Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sherry's Caramels

Here is my sister-in-law's famous caramel recipe.  I made five batches this year, mostly for teacher gifts.  

Makes 8x8 pan, or 2 1/2 lbs.
To prepare the pan: line with parchment paper, then butter the parchment lightly.

1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter over low heat.  Add brown sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk.
Raise range heat to medium.  Stirring constantly, cook caramels for about 8-12 minutes.
Your range and the heat you use will determine cooking time.
As caramels cook, use a candy thermometer.
My best caramels are cooked to exactly 240 degrees.  
(The heat tends to fog the thermometer, so I finally marked the line with a Sharpie).

As soon as the caramels reach 240, turn off heat and stir in your sea salt.  I use freshly-ground salt.
Add vanilla, stir.

Place a large sieve into your pan, or ask someone to hold the sieve for you.  Pour caramels through the sieve, into prepared pan.  Cool completely.  I usually let them cool all day,
until my daughters have time to help me wrap them.

To wrap:  you'll need about 65 wrappers, depending on how big you cut your caramels.  
Wrappers are easy to cut out of wax paper, or you can buy them at a bakery supply store.
Invert the pan over a big cutting board.
Keep knife moving as you cut.  They are so buttery, the knife won't stick as long
as you keep moving it. I use a big chef's knife.
I like to cut them in rows about 1 1/2 inches wide, then cut each row into narrow pieces.  
(The width of the row becomes the length of the caramels).

Enjoy!  These are pretty amazing.  So why do we make them only at Christmas?

Friday, December 9, 2011

White-Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

These aren't the most delicious cookies in the world.  But they are amazingly good, and they're a little different than the usual.  I also love how they look in a vintage canister.

1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs (room temp.)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup hazelnuts
2/3 cup white chocolate, either chips or a chopped up bar

First, prepare the hazelnuts.  This is putsy.  Place them on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Check to see if skins will easily rub off.  If not, continue toasting until it seems like the skins will remove pretty well.  At this point the hazelnuts are toasted.
Remove them from oven (leave the oven on),  pour them onto a clean but not beloved dish towel, and roll them around in the towel to remove the skins.  I can never quite get all the skins off, but that's okay.

Place them on cutting board, and chop into pieces about the size of chocolate chips.

To make the cookie dough:
Beat together butter and sugar till light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Beat in eggs, one at a time.
Add vanilla.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt, and add to butter mixture.
Mix briefly.
Add hazelnuts and white chocolate pieces, mix well but do not over-mix.

Divide dough in half.
Form into two 12X2 inch loaves on parchment-paper lined baking sheet.
I like to make my loaves squared-off, sort of rectangular, but I've seen some pastry chefs who just mound the dough into a very rough loaf, and that seems to work just fine. It's easier to manage the dough if you flour your hands a few times during the process.

Bake the cookie loaves at 350 for about 25 minutes.  Remove from oven, cool for 10 minutes. 
Place on cutting board.

Slice diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slices, and place slices onto baking sheets. (Now you will need two baking sheets.)  Bake about 8 minutes, and then, if you are feeling up to it, turn each cookie over for the remaining 4 or 5 minutes.  Remove from oven when cookies are lightly browned. 
Don't remove them too early, or they won't be crisp. 

Transfer to cooling rack.  When they are cool, store at room temperature or freeze. 
These cookies freeze very well. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

How to Make Giant Paper Flowers

These flowers are made from an antique poetry textbook. 
The rosettes in the center are rolled from vintage patterns.

First, cut petals from the textbook.  I cut them freehand, but you can make a paper pattern to make the petals symmetrical if you like.  I like things a little "off."  
From heavy card stock, cut a circle about 4" in diameter.  I used a little urn for the pattern.  You will need 2 circles for each flower.
Cut a smaller circle in the middle of the card stock circle.  The size of the little circle will determine how many petals you can fit onto the flower.  I didn't want too many petals, since these are package decorations, so I cut the circle quite small.
The base of the petals should be about 2" across.
Fold each petal base into a pleat, as shown.
Fold the pleated base under about an inch, and glue onto the circle, as shown.

When you glue the folded petal onto the circle, hold it in place for several seconds.

 Continue placing petals around the circle, pinching till the glue holds.

Overlap each petal.  When you get to the end, you might want to lift up the first petal to tuck under the last 
petal.  I don't always do this since the center of the flower is covered with the tissue rosettes.
For the rosettes:  Cut a length of old pattern tissue, about 8" wide.  I like to use uncut patterns so the pieces are large.  Roll the length of tissue loosely.  

Twist a 10" length of wire around the center of the tissue.
Repeat to make another rolled and cinched tissue roll. Fold each tissue roll.
Place them closely together, and twist the wire in back to secure the rosette. 

 Place the wire through the center of the flower. To cover the back of the flower,
glue your second card stock circle over the first circle. 

  Stabilize the rosette by dabbing a little glue on the outside of each rosette and pinching onto the nearest petal.  You can make the tissue flowers look more like roses by folding over
the edge of the outer tissue on each one.
My sons are going to be so surprised when they come home from college and find these on their gifts!