Friday, January 23, 2015

Caramel Puff Corn

This stuff is seriously addictive, and you'll either love me or hate me for sharing the recipe. Many batches were made over the holidays, and they disappeared so quickly there was barely time to take a photo. It's sweet, salty, buttery, crunchy, ridiculously easy to whip up and even easier to eat. And eat. And eat.

Did you notice that there are no popcorn hulls? No hard kernels or bits to get stuck in your teeth either. That's because it starts with a bag of butter flavored Puffcorn,  a ready made snack food you can buy in the potato chip aisle. I used Chester's Puffcorn, but there are are other brands available that come in different sized bags. Thank you Vicki Bensinger, for introducing me to this irresistible confection!

The caramel corn may be good, but it doesn't hold a candle to this sweet little bundle! I braved the cold of Chicago last week to snuggle with my brand new granddaughter. Isn't she precious? I hope one day she'll love to bake with me as much as my sweet grandson does. I miss them both!

Caramel Puff Corn
Recipe from here, here, and here!

1 cup (2 sticks) butter (no substitutes!)
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup light Karo syrup
1 tsp. baking soda
approx. 8 oz. BUTTER flavored Puff Corn (I could only find Puff Corn in 3.5 oz. bags. I used two bags of Chester's Puff Corn. You could use three bags to get a bigger batch with a lighter caramel coating.)
***If you have a hard time finding Butter flavored Puff Corn, you can use the Snack Finder here to find Chester's Puff Corn in your area. 

Empty puff corn from bags into large buttered roasting pan. Set aside.
In a 2 qt. saucepan stir together butter, sugar and syrup.
Using medium heat, bring to boil. Boil 2 minutes stirring constantly.
Add baking soda. Mixture will bubble up. Stir and remove from heat.
Pour caramel mixture over puff corn in roaster. Stir until puff corn is coated.
Bake in 250F oven for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to distribute caramel evenly over puff corn.
Working quickly, turn out onto parchment and separate puffs while they cool. Store in an airtight container. Try not to eat it all before it gets into the container! :)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Scandinavian Almond Bars

     You're not tired of cookies yet, are you? I hope not, because this is a great little recipe to tuck away in your bag of cookie tricks. It's a versatile treat, reminiscent of an almond pastry. It's equally as perfect with your coffee or tea in the morning as it is a pick-me-up in the afternoon.

     This beauty is elegant enough for special occasions, but simple enough to have on hand to fill your cookie jar. To me it's everything a grown-up sugar cookie should be- crunchy edges, a chewy middle and the delicate flavor of almonds and vanilla. (Is it just me, or does anyone else think of Jergens lotion whenever they open up the bottle of almond extract? Do they even make that anymore?)

     I came upon this recipe quite by accident when one of my students brought it to school for an  assignment where they had to bring an example of something from home that had different types of measurements. I've been making these cookies ever since...Who knew that homework could be so rewarding?

     To add to their appeal, they're delightfully easy to make and look like you've spent hours on them. They also freeze well in an airtight container with wax paper between layers. Double the recipe so you can always have them on hand for little cookie emergencies! (And please don't tell me you've never had one of those. :)

Happy New Year to everyone! 
May 2015 bring you joy and good health!

Scandinavian Almond Bars
Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Cookies

Cookie Ingredients
1 and 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 Tblsp. milk
1/2 cup sliced almonds (I used more than this, but I love almonds.)

Icing Ingredients
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. almond extract
enough milk (3-4 tsp.) to make drizzling consistency

Cookie Directions
  • In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  • In mixing bowl, beat together softened butter and sugar.
  • Beat in egg and almond extract until combined.
  • Beat in flour mixture. This mixture will be crumbly but will get better as you work with it.
  • Divide dough into four equal portions. Shape each portion into a 12 inch long roll. Place two rolls 4 to 5 inches apart on a parchment (or silpat) covered cookie sheet. 
  • Flatten each roll until it is 3 inches wide. 
  • Brush flattened (3"x12") logs with milk; sprinkle with almonds.
  • Bake at 325F for 12-15 minutes or until edges are lightly (barely!) browned. (I baked mine for 13 minutes, but ovens vary.)
  • While still warm and soft on the cookie sheet, cut each cookie "slab" diagonally into 1-inch wide strips. Carefully transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. Drizzle with Almond Icing; let dry.
  • Almond Icing: Stir together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar, 1/4 tsp. Almond extract and enough milk to make drizzling consistency.
  • Store in an airtight container. These cookies are even better after they sit overnight!

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