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Posts Tagged ‘caramel’

Within minutes of cracking my eyes open and my feet hitting the chilly carpet, the morning sunshine was overshadowed by gloomy sadness—it’s the same tinge of grief that creeps in every September 18, the anniversary of my best friend’s unspeakable death.

Since 22 years of heartbreak can’t be mended with a bottle of Patrón and Duct tape, the next best thing for me is baking. So after I got off the phone with Darya’s dad, Darryl, I wiped my tears with a lotion-y Kleenex and cranked the oven to 350°.

6 and a half layer bars

I recalled a story her mom, Carmen, told me recently. One time, Carmen put a pan of 7-layer bars in the oven and had to leave the house so she asked Darya to turn the oven off when the timer was done. Well, Darya did just that. She turned the oven off but she didn’t take the bars out of the oven. The bars continued to bake and caramelize and as Carmen puts it, “…best bars we ever had and we can’t seem to duplicate that.”

In sweet memory of my friend, I tried to recreate what she had done so many years ago. I changed up the recipe a little because I thought adding caramel, milk chocolate toffee bits, and salty pretzel crumbs could only make the bars better. I was right.

Just remember to turn the oven off and let them sit in there for a while.

6 and a half layer bars

What makes these eight-and-a-half layer bars? I swapped (pretzels for nuts) and added a few ingredients (caramel and toffee bits) from traditional 7-layer bars and, because I’m not a raging fan of coconut, I only use half the coconut most recipes call for. A sprinkling really.

Eight-and-a-half layer bars

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

3/4 cup pretzel crumbs

11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) butter, melted

1 cup butterscotch chips

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1 cup milk chocolate toffee bits

1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping (such as Mrs. Richardson’s butterscotch caramel)

1/2 cup (or your desired amount) shredded coconut

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9×13 pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
  2. Stir together cracker and pretzel crumbs with melted butter. (I use a blender to make the crumbs and then add the butter.)
  3. Dump and firmly press the crumb mix into pan.
  4. Evenly scatter butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, and toffee bits onto crust.
  5. Drizzle on about 1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping.
  6. Sprinkle with coconut, reserving a tablespoon or two.
  7. Pour condensed milk over coconut. Sprinkle with last bit of coconut.
  8. Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn off oven. Leave bars in oven for about 15 minutes before transferring pan to a cooling rack.
  9. Cool completely before cutting into bars. Store in airtight container.

With sweet memories of my BFF,

Staci

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If you’ve been a morning guest in our home, chances are your coffee was as black as frozen hockey pucks and you’ve thrown dietary restraint to the wind by pigging out on warm, gooey butterscotch monkey bread.

Butterscotch monkey bread

Once in a while, I surprise my lovely friends and their kids and give them monkey bread at hockey games. And if you look closely on the bench by my purse, I even have a little pan for my favorite #6 after his game.

Tracey and kids

My recipe has evolved over the years to include butterscotch pudding mix and more biscuit dough. I’ve even driven 12 miles one way to buy the pudding in the morning because it’s that much better with it.

butterscotch monkey bread

I don’t only make monkey bread for houseguests. It is best eaten when it’s warm so my kids are experienced at dishing it into plastic containers for road food, like today as she headed off to work. Some houseguests, you know who you are Zach, won’t eat any until they’re in the car.

monkey bread before work

No houseguests? Make Flying Solo Monkey Bread.

monkey bread

Gooey forkful wishes,

Staci

Butterscotch monkey bread

1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 small box (3.5 oz.) cook & serve (not instant) butterscotch pudding and pie filling

1/4 cup sugar

2 generous teaspoons cinnamon

4 tubes (7.5 ounces each) refrigerated biscuit dough

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease Bundt pan.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and brown sugar together. Whisk until bubbly. Turn off heat.
  3. In a separate medium bowl stir together dry pudding filling, sugar and cinnamon.
  4. With kitchen scissors, cut each biscuit into four pieces, letting them drop directly into pudding mixture. Every six biscuits or so, toss pieces around to coat fully and drop into Bundt pan.
  5. When half of the biscuits are in the Bundt pan, drizzle a few tablespoons of the caramel mixture onto the coated biscuit pieces.
  6. Finish cutting all the biscuits. Evenly pour the caramel mixture over the pieces.
  7. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit 10 minutes. Invert pan onto a large baking sheet and lift Bundt pan off.

