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Archive for Halloween

RECIPE: Tricolor Jello Fingers For St. Pat’s, July 4th, Halloween, Christmas & More

Green Jello Squares

Jell-O Treats

Tricolor Jello Mold

Top: St. Patrick’s Day themed Jell-O from TheModernRoost.com used food color to create the darkest green layer. Center: The recipe for this Halloween Jell-O from SomethingNewForDinner.com. Bottom: Christmas Jell-O from Due Forni | Las Vegas.

 

You’re never to old to enjoy a fancy Jell-O dish. Call it retro, call it Jell-O art; just call it to the table.

Multi-layer jello finger food (no fork or spoon required), called finger Jell-O, ribbon Jell-O or Jell-O squares, is the type of food fun that the family can look forward to with each holiday. Simply match the colors to the occasion.

You can make as many layers, and as many colors, as you like. The Pioneer Woman makes an even snazzier version. So does the Brown-Eyed Baker.

You can slice this into what is known as “finger Jello,” because you can pick it up and eat it with your fingers. Extra gelatin is added to the Jell-O to create a firm texture.

You can make it in any colors; for example:

  • Green and white for St. Patrick’s Day (one layer of Lime Jell-O, one layer of Melon Jell-O)
  • Red white and blue for Memorial Day and Independence Day
  • Blue and white for Chanukah
  • Orange and Peach or Black Cherry for Halloween
  • Black Cherry red and Raspberry red for Valentine’s Day
  • Team colors for the Super Bowl (use food color to tint as needed)
  •  
    Check out the different flavors and colors of Jell-O.
     
    You can make a diet version with sugar-free Jell-O, and swap the sweetened condensed milk for evaporated milk that you sweeten with a non-caloric sweetener.

    RECIPE: JELL-O SQUARES

    In this recipe, adapted from Taste Of Home, the Jell-O is firmed into “finger Jell-O” or “Jell-O squares” with the addition of extra gelatin. Prep time is 30 minutes, plus 90 minutes chilling/firming time.

    Make the recipe on a day when you can let each mixture come to room temperature at its own pace, and firm up each layer in the fridge for more than 30 minutes. Don’t skimp on the cooling and firming times, or you won’t be pleased with the results.
     
    Ingredients For 32 Pieces

  • 1 box (6 ounces) Lime Jell-O
  • 1 box (6 ounces) Melon Fusion Jell-O
  • 4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • Boiling water, cold water
  • Preparation

    1. SPRAY a 9×13-inch baking pan (ideally Pyrex) with nonstick spray.

    2. MAKE the bottom layer: In a medium bowl, mix the green Jell-O with 1 envelope of the unflavored gelatin. Add 2 cups boiling water and stir to dissolve. Cool to room temperature and pour into the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    3. MAKE the center layer: In a clean bowl, mix the sweetened condensed milk with 1 cup boiling water. In a separate small bowl, sprinkle 2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin over ½ cup cold water. Let the gelatin stand for 4 minutes and then add ½ cup boiling water to dissolve it. Add to the condensed milk mixture and stir to combine. Cool to room temperature and pour over the bottom layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    5. MAKE the top layer. In a medium bowl, mix the red Jell-O with 1 envelope of the unflavored gelatin. Add 2 cups boiling water and stir to dissolve. Cool to room temperature and pour over the middle layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer, until firm.

    6. SLICE into individual pieces, plate and serve.

     

    THE HISTORY OF JELL-O

    Gelatin (also spelled gelatine) has been made since ancient times by boiling animal and fish bones. Aspic, a savory, gelatin-like food made from meat or fish stock, was a French specialty centuries before the dawn of commercial gelatin. It was very difficult to prepare, relying only on the natural gelatin found in the meat to make the aspic set.

    Powdered gelatin was invented in 1682 by Denis Papin. But the concept of cooking it with sugar to make dessert dates to 1845 and an American inventor named Peter Cooper. Cooper patented a dessert product that was set with gelatin, but it didn’t take off.

