tomato and goat cheese, and brussels sprout, sausage, and goat cheese. Yum!

❤ Stef

Recipe: Marshmallows!

8 Feb

I know you were probably hoping for cheese. Sad day. But I got distracted yesterday when I realized that I had all of the ingredients for marshmallows in my cupboard (yeah, this is what happens when you cook a lot. You end up with random bits of foodstuff, like envelopes of gelatin and corn syrup from that one time you made that cake/pie/candy thing).

So as I was saying, I was sitting around thinking about how much I wanted some hot chocolate, but we all know that hot chocolate isn’t really worth it unless you’ve got some whipped cream or at the very least some marshmallows and I didn’t have either of those things and I didn’t want to go to the store. So I lay despondently around in total depression (tiny violin playing in the background) until I remembered that I could actually make my OWN marshmallows.

Yes.

This is the full recipe, but I actually cut everything in half. I also stole the recipe from Alton Brown. It’s ok though, he’s used to it.

3 envelopes of unflavored gelatin

1 C cold water, divided

1.5 C granulated suagr

1 C light corn syrup

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 C powdered sugar

1/4 C cornstarch

Nonstick spray, or olive oil.

Put the gelatin and half of the water in a large mixing bowl.

Mix the corn syrup, sugar, salt and the rest of the water in a saucepan, cover and heat over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. Uncover, and using a thermometer heat the mixture to 240˚ F. I used my super-spiffy meat thermometer.

You can do the same, as long as you have a thermometer that goes up that high. You just have to be careful that the thermometer tip is not touching the saucepan at all, or it will mismeasure the temperature. I employed the use of a rubber band.

Once the mixture hits 240˚, take it off of the heat immediately. While you wait, grab a pan (mine is 8″x8″) and grease it all over using the cooking spray or olive oil. In a separate dish, mix the cornstarch and powdered sugar. Coat the pan using the cornstarch mix, and reserve the leftovers for later use.

Now, you’re going to combine the gelatin with the sugar mixture by slowly drizzling the heated sugar mix into the gelatin, while you constantly whisk it all together. This is super-easy if you have a stand mixer. I do not. In fact, I don’t even have a hand held electric mixer, so I used my whisk and MY HANDS. My shoulder kind of hurts, but I have fabulous muscles.

Any way you choose to mix, it takes between 10 – 14 minutes to reach the correct consistency. It will get really fluffy.

And then, it will start getting super-glossy and very difficult to whisk. That’s about when it’s done. You want to add the vanilla in the last 2-3 minutes of whisking.

Pour into your prepared pan, using an oiled spatula (or spoon, what have you) to evenly distribute.

Sprinkle the top with enough of the cornstarch mix to cover, again reserving the rest.

Let the marshmallows sit uncovered for at minimum 4 hours. Once this time has elapsed, turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting surface and cut into squares. You might need to coat your knife with some of the cornstarch mix.

Coat the cut marshmallows with the remaining cornstarch-sugar mixture.

You can store the finished marshmallows in an airtight container for up to three weeks. Enjoy!

❤ Stef

The Cheese Kit Cometh!

6 Feb

Yeah. You heard me.

A few months ago I found this amazing Etsy shop called Urban Cheesecraft. They sell, yup, cheese making kits. I sent the link to Anders with a mention that a cheese kit would make an awesome gifty for muah, and lo and behold! He remembered!

The kit comes with everything you need to make 30 batches of cheese. Each batch makes between 1 and 1.5 lbs of cheese, so I have enough to make 30-45 POUNDS of cheese. CHEESE.

Also included are cheese molds, thermometer, vegetable rennet, citric acid, cheese salt, instruction booklets (you can make mozzarella, ricotta, chevre, queso blanco and paneer), and ultra-fine muslin.

I haven’t decided which cheese I am going to make first, but I am currently leaning towards chevre, which means I need to buy some goat milk. I’ve never purchased goat milk before. This should be awesome.

So wait with bated breath my friends! Coming soon – DinnerLove, homemade cheese edition.

❤ Stef