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Heavier than a newborn but lighter than a case of beer, two pans of bumpy black and yellow caramel brownies sank my rusty scale to 10.5 pounds.

black and yellow caramel brownies

It was hard not to sneak one before I delivered the hefty box of serve-with-a-glass-of-milk bars to one of my favorite customers. So I did what any self-respecting baker would do. I made another batch to share with my family.

black and yellow caramel brownies

This recipe is a mash-up between two of my easy, go-to bar recipes—Yes! Yes! Brownies and Yellow Bars. Too much of a good thing doesn’t pertain to brownies.

Black and yellow caramel brownies

Brownie & caramel layers:

1 package (approximately 15.25 ounce) dry chocolate cake mix, any flavor – milk chocolate, chocolate fudge, german chocolate, etc.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

5-ounce can evaporated milk, divided into two portions 1/3 cup each

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 bag individually wrapped caramels (about 50 caramels)

Yellow & milk chocolate layers:

1 package (approximately 15.25 ounce) dry yellow cake mix

1 large egg

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, very soft

12-ounce package milk chocolate chips

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 tablespoon butter

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13×9 pan or line with parchment paper.
  2. Stir together chocolate cake mix, 1/3 cup evaporated milk, 3/4 cup melted butter.
  3. Reserve approximately 1/4 cup of chocolate batter. Spread the rest in pan and bake for 6 minutes. Remove from oven.
  4. Scatter 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips onto cake batter.
  5. Unwrap caramels and melt over low heat (stove top or microwave) with 1/3 cup evaporated milk until creamy.
  6. Pour caramel over chocolate chips.
  7. Stir together yellow cake mix, 1 egg, and 1 stick very soft butter.
  8. Set half the yellow dough aside.
  9. Using half of the yellow dough, roll and flatten small portions in your hand. Lay flat pieces on the chocolate chips.
  10. Bake 6 minutes. Remove from oven.
  11. In a medium saucepan or in the microwave, melt milk chocolate chips, 1 tablespoon butter, and sweetened condensed milk together until smooth.
  12. Pour chocolate over yellow cake pieces.
  13. Flatten remaining yellow cake dough into pieces and lay onto milk chocolate. (It won’t cover the whole pan.)
  14. Flatten remaining chocolate cake dough into pieces and sprinkle in places not covered by yellow dough.
  15. Using a small spreader or knife, gently spread doughs but leaving bumps.
  16. Bake 30 minutes or just until yellow parts start to turn golden.
  17. Remove from oven. Cut when cooled completely. Store in airtight container.

Sweet mashed wishes,

Staci

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You’ve flipped your paper calendar to November, there’s a gallon of apple cider in your fridge, “A Partridge in a Pear Tree” is chirping on Pandora, and you’re pinning unrealistic menu and holiday decorating to-dos as if Pinterest hands out gold medals. And now you will fall asleep at night counting tiny triangles of caramel apple cider cheesecake.

caramel apple cider cheesecake

But since cheesecake doesn’t fall from trees, this is a realistic dessert to pin to your Thanksgiving Meal board. You will impress your guests or hosts with a cheesecake flavor they’ve likely never tried, and you get to make it well in advance of your dinner because you can refrigerate cheesecake for seven days and you can freeze it for up to six months.

If you are a cheesecake novice, this is an easy enough cheesecake recipe for you. I’ll share my same tips as I did a few days ago in Don’t let cheesecake scare you: start with a recipe easier than monster cookie dough cheesecake:

  1. Bring ingredients to room temperature. Using room temperature ingredients and adding the eggs last, and not overbeating once you add them, are the secrets to making cheesecake. Simple as that.
  2. Plan to be at home for a few hours. (But you can even run errands while the cheesecake cools.)