    In 1897, Pearle Wait, a carpenter in Le Roy, New York (Genesee County), experimented with gelatin and developed a fruit flavored dessert which his wife May named Jell-O. The first four flavors were orange, lemon, strawberry and raspberry.

    Wait tried to market his product but lacked the capital and experience. In 1899 he sold his formula to a townsman and manufacturer of proprietary medicines, Orator Frank Woodward, for $450. The Jell-O itself was manufactured by Andrew Samuel Nico of Lyons, New York.

    Alas, sales were slow and one day, Wait sold Sam Nico the business for $35. In 1900, the Genesee Pure Food Company promoted Jell-O in a successful advertising campaign, and by 1902 sales were $250,000. In 1923 the owners created the Jell-O Company, Inc., which replaced the Genesee Pure Foods Company. The purpose was to protect the Jell-O trade name and to keep it from becoming a generic term.

    That same year, the Jell-O Company was sold to the Postum Cereal Company, the first subsidiary of a large merger that would eventually become General Foods Corporation. Lime Jell-O was introduced in 1930.

     

    Old Strawberry Jello Box

    Strawberry Jello Box

    Top: A box of strawberry Jell-O from the 1890s, courtesy eBaumsWorld.com. Bottom: Strawberry Jell-O today. Photo courtesy Kraft Foods.

     

    Today Jell-O is manufactured by Kraft Foods, a subsidiary of Phillip Morris, which acquired both Kraft and General Foods in the 1980s and ultimately merged the two companies. There’s a Jell-O Gallery Museum in Le Roy, New York.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pumpkin Coconut Mousse

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/pumpkin coconut mousse ingridhoffmannFB 230

    You don’t need special dessert bowls. Use juice glasses, rocks glasses or stemware. Photo courtesy Chef Ingrid Hoffmann.

     

    We made this mousse for the adults on Halloween, but the pumpkin theme works throughout the holidays. This is an easy recipe. Here’s a more elaborate pumpin mousse recipe.

    This recipe is from Chef Ingrid Hoffmann, who has many more on her website.

    You can serve it in meringues or puff pastry shells, in glass dessert dishes, in wine glasses or rocks glasses, or in scooped out mini pumpkins.

    RECIPE: PUMPKIN COCONUT MOUSSE

    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ¾ cup fine sugar*
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice†
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • Toasted coconut (instructions below)
  • Optional garnish: mint sprigs for garnish
  •  
    *You can use superfine sugar, or can pulse table sugar in a food processor or spice mill to make it more fine.

    † You can buy it or make it, combining 3tablespoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, 1½ teaspoons ground allspice and 1½ teaspoons ground cloves.
     
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the pumpkin purée, coconut milk, sugar, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla in a small sauce pan and and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely.

    2. BEAT the whipping cream and rum with an electric hand mixer, until peaks form. Gently fold the pumpkin mixture into the whipped cream, until well mixed.

    3. CHILL for at least 2 hours. Garnish with toasted coconut and a mint sprig.
     
    HOW TO TOAST COCONUT

    You can buy toasted coconut, but it’s very easy to toast your own in the oven or microwave.

    1. HEAT the oven to 350°F. Spread shredded coconut evenly on a cookie sheet. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until light golden brown, stirring occasionally.

    2. WATCH closely to avoid over-browning.

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake

    Well, it’s almost no bake: The crust gets baked for 10 minutes. But after that, all you do is mix, fill and refrigerate thanks to this easy recipe from Kenwood.

    If the kids want to make a contribution, this is something they can do without worrying about baking times (or having to stick around, waiting for the baking to finish).

    Prep time is 20 minutes, chill time is 4 hours or overnight.

