Category: caramel

Earl Grey caramel.

(This was originally written for a contributor post on eighteen25, go take a look and see! And look for more posts by me over there soon.)


Earl Grey caramel.

Don’t hate me. This wasn’t my idea. I mean, it was. But I first saw it on Saveur, so blame them. However, their version was a lavender Earl Grey caramel, which sounds lovely. It really does. It just doesn’t appeal to me, personally.

I don’t like lavender much. Especially not on my food.

I LOVE caramel, though. LOVE it. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. And I also love Earl Grey tea! So I knew this would be a home run for me. I just tweaked it a bit to suit my tastes and voila. A jar of delicious, soft, Earl Grey caramel. Perfect over ice cream. Delightful with pound cake.

Earl Grey caramel.

I’m always reminded of my Nana when I make anything involving tea. She would’ve loved this, too.

So many people are afraid of trying to make caramel. They think of boiling sugar and candy thermometers and “hard crack” and “soft ball” stages and get terrified. No need. It isn’t all that hard and you don’t need a thermometer. I promise. Just common sense. Its HOT sugar. Don’t touch it. There. End of story.

Earl Grey caramel.

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Simple scones with caramel ginger pear jam & vanilla butter.

Simple scones, vanilla butter and caramel ginger pear jam. Click through for all three recipes!

It’s cold! On weekends this time of year, I wake up hungry. Hungry and chilly, I wander bleary eyed into the kitchen. Indy sits next to me some mornings, on “his” kitchen rug patiently waiting for the back door to open so he can take care of his… *ahem* daily constitutional. I put the Keurig on and stand there waiting for coffee in my pajamas, fuzzy socks or slippers, rubbing my eyes thinking, “God I wish I had something to shove in my pie hole.” Usually… I also wake up lazy; too lazy to make something. But if I’m lucky I already have made something! For example, scones with caramel ginger pear jam & vanilla butter.

Jay is a huge fan of scones. So am I really, and for some reason I never make them. I should really make them more often. They’re ridiculously easy and delicious- requiring no mixing other than by hand, no special equipment. And also? They go with everything. Like the recipes I’m giving you today: caramel pear jam and vanilla butter.

Yes, I said vanilla butter. I’ll get to that in a sec.

And… caramel ginger pear jam. It is pear season, you know. Go getchu some gorgeous pears and do something. Ginger is so warming, and it gives an exotic kind of scent to the jam. But you can feel free to omit it and keep it just caramel pear, if you want. YES- YOU GUYS GET THREE RECIPES IN ONE POST TODAY. OMG AREN’T YOU LUCKY.

Caramel ginger pear jam.

By the way- these scones are NOT just a vehicle to get vanilla butter and jam into your face hole. They’re buttery, flaky, and delicious. Totally great on their own. But also great with: marmalade, plain butter, clotted cream, crème fraîche, and just about any kind of jam or jelly you can imagine. They also can be totally changed up to suit you.

They really are easy too. I swear.

Simple scones.

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Jameson caramel popcorn.

Popcorn with a caramel sauce made from Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Dudes- I have a confession. Popcorn is my FAVORITE snack food. Ever. Those big tins of it at Christmas? With the three different kinds? Oh man. Those are great, even though they’re not the best quality popcorn. I just freakin’ love popcorn. Any kind, really. Movie theatre popcorn, too. Back in the day- many many years ago- I worked at a movie theatre. ‘Nuff said.

I usually make my own popcorn in a Whirley Pop, which is an authentic old timey stove top popcorn maker. Of course, you could use a regular pot with a lid, too, but I actually prefer this after much trial and error. I use Diamond Crystal extra fine salt, a decent amount of ghee (that’s my secret, folks), and a bit of coconut or vegetable oil. As far as the kernels go, I usually buy the Trader Joe’s kind, or a fancy colored kernel from Sur La Table, but any will do in reality. And with this method I get perfectly butter-flavored popcorn every time, without all the chemicals & grease of microwave or pre-made popcorn. Jay declared it the best popcorn he’s ever had, anywhere. It’s my favorite too.

And I make popcorn a lot.

But I don’t often make popcorn like this.

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Whiskey (or bourbon) caramel & a Guinness ice cream float.

Shamrocks on the windowsill.

God bless shamrocks that signal it’s spring. God bless Guinness. God bless whiskey. And… God bless the Irish.

