Tag Archives: caramel

Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (and Treats): Easy Homemade Caramels

Homemade Caramels

DAY 12: Homemade Caramels

Soft and chewy homemade caramels. This recipe uses sweetened condensed milk, so they come together faster than starting with a true caramelized sugar base. This method also produces very consistent results, with little chance of gritty caramels or seizing.

If you don’t have (or don’t want to use) sweetened condensed milk, try this recipe for Salted Caramel Sauce, and cook it to about 245°F.

The hardest part of making these is not popping one in your mouth every time you walk past their container.

This recipe (cooked to a lower temperature, about 235°F) can also be used to make a homemade filling for these Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints:

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RECIPE:

Homemade Caramels

Homemade Caramels

1 cup unsalted butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups brown sugar (light or dark)
1 cup light corn syrup
2 Tbs heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract, or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
½ tsp sea salt

Line an 8×8” pan with parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang over the edge on 2 sides.

Combine butter, sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, corn syrup and heavy cream in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Place a candy thermometer on the side of the pan. Reduce heat to medium low, maintaining a low but continuous simmer, until caramel reaches 245°F, stirring occasionally. This will take about 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt.

Pour hot caramel into lined pan (do not scrape the sides of the cooking pan when you pour it into the square pan). Cool, uncovered, at room temperature until completely cooled and firm. Remove from pan and cut into pieces. Wrap individual pieces in waxed paper.

 

CARAMEL FILING OR SAUCE: To use as a filling for thumbprint cookies, or as a caramel sauce, cook caramel to 235°F (soft ball stage) for caramel filling, or slightly lower for a caramel sauce.

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Almond Toffee Triangles

Almond Toffee Triangles

DAY 9: Almond Toffee Triangles

A shortbread crust, topped with a sliced almond caramel mixture and then baked to perfection.

Easy peasy!

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RECIPE:

Almond Toffee Triangles

Almond Toffee Triangles

Crust:
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla
2 ¼ cups flour
¼ tsp salt

Topping:
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup (light or dark)
¼ cup butter
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups sliced almonds

Crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom and sides of a 15×10” pan.

Use a mixer to cream butter and powdered sugar. Beat in vanilla. Slowly beat in flour and salt. Press evenly into greased pan.

Bake for 11-12 minutes.

Topping:
While crust is cooking, prepare topping. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, butter and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and almonds. Pour topping over HOT crust; spread evenly.

Bake at 350°F for 12-15 minutes, or until topping is set. Cool completely. Cut into 2 ½ inch squares. Cut each square in half diagonally.

Makes 48 triangles

 

**To prepare in a 17×13” pan, prepare 1 ½ times the recipe.

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Caramel Pumpkin Cupcakes

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Don’t these cupcakes just scream “Autumn!” If the temperature were to drop below 80° I might be able to believe that fall had actually arrived. So maybe they are just screaming “Eat Me Regardless of the Season!”

Little J made these Caramel Pumpkin Cupcakes for our neighborhood chili cook-off and kids’ bake-off. She made them completely on her own (except for some help making the salted caramel to drizzle on top). She did all of the baking and decorating herself, though. Her efforts paid off: she came home with the prize for best-tasting dessert! She was very excited.

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This pumpkin cupcake batter is extremely versatile. We have used it to make Pumpkin Cupcakes, Pumpkin Bars, Pumpkin Sheet Cake, Pumpkin Bread. It adapts well to any size pan you choose to bake it in.

The frosting is a delicious caramel cream cheese icing. You start by making a simple caramel on the stovetop and then beating in cream cheese and a little extra powdered sugar. If you are going to pipe it onto cupcakes, it benefits from a good chill in the fridge to firm it up a little, followed by another beating with a mixer once it has chilled. So start your baking by making the frosting first and then move on to the cupcakes while the frosting chills.

