Homemade Caramel Popcorn with Peanuts

I should warn you, the recipe is not hard and highly addictive, which, let’s be honest, is the worst combination imaginable.  I can’t stop eating it.  That said, I still think you should give it a go, but just remember I warned you. 

Oh you know you want it!

Spring has finally returned, and you know how I am certain?  Flowers? Nope. April showers? We’ve had plenty of those, but that’s not it either. Birds chirping?  There is a particularly annoying set living outside my bedroom, but that’s not it either.  It’s baseball season! 

Get in my belly.

Ok, even if you are not a fan of America’s favorite pastime that doesn’t mean you can enjoy the snacks that come along with it!  Caramel popcorn with peanuts is easy and another great recipe to share with the mini sous chef in your life.  You can also adapt it to add in any number of things you might find fun (nuts, candy, etc).  I went with peanuts because Kettle is not allergic to them and they are quintessentially baseball to me. 

Potential. I see great potential for you.

I started with plain, stove top prepped popcorn, not microwave.  Now if you have never tried stove top prepped before, it’s really easy and allows you 100% control on the salting and flavoring of your popcorn.  Since I planned on dousing mine in caramel, I wanted to start with a clean slate, er kernel.  The caramel sauce was easy and much faster to prep than I expected.  It was also kind of exciting!  After you the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt to a boil, you add in vanilla and baking soda causing the mixture to foam up/double in size.  Visually, it’s pretty cool.  Yet another reason a mini sous chef will enjoy it. After that it’s just drizzle, mix, and bake to set the caramel.

Caramel Popcorn with Peanuts

Based on this recipe.

Ingredients:

3 quarts popcorn, popped

1 cup brown sugar

1 stick butter

1/4 cup corn syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/3 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

peanuts (or candy) to taste

Combine brown sugar, butter, salt, and corn syrup in a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes with continuous stirring.  Remove from heat and add vanilla and baking soda.  Mixture will begin to foam up, so continue stirring.  Slowly fold caramel into popcorn.  Once well combined, add in peanuts (or other item of choice).  Lay mixture flat (or as flat as you can) on greased cookie sheet and bake at 250°F for 10-15 (turn mixture once).

Enjoy!


Week Recap: Lemons!

Lemons!

This week I was in a sour mood, or at least my baking was with all the lemons I used!  The biscotti was highly successful (my boss called it “off the chain”) and the nut-free macarons were a step in the right direction.  Thank you again for all of your comments and helpful ideas!  I really appreciate them and I can’t wait to get back to optimizing my nut-free macarons!

Ready to make friends with a cup of tea.

Notable points from the week:

What I’m reading: Gumbo Tales by Sara Roahen.

What I’m thinking about: Adult beverage time (its been one of those weeks)

What I’m excited for: Sunshine!  It’s back.

Teaser for This week’s posts: Put me in coach.  I’m ready to play!

Happy Sunday!


Nut-free Lemon Macarons, attempt #1

As I have previously mentioned, Kettle has a severe nut allergy.  Like break out the epi pen and rush him to the hospital severe.  And being the paranoid and nervous Pot that I am, I try not to bring nuts in the house because I am so afraid of making him sick or cross-contaminating something he might eat.  I was actually so nervous about it when we first started dating that I googled the fastest route to the hospital just in case.  I’m a nut, but one he’s not allergic to. 

Nut-free is the way to be.

This has been a huge challenge for me with regards to my mild obsession with the french macaron.  I love their look with their brightly colored, tiny little, almost cartoonish packages and their soft and light yet crisp texture (I’ve been dying to get my oven mitts on Jill’s book, Mad about Macarons, so I can explore more).  But, being that I refuse to bring almond flour into the house (even though Kettle has offered numerous times to leave the apartment while I bake so any aersolized almond flour doesn’t kill him), I have been on a personal mission to create nut-free macarons so he can enjoy their sheer wonderfulness and so I don’t have to plan my baking expeditions around his business trips.  What can I say, I’m smitten with macarons.  Oh, and of course Kettle. 

Pucker up!

