Archive for the 'Nuts' Category

Mom’s Fabaulous Caramel Corn

Makes about 10 cups

My Mom used to make caramel corn. We loved that caramel corn. We don’t make it very often these days because we gobble it down faster that you can shake a stick. But, boy is it good.
Making caramel for this recipe involves heating sugar on the stove to achieve a hard-ball stage. This requires you to use a candy thermometer to keep the temperature of about 255 degrees F. This will put the caramel just into the hardball range. The different stages of heating sugar for candy making are listed below for reference:

Stage                       Temperature                      Sugar   Concentration

(degrees F)

Thread                    235 to 240                                        85%

Soft-Ball                  245 to 250                                        87%

Hard-Ball                250 to 265                                         92%

Soft-Crack               270 to 290                                        95%

Hard-Crack             300 to 310                                        99%

Tips for popping popcorn: Place three tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottom pot and drop in several popcorn kernels. Put a lid on loosely and wait for a few kernels to pop. When they do, take the pot off the stove (leave the burner on), remove the lid and dump in the popcorn all at once. The amount of popcorn kernels you use should cover the bottom of the pot or less in just a single layer.  Let the pot rest off the heat for one minute. Immediately put the pot back on the burner and adjust the burner to medium to medium high depending on your burner and how hot it gets. Place the lid on the pot so there is an opening for the steam to escape from the pot (a tight lid will lead to soggy popcorn). Several times during the popping, shake the pot.  The popping will be very vigorous at first and then will slow down.  When the popping almost stops, take the pot off the heat and let it rest for a minute or two.  Some of the last kernels will pop during this time.  This method results in almost all the kernels popping.
I learned this from a chef a long time ago and it works every time. And, yes, I have not idea why it works, just that it does work.
This recipe is easy and straight forward. Just watch yourself as you dump the caramel sugar mixture into the bowl with the popcorn. The caramel is very hot and it is easy to get burned if you are not careful. As the recipe states, feel free to add salted peanuts or other nuts to this. About a cup to a cup and a half of roughly chopped nuts should do it.

Recipe follows.

Continue reading ‘Mom’s Fabaulous Caramel Corn’


Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate Brownies

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Makes nine brownie squares

Brownies are a big thing in my family. Everyone loves brownies. Over the years my wife and I have made lots of different kinds of brownies.
That is until we ran into this recipe from Cooks Illustrated (CI). Then the search for the perfect brownie stopped.
This is such an outstanding recipe. These brownies are not cakey. They are not fudge-like.
The recipe used unsweetened chocolate and adds the amount of sugar to make the chocolate taste come through perfectly. They are in between and delicious.
The original recipe calls for a 9×12 baking pan. We like our brownies a little thicker so this recipe uses an 8×8 or 9×9 pan.
Also, CI used aluminum foil to line the pan. I have used that, but I like parchment paper better for this application.
While the directions are long, this is not a hard recipe to put together and the results are wonderful. You should give this a try.

Recipe follows.

Continue reading ‘Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate Brownies’

Decedent Chocolate Brownie Puddle Tart

Adapted from The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Serves 10 or more

Decedent hardly describes this dessert. It is so chocolaty. So smooth. So nutty (the pecans). And sooooooo delicious.
If you make this, be sure to cut very small slices. It is so rich that no one can eat a big slice of this tart.
The ganache puddles are a wonderful surprise. Try it frozen or chilled if you like your brownies chewy or leave them out at room temperature for a softer, creamier texture.
If you like chocolate, you’ll love this tart. But, if you make it, get the good chocolate. You will not be sorry.

Note: This looks like a long recipe with lots of steps. In reality, it is not hard to make.

Recipe follows.

Continue reading ‘Decedent Chocolate Brownie Puddle Tart’

Tip #9: Roasting Pecans or Walnuts

Roasting pecans or walnuts is a great idea because it brings out their wonderful flavors and makes everything you use them in better.
But, roasting nuts can be tricky because if you use too high a temperature or roast them too long, the nuts can burn. Been there. Done that.
And, I have tried just about every way there is to roast nuts. Dry skillet. Oven at 400 degrees F. Oven at 350 degrees F. Even the microwave.
I have not been very happy with any of these methods.
But, then recently Rose Levy Beranbaum (author of The Cake Bible and The Pie and Pastry Bible to name a couple of her books) came to my rescue.
She recommends roasting nuts at 325 degree F for ten minutes. Here’s how:

  1. Place the nuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place the sheet in the oven.
  2. Roast for about five minutes and then open the oven door and shake the baking sheet and move the nuts around.
  3. Roast for another five minutes.
  4. Remove the nuts and cool completely. You should smell that wonderful aroma of roasted nuts.

Simple. No burning. Better baked goods.