The salted caramel drizzle is optional, but really makes a big difference. The recipe below makes much more salted caramel than you need to drizzle on the cupcakes, but it is also great for topping ice cream and chocolate cake. Or for dipping apples. Or for stirring into hot cocoa. Or for licking off of spoons. Or use your leftover caramel to drizzle over any of these other desserts:

Salted Caramel Banana Cream Pie

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Tart

Apple Pie

Triple Chocolate Bundt Cake

Vanilla Cheesecake

Double Chocolate Waffles

Cream Puffs

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RECIPE:

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Pumpkin Caramel Cupcakes

Pumpkin Cupcakes:

4 eggs
1 2/3 cup sugar
1 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 16oz can of pumpkin (about 2 cups)
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin pans with 24 paper liners.

Using a mixer, beat eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla and pumpkin until light and fluffy.  In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Fold into pumpkin mixture.

Scoop batter into lined muffin pans. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.Remove from pan and cool completely.

Use a pastry tip (I used Wilton 1M) to frost the cupcakes. Drizzle with salted caramel.

Store frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator if they are going to be left out for more than a few hours.

Makes 24 cupcakes.


Caramel Cream Cheese Icing:

½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 pkg (8 oz each) cream cheese
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup powdered sugar

Place butter, cream and brown sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir together over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl. While caramel is hot, beat in cream cheese, vanilla and salt until well mixed. Beat in powdered sugar. Cover and place frosting in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. When frosting has chilled, beat again until light and fluffy. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

 

Salted Caramel Drizzle:
1 cup sugar
6 Tbs butter, softened and cut into tablespoon-sized chunks
½ cup heavy cream
1 – 1 ½ tsp flaky or coarse sea salt
1 tsp vanilla (and/or seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean)

Place sugar in a medium to large saucepan (mixture will bubble up and expand as cool ingredients are added to the hot pan). Cook over medium heat until sugar just begins to melt. Stir gently, trying to keep sugar crystals off of the sides of the pan. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar melts completely and is a medium amber color (about 350°F if you use an instant-read thermometer). Reduce heat to low and quickly whisk in butter chunks, stirring constantly.

Stir in cream, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in salt and vanilla. Pour caramel immediately into a glass jar or heat-safe bowl to cool. Do NOT scrape sides or bottom of the pan with a spatula. If you do, you are likely to get sugar crystals into your nice smooth caramel. If the caramel has formed crystals while cooking, you can pour it from the pan through a fine sieve into the jar to remove any crystals before cooling.

Caramel can be kept in a covered jar at room temperature for several weeks.

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Caramel Christmas Chex Mix

Caramel Christmas Chex Mix

DAY 5: Caramel Christmas Chex Mix

Not a cookie, but a fun treat to make for family and friends. And maybe slightly addicting. Just a friendly warning.

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RECIPE:

Caramel Christmas Chex Mix

Caramel Christmas Chex Mix

1 cup butter
1 ½ cups brown sugar
½ cup light or dark corn syrup
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
14 0z box Chex cereal (Rice and/or Corn)
1 ½ cups dry roasted peanuts
1 ½ cups whole cashews
½ cup Christmas sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 1 large or 2 medium rimmed baking sheets with non-stick foil.

In a medium saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and then vanilla (mixture will foam).

Place cereal and nuts in a very large bowl. Pour caramel over the cereal/nuts and gently stir with a large rubber spatula. Spread mixture onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes. Let mixture cool in pan for 2 minutes. If your sprinkles DO NOT melt when heated, stir them into the mixture now. Let Chex mix cool completely in pan, stirring 2-3 times as the mixture cools. If your sprinkles DO melt when heated, wait until mixture is cool to touch, and then stir in the sprinkles.

Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

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Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake with Butterscotch Sauce

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This cheesecake starts with an easy-to-make lemon gingersnap crust, followed by layers of pumpkin and vanilla cheesecake. After baking, the entire cheesecake is garnished with pecans and drizzled with a butterscotch topping. This is a great make-ahead dessert perfect for Thanksgiving, or any other holiday.