I was inspired this week by Brave Tart’s post on “10 macaron myths” especially when I stumbled upon number 4: Even using Almonds.  To be honest, just leaving out the almond flour had never even crossed my mind.  It seems so obvious, but I’ve been tooling around with various bizarre, some successful some not so successful, alternatives (posts to come on these escapades!) when I could have tried leaving it out all together.  Hmm. I love it when the answer is right in front of my nose.

I have zero skills with the pastry bag. It's ugly. Trust me.

The macarons were very fragile!  More so than those made with almond flour. The flavor of both the shell and curd were well received, but the shells were so fragile it made transporting and storing them a real challenge. They looked a little ugly by the time they got to french lunch, but my fellow lunchers had no issues eating them. 

Lovely lemon curd.

Upon discussion of the structural integrity of my macarons with my boss (not kidding, this is how our workplace rolls) we decided that in the absence of almond flour, a substitute is essential to give the macaron the strength to ‘hold up’ the curd/ganache/frosting.  She suggested cream of tartar, but I’m contemplating other options. So back to the lab, er, kitchen I will go to try again.
Overall, there was definitely some success.  The cookies I made look like french macarons, they just need a little tweaking to become french macarons.  The lemon curd was excellent.  In fact I could eat it with a spoon.

Nut-free Lemon Macarons

2+1/2 egg whites (save the yolks for the curd!)
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
food coloring
lemon zest
Beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  Slowly beat in sugar.  Once firm peaks form, add food coloring and lemon zest.  Slowly fold in confectioners sugar.  Pipe 1 inch circles on parchment lined cookie sheets.  Bake at 250°F for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven, turn temperature up to 375°F and return to oven once temperature is reach.  Bake 6-8 minutes.

Awesome Lemon curd

based on this recipe
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter
Whisk eggs, yolks, sugar, lemon juice, zest, and salt in a bowl that can be used as for a double boiler.  Once well blended,  set bowl on sauce pan of simmering water.  Whisk curd-to-be constantly as it will begin to thicken as it warms up. Heat the mixture to 170-175, but don’ let it boil.  Once temperature is achieved, remove from double boiler and whisk in butter.  Once well blended, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Enjoy!

Lemon-poppy seed Biscotti

It was my bosses birthday last week and in addition to decorating the entire hallway from the elevator to her office with black balloons, we decided to have a surprise birthday brunch at our morning meeting.  Our group tends to excel at the pot-luck, so I knew there would be way too much food.  I am in no way complaining about the monsterous amount of food, just pointing it out as reasoning behind my decision to make something small and snackable that would keep well for a day or two (so we could spread the gluttony out).

It's Biscotti time.

After much deliberation, I settled on biscotti. We have a fair number of coffee and tea drinkers in the group, so I knew it would be enjoyed.  Having never made biscotti, I didn’t know what I was in for and actually expected it to be much more difficult than it was, but it’s really not that hard!

Ready to make friends with a cup of tea.

I started with a basic biscotti and added lemon zest and poppy seeds.  Once the dough was well mixed and I was happy with my zest to poppy ratio, I spread it into a loaf shape on a cooking sheet for its first round of baking.

Lemon-poppy biscotti loaf.

I removed the dough once it was a light golden brown, sliced it on the diagonal, and returned it to the oven for its final tanning.  I did decide to flip over the biscotti spears midway through the second baking in order to achieve a more consistent browning.  To finish them off, I dipped an end of each spear into melted white chocolate seasoned with a little lemon zest and then topped them with a few poppy seeds.

Lightly zested and ready to celebrate.

Overall, I am over joyed with how the biscotti came out!  They had just the right amount of sweetness and weren’t too hard.  The recipe was simple to execute and easy to manipulate for whatever flavor you might dream up.  I can’t wait to make them again!

