Saturday, May 14, 2011

Salted Chocolate Covered Caramels

**This post was originally published on, a brand new online food magazine, for which I am a contributor. The website launched in March, and it is a great new resource for recipes, travel, restaurant reviews and foodie opinion pieces. Check it out here!**

Did you know that there is a week in March that has been officially be declared ‘American Chocolate Week’? Nope, neither did I! What does American Chocolate Week mean? I have no clue, but that fact however, did not stop me from celebrating it to its full extent. I am a sucker for holidays, even ones that are probably made up by Hallmark and advertising firms.

In other words, I got my chocolate on. Actually, I got my chocolate and caramel on. I wonder if there is an American Caramel Week. If there isn’t, there should be. I need to look into that.

A quick Google search revealed all kinds of yummy (albeit ridiculous) holidays coming up in May including National Beer Week, National Cheese Soufflé Day, National Eat What You Want Day, and National Truffle Day. National Truffle Day happens to land on my birthday, so I may have to take advantage of that one, both the sweet and savory versions.

Back to the chocolate: a friend’s baby shower was the perfect event to present chocolate goodies in all their glory. I mean, I have never met a pregnant woman that isn’t up for a little (or a lot) of chocolate. Salted chocolate-covered caramels and a chocolate tart with a hazelnut banana caramel filling satisfied all the lovely ladies at the shower, and made the mom-to-be a very happy camper.

First up, salted, chocolate-covered caramels (stay tuned for the chocolate-banana-caramel tart, we need to pace ourselves here!)

Salted Chocolate-Covered Caramels
makes about 60-80 caramels

The cook times here are approximate, you should rely on your candy thermometer to tell you when it is done, not the number of minutes it has been cooking.

180 ml cream
1 teaspoon high quality vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
170 grams light corn syrup
192 grams sugar
60 grams butter
300 grams dark chocolate
coarse sea salt crystals for garnish

Line a square baking dish with tin foil and mist lightly with a non-stick cooking spray.

In a small saucepan, combine the cream, half of the butter, and the salt over medium heat, just until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, and cover to keep warm.

In a medium saucepan, combine the corn syrup and sugar and cook over medium heat until the sugar has melted and come to a boil. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches 155°C on a candy thermometer.

Remove from heat and carefully and quickly add the cream mixture. It will bubble up quite a bit when added, this is normal. Return pan back to heat, and over medium-high heat, bring the caramel up to 120°C (248°F), or firm ball stage.

Remove from heat, quickly stir in the remaining butter, and pour into your prepared baking dish. Let the caramel rest until completely cool or you can place it in the refrigerator to speed the process. Gently remove caramel from baking dish and peel off the tin foil. Cut into 1 inch squares.

Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. Dip the chocolates one by one into the chocolate and place on a piece of wax paper or parchment paper. While they are still a bit wet, sprinkle on a few grains of sea salt, and if you like, some adorable little edible glitter stars.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Virtual Flowers for Mom

This is a love letter to my mom. This mothers day, as with most mother's days, I am away from home in another state. I don't get to participate in the mothers day dinner, or the presenting of flowers, or the opening of gifts. I call to say a hello and share an 'I love you', but on this day more than the rest I miss my mom. She may be the strongest woman I have ever known. Smart, compassionate, funny, and caring, I am pretty sure I lucked out in the mom department. 

She was stern growing up when I needed it, like in 9th grade when I decided it wasn't cool to turn in homework. She lent a calming and soothing ear when in college I would call her crying after pulling four all night-ers in a row, still fearing I wouldn't get my project perfect before the due date. She didn't freak out when I decided I was moving to Chicago with my boyfriend after graduation. She was full of support and was judgement free when I told her I was abandoning my college degree (the one that was full of nervous breakdowns and frantic phone calls) and going to pastry school. She is the one I can't wait to get home to, to sit down with and share a glass of wine, and tell about my crazy life. I am blessed that I actually want to hang out with my mom as an adult, and I only wish I was able to do that more often that I do now. 

If I was home right now, I would share some flowers, some hugs, and maybe some cupcakes with her. But, since I don't trust UPS with food, these virtual ones will have to do. So to all the moms out there who are as amazing as mine, these are for you. 

I love you mama. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Will Starbucks Kill the Cake Pop?

**This post was originally published on, a brand new online food magazine, for which I am a contributor. The website launched in March, and it is a great new resource for recipes, travel, restaurant reviews and foodie opinion pieces. Check it out here!**

I can’t tell you how many people in the past few weeks have asked me “did you know that Starbucks sells cake pops now?”. Some say cake pops are the new cupcake, and they seem to be everywhere you look. They are taking over food blogs, they are replacing cupcakes at weddings, and now they are being sold at the international coffee chain, Starbucks.

A cake pop is essentially cake, crumbled and mixed with frosting, formed into a ball, popped on a stick, and dipped in a super-sweet candy coating. I made cake pops for the first time for a friend’s wedding last spring (about 350 of them to be exact) and since then, virtually everyone I know has become obsessed. Certain friends (who shall remain anonymous) have been known to hoard them in their freezer and ration them out until the next batch of leftovers is delivered. It’s madness I tell you.