The Lemon Gingersnap Crust is made from these cookies:

Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake with Butterscotch Sauce 3

For detailed information about baking a cheesecake in a water bath, see this post: Creamy Citrus Cheesecake

Once the cheesecake has baked and chilled for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, the pecan garnish and butterscotch topping can be added.

Start by spreading a thin layer of butterscotch sauce over the top of the cheesecake, spreading to the edge. Place pecans around the outside edge of the cheesecake.

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Using a squeeze bottle or pastry bag with a thin round tip, drizzle butterscotch sauce over the entire top of the cheesecake and pecans, allowing some to drip down the sides. You can do a simple drizzle, or a lattice pattern by drizzling in straight lines along cheesecake, then turning 90 degrees and drizzling again (perpendicular to first layer).

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RECIPE:

Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake with Butterscotch Sauce 1

Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake with Butterscotch Sauce

Lemon Gingersnap Crust
1 (7 oz) pkg Carr’s Ginger Lemon Cremes
1/2 cup pecans
2 Tbs butter, melted

Process cookies and pecans in a food processor until finely ground. Add melted butter and mix. Press into the bottom and halfway up the sides of a 9” springform pan. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes while preparing filling.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Layer
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tbs flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp each ground nutmeg and ground cloves
pinch of salt
2 whole eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth. (You can also substitute 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice for the other spices)

Vanilla Cheesecake Layer
2 (8oz) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 whole eggs plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350F. Wrap springform pan in a double layer of foil. Place springform pan in a larger roasting pan.

Pour pumpkin filling into crust.  Slowly pour vanilla filling over top of the pumpkin batter. Fill roasting pan (not springform pan!) with very hot (almost boiling) water to about 1-2 inches deep.

Bake cheesecake in the water bath for about 80 minutes. (Cover top of cheesecake with foil if it begins to brown before it is set.) When it is cooked, the cheesecake will have puffed significantly, and the middle will still be slightly jiggly, but not soupy. Remove pan from water bath and run a sharp knife around the sides, but do not remove ring. Place on a cooling rack and let cheesecake stand at room temperature for one hour. Cover cheesecake pan (do not remove sides) with plastic wrap, taking care not to touch the surface of the cheesecake. Chill for at least four hours or overnight.

Butterscotch Sauce
4 Tbs butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs corn syrup
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbs vanilla extract
Whole Pecans for Garnish

Combine butter, brown sugar, cream, corn syrup, lemon juice and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir and cook over medium-low heat until mixture boils. Simmer for 5 additional minutes, or until slightly thickened. Stir in vanilla and cook for 2 more minutes. Cool before drizzling over cheesecake. Store in refrigerator. (This makes more than you will need for topping the cheesecake)

Remove sides of springform pan from chilled cheesecake. Remove bottom of pan and place cheesecake on a serving platter.

If butterscotch sauce has been refrigerated, you may need to warm it just slightly in the microwave until it can be drizzled (about 30-40 seconds). Spread a thin layer of butterscotch sauce over the top of the cheesecake, spreading to the edge. Place pecan halves around the outside edge of the cheesecake. Using a squeeze bottle or pastry bag with a thin round tip, drizzle butterscotch sauce over the entire top of the cheesecake and pecans, allowing some to drip down the sides. You can do a simple drizzle, or a lattice pattern by drizzling in straight lines along cheesecake, then turning 90 degrees and drizzling again (perpendicular to first layer). Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Twelve (More) Days of Christmas Cookies: Caramel Pecan Bars

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DAY 10: Rich and chewy caramel coated pecans on a shortbread crust. Drizzled with melted chocolate and sprinkled with just a bit of coarse sea salt. I was a little short on pecans, so I ended up using about one cup of chopped almonds and 2 1/2 cups pecans. Thanks to Alice at Savory Sweet Life for a great cookie bar! The original recipe has you dip half of each triangle into the melted chocolate. I tried this, but I was not very happy with the results, so I ended up drizzling the chocolate over most of them.