Lemon-Poppy seed Biscotti

1/2 stick of butter

6 tbsp sugar

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

2 tsp lemon zest+ extra for chocolate dip

1 egg

1 cup flour

1 tsp poppy seeds+extra for decoration

White chocolate

Heavy cream

Stir together flour, baking powder, and poppy seeds and set aside. Beat butter, sugar, zest, and salt. Add in the egg. Add in the flour mixture until fully combined.   Form the dough into a 3 inch wide loaf on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes@350° F until light golden brown. Transfer loaf to a cooling rack until it can be handled. Cut loaf into 3/4 inch wide strips on the diagonal. Lay spears on their side and bake for another 15 minutes, flipping half way through.  While spears are cooling, prep white chocolate dip.  Melt white chocolate in a double boiler, thinning out as needed with heavy cream.  Add in lemon zest as desired.  Dip one end of each spear into melted chocolate and let cool on parchment paper.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds as desired.  Makes about 1 dozen.

Enjoy!


Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

I need to extend a HUGE thank you this week to Dee over at Deelicious Sweets!!!!!!!   She was so sweet to give me the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers  award this week!  So pop on over, check out her site and her drool worthy posts, and tell her I said hello!
Hmmm, so as part of the award I have to list out 7 things about myself and give the award to my blogging buddies.  Here goes nothing:
1. I’m not a real Southerner. I’ve only lived below the mason-dixon for 9 years and it’s still easy to tell I’m not from around here.
2. I don’t eat red meat or chicken so you won’t see too many recipes for them around here unless Kettle gets the keyboard.
3. Kettle has a severe nut allergy.  Don’t expect too many recipes with nuts either.
4. I’m a huge nerd in ‘real life’ and I try my hardest to minimize it here on the blog, but I apologize if I write to let something ‘incubate” or add in something to “alter the freezing point”. I can’t help it.
5. I like to run in my spare time or when I’m waiting for bread to incubate, er, rise.
6. I park in the same spot everyday at work, otherwise I forget where I’ve parked and can’t find my car.
7. I’m Pot, he’s Kettle. And yes there is a story that goes with it. 🙂
I am passing the award on to these lovely blogs.  Make sure to swing by and check them out!
Enjoy!

Week Recap: Sorbet

Yum.

This week I was inspired by fresh fruit, the start of spring, and the return of warm weather.  I tried my hand at sorbet and was surprised at how easy it really is!  Good heavens.  Pureed, sweeten, and freeze.  This is almost too easy.  I wonder if its healthy to live off sorbet alone.  I am also really excited about how easy it is because it allows me to control the sugar content and eliminate the ‘other’ content of commercially produced options.  And plus Miss Mini Sous Chef gobbles it up.  She even picked it over ice cream the other night. I don’t dare tell her that its not that bad for her.

Thanks again for all the lovely comments this week.  I did have one or two questions, including a great one from Alchemy about what I’ve named my pineapple-mint vodka drink.  Kettle and I bantered back and forth a few times and it just got a little silly (I think when I offered up “Don Hoe with a stick of gum” and “Sponge Bob Mojito” I knew we would never come up with anything).  So if anyone has any good ideas about naming options, I will totally consider them and give you a shout out!

Notable points from the week:

What I’m reading: Gumbo Tales by Sara Roahen.

What I’m thinking about: The French Macaron

What I’m excited for: The rain to stop before next weekend.

Teaser for This week’s posts: When life gives you lemons…

 

Enjoy!


Strawberry-Kiwi sorbet

Two days a week a local farmer bring his produce truck to work.  A lot of the food is from North Georgia, but he also brings in other yummys that are in season from around the country.  He’ll even bring special things along if you request them.  It’s basically a way to promote veggie and fruit consumption at work and support local farmers. I enjoy visiting it at least once a week! 

I'm back!

This week I got a little inspiration from veggie man.  Of course the strawberries caught my attention.  They are just so tasty and hard to pass up.  But he also had a good deal on huge kiwi this week.  No seriously, these things are huge.  And they were sitting right next to the strawberries.  It’s like they wanted to be together.  So I helped them along. 