I don’t believe in (a) God, per se. I’m more of an Agnostic myself. But if I did I’d ask him to bless the Irish- the people who make the best whiskey, make (some of) the best beer, have the best sense of humor, & who know how to have a good time. I mean… GUINNESS, PEOPLE. GUINNESS.

Oh what the hell. Hey, universe: bless the Irish.

And bless me, because I made this:

Guinness ice cream floats with vanilla ice cream & whiskey caramel.

Oh, what’s that, you ask? That’s just a Guinness ice cream float.

Just like it says. Yup. Oh and it’s topped with whiskey caramel. Mmm hmm. Yes. Ohhhh yes.

Guinness floats with whiskey caramel.

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This is me NOT screwing up caramel apple jam.


If I do something, and I screw it up, it bothers me FOREVER. I’m one of those mildly-OCD perfectionist people. I can tell a drawing won’t go well if the first line doesn’t come out right, so I toss the entire sheet of paper (environmentalists avert thine eyes). If I throw on a random outfit & something about it isn’t working for me, I don’t care if all I’m doing is going to the fruit market… my entire day will be messed up. If I screw up a recipe- whether or not it still tastes good, I go over & over in my mind what I did wrong until I make it again & redeem myself.

I sound nuts, right?

Anyway. Moving on. Look- it’s ice cream.


Last fall I made caramel apple syrup. It was supposed to be caramel apple jam, but it was kind of a fail in that aspect. Not a massive fail, mind you, because what resulted was a beautifully delicious concoction my father nicknamed “apple pie in a jar.” He ate it right out of the jar, as a matter of fact. Devoured it. It was a much beloved creation, mistake or not. But it still sort of bothered me. It was so stupid to me that I screwed up such a simple jam, especially because it was something so dumb like forgetting to add the pectin… that I wanted to try it again this fall. Because not only was what I made not jam but it no longer existed anyway. The jars were long gone; eaten, emptied, washed out & re-filled with who-knows-what. All that remained were the memories, and questions like “When are you making that apple syrup stuff again?” And I was debating it, actually, since it was such a hit.

Then I found this recipe. ERMAHGERDS.


How was I supposed to turn away from that!? It’s apple season! There are apples everywhere I look. I’m bombarded with apples every day; on Pinterest, on blogs, in the supermarket, at the Farmer’s Market, at the fruit market… they’re just all over the place. I got momentarily distracted from my Halloween bacchanalia for apples, and when I went to the farm to pick pumpkins & get apple cider donuts, it just boosted my apple-ness even further. And so of course, I thought this jam sounded especially glorious. And the best part? No pectin! So I wouldn’t have to worry about forgetting to add it again.

The other jam I attempted was yummy, even if it ended up as syrup. But this one is different. The vanilla bean & rum elevate this to a whole ‘nother level. It’s not like your average jam. It’s like a dessert in and of itself.

CARAMEL APPLE JAM WITH VANILLA BEAN & RUM (halved & adapted very minimally from Hitchhiking to Heaven)

Makes about 2-3 half-pint (8 oz.) jars, maybe with some overflow


  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened homemade applesauce (store bought is okay, just get the highest quality organic one you can, making sure it’s unsweetened)
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (I used a little Himalayan pink)
  • 3 teaspoons dark rum (*optional)


  1. If you don’t have applesauce on hand, make your sauce. Start by coring and slicing the apples; about 1 1/2 maybe 2 lbs of them- (don’t peel ‘em) and cooking them over low heat until they’re soft. I usually add about 1/2 cup of water to the pot so they don’t stick or burn. Cover the pot while the apples are cooking; they should be ready in about 20 minutes. Put the cooked apples through a food mill (use the medium screen if you have a choice) and, voilà, sauce!
  2. Prepare your jars and lids. Set them aside.
  3. In a clean, dry large saucepan, combine 1 cup of the sugar, the water, and the lemon juice. Pour the sugar into the pan evenly, rather than as a big lump to one side or something like that, because you don’t get to stir or shake the pan for the next step, which is caramelizing the sugar.
  4. Without disturbing the contents of the pan, bring the syrup to a boil and let it boil gently — adjusting the heat as needed — until it turns golden brown. Watch the mixture carefully and take it off the heat before it turns darker than you’d like. Mine was a nice light-brown color and smelled caramel-y.
  5. While the sugar is caramelizing, add the additional 3/4 cup sugar and the sea salt into a small bowl. Split your vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds from the bean into the sugar and salt. Combine well, then add the pod into the sugar, too. Set aside.
  6. When the caramel is ready, slowly add the applesauce and the rest of the sugar, vanilla bean and all, off the heat. Be careful- it WILL splatter! Turn the heat back up to medium-low and stir the mixture until the sugar and caramel completely dissolve. Then bring the jam to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, for 8-10 minutes. This is the part where you need to monitor the temperature — reducing it if necessary — and stir the jam steadily enough to keep it from attacking you. You will know the jam is done when it thickens up and your stirring spoon very briefly leaves a clear track at the bottom of the pan.
  7. Remove the jam from the heat, discard the vanilla bean, and stir in the rum. Ladle or pour the hot jam into your sterilized jars. Wipe the rims clean and add the lids. Process 10 minutes in a hot water-bath canner. Remove from canner, let cool and check seals after 12 hours. Any jars that aren’t sealed, pop in the fridge & use immediately.