    RECIPE: NO BAKE PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

    Ingredients

    For The Crust

  • 10 to 12 graham crackers to make approx 1.5 cups
  • ½ cup of unsalted butter, softened
  •  
    For The Cheesecake Filling

  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin pie filling*
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • Optional: whipped cream for garnish
  •  

    no-bake-pumpkin-cheesecake-kenwoodworld-230ps

    The crust bakes for 10 minutes. Then, chill and serve. Photo courtesy Kenwood.

     

    *Note that pumpkin pie filling is already seasoned with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Do not confuse it with unseasoned can pumpkin.

    Preparation

    1. HEAT the oven to 375°F. Using a food processor with the chopping blade, combine the softened butter with the graham crackers to create a graham crust. Stir until the crumbs are evenly coated and look wet. The crumbs should hold together in a clump if you press them in your fist; if not, add water a tablespoon at a time until this happens.

    2. POUR the crumbs into a 9-inch pie pan and press them evenly along the bottoms and sides. Pre-bake the crust for 8 to 10 minutes until dry and fragrant. Cool completely before proceeding with the recipe.

    3. MIX the cream cheese in the mixing bowl of the food processor on medium speed until it is a bit fluffy. Slowly add in the pumpkin pie filling and mix on low until blended. Mix in the cinnamon and sugar until mixture is completely smooth.

    4. REMOVE the filling and place in another bowl. Add the whipping cream to the mixing bowl and beat until stiff. Slowly fold in cream cheese mixture until just blended (it won’t be pretty so don’t think you’re doing something wrong).

    5. POUR into the pie crust. Let the cheesecake chill in for 4 hours or overnight. To serve, garnish with a optional dollop of whipped cream.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

    Bread pudding is a Southern classic that can be tweaked to become a fall special with the addition of pumpkin purée.

    This recipe, from Heidi of FoodieCrush, not only adds the pumpkin, but tops the bread pudding with a bourbon pecan sauce.

    Says Heidi: “With bourbon pecan and caramelized pecans topping a bread pudding made from cinnamon-raisin bread, this dessert is destined to become a classic.”

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 60 minutes.

    See the history of bread pudding below.

    RECIPE: PUMPKIN BREAD PUDDING WITH
    BOURBON PECAN SAUCE

    Ingredients For 8-10 servings

    For The Bread Pudding

  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1-pound loaf cinnamon-raisin bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  •   
    For The Bourbon Pecan Sauce

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/3 cup bourbon or other whiskey
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan with 1 tablespoon butter.

    2. WHISK together the eggs, heavy cream, pumpkin purée, maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice in large bowl, stirring until smooth.

       

    Pumpkin-Bread-Pudding-bourbonsauce-goboldwithbutter-230

    pumpkin-bread_pudding-toni_roberts_starchefs-230

    TOP PHOTO: Will Pumpkin Bread Pudding become a new Thanksgiving classic? Photo courtesy Foodie Crush | Go Bold With Butter. BOTTOM PHOTO: Pastry chefs at top restaurants make pumpkin bread pudding, too. This upscale treatment, with crème fraiche ice cream and rum-spiced cherries, is from Chef Toni Roberts. Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy Star Chefs.

     
    3. ADD the bread cubes and let stand 5 minutes. Pour into the baking pan; bake 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the center is set. (The bread pudding will puff as it bakes and will deflate once it’s cooled from the oven.)

    4. MAKE the bourbon pecan sauce: Add the cream, egg yolks and sugar to 2-quart saucepan and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, whisking constantly, until the mixture thinly coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and let the mixture stand, stirring often as it cools. Meanwhile…

    5. MELT the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the pecans. Cook 4-5 minutes or until the butter browns and exudes a nutty aroma. Stir the browned butter and the pecans into the cream mixture. Stir in the whiskey.

    6. SERVE the bread pudding warm, drizzled with the bourbon pecan sauce. The sauce may be made a day in advance and refrigerated.
     

     

    Panettone Bread Pudding

    Bread pudding made with panforte, the
    classic Christmas bread. Photo courtesy
    Bauli. Here’s the recipe.