A tasty duo

One of the reason I love cooking with fresh fruit is the smell.  Of course there is also the beautiful vibrant colors and the vivid tastes, but, oh, the smell.  There is nothing like walking by a piece of fruit and having its sweet scent catch your nose.  Droooool.  I also love how the taste can cure my cravings for more “devilish” and less healthy desserts.  Sometimes I just need a touch of sweetness. 

Chop chop.

After success with the pineapple-mint sorbet, I decided to continue on the trend.  This time I didn’t follow a recipe and decided to just wing it.  Just puree fruit, sweeten, and freeze, right?  After dicing and pureeing everything up, I decided to strain out the seeds because both fruits have a lot of ’em.  And I mean a lot.  I don’t think this is a ‘must do’ step in terms of taste, but I thought it was important for the consistency of the sorbet.  One thing I love about sorbet is the smoothness and I thought straining out the seeds would help me achieve this. I honestly think I strained out over 1/4 a cup of seeds.

So many seeds!

I sweetened the puree with some simple syrup and seltzer water.  In the end, the sorbet was a little hard to scoop, so maybe a touch more sugar to alter the freezing point next time.  Overall, it’s a keeper.  Quick, easy, and a great option for fresh fruit!

Churning

Strawberry-kiwi Sorbet

1 cup diced kiwi, ~2.5 kiwis

1+1/2 cups diced strawberries

1/4 cup seltzer water

1/4 cup simple syrup

Dice fruit and puree together until no chunks remain.  Strain out seeds if desired. Blend in simple syrup and seltzer water.  Chill mixture in freezer for about 20 minutes.  Churn in ice cream maker for an additional 20 minutes or until thickened.  Return to freezer to solidify.

 

Enjoy!

 


Pineapple-mint sorbet

I bought two of these guys last week because they were just too good to pass up. 

One is the loneliest number.

Yep, one is missing.  I ate him.  And I liked it.

Pineapple bottom

But I hadn’t decided what to do with the second one.  Slice and eat?  Always tasty, but I want something a little more creative.  Pineapple upside down cake?  Sure, its a classic, but I really have no need for a cake anytime soon. As the smell of this lovely fellow began to permeate my apartment, I knew the time for action was near. And then it got hot.  Not unbearable-oppressive-summer hot, but when you have a 30+ degree temperature swing in one day, you notice it and you get ideas.  Tasty, cool ideas.  With that, his fate was sealed. 

Off with its head!

A sorbet it was.  After a little investigation I came across a recipe for pineapple mint sorbet.  Given that Kettle and I had just planted fresh herbs, including mint, over the weekend, it was a perfect option.  I love that it was a different take on sorbet and a fun way to use my pineapple.

Fresh mint from the garden, er, window sill.

Overall, I am very happy with how this recipe came out.  The consistency is really nice and the pineapple-mint combo works surprisingly well.  Next time I will make sure to very finely chop the mint.  Mine was a little chunky making the bites a little inconsistent.

Time to eat!

Pineapple-Mint Sorbet

Adapted from Scoop Adventures.

2 cups pineapple puree (~half a pineapple peeled and cored)

8 tbsp sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup seltzer water

1+1/2 tsp fresh mint

Add pineapple and sugar to a blender and puree until combined.  Add water and seltzer and pulse until mixed.  Stir in finely diced mint.  Cool mixture in the freezer until well chilled, but not frozen.  Poor mixture into an ice cream machine and churn until solid consistency.  Return to freezer overnight till frozen.

Diggin' in.

Don’t be afraid if you make a little extra pineapple puree.  It makes a great cocktail when mixed with seltzer and mint vodka.

Mmmm...cocktails always make cooking more fun!

Enjoy!


Week Recap: Bread

So I kind of got into a bread phase last week and ended making a progression of bread types.  I started with pretty standard recipes just to get my feet under me, but now feel like I am ready to explore and get a little more creative!  Thanks everyone for your comments and encouragement!  It’s always nice to get feedback and I really do appreciate it!

Breaded

Notable points from the week:

What I’m reading: Gumbo Tales by Sara Roahen.

What I’m thinking about: Recipe ideas for Spring fruits and veggies!

What I’m excited for: Grilling Season!