And this time it actually came out like jam, not syrup! Wonder of wonders, glory of glories. Hallelujah & all that jazz. It came out absolutely perfect.


I know. Pancakes, ice cream, waffles, oat bran muffins, English muffins and yogurt will never be the same. Neither will oatmeal. I don’t even like oatmeal, but a little of this would upgrade that ish to something way more special. It even works with ham & pork chops (or so I’ve been told, I don’t eat pork chops); both as a glaze melted on top while cooking, or just on the side. It’s good on toast, too, but that seems so banal for a jam like this. This kind of a jam begs for something exciting; like fresh buttermilk pancakes. Or a golden vanilla pound cake. Or… over a homemade vanilla bean ice cream, like I did. Ohh, Rodelle vanilla beans, how I love thee.

HOMEMADE VANILLA BEAN ICE CREAM (courtesy of Epicurious)


  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs


  1. With a knife halve vanilla beans lengthwise. Scrape seeds into a large heavy saucepan and stir in pods, cream, milk, and sugar. Bring mixture just to a boil, stirring occasionally, and remove pan from heat.
  2. In a large bowl lightly beat eggs. Add hot cream mixture to eggs in a slow stream, whisking, and pour into pan. Cook custard over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until a thermometer registers 170°F. (Do not let boil.) Pour custard through a sieve into a clean bowl and cool. Chill custard, its surface covered with wax paper, at least 3 hours, or until cold, and up to 1 day.
  3. Freeze custard in an ice-cream maker, in 2 batches if necessary. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden. Ice cream may be made 1 week ahead.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, try this recipe for the ice cream. It takes a bit longer, but I’ve always had good results! I love me my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment, though.

And as far as the jam goes… you can also eat it right out of the jar. Which I’m not supporting of course… *ahem*

¡Viva los Alfajores!

Well Happy New Year, everyone. It’s 2012, we’re all another year older & the winter has officially dug in its heels. Its quite cold & blustery & the wind whistles like a Dickens’ inspired movie. So yeah- I’d say it’s wintertime. Apparently, it’s not going anywhere until the spring, so we just have to deal. Life should be enjoyed, as much as possible, despite (and maybe even because of) the miserably cold weather. And what better way to enjoy life than with cookies? This is another cookie recipe from The Cookiepedia by Stacy Adimando. Remember that book? I did a giveaway for it back in November. Pretty much as soon as I got it, I knew there would be four recipes I’d have to make immediately: the frosted maple pecan cookies (made those babies already), the pistachio cookies (still on the list), the pignoli cookies (I keep forgetting to buy almond paste so these are still on the list) and of course, the alfajores with dulce de leche. And those, my friends, are what this post is about.

I admit, I had no freakin’ idea what the hell an ‘alfajor’ was before this. But I’m not one to turn down making a delicious looking cookie. I don’t know how anyone could deny a cookie, let alone a shortbread-like cookie, let alone a shortbread-like cookie made into a sandwich with dulce de leche filling.

While they have origins in Moorish Spain, alfajores are especially popular in South America. They are simple shortbread sandwich cookies with a sweet filling of dulce de leche. Different doughs are used for the cookies depending on the country. Some use normal flour dough, while others add cornstarch or even cassava flour for a more delicate crumb.