To easily drizzle chocolate: melt chocolate slowly in the microwave. Pour into a Ziploc bag. Use a toothpick or skewer to poke a hole in one corner. Squeeze gently over cookies.

Cut into 24 squares while in the pan.

12-4-10 003-1 Remove bars from pan and place on waxed paper.

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Cut each square in half to make 48 triangles. 12-4-10 013-1

Drizzle with melted chocolate (I used bittersweet) and sprinkle lightly with coarse sea salt. 12-4-10 016-1

RECIPE:

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Caramel Pecan Bars
————–(from Savory Sweet Life)

Crust:
1/2 cup salted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Caramel Topping:
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 cups coarsely chopped toasted pecans
1 cup melted chocolate chips (semi-sweet or bittersweet)
coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light.  Add egg and vanilla and beat for one minute.  Add baking powder and flour; mix well. Spray a 9×13” baking pan with non-stick spray.  Press cookie dough mixture evenly throughout the bottom of the pan.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are just beginning to brown.  Allow to cool.

For the topping, combine water, sugar, and corn syrup in a large sauce pan.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is completely dissolved.  Continue to cook until mixture turns a dark amber color (like a dark honey); turn off heat, but leave pan on the burner.  Carefully add vanilla and heavy cream, stirring until smooth.  Add toasted pecans,  stirring and coating everything.  Spread caramel pecan mixture over the cookie crust evenly.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or until cold.  Cut bars into small triangles.

Drizzle bars with melted chocolate (or dip half of each triangle into the melted chocolate).  Sprinkle sparingly with coarse sea salt.

Makes 48 triangles.

 

TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS COOKIES (2010) RECAP:
DAY 1: Raspberry Crumb Bars
DAY 2: Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
DAY 3: Chocolate Nutella Cookies
DAY 4: Glazed Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies
DAY 5: Almond Macaroon Brownies
DAY 6: Trail Mix Cookies
DAY 7: Cream Cheese Cut-Out Cookies
DAY 8: Chocolate Revel Bars
DAY 9: Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cookies

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Thanksgiving Dessert: Caramel Apple Cheesecake Tart with Streusel Topping

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A combination of so many things that I love: apples, cinnamon, cheesecake, caramel (I used homemade Dulce de Leche, or try this Caramel Sauce), and a buttery, slightly sweet oat topping. A perfect end to a Thanksgiving meal- a perfect end to just about any meal!

The recipe is long, but not complicated. While there are a lot of ingredients, each layer is easy to put together. Just make sure you have all of your layers ready to go before putting things into the pan.

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For a more pronounced caramel flavor, you could drizzle individual servings with additional caramel sauce at serving time.

I used a Cream Cheese Pastry recipe for the crust, but you could also use any basic pie crust. I bake this in a tart pan (mine has an 11” diameter). You could also use a deep dish pie pan, but you might want to reduce the amount of streusel topping and increase the baking time to make sure cheesecake layer sets.

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Cheesecake layer on the bottom.

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A caramel apple filling made with apples, brown sugar, dulce de leche or caramel sauce, and cinnamon. Use a spoon to gently and evenly distribute apples over the cheesecake filling. Try to not mix the two layers together.111010 057-1

A chunky streusel topping with a nutty oat flavor gets sprinkled over the apples.111010 058-1

Cover edges of tart with a pie crust shield. I do not own one that fits my tart pan, so I make my own out of foil. See How To…Make Your Own Pie Crust Shield. Since the tart pan has steeper sides than a regular pie plate, when you are tracing the circle to cut out, be sure to cut a circle that is about 1/2” smaller than the outside edge of the tart pan. 111010 068-1

Bake until center is set (it will still jiggle just a little in the center, but will continue to set as it cools) and streusel is golden brown. I leave the foil on for all but the last 5 minutes of baking time.  111010 073-1

The hardest part: keeping little fingers (and a few big ones) from picking at the streusel topping while the tart cools completely.