Teaser for This week’s posts: In the words of my fellow ATLers, the immortal Outkast,

“What’s cooler than being cool?  Ice cold.”

 


Just loafing…..

I’ve been wanting to make  a loaf of bread for sometime now, but the idea of kneading and kneading dough has really turned me off.  Also, since I am not the most patient person, waiting 12-16 hours for rising doesn’t get me excited. However, with my successful progression through types of bread this week, I figured it was time to try it out.

Hot out of the oven.

Why have I been baking so much bread this week?  Its yummy.  It makes the apartment smell great.  I always have the ingredients on hand and with my poor track record for going to the grocery lately, there are few recipes for which this is true.

Captain Hook.

I started looking for a good basic bread recipe and finally settled on a farmers wheat. Now here is where one of my cooking weaknesses really got me.  I am not good at following recipes.  I tend to loosely follow them, liberally exchange ingredients, and skip steps.  Likewise when I pick out recipes, I often skim or half read them before I decide it’s a go, thus leading to my previously mentioned issues sticking to the recipe.  Same with this one.  I quickly looked at the ingredient list, saw that I had everything, and checked the simplicity of the “day 1” steps and decided to start.

New ingredient addition to the bread progression.

Day 1 is super easy. Combine two types of flour, warm water and yeast in a bowl until smooth.  That’s it.  Then in the interim you can hit the hay, hit the clubs, or head out for a day of work.  I prepped “day 1” right before I went to bed with dreams of having warm bread for breakfast.

Good morning dough!

The next morning I looked at the “day 2” steps and realized that there would be no bread for breakfast.  There are several resting and rising steps in “day 2”, nothing to hard or complicated, it just takes time.  At the start of day 2, warm water, yeast, salt, and molasses are added to the dough and mixed well, followed by the remaining flour. The resulting dough looks like this:

Complete Dough.

I let the dough rise covered at room temperature for 1.5 hours and then it looked like this:

It just keeps growing.

At this point, the dough was divided in half and shaped into ovals and allow to rest covered at room temperature for twenty minutes.

Resting loaves to be.

Afterward, one end of the dough was rolled out, brushed with olive oil, and folded over.  At this point the loaves were set to rest covered at room temperature for 1 hour.

Looks kind of like a envelope or satchel.

After the hour, the dough will have obviously risen again.  Seriously, it just keeps growing.

It's alive!

Now here is the glorious part, the actual baking!  The loaves only need about 30 minutes in the oven, until they looked golden and tasty.  They are really handsome loaves once you’re done.

Just baked.

The loaves turned out great.  The recipe is not technically very difficult, it just takes a long time because of all of the resting and rising.  I managed to find great ways to multitask for each of them (take the dog for a run, clean the kitchen, solve world peace). The bread is quite tasty.  It’s perfect for a sandwich or paired with a nice spread.  I definitely would make it again especially now that I know all of the steps.

Well Rested Wheat Bread

Adapted from this recipe.

Day 1

1 cup wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1/4 tsp yeast

3/4 cup warm water

Combine day one ingredients until smooth.  Cover and leave at room temperature for 12-16 hours.

Day 2

1+1/4 cup warm water

1/2 tsp yeast

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp molasses

2+3/4 cup all purpose flour

Olive oil

Add the warm water to the dough and mix.  Stir in the salt, yeast, and molasses until combined. Slowly add in the flour while continuously mixing the dough.  Once it is all combined, transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and toss once to coat.  Let dough rise for 1.5 hours cover at room temp.  Divide dough into two piece and shape into an oval.  Let rest 20 minutes covered at room temperature. Roll out one end of the dough, lightly baste with olive oil, and fold over.  Let sit an additional 1 hour covered at room temp.  Preheat oven to 400°F and place a cast iron skillet one shelf below the shelf you plan on using for the bread.  Once the oven is hot, place the loaves on a cookie sheet in the oven and add 1 cup of hot water to the cast iron skillet.  This will create a steam effect that creates a good crust on the bread.  Bake for ~30 minutes and cool on wire rack.

 

Enjoy!