– courtesy of

Literally translated, dulce de leche means “sweet from milk”. It is prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk to create a product that derives its taste from caramelised sugar. It is a popular sweet in Latin America, where it is known under a variety of names. In Chile, Ecuador and Panama it is known as manjar. In Peru, Colombia and Venezuela it is referred to as manjar blanco or arequipe, depending on regional variations. In Mexico and Nicaragua is is commonly called cajeta. It is also found in Brazil, known by its Portuguese name doce de leite.

A French version, known as confiture de lait, is very similar to the spreadable forms of dulce de leche. A Norwegian version, Hamar-pålegg (“Hamar spread”), better known as HaPå, is a relatively thick and not so sweet commercial variant.


Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Shortbread & caramel sandwiches. That’s basically what I said: “What the what?!” Insane. Insane goodness. They really are. And very easy to put together, especially since you can use store-bought dulce de leche with absolutely no problem. I however, used a clever little method that’s a personal favorite of mine to make a caramel-like filling using a boiled can of condensed milk. Mmm. This particular cookie recipe uses flour & cornstarch to create the perfect soft crumbly-ness that goes excellently with the thick caramel heavenly-ness in between it.



  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar, for dusting
  • Dulce de leche, for filling


  1. Cream the butter & sugar together for a minute or two, until they look light & fluffy.
  2. In the meantime, sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder & salt in a bowl & set aside.
  3. Add the egg & egg yolk one at a time to the butter mixture, mixing after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix briefly. Add the flour mixture & mix until the dough just starts to come together.
  4. Working quickly, turn out the dough and use a little heat from your hands to make it a solid ball. Pull out a large piece of plastic wrap, then flatten the dough on top of it to make a disk. Double wrap it and refrigerate for 1 hour until firm.
  5. Preheat oven to 325° F. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpats®. Roll out the dough to ¼”-inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Rotate the dough between rolls to make sure it’s not sticking. Using a 2-inch fluted or round cutter, cut out cookies & carefully place them on the cookie sheets, placing them about 1 inch apart.
  6. Chill the sheets again for 15 to 20 minutes, until the dough is once again very firm. Then bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the tops of the cookies have just firmed & the bottoms are just starting to color slightly. Cool on wire racks before assembling the sandwiches.
  7. Drop, pipe, or spread a teaspoon of dulce de leche into the center of each cookie, then top with another. Sift powdered sugar over the assembled sandwiches.

These are perfect winter cookies. Filling, and sweet but not too sweet. Comforting. And like I said… easy. I know this time of year everyone is sort of taking a deep breath after the craziness of the holidays have ended. But these are definitely worth the little effort they require. Plus, who doesn’t like an excuse to have the oven on this time of year?

Okay so, on to the dulce de leche. The author recommends using an artisanal or high-end brand, herself. Like I said, I used a caramel-like substance made from boiling a can of condensed milk & it was amazing. Not everyone is as ballsy as I am, and that can be a dangerous method. So naturally use whatever your comfortable with, and whatever brand you like. Of course, you can also make your own dulce de leche (she gives a recipe- but you’ll have to buy the book for that one!). Let me also state that they’d work amazingly well with a jam or chocolate filling, as well as a chocolate coating.

And of course, the packaging has to match the spectacular nature of what it holds, right?

My new favorite way of packaging cookies to give away is in jars. I started doing it with the first cookie recipe I made from this book, and it got such rave reviews I kept doing it. For Christmas, I gave tons of cookies, brownies & pieces of homemade fudge as gifts & most were in either tins or jars like the one above. This time, I dressed up the jar with an authentic vintage Air Mail envelope & some soft twine. I thought the name of the cookies was exotic enough that the envelope would be an appropriate label. These jars can be found in a lot of places, especially in plastic… the glass version like mine is a bit more costly usually, however occasionally you can get them for a good price. But you don’t have to just use flip-top jars. Even using quart or pint Ball® jars is an excellent idea- fill it up with cookies, put the lid on, cover the lid in a square of pretty fabric (or cupcake liner!), screw the band on, then tie on a label with some string or some ribbon & you’re good to go. They’re also great for giving chocolate dipped pretzel sticks or candied citrus peel because those items can be delicate.

So there you have it. Alfajores. Who’da thunk it?

Bedknobs & broomsticks & caramel apples.