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RECIPE:

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Caramel Apple Cheesecake Tart

Cream Cheese Pastry Crust:
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
4 oz (1/2 pkg) cream cheese, softened
1 Tbs powdered sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
1 ½ cups flour (divided)

In a food processor, combine butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and salt. Process until smooth. Add ½ cup flour. Pulse just until flour is incorporated (do not overmix). Repeat with another ½ cup flour. Scrape dough from sides of bowl and repeat with the last ½ cup flour.

On a floured surface, flatten dough into a 1/2” thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes, or until firm enough to roll. Dough can also be frozen for later use.

Cheesecake Layer:
12 oz (1 ½ pkg) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients and beat until smooth with a mixer.

Apple Layer:
4 cups peeled and sliced apples (about 3-4 apples)
½ cup Dulce de Leche or Caramel Sauce
3 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp ClearJel or cornstarch
½ tsp cinnamon
scant 1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch salt

Combine all ingredients.

Streusel Topping:
6 Tbs butter, melted
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup flour (white or whole wheat)
2 Tbs brown sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp kosher salt

Combine all ingredients. Mix until crumbly.

ASSEMBLY:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Move oven rack to lowest level.

Remove pastry dough from refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a circle 1” larger than a 10-11” tart pan. Transfer to ungreased tart pan. Crimp edges, if desired.

Pour cheesecake filling into crust. Carefully top with apple layer. Sprinkle with streusel topping.

Cover edges of tart with a pie crust shield or aluminum foil. Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes on lowest rack of oven. Reduce heat to 375°F, move tart to center rack, and bake for 15-25 additional minutes, or until just the very center (not the edges) jiggles when shaken lightly. Cover entire tart with foil if streusel begins to brown too much. Cool completely on a wire rack.

NOTE: This can be made into bars by cooking in a rectangular baking pan (put crust on bottom of the pan only, not up the sides). A 7×11” pan will give you about the same thickness as the tart, or use a 9×13” pan for slightly thinner bars.

 

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Dulce de Leche Mini Cheesecakes

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What says “I Love You” more than cheesecake, dulce de leche, chocolate and whipped cream all in one hand-held mini dessert? In my book, dessert doesn’t get much better that this. And these pocket-sized cups of bliss are small enough that it is easy for me to justify that I’m not really cheating on that healthy-eating-plan, right?

Unless of course, you make THIS MANY, which destroys any illusion of willpower:

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This recipe is a loose interpretation of Smitten Kitchen’s Dulce De Leche Cheesecake Squares.

The impetus for trying this recipe came when I found these great free-standing baking cups (technically they are for brioche) from Plastic Container City. I knew that I wanted to make cheesecakes in them, and what better than a dulce de leche flavored cheesecake!

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Rather than a graham cracker crust, I used my favorite cheesecake crust which is a simple combination of finely chopped almonds, vanilla wafer cookies and butter.

DSC04286-1 Place your crust-lined baking cups on a large baking sheet (or use a muffin tin with foil baking cups) and bake for 5 minutes, to toast the almonds.

Cool and pour in the batter. This cheesecake batter is a most delicious combination of cream cheese and dulce de leche, which you can easily make yourself, or purchase premade (look in the Latin section of the ethnic food aisle in the grocery store). But it is really easy to make yourself with just a can of sweetened condensed milk. Check out these tutorials for 6 different ways to make your own Dulce de Leche.

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Bake until center is barely set and allow to cool completely.

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I drizzled a chocolate glaze over the cooled cheesecakes.