Caramel apple cider cheesecake

Crust

1-1/2 cups cinnamon graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup butter, melted

Filling

4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1-1/4 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup apple butter (smooth, nut chunky)

1/2 cup boiled cider (or use this recipe from Midwest Living to make your own boiled cider)

1-1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice

4 eggs, room temperature

1 cup caramel ice cream topping

Put it all together

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. For a 9-inch springform pan, grease the springform pan with baking or cooking spray. For a 9-inch square baking pan, line with parchment paper or pan lining paper leaving extra paper hanging over the edge to use as a handle to lift the cheesecake out.
  2. Combine the crushed graham crackers and melted butter in a small bowl. Stir well. (Or combine in a food processor.) Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of pan. Bake 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat room temperature cream cheese on medium-high speed until creamy throughout, with no chunks or pieces. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times while mixing. This will take approximately 3-4 minutes. This only works if the cream cheese is at a soft, room temperature consistency.
  4. Add the sugar to the cream cheese mixture and beat on medium-high speed for a few minutes until sugar is well combined and the texture is creamy.
  5. Drop the apple butter and apple pie spice in and stir lightly. Pour in the boiled cider and mix on medium just until combined.
  6. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on low just until combined. Turn off the mixer and gently scrape down the sides of the bowl after each egg is added. Do not overbeat.
  7. Gently pour the filling into the prepared crust. With a spoon or fork, drizzle the caramel all over the top, trying not to drop big globs on the cheesecake. With a knife, swirl the caramel into the cheesecake, but only near the top of the batter, don’t get it very deep.
  8. Bake at 350° for approximately one hour and 15 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown and the center is just set. Turn the oven off and crack the oven door open slightly. Let the cheesecake completely cool in the oven for two hours. (You can run your errands now.)
  9. Once cool, run a knife between the pan and the cheesecake to loosen it from the sides, then cover the top of the pan with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

When ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the springform pan or remove from square pan by lifting the edges of the parchment paper. To slice, run a large knife under hot water and dry before making each cut to keep the slices smooth and free from crumbs.

Keep cheesecake in the refrigerator for up to seven days. If you want to freeze the cheesecake or slices of cheesecake wrap tightly in foil or seal in freezer bags for up to six months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight and at room temperature for 2 hours or at room temperature for three hours.

If you want to bake this cheesecake in 4-inch springform pans as I have pictured, lower the oven temperature to 300° and bake approximately 40-45 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown and centers are just set.

If you want to get fancy, serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Sweet fall wishes,

Staci

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It didn’t start out to be a Labor Day weekend in the kitchen but in the past 24 hours I’ve washed a lot of dishes.

It started with a text from my nephew Garritt. “How busy r u this weekend?” I proceeded to tell him that I’m around, working on a few things around the house and waiting to see if my daughter was coming home. He asked if he could put in a request for me to make something – pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Well how do I say no to a sweet, innocent face like this?

(Disclosure, I Photoshopped a small injury off my forehead because I didn’t want to tell you that right when I was hosting the CBS Sunday morning crew for my real job, I cracked my head open a tiny bit with my car door. But now you know anyway. So, I Photoshopped the injury back on my forehead.)

Staci Garritt 2014

The two middle children in our family. T-R-O-U-B-L-E is our middle name.

Staci Garritt 2015

So, I baked Garritt’s favorite Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies.

pumpkin chip cookies

While I was at it and washing dishes anyway, I made the Caramel Apple Nut Bars that I had intended to make for my sister Kalli’s birthday last week. I delivered them today. Better late and sweet than never I guess.

Caramel Apple Nut Bars

I’ve been trying to thin out the shelves in my pantry a little so today seemed like the perfect day to bake a big old pot of Make-It-Your-Way Rainy Day Chili. (I should’ve made Beer Chili instead so I could also get rid of a bottle of beer).

rainy day chili

Of course I made from-a-pouch cornbread and added a few dollops of Lake Benton honey. And a bowl of French vanilla pudding with banana slices (because Jason likes it).

