White Chocolate Caramel & Peanut Butter Cups

Posted in Recipes By Brooks Clifford

June 20, 2016 4:31:21 AM CDT

cropped-whitechocolatepbcups_edited-1.jpg

Oh hello!

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. IMG_5192Ooooooh. What a party.IMG_5194Swoon 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.IMG_5197If 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. IMG_5200-2Line 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.IMG_5203Crunchy or creamy peanut butter, totally up to you.IMG_5204Combine 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.IMG_5205Let the chocolate chill a bit. Form the PB mixture into balls.IMG_5206And smooth out.IMG_5208Spoon 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:IMG_5218How 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!whitechocolatepbcups_edited-1

White Chocolate Peanut Butter & Caramel Cups

Servings: 12 Peanut Butter & Caramel Cups
 Ingredients: 
8 ounces caramel – we recommend Annie B’s baking caramel (1/2 block)
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
 
Directions:
  1. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Spoon about a tablespoon of caramel over the peanut butter mixture. Chill for about 15 minutes or until caramel sets up.
  7. 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.
  8. Chill until set. Store in the refrigerator and set out at room temperature for bit, 15 minutes or so, before serving. 
(adapted from Crazy for Crust)
Photography by Jill May

Pecan Caramel Turtles

Posted in Recipes By Brooks Clifford

June 20, 2016 4:29:45 AM CDT

turtles6 My first job was working in the retail shop of a chocolate company in my hometown of Perham, MN. I started working there when I was 15, and I sold lots of delicious chocolate-covered caramels, chocolate-covered potato chips, chocolate-covered licorice, you name it.  The "oooh-aaah" item, however, was usually the TURTLE. People seemed to get more excited about turtles than anything, and I never really understood the hype. I still don't. Nah, just kidding, I totally get it now. Forgive me and please read on.

Part of my job was to taste everything, so I could describe the flavors to customers.  What a delightful responsibility for a 15-year old with the appetite of a large bear straight out of hibernation. I was particularly fond of milk chocolate buttercreams, dark chocolate raspberry buttercreams, and chocolate-covered potato chips. So I was naturally well-versed in my descriptions of said items. Turtles, not so much. Of course I never really tasted them and then I surely fibbed to all of those trusting turtle fans, telling them that ours were indeed delicious: salty, sweet and sticky.  I mean they probably were really good, I have no idea.

All of my tall tales seemed to work and my adorable customers would leave with little herds of turtles, excited to give them as gifts to other turtle lovers, always buying a few for themselves. Cut to today, a million years later and I have finally grown up and tried turtles for myself. Delicious! All that time I was being completely honest about the wonder of turtles. I just didn't realize it.

Part of the beauty of this recipe is the attention to making the pecans delectable, even before you blanket them in caramel and chocolate. drypecansBecause you drench them in melted butter and sea salt. Okay? Okay. pecansKinda cute.turtles1 Easy does it when melting your caramel. Gentle heat is best. turtlecaramelAbout a teaspoon of melted caramel per turtle.turtles3 Let them hang out for a bit so the caramel sets.turtles4 Chocolate shells. turtles5 These would make a cool addition to a spring party, actually, turtles are actually coming out of brumation (reptilian "hibernation" - I googled it) about now.  And so are we, friend, so are we. Happy Spring!finalturtles

Pecan Caramel Turtles

Servings: 20

Ingredients: 

8 ounces pecan halves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Sea salt
1 pound Annie B’s baking caramel, cut into cubes
6 ounces good quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
4 ounces white chocolate (optional) Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Instructions:

  1. Toss pecan halves with melted butter. Spread in single layer on cooking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Bake for 8-10 minutes, turning halfway through baking time until lightly toasted. Cool.
  2. Arrange 4 pecan halves in a + formation on a sheet of parchment paper or silicone mat. Repeat with the remaining pecan halves.
  3. Melt caramel in one of two ways: Put caramel cubes in microwave safe bowl. Microwave at half power in 30 second increments until caramel begins to melt. Stir until smooth and completely melted. Or in heavy saucepan, melt caramel cubes over low heat while stirring constantly. When most of the caramel is melted, remove from heat and continue to stir until completely melted.
  4. Drop a teaspoon of melted caramel over the center of each pecan cluster. Cool and allow the caramel to set up.
  5. Melt 3/4 of the chocolate over a double boiler or set a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water. Stir frequently until melted. Remove from the heat, add remaining chocolate and stir until completely melted. Taking a spoon, drop a dollop of chocolate over the caramel portion of the turtle. Let cool until set.
  6. If desired, melt white chocolate using the same method as for the dark chocolate and drizzle lightly over turtles.
  7. Store for 2 weeks in airtight container between layers of waxed paper.