DSC04513-1 Not wanting to clean chocolate out of my pastry bag, I used a plastic zip-close bag to do the drizzling. (Either snip one corner of the bag, or poke a bamboo skewer through the inside corner of the bag before filling with chocolate). I do recommend using a quality brand freezer-bag, however, so that the bag will not burst at the seams when you squeeze it, leaving you with one VERY chocolatey cheesecake:

DSC04499-1After cleaning up my chocolate mess and making an additional batch of chocolate glaze:

I then topped each cheesecake with a swirl of whipped cream. The whipped cream is a stable whipped cream from Coleen’s Recipes. It will hold it’s shape for days in the refrigerator and is stiff enough to pipe with a pastry tip (this time I did use my pastry bag). I would have liked to have used a larger tip, but I don’t own one (yet!). The cream cheese in the whipped cream topping was a perfect complement to the cheesecake. Coleen’s blog has some great family friendly recipes, and I have gotten many practical tips from her!

DSC04528-1 A final drizzle with the chocolate glaze and they are ready for a few hours of chilling in the fridge-if you can wait that long!

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RECIPE:

Dulce de Leche Mini Cheesecakes
_________(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Makes about 24 mini cheesecakes

INGREDIENTS:
Crust:

1/2 cup crushed vanilla wafers or shortbread cookies**
1/2 cup finely chopped whole almonds**
2 Tbs melted butter
1/8 tsp salt

Filling:
1 tsp unflavored gelatin (about half an envelope of Knox brand)
1/4 cup whole milk
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dulce de leche

Glaze:
1/4 cup (heaping) chopped bittersweet chocolate
2 Tbs butter, cut into small pieces
1 Tbs light corn syrup

Whipped Cream Topping (from Coleen’s Recipes):
4 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 cup heavy cream

PREPARATION:
Crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix all crust ingredients. Press into baking cups (use 1-2 tsp crust mix per mini cheesecake). Place baking cups on a large baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 5 minutes. Cool.

**I use a food processor to chop the cookies and almonds

Filling:
Sprinkle gelatin over milk in a small bowl and let stand 2 minutes to soften. Beat together cream cheese, eggs, salt, and gelatin mixture in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until well combined, about 2 minutes, then beat in dulce de leche  thoroughly. Pour filling over crust in baking cups.

Place an empty broiler or roasting pan on the lowest oven rack. Pour 2 cups of boiling water into the empty pan.

Place baking sheet with cheesecake batter on the center rack in the oven. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes, or until center is barely set. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Glaze:
Place all ingredients in a microwave safe bowl. Cook on high power for 20 seconds. Remove and stir well. Add 10 seconds, if necessary. Be careful not to scorch. You can also use a double boiler to melt ingredients together.

Place melted (but not hot) chocolate glaze into a freezer bag (good quality, so it doesn’t burst) or pastry bag with a fine tip. If using a freezer bag, cut a corner (or poke a bamboo skewer through the corner). Pipe a swirl of chocolate glaze over cooled cheesecakes.

Set aside remaining glaze. Prepare whipped cream topping. Pipe an additional swirl of chocolate glaze over the whipped cream.

Whipped Cream:
Combine the cream cheese, sugar and extracts in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until very smooth (scraping sides often). While the mixer is running, slowly pour in heavy cream. Continue beating on high speed until stiff peaks form.

Place whipped cream mixture in a pastry bag with a large star tip. Pipe onto cheesecakes. Pipe an additional swirl of chocolate glaze over the whipped cream.

Chill cheesecakes in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. They will keep, refrigerated (even with the whipped cream frosting!) for several days.

 

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints

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DAY 11: These Chocolate Caramel Thumbprint Cookies combine three great tastes: chocolate, caramel and pecans. They look complicated, but are actually pretty easy to put together. I like to use a dark chocolate drizzle, but you could use regular semi-sweet chocolate chips or even milk chocolate chips for a less-intense flavor.