Will the appearance of cake pops at Starbucks mark the beginning of the inevitable cake pop backlash? The overexposure and obsession with a new food trend can quickly turn it from hip and current to passé and cheesy. With their new home at a coffee chain that many people already love to hate, will 2011 be the year of the death of the cake pop trend? Only time will tell I guess.

Until then, we can still delight in the near-sickeningly sweet treat that is the cake pop. Here are instructions for some bright colorful pops, perfect for a spring celebration or a fun Easter treat.

Lemon Cream Cheese Cake Pops
Makes about 50 pops

Cake Pops:
1 batch lemon-buttermilk cake, baked and cooled
1 batch cream cheese frosting (recipe below)
1-2 packages white vanilla candy melts (if you cannot find candy melts, you can use white chocolate, or almond bark the same way)
candy melt coloring (optional, but you cannot use frosting coloring, or liquid coloring unfortunately, the candy melts will seize from the water content)
sprinkles (optional)
50 4-inch lollipop sticks

Crumble the cakes into a large bowl with your fingers until broken up into pea-sized bits. Mix in about 2/3 of the frosting to start with, using either a large wooden spoon, or your hands if you want to get messy. Mix until the frosting is evenly dispersed. Take a small amount of some of the cake mixture (approximately 2 tablespoons or so) and try rolling it into a ball with the palms of your hands. If it stays together, continue to roll the rest of your cake mixture into balls and place them on a parchment or a wax paper lined baking sheet. If they fall apart or do not hold together, add a little more frosting until the mix is moist enough to allow you to roll an intact ball. You may not need to use all your frosting. I like to use the least amount of frosting possible, as it helps keep the texture of the cake pops more cake-like, and less mushy.

Once you have rolled all the cake mix into balls, place in refrigerator and chill for about 30 minutes. When the cake balls have been chilled, melt a small amount of the candy melts in a microwave safe bowl according to package directions. Take one of the sticks, dip about 1/2 inch of the end into the melted candy and stick it about half to three-quarters of the way through the cake ball. Don’t go too far into the cake ball, or it will fall apart. The candy melts will help adhere the stick to the cake.

Place the cake pop (we can officially call them pops now since they are now on a stick) back onto the parchment and repeat process with all remaining balls. Place the cake pops in the freezer for 30-60 minutes before coating. This will save you a lot of headache when trying to dip the cake pops into the hot candy melts. If they are mostly nearly frozen, you will have a much easier time getting them to stay on the stick while dipping and tapping the excess coating off, so don’t rush this step!

Once the cake pops have been chilled, melt the rest of the package of candy melts according to package directions, and add your candy coloring, if usingdesired. I kept the majority of the cake pops in the freezer and took them out about five5 at a time. This way, the whole pan of cake pops doesn’t come up to room temperature while you are dipping the first batch.

One at a time, dip the cake pops into the melted candy coating being making sure to get the coating all the way up over where theon to the stick is attached to really seal it into create a good seal. GENTLY tap off the excess coating on the edge of the bowl while rotating the cake pop, to get a nice even layer all the way around. You will want to do this quickly in order to make sure to reduce any excess of the candy coating off before it starts to set.

At this point you can do one of two things. If you want lollipop-like cake pops, you can stick them in a piece of styrofoam, let them dry pop side up, and serve them just like that. If you do it this way, you may want to reshape the tips of the balls a bit with your fingers before dipping them, as they may have a flattened bottom from sitting and chilling.

I tend prefer to to place them pop side down with the sticks up in the air. They are still just as cute, but easier to make in large quantities. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the flattened bottom since you are just putting it back in that same position anyway.

While the candy coating is still wet, feel free to go crazy with sprinkles, edible glitter, or even crushed nuts. If you are piping or dipping another color onto the pops, wait until the base layer is completely dry before doing so. You may need to melt more candy melts depending on how thick your coating ends up. , it’s always good have a few extra bags on hand.

Let your cake pops dry for at least an hour or two before packaging them up. I placed mine in a paper towel-lined ziploc baggies and put them into the refrigerator. You can leave them at room temp for a day or two, or even freeze them for a few weeks.

Lemon Buttermilk Cake:
3 1/2 cups (349 grams) cake flour
2 cups (383 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks, 459 grams) room temperature
1 cup buttermilk (3,5 dl) room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
zest of one large or two small lemons

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter and flour two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, sift or whisk together the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Add the butter and half the buttermilk. Beat with the paddle attachment on a medium-low speed until combined and smooth, about 3-4 minutes.

In a medium sized bowl, with a fork, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, the rest of the buttermilk, and the vanilla and lemon extracts to combine, just until eggs are broken up. Add the egg mixture to the batter in 3 additions, mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes after each addition, being sure to scrap down the sides of the bowl frequently.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans, and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans until they are cool to the touch, then turn out of pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
16 ounces (454 grams) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter (230 grams) room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (325 grams) confectioners’ sugar
pinch of salt

In a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese and butter, and beat on medium high speed until smooth. Add the vanilla and salt and mix until incorporated. Gradually add the sugar, and beat until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

Pin It


Related Posts with Thumbnails