     

    THE HISTORY OF BREAD PUDDING

    Bread pudding, a dish created to use stale bread (as were French toast and fondue among others), has humble roots. But it has evolved into an American comfort food that you can find at diners and upscale eateries alike, made simply or elaborately.

    Food historians trace the history of bread pudding to the early 11th and 12th centuries, as frugal cooks looked for ways to use stale, leftover bread instead of letting it go to waste. In 13th century England, bread pudding was known as “poor man’s pudding,” as it was a popular dish with the lower classes.

    The dish consists of cubes of bread and any added ingredients (raisins, chocolate chips citrus zest and so on), covered with custard sauce and cooked. It can be made in the oven, stove top, a crock pot, microwave or grill.

     
    There’s lots of opportunity for creativity, from the type of bread to the inclusions. Beyond bread, you can use anything that’s left over: brioche, buns and rolls, coffee cake, croissants, donuts, Danish and muffins.

    We often buy a challah, just to have day-old bread for bread pudding. We also love a cinnamon-raisin loaf, as used in this recipe.

    And don’t forget the booze: Grand Marnier or other liqueur, rum or whiskey.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Thanksgiving Table Decorations

    Thanksgiving Table Decorations

    Use grocery store items to decorate your Thanksgiving table. Photo courtesy Foragers Market | Brooklyn.

     

    Some people like a flower centerpiece for their table. Others take out the silver candelabra.

    We’ve done both, but realized that they can interfere with sight lines across the table. They’re also very 20th (and 19th) century.

    So in recent years we’ve tried:

  • A glass vase or clear salad bowl filled with pomegranates, lady apples, clementines, fresh green leaves and metallic-sprayed pine cones.
  • A short glass vase layered with different whole nuts, with florists’ moss between the layers.
  • A stack of three flat winter squash—like flatter pumpkins— in different colors (look in farmers markets for the Bonbon Buttercup, Flat Boer Pumpkin, some Hubbard and Kabocha, and other heirloom varieties).
  •  

  • Flat winter squash covered with silver and gold metallic paints.
  • A three-pound chocolate turkey, which was hammered into pieces at the end, and the pieces sent home with guests as party favors.
  • Indian corn and autumn leaves, which lasts a long time as household decor.
  •  
    While the first idea is our favorite, our guests deserve variety from year to year.

    So this year, we’re adapting an idea from Foragers Market, to scatter the table with miniature pumpkins, decorative gourds and rosemary sprigs.

    After dinner, the gourds go into a glass bowl or basket to decorate the foyer; the rosemary sprigs go into the freezer to use again on the Christmas table or to garnish cocktails, mineral water or soft drinks; or in recipes.

    You can use the same concept for Halloween.

    Need more ideas?

    Here are 45 Thanksgiving centerpieces from HGTV.
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Mulling Spice Sachets

    Mulling Spice Sachets

    drawstring-tea-bags-amazon-niceshop-230

    TOP PHOTO: Individual sachets are best if only one or two people want a cup. Larger sachets are used to make a 6- or 8-cup pot. Photo courtesy McCormick. BOTTOM PHOTO:
    Empty tea bag “sachets,” used to fill with loose tea, are easier to make although less festive than muslin or netting. You can get them at specialty tea shops or online. Photo courtesy NiceShop. Put leftover mulled beverages in the fridge to enjoy chilled.

     

    In our last article, we suggested a cider party with a pumpkin layer cake. Here’s a related tip:

    Make mulling spice sachets for mulled cider or wine. They layer the flavors found in spiced tea on top of the base beverage, which is typically warmed cider or wine.

    Make them for family, guests and gifting. Individual sachets are better for gifting; large sachets are better for a pot of cider.

    For gifting and party favors, you can package the sachets in a holiday tin or a Mason jar with a red ribbon. Be sure to add the mulling instructions (below) on the gift tag or insert them into the package.