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Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups finely chopped pecans
Caramel sauce:
30 caramels, unwrapped
1/3 cup heavy cream
Glaze:
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs corn syrup

Combine butter, sugar, egg yolks, milk and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Beat until light and fluffy. Add flour, cocoa powder and salt. Beat until well combined. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place egg whites in a small bowl. Place finely chopped pecans in a bowl. Set aside. Roll dough into balls. Dip balls into egg white and then into pecans. (I find this easier if I make a whole baking sheet worth of dough balls, then dip them all in egg/pecans). Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Make a small indentation with your thumb in the center of each cookie.

Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes, or until cookies are set. While cookies are still hot, press center again (the back of a measuring teaspoon or small melon-baller work well for this–no burned thumbs!)

To prepare Caramel Sauce: Combine caramels and cream in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until caramels are melted. Spoon small amount of caramel into centers of baked cookies. Carefully remove cookies to a wire rack to cool.

For Chocolate Glaze: Combine bittersweet chips, butter and corn syrup in a small bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave for another 20-30 seconds if not melted. Let cool slightly. Pour chocolate into a small Ziploc freezer bag (don’t use a regular bag-it WILL burst). Poke a hole in the corner of the bag (a bamboo skewer makes a perfect sized hole). Drizzle chocolate over the cooled cookies. Cool until set.

To store: refrigerate or freeze cookies in individual layers; then store between layers of waxed paper in the refrigerator or freezer. They can also be stored at room temperature, but if you stack them, they will stick together.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

 

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TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS COOKIES RECAP:
DAY 1:
Swedish Peppar KaKar
DAY 2: Mint Oreo Cookies
DAY 3: Christmas Chocolate Chip Cookies
DAY 4: Cherry Nut Mudslides
DAY 5: Snickerdoodles
DAY 6: Raspberry Almond Linzer Cookies
DAY 7: Peanut Butter Kisses
DAY 8: Peppermint and Vanilla Butter Cookies
DAY 9: Chocolate Rolo and Andes Chocolate Mint Cookies
DAY 10: Russian Tea Cakes

 

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Dulce de Leche

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**Below are six different ways to make Dulce de Leche. Click on the “METHOD” titles to go to the individual blog posts for more detailed instructions and pictures**

 

STOVETOP METHOD:

Ingredients:

  • unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk

Preparation:

  1. Start with a large stockpot. Place a rack in the bottom of the pot (mine has a steamer insert that I used).
  2. Remove the labels from your sweetened condensed milk. Place unopened, label-free cans  into the bottom of your stockpot. You can use as many as will fit in one layer in your pot.
  3. Fill pot with room temperature tap water. Cover cans completely with water. The water level should be at least 2 inches above the cans.
  4. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 3 hours.
    ***The water level must remain above the top of the cans. If not—this is when you end up cleaning caramel from exploding cans off of the top of your ceiling and every surface beneath it*** To ensure that you don’t forget that you are cooking when you go off and start another project, set a timer for 30 minutes. Check water level (add more boiling water, if necessary), then set the timer again for another 30 minutes. Continue setting the timer in 30 minute increments until the 3 hours are up.
  5. Remove pan from heat, remove lid, and let water cool for 30-60 minutes before removing cans.
  6. Unopened cans can be stored on a pantry shelf (use a marker to label cans). Opened cans need to be refrigerated.

CROCKPOT METHOD:

Ingredients:

  • Unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk

Preparation:

  1. Remove labels from sweetened condensed milk cans. Do not open cans.
  2. Place cans in the bottom of a crock pot.
  3. Cover cans completely with room temperature water. **Be sure that water completely covers cans**
  4. Place the lid on the crock pot and cook on low heat for 8 hours. (The water level in my crock pot stayed the same for the entire cooking time, so there was no need to add additional water.)
  5. Turn off crock pot, remove lid and let water cool 30-60 minutes before removing cans.
  6. Unopened cans can be stored on a pantry shelf (use a marker to label cans). Opened cans need to be refrigerated.