And a pie plate of Cherry Crunchobblerumble (because we both like it).

Cherry Crunchobblerumble | Random Sweetness Baking

Well, enough about all the dishes I washed this weekend. Tell me about all the fun you had!

Sweet wrinkly wishes,

Staci

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Popcorn is a healthy snack option; not the way movie theaters douse it with hot, greasy golden liquid mimicking butter, but remove the blanket of grease and it’s a guilt-free food to mindlessly munch while watching the latest Hollywood flick. Of course every savory snack should be balanced with a sweet snack so why not pair it with caramel popcorn?

red hots smiley

If you’re watching from your couch, not a germy reclining theater chair, skip the seeds and hulls by making your own sticky sweet and salty mix using puff corn cereal. And toss in hot tamales or cinnamon Red Hots® candies.

caramel cashew corn pops

If you go out for movie night, this brings up a moral question. Is it OK to bring a bag of homemade caramel cashew corn puffs into the movie theater if you buy an extortionate $12 box of hot tamales or Red Hots from concessions?

Caramel Cashew Corn Puffs

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

7 cups corn puff cereal (I use Corn Pops®)

2 cups salted cashews

1-2 cups red hots candies or hot tamales candies (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 225°.
  2. Mix cereal and cashews in a large bowl.
  3. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup; boil for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. Drop in baking soda and stir well.
  5. Pour caramel mixture into cereal and cashew mixture. Stir to coat thoroughly.
  6. Spread cereal mixture onto two baking sheets lined with foil or parchment paper.
  7. Bake at 225° for one hour, stirring around every 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and cool the caramel corn on sheets of wax paper.
  9. Stir in hot tamales or cinnamon Red Hots candies. Store in airtight container for one week.

Sticky blockbuster wishes,

Staci

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Not everyone cooks for a family of four. Or five. When it’s just you on a cozy Saturday morning and you crave the nostalgic waft of cinnamon drifting from the kitchen, a small batch of monkey bread with warm caramel seeping down the sides will appease.

Monkey bread when flying solo

One tube of biscuit dough and a few sweet ingredients and you can’t even take a shower in the time it takes to bake them.

monkey bread cinnamon sugar

Bake in mini pie tins, 4″ springform pans, mini loaf pans, one loaf pan, cookie sheet, mini muffin tin, or any other small oven-proof pan.

mini monkey bread before baking

I used mini pie tins – three of them – and I’m glad I baked them on a cookie sheet because the caramel oozed over the top. Next time I’ll still only make three, but I’ll drizzle some of the caramel in between layers instead of dumping it all on top. You might like it better in four.

half gone monkey bread

I confess, two of us ate this batch. Now go take your shower.

Sweet Saturday wishes,
Staci

Flying Solo Monkey Bread 

Serves 1 or 2 people depending on how much you want to share

5 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 (7.5 ounce) package refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough

  1. Grease 3 mini pie tins or whatever smaller pan you choose to use.
  2. Melt butter and brown sugar together. Stir until brown sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Set aside.
  3. Stir together white sugar and cinnamon.
  4. Cut each piece of biscuit dough into four chunks and drop into the cinnamon and sugar. Lightly toss around until each is completely coated.
  5. Toss dough into pans, using equal amounts in each pan if using more than one. Pour some of the melted butter mixture over the biscuits before all of it is in the pan.
  6. Once all the biscuits are in the pan(s), drizzle the remaining caramel over the biscuits. Place pan(s) on cookie sheet.
  7. Bake at 350° until top of biscuits are slightly crispy. For mini pie tins, that’s approximately 12-14 minutes. Do not over bake. For one loaf pan, it may take approximately 20-22 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and turn pan(s) upside down onto plate, remove pan, scrape the excess caramel onto the monkey bread.

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