    To give two individual sachets as small party favors, find a small, colored cellophane bag, a clear or vellum envelope or other gift bag. Include the instructions.

    Prep time is 5 minutes to make an individual sachet, 15 minutes to steep the cider or wine. If you have nimble fingers and have organized your ingredients, you can make three individual sachets or two large ones in 5 minutes.

    Thanks to McCormick for the recipe.

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE MULLING SPICE SACHETS

    Ingredients For 1 Bag/2 Servings

  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice
  • Optional: 2 cardamom pods
  • 2 cups apple cider, hard cider or wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Cheesecloth*, cut into 4″ squares
  • Kitchen string
  •  
    *The easiest option is to purchase drawstring filter bags, used for loose tea (photo at left). Another option: If you can find fine, flexible netting, it makes a prettier sachet but you need to wash it first, to soften it and eliminate any dust it’s picked up along the way.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the spices in the center of a piece of cheesecloth. Tie tightly with long piece of string. Store in an airtight container. That’s it, until you’re ready to mull your beverage. Then…

    2. PLACE the spice sachet in small saucepan. Add the apple cider or wine. Simmer over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes or until fragrant.

    3. DISCARD the spice sachet. Stir in the vanilla. Serve warm or hot.
     

    Ingredients For A Party-Size Mulling Spice Sachet

    1. INCREASE the cinnamon sticks to 4, whole cloves to 2 teaspoons, whole allspice to 1 teaspoon and vanilla to 2 teaspoons.

    2. WRAP in cheesecloth and warm in a pot with 2 quarts (8 cups) of apple cider or wine. You can also use apple juice. The difference is that apple cider is a fresh-squeezed product that needs to be refrigerated; apple juice is processed and homogenized to be shelf stable (no refrigeration needed until after the package has been opened).

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Pumpkin Layer Cake & Easy Variations

    This recipe, from blogger Jaclyn at Cooking Classy, reminded us to substitute pumpkin for carrot cake during “pumpkin season.” When baking, we tend to focus too much on family favorites and not enough on new seasonal recipes.

    For this recipe, Jaclyn takes a carrot cake approach to pumpkin cake, adding a seasonal cinnamon accent to carrot cake’s traditional cream cheese frosting. She adds a third cake layer to make the cake more impressive.

    If you love raisins and nuts in a carrot cake, you can add them here, too, either in the batter or in or atop the filling between the layers (for the filling, plan for 1/2 cup of each). You can also add pieces of crystallized ginger in the frosting for a spicy crunch.

    An entertaining idea: Make the cake for a cider party, serving fresh cider and mulled cider with brandy and rum.

    Prep time is 40 minutes, Cook Time: 35 minutes, Total Time: 3 hours

    Find more delicious recipes at CookingClassy.com.

    RECIPE: PUMPKIN LAYER CAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE
    FROSTING

    Ingredients For 16 Servings

  • 2-3/4 cups (390g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1-1/4 cups (270g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (172g) packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil, divided
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cup (424g/15 oz) canned pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup milk
  •    
    pumpkin-cake-with-cinnamon-cream-cheese-frosting-cookingclassy-230

    Carrot Cake With Chopped Pecans

    TOP PHOTO: Serve pumpkin pie at a cider party, with regular and mulled cider. Photo courtesy CookingClassy.com. BOTTOM PHOTO: You can garnish the sides of the cake with chopped pecans or walnuts, as shown in this carrot cake from AllenBrothers.com.