Variations:

WALNUTS: Use whole walnut pieces instead of pecans.

CASHEWS: Use salted cashews instead of pecans; skip step #1. Mound several cashews in small circle on parchment paper.

Photography by Jill May

Caramel Chocolate Tart

Posted in Recipes By Brooks Clifford

June 20, 2016 4:28:39 AM CDT

IMG_5692 Oh, the way the light catches that tart.

If you really want to spoil Mom next Sunday, set aside a couple of hours and make her this beeee-autiful dessert.  Chocolate crust has a little espresso powder (instant coffee powder works too) which brings welcome hint of bitter to an otherwise rich dessert.  A layer of caramel adds a buttery note. And chocolate ganache topping, well, it's a satin cloud of chocolate dreams.

Three distinct textures also make this dessert a party for your mouth. Dense chocolatey crust adds a nice bite, caramel adds a pleasant chewiness and the ganache is silky, melting chocolate nirvana.

What a great reason to spend Saturday night in!  Here's the plan: Gather your ingredients (and a tart pan) by May 9th. Don your comfiest threads and your apron. Ready your kitchen via Pandora (my favorite stations lately are First Aid Kit and Michael Kiwanuka) and beverage of choice (mine is something springy: Lillet, club soda, twist of orange).

Make your tart, get to bed at a decent time and bring it to Mom in the morning with coffee and flowers. Have a great Mother's Day talking and laughing and eating the whole thing. Cheers! IMG_5593 IMG_5621 IMG_5633 IMG_5643 IMG_5654 IMG_5662 IMG_5664 IMG_5681 IMG_5685 

Caramel Chocolate Tart with Chocolate Crust

Servings: 10

Makes 9” round tart or 14”x4” rectangular tart.

Ingredients: 

For the chocolate crust:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the caramel layer:
1 # Annie B’s baking caramel (1 block)
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)

For the ganache layer:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions:

Make the chocolate crust:

  1. In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder and the salt.
  3. With the mixer running on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture and mix until the dough comes together.
  4. Turn the dough onto a work surface and gently knead until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. The dough will keep for up to 1 week wrapped, in the fridge.
  5. Spray a 14”X4” rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom or one 9” round tart pan with a removable bottom with nonstick baking spray.  Press the dough in an even layer in the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan with your fingers. Chill or freeze for 20 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  7. Line the pan with parchment paper and fill to the rim with dried beans or pie weights.  (This step will prevent puffing of the dough when baking). Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the weights and parchment and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the crust looks dry and baked through.  Set aside to cool completely.

Make the caramel layer:

  1. Cut the caramel into cubes and melt. For a softer caramel layer, add the cream when melting. If using the microwave, put cubes into a microwave safe bowl and stir every 20-30 seconds until melted. Or on stovetop, using heavy saucepan, melt over low heat, stirring frequently.
  2. Carefully remove the sides of the tart pan from around the tart dough. Transfer to a serving platter.
  3. Pour the melted caramel into the prepared tart shell. Refrigerate to set, about 20 minutes.

Make the ganache layer:

  1. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a heavy saucepan, combine the cream, butter, vanilla and salt. Bring just to a simmer making sure the butter is completely melted.
  3. Pour the cream mixture over the chopped chocolate and let sit undisturbed for 2 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt. Whisk the chocolate until the ganache is shiny and smooth.  Carefully pour the ganache over the set caramel and gently tip the tart from side to side to allow the ganache to cover the top of the tart completely.  Allow the ganache to set, about 30 minutes, before cutting sand serving.

IMG_5690 Adapted from: Chocolate Caramel Tart by Gesine Bullock-Prado

Photography by Jill May

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