This is my very first post. I'm Amanda and my husband Justin and I spend our days churning out goods from Annie B’s Caramels & Popcorn. I'm not a classically trained chef or an expert by any means, but I am constantly learning, tasting and talking food. Probably to the point of boredom for those around me but I don't care! Food food food. I collect and devour cookbooks for fun, have taken some Food Enthusiast boot camps at the Culinary Institute of America, I try to make dinner at home 5x a week and part of my job is product development and recipe testing for Annie B's. Food food food. More about Justin, our sweet son August and our mischievous pup Jiffy here.
At home I try to make healthy stuff for the sake of my toddler, but at work I get to develop and taste-test treats using a lot of butter, cream, sugar and other naughty goodies. These oft-forbidden confections are what I’ll mostly tell you about on this blog. The makes-life-worth-living, should have eaten it first, dessert stuff.
I’m pretty excited to launch Annie B’s blog, which I’m calling A Sweet A Salt. I was inspired by our popular Sea Salt Caramels & Sea Salt Caramel Popcorn, and also by the nerdy wordplay. Because I'm going to "A Salt" you with sweets. I have these little jokes and I apologize in advance for being a self-laugher. Boof. Here you’ll find recipes, mostly ones that use caramel in sweet and sometimes savory ways. Also some fun quick tips, and updates on what’s happening in our world of caramel and popcorn. Give me feedback or just say hi once in awhile. I’ll try not to get too wordy and just stick to the goods.
Let me just get a little wordy this time though, because I'm introducing you to the blog. I'm sharing recipes and reverie. The reverie part will be notes on days when I'm daydreaming, sharing random experiences with you, seeking feedback and whatnot. I'll make that part meaningful or at least day-brightening, so it won't be a total bust. Just wacky fun.
Now then. To properly kick it off, a recipe for White Chocolate Caramel & Peanut Butter Cups, which includes our Annie B's baking caramel. Oh yes, these are decadent and um, king-sized (yep, we are using muffin tins) but you could cut them into quarters or halves. Or just celebrate and dive in using two hands sandwich-style, which is what you’ll probably want to do. In honor of Easter, they also kind of look like eggs!
Here's the thing, you can use whatever caramel you'd like. But honestly, at $5.50/lb our easy-to-melt (all-natural, gluten-free) baking caramel is really nice for a recipe like this.
So! Let's get to the fun. First you'll cut the caramel of your choice into small blocks, mix with cream and melt. Yes, the ingredients are gonna melt and so are you, when wafts of warm butter, sugar and cream fill your kitchen. Microwaving it is simple, but a stovetop (heavy-bottomed pan) over low heat works swimmingly too.
Some gratuitous prep photos to follow:
Here we have a 1-lb block of our baking caramel on the chopping block. You only need 1/2-lb for this recipe. Refrigerate the other half for up to 6 months. Note the caramel bugger on the left just basking in the glory of being chopped first. It's almost gloating. See? Food really will come to life here. Ooooooh. What a party.Swoon over this one! Warm caramel + cream, oh-ho-ho boy. Melted caramel can burn you, so resist the temptation to dip your fingers in. You should taste test it with a spoon a couple times though, because it's delicious. I mean, you're going to want to make sure it's delicious enough for sure. If you just eat it all at this stage and call it a day I will understand. Acceptable.If you reach this point with caramel/cream mix to spare, congratulations on your industrial-strength willpower! Melt chocolate as you like, using microwave over low heat and stirring often. Or you can use a double boiler, or melt in a non-reactive bowl over a pot of simmering water (not boiling, rather one tiny bubble every 2-5 seconds, take your time and stir frequently), or if you live in a dorm room, try this interesting technique from the geniuses at Food 52. A tablespoon of coconut oil added to the chocolate before melting helps it to maintain a softer bite and velvety mouthfeel. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners. Fill with half of the chocolate. I haven't tried mini-muffin tins but if you choose to do so, let me hear how it goes please.Crunchy or creamy peanut butter, totally up to you.Combine peanut butter, butter, brown sugar and powdered sugar. Yes, this might make a satisfying side dish to the aforementioned caramel/cream combo but try to resist. End results are worth the wait.Let the chocolate chill a bit. Form the PB mixture into balls.And smooth out.Spoon caramel over top of PB mixture, then chill in refrigerator about 15 minutes to let the caramel set up a bit. Spoon chocolate on top and twirl into swirly caps, as such:How pretty! Refrigerate for an hour or so to set, but let sit out about 15 minutes before serving, to soften a bit. A rich dessert, perfect for a sweet end to a light spring dinner. Or to top off a heavy, calorie-laden one, you know, if you want to keep a big-eating day going or something. Hats off to you, whichever path you choose. Enjoy!
White Chocolate Peanut Butter & Caramel Cups
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon heavy whipping cream
16 ounces high quality white chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
- Line a 12 cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
- Cut caramel into chunks. Place heavy whipping cream and caramel in a microwave safe bowl. Heat on 80% power 30 seconds at a time, stirring well between each heating until smooth. Set aside. Be careful not to overcook. Stove option: heat caramel and whipping cream in heavy small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently until melted and smooth.
- Put white chocolate and 1 T. coconut oil in microwave safe dish. Heat on 80% power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring well between each heating until the chocolate is almost melted. Continue to stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stove option: melt using double boiler.
- Evenly divide about half of the chocolate mixture among the 12 cupcake liners. If you wish the cups to be sealed, use the back of a spoon to pull some of the chocolate up the sides of the muffin liner, about halfway.
- Mix 1/2 cup peanut butter, butter, powdered sugar and brown sugar in a medium sized bowl using a hand mixer. Place heaping tablespoon balls of the peanut butter mixture on top of the chocolate. Slightly flatten the peanut butter balls. If they are too sticky, dampen your fingers.
- Spoon about a tablespoon of caramel over the peanut butter mixture. Chill for about 15 minutes or until caramel sets up.
- Spoon remaining chocolate over the top of the caramel layer and spread with the back of a spoon. If the chocolate has thickened too much, microwave for 15 seconds at a time until spreadable.
- Chill until set. Store in the refrigerator and set out at room temperature for bit, 15 minutes or so, before serving.