     
    For The Frosting

  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened (Jaclyn used 6 tablespoons salted and 6 tablespoons unsalted butter)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4-1/2 to 5 cups powdered sugar
  • Optional inclusions: chopped pecans or walnut, crystallized ginger, raisins or dried cranberries or cherries
  •  
    Optional Garnishes

  • Chopped pecans or walnuts
  • Candy/marzipan pumpkins, acorns or leaves; pomegranate arils
  •  

    Pumpkin Layer Cake

    carrot-cake-meringues-caviarrusse-230

    TOP PHOTO: This pumpkin layer cake adds
    raspberries for a festive effect. You can
    instead add dried cherries, cranberries or
    raisins, pomegranate arils, chopped
    crystallized ginger, or a combination.
    BOTTOM PHOTO: Food fun in the form of a
    deconstructed layer cake, with streusel
    crumble topped with ice cream, and
    decorated with meringue cookies and a
    ribbon of pumpkin pie filling (you can
    substitute caramel sauce). Photo courtesy
    Caviar Russe | NYC.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and set the pans aside.

    2. WHISK together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in a mixing bowl. Whisking for 20 seconds and set aside.

    3. USE the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and whip together the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, until pale and fluffy. Occasionally scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, throughout the mixing process. Mix in the remaining 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Blend in the eggs one at a time, adding the vanilla with the last egg.

    4. WHISK together the pumpkin and milk in a bowl or large liquid measuring cup. Working in three separate batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, add 1/3 of the flour mixture alternating with half of the pumpkin mixture and mixing just until combined after each addition.

    5. DIVIDE the batter among the three prepared cake pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of cake comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Cool the layers in the pans for 15 minutes, then run a knife around edge to loosen. Invert the layers onto wire racks to cool completely.

    6. PREPARE the frosting while the cake cools. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy. Add the cinnamon, vanilla and powdered sugar and mix on low speed until combined. Then increase the speed to medium and whip until pale and fluffy.

    7. FILL the cake layers with frosting and then frost the top and sides. If you prefer the look of the three-tiered cake with raspberries, at the top of this section, you can save a bit of time with an unfrosted top and sides. If the frosting is runny, cover and refrigerate just until it no longer is runny before spreading on cake.

    8. STORE the cake in an airtight container such as a cake carrier, in the refrigerator; chill for 20 minutes or as long as you want to store the cake. Let it rest at room temperature to eliminate the chill before serving. Chilling the cake firms the frosting and allows for cleaner slices.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Apple Cider Salted Caramels

    We love salted caramels: plain sea salt, fleur de sel, gray sea salt, smoked sea salt (see the different types of sea salts).

    They aren’t inexpensive: A box of seven smallish squares, chocolate coated and garnished with salt, is $14.00 at Fran’s.

    So how about a project for a lazy Sunday: homemade salted caramels? It can also solve holiday gift-giving needs.

    This recipe, which adds the seasonal touch of apple cider, was developed by P.J. Hamel for King Arthur Flour. Here are additional photos and tips.

    This recipe is made in the classic French style: Salted butter is used and more salt can be added to the caramel, instead of the current vogue for sweet butter with a salt garnishing on top. We prefer the latter, so if you prefer, use unsalted butter in the recipe and garnish the top with sea salt or other fine salt.
     
    BOILED CIDER

    The boiled cider that flavors the caramels is simply reduced apple cider or juice. You can make it (instructions are in the recipe that follows) or buy it (King Arthur Flour sells it). If you’re making your own, you can make it up to three months in advance.

    Use the extra boiled cider to add flavor to:

  • Baking: Add to baked recipes that use apples: cakes, crisps, crumbles, pies, turnovers. Replace the honey or molasses in recipes for apple cake, gingerbread, spice muffins and similar recipes.
  • Breakfast: Drizzle over French toast, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles; stir into plain yogurt.
  • Condiment: Add a teaspoon to vinaigrette or barbecue sauce; drizzle over baked apples, crêpes, grilled fruit, ice cream, sorbet or frozen yogurt; spread on toast or cornbread; give better flavor to store-bought applesauce.
  •    

    Apple Cider Caramels

    Apple Cider Salted Caramels

    Try your hand at making caramels. Photos courtesy King Arthur Flour.