I loved the movie Bedknobs & Broomsticks when I was little. I remember watching it on VHS (some of you youngins might not remember such a device) as a wee little girl. Some would say it’s a Mary Poppins rip-off, and I can understand that, but I think it was pretty cute in its own right. Movies & books & stories about witches always intrigued & inspired me; I always had a thing for witches, ever since the first time I went to Salem, Massachusetts as a child. And I’m super crazy insanely excited about the new show on ABC called Once Upon A Time that’s premiering this weekend… supernatural events, modern-day fairy tales & evil queens? I’m totally there! I’m so inspired by all that kinda stuff.

I was also clearly beyond inspired by the Martha Stewart Halloween magazine this year, as evidenced by my post at the beginning of October, and this is another something I took directly from it. Caramel apples with witches & “broomsticks”! They made me think of both that movie & also the Wicked Witch of the West. How cool are they?!

First Martha’s…

And then mine.

I know. Crazy easy & very adorable. But more importantly- easy. It’s just a little more than a few days before Halloween and I know that there are still some people thinking about last minute ideas. Here’s one.

The other day, I told you about my sort of failed but happy accident caramel apple syrup that I messed up making (but ended up with something awesome anyway). That was a more complex recipe, though, by far. This time I promise- there is no way you could EVER mess this up. First of all, caramel apples are so easy a trained monkey could make them. Second, by just adding a little witch cut out from cardstock & a skewer, you make them into a snack worthy of being a centerpiece, instead of just a sticky, boring little old-fashioned treat. Perfect for kids at a Halloween party.



  • 6 small apples, stems removed
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup dark corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter


  1. Thoroughly wash & rinse all apples. Dry and insert sturdy wooden craft stick or skewer in each. Prepare an ice water bath in a fairly large bowl, and line a baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment.
  2. Boil cream, sugar, corn syrup, and butter to a boil in a medium saucepan. Clip candy thermometer to the side of pan and continue to cook until mixture reaches 245 degrees, about 10 to 12 minutes. Immediately place pan in ice water bath to stop the cooking.
  3. Dip the bottom of each apple in the caramel rotating it and using a spoon to coat apple halfway to three-quarters of the way up the sides. Transfer to baking sheet, and refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes (or overnight) before serving.
  4. Print witches out on cardstock. Cut-out, and using a small hole punch, punch holes on either sides of hands. Slide sticks in and poke them into the top of apples, replacing skewers.

The apples I used were little ones called Ginger Gold. I thought they were the perfect size, and I got a ½ peck of them for about 5 bucks. I only made 6 of them into caramel apples, the rest were baked & eaten up in other ways. When pecks or ½ pecks are on sale, if you can’t go & pick your own, take advantage of it. Apples are crazy versatile & you’ll definitely use them up. Ginger Gold’s in particular are excellent for just about any use: snacking (they’re very slow to brown when cut), pie making (they hold their shape when cooked/baked), etc. However they don’t store well… so refrigerate ’em & use ’em ASAP.

Other apples that are good for this are Lady apples, or any small-sized apple, really.

I used wooden shish kebob sticks/skewers for mine. You can use whatever you like. Fancy twigs, etc. As far as the caramel goes, I’d personally stick with just caramel, or maybe with a swirl of chocolate. If you want to roll it in chopped walnuts or something that’s up to you- I’d just advise you not to go too crazy. Maybe it’s just me but those candy apples with 5 different kinds of chocolate/caramel/nuts never look appealing to me, just messy. But again, it’s a personal thing. And like I said last time I used a Martha idea, I can’t give you the actual witch template, like I said before it’s only available in the magazine & I don’t want to violate her copyrights. I mean, Martha’s been to prison; I don’t wanna fuck with her. But if you don’t want to buy the magazine, with a little creativity & internet saavy, you can do-it-yourself. The internet is chock full of awesome vintage Halloween clip-art.

So put on Hocus Pocus or Bedknobs & Broomsticks, maybe even watch Once Upon A Time this Sunday night & cast a spell of your own to make some witchy caramel apples.

Have you ever heard the Irish legend of “Carman”, the Celtic witch?

Carman is the Celtic goddess of evil magic. She is a destructive witch who roamed ireland with her three evil sons: Dub (“darkness” in Irish), Dother (“evil”) and Dain (“violence”), destroying anything or anyone in their path. Carman put a blight on Ireland’s crops and terrorized the Irish until the Tuatha De Danann, the “peoples of the goddess Danu,” used their magic to fight and defeat her, and drove her sons across the sea. Just another Irish folklore to worry about while “Trick or Treating” this Halloween.

-source: The Irish Jewelry Company