OVEN METHOD:

Ingredients:

  • One can of sweetened condensed milk

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Pour one can of sweetened condensed milk into a glass pie plate. Cover the pie plate securely with foil.
  3. Place foil-covered pie plate in a larger baking pan. (I used the bottom half of a broiler pan.)
  4. Place the pans on an oven rack and add hot water until it reaches the halfway mark of the pie plate.
  5. Bake for 60-90 minutes, adding more water if necessary

DOUBLE BOILER METHOD:

Ingredients:

  • One can of sweetened condensed milk

Preparation:

  1. Pour one can of sweetened condensed milk into the top of a double boiler.
  2. Fill the bottom of the double boiler with water and bring to a boil.
  3. Cover pan and cook over low heat for 50-60 minutes (or longer to get desired consistency).
  4. Stir mixture occasionally, until thick and caramel-colored.

PRESSURE CANNER METHOD:

Ingredients:

  • Cans of sweetened condensed milk

Preparation:

  1. Wash canning jars (a quick run through the dishwasher is a good way to sanitize them). Place new canning lids in a small pan of very hot water (bring water to a boil, then remove from heat and add lids).
  2. Open sweetened condensed milk cans and pour into canning jars, leaving 1/2” headspace. (Try not to lick the remaining sweet milk off of the can lids now-you don’t want to incorporate any germs into the jars. There will be plenty of time for licking when the jars are processing.)
  3. Wipe rims and edges of jars with a damp cloth to remove any milk that dribbled.
  4. Place lids and rings on jars.
  5. Place filled jars on a rack in a pressure canner (YOU MUST USE A PRESSURE CANNER, NOT A BOILING BATH CANNER). Add 3 quarts of room temperature water. DO NOT BRING WATER TO A BOIL BEFORE ADDING JARS. Since you are not doing a “hot pack” (hot jars; hot filling; hot water), the jars WILL break if you place them directly into boiling water. Then you end up with a very large pot full of sticky, sugar milk/water. Leaving you to clean all of the other jars and the pot and start over. Not fun.
  6. Place the lid on the pressure canner and bring the water to a boil over high heat.
  7. After you have a steady steam flow through the vent pipe for 10 minutes, place the pressure regulator on the vent pipe.
  8. Continue to cook on high until pressure reaches 15 lb.
  9. Lower heat to maintain a constant 15 lb pressure. Keep an eye on the pressure gauge and adjust heat to maintain 15 lb of pressure. Cook for 20 minutes at 15 lb pressure. I used both pint and half-pint jars, and they both came out the same after 20 minutes.
  10. Turn off stove and remove pressure canner from heat. DO NOT OPEN. Let the pressure drop until the air vent/cover lock has completely dropped and no steam escapes when the pressure regulator is tilted (this took about 30 minutes for mine).
  11. When pressure is completely reduced, remove pressure regulator and open canner. Remove jars and set on the countertop on a clean towel.
  12. Let sit for 24 hours. Check seal. Refrigerate for added food safety.

HOMEMADE METHOD
(Adapted from Alton Brown):

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (1 quart) whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 vanilla bean, split

Preparation:

  1. Combine the milk and sugar in a heavy saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Do not stir.
  3. Remove from heat and use a skimmer to remove foam (a spoon or small ladle will work if you don’t have a skimmer).
  4. Add baking soda and split (but not scraped) vanilla bean to the pan.
  5. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for one hour, stirring often and skimming foam as necessary.
  6. Remove vanilla bean and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches desired thickness.  This will take about 60 minutes, depending on how thick you want your caramel. It will burn easily at this point, so be attentive!
  7. The dulce de leche is close to done when a spoon dragged through the mixture leaves a trail. It will thicken a lot as it cools. Test for consistency by dropping a small spoonful into a cup of ice water, or by placing a few drops on a plate that has been placed in the freezer.
  8. The original recipe calls for straining through a fine mesh strainer, but I skipped this step and it was still nice and smooth.

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