  • Dinner: Glaze grilled vegetables or poultry (brush it on) or add a bit to marinades.
  •  
    RECIPE: APPLE CIDER SALTED CARAMELS

    Ingredients For 64 Caramels

  • 2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream or whipping cream
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1/2 cup boiled cider*, purchased or made (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice†
  •  
    For The Boiled Cider

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 1 hour. The yield is 1-1/2 cups.

  • 8 cups fresh apple cider or apple juice
  •  
    See the difference between cider vs. apple juice, below.
    _______________________________
    *You can buy ready-made boiled cider from King Arthur Flour and other baking supply retailers.

    †Substitute 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice.

     

    boiled-cider-midwestliving-230

    Chocolate Covered Salted Caramels

    TOP PHOTO: Homemade boiled apple cider. Photo courtesy Midwest Living. Here’s their
    full recipe. BOTTOM RECIPE: Feeling
    ambitious? Dip your caramels in melted
    chocolate. Photo courtesy Alma Chocolate.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the boiled cider. BRING the cider to boiling in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven. Reduce the heat to medium and boil gently, uncovered, for 1-3/4 hours. Stir occasionally, until the cider has reduced to 1-1/2 cups. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

    2. TRANSFER the boiled cider to a screw-top jar with a mouth at least wide enough to insert a spoon. Cover and store in the fridge for up to 3 months. The boiled cider will thicken in the fridge. Bring it to room temperature to use in this recipe.

    3. LIGHTLY GREASE an 8″ x 8″ baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on opposite sides.

    4. COMBINE the cream, corn syrup, sugar, butter and boiled cider in a heavy-bottom, deep saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce to medium-high heat and cook until the mixture reaches 248°F on a candy thermometer, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat; stir in the salt and spice.

    5. POUR the hot mixture into the prepared pan. Let it stand for 12 to 18 hours at room temperature before cutting into 1″ squares.

    6. WRAP the caramels: Use 6″ squares of parchment paper. (We had 5-inch squares. The difference is shorter twisted ends.) Place one caramel in the center of each square; wrap the opposite edges of the paper around the caramel and twist the exposed edges to close. If you don’t have parchment paper you can use wax paper, but you need to be careful when twisting the edges because it tears more easily.

    Here’s a very helpful video on how to wrap caramels.

     

    APPLE CIDER VERSUS APPLE JUICE: THE DIFFERENCE

    Since Prohibition, which began in the U.S. in 1920, “cider” has referred to the unfermented, unpasteurized apple juice. “Hard cider” is used to indicate the alcoholic beverage. In the U.K. it is the opposite, with “cider” indicating the alcoholic drink for which special cider apples are used.

  • Hard cider is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from the unfiltered juice of apples. The alcohol content varies from a low 1.2% ABV* to 8.5% or higher—some imported ciders can be up to 12% ABV, an average level for table wines. It does not need to be refrigerated until the container is opened.
  • Fresh apple cider is raw apple juice, typically unfiltered. Thus, it is cloudy from the remnants of apple pulp. It is also typically more flavorful than apple juice—although of course, the particular blend of apples used in either has a big impact on the taste. It needs to be refrigerated.
  • Apple juice has been filtered to remove pulp solids, then pasteurized for longer shelf life. It does not need to be refrigerated until the container is opened.
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    RECIPE: White Chocolate Pumpkin Fondue

    For pumpkin season, treat everyone to this White Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Chocolate Fondue from The Melting Pot, with a few modifications from THE NIBBLE.

    Why not make it this weekend? Don’t like to cook? Find the nearest Melting Pot.

    RECIPE: WHITE CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN FONDUE

    Ingredients For The Fondue

  • 8 ounces white chocolate, chopped (look for Green & Black’s, Lindt or other premium brand)
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 heaping teaspoon pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Bacardi 151 Rum*
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • Optional: chopped graham crackers or white chocolate shavings
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    *Bacardi 151 is a brand of highly alcoholic rum, named for its alcohol proof level of 151 (75.5% alcohol by volume or A.B.V.). This is about double the alcohol of conventional rum (35%–40% A.B.V.). You can substitute a liqueur instead; see Step 3 below.

     

    White Chocolate Pumpkin Fondue

    White chocolate pumpkin fondue, garnished with white chocolate shavings. Photo courtesy The Melting Pot.

     

    For The Dippers

  • Cake cubes: blondies, brownies, doughnut holes or pieces, loaf cakes (carrot, chocolate, pound)
  • Cookies: amaretti, biscotti, graham crackers, granola bars, lady fingers, meringues, shortbread fingers, tea biscuits
  • Dried fruits: apples, apricots, dates, figs, mangoes, prunes
  • Fresh fruits: apples, bananas, grapes. mandarins/oranges, pears, pineapple, strawberries
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    Preparation

    1. PLACE the chocolate and cream in the top of a double boiler pot over medium heat, stirring constantly so as not to scorch the chocolate. Alternatively, melt in the microwave in 45 second increments, stirring after each one.

    2. POUR the melted chocolate into a fondue pot. Add the pumpkin purée, blending gently. Taste and add more pumpkin if you like.

    3. ADD the rum to the pot and light with a long match or fireplace lighter. As the rum burns away, carefully stir the mixture together. If you don’t want to purchase 151 rum or flambé, stir the equivalent amount of orange liqueur into the melted chocolate and blend.

    4. SPRINKLE the nutmeg into the pot and gently fold in. The Melting Pot garnishes the top of the fondue with chopped graham crackers, but we prefer to use the graham crackers as dippers.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cinnamon Pecan Topping

    For holiday season, it’s good to have a trick up your sleeve that quickly turns everyday food into festive food.

    We nominate homemade cinnamon pecan topping, which can be used to garnish both sweet and savory foods. See our list of uses below.

    You can use any nut, but pecan goes particularly well in this type of topping.

    We adapted this recipe from McCormick. It makes 12 servings, 2 tablespoons each. You can make a double batch and keep it in the fridge.

    Although the McCormick version uses rum flavor, feel free to substitute real rum or whiskey.

    Plan ahead: You can bring a jar of topping as a house gift, or give it as holiday gifts.

    Prep time is 5 minutes, cook time is 12 minutes.

    RECIPE: CINNAMON PECAN TOPPING

    Ingredients For 1-1/2 Cups

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon rum flavor
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    Pecan Topping

    caramel-pecan-topping-yummly-230

    TOP PHOTO: Top a Brie with homemade cinnamon pecan topping Photo by Caroline Edwards from Chocolate and Carrots | McCormick.com. BOTTOM PHOTO: Turn a plain scoop of ice cream into a sundae. Photo courtesy Yummly.com.

     

    Pecan Topping

    Keep it in the fridge to pull out whenever you need it. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     

    Preparation

    1. MIX the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in small bowl until blended. Set aside.

    2. MELT 2 tablespoons of the butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and toast for 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low.

    3. STIR the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, corn syrup, water, vanilla extract, rum flavor and the brown sugar mixture into the skillet. Cook, stirring until the butter is melted and the mixture is heated through.

    4. REMOVE from the heat. The mixture will thicken as it cools. Serve at room temperature.

     

     
    WAYS TO USE THE PECAN TOPPING

  • Breakfast: Top French toast, pancakes, waffles.
  • Desserts: Use as a cake topping or filling; fill crêpes and tartlets; top ice cream, ice cream cake or ice cream pie; garnish blondies/brownies or pie; mix with mascarpone or ricotta to spread on biscotti or shortbread.
  • Hors d’oeuvre: Top regular or baked Brie.
  • Sides: Top a baked sweet potato with pecan topping and Greek yogurt or sour cream.
  • Snack: Mix into yogurt, stir into coffee or tea.
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