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Pretzels and caramel…what a great combination!

They are the ingredients for this months Behind the Curtain dessert challenge! As soon as I saw the ingredients, I knew what I wanted to make…homemade Take 5 candy bars! Layers of pretzels, peanut butter, caramel, and peanuts, all covered in chocolate. YUM!

I ended up making 2 batches of these, as I wasn’t completely happy with the first batch- the peanuts didn’t stick to the caramel. I knew what I did wrong right away (I let the caramel cool too much), so it was an easy fix. The funny thing is that the first batch was gone before I made the second batch (5 days later)! Yeah, they are that good (even without the peanuts!). I have a feeling the second batch won’t last much longer!

Homemade Take 5 Candy Bars

Homemade Take 5 Candy Bars

Mini pretzels (I needed 77 + a few broken pieces)

Peanut Butter Layer:
2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caramel Layer:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream (also called whipping cream)
5 oz (just shy of 2/3 cup) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup salted peanuts, finely chopped

Milk chocolate for dipping

Line an 10 x 15 inch cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Set aside.

To make the peanut butter layer:
In a microwave-safe bowl, mix together the peanut butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Stir until all the powdered sugar has been incorporated. Microwave for 20 seconds on high, then stir. Repeat this again. Spread the mixture evenly on the aluminum foil of your prepared pan. Place your pretzels onto the peanut butter mixture, leaving a very small space between each one (enough for a knife to go through). Note: Mine was 7 pretzels across and 11 pretzels down. This left me with a space along the bottom that wasn’t wide enough for another row of pretzels, so I filled it with broken pretzels. Place the tray in the freezer while you are making the caramel layer.

To make the caramel layer:
In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients except for the peanuts. Place this over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Boil (continue stirring- the caramel will burn if you stop stirring) until the mixture reaches 236 degrees. Remove from the heat and stir until it stops bubbling. Add in the chopped peanuts. Set aside for a moment.
Remove the cookie sheet from the freezer. Carefully flip the peanut butter layer onto a cutting board (or another large cookie sheet). Peel off the aluminum foil and place it back onto the original cookie sheet. Your peanut butter layer should now be facing up. Transfer this onto the aluminum foil (if it breaks, that’s ok, just press it back together).* Pour the caramel layer over the peanut butter in an even layer. Note: I only used 3/4 of the caramel and poured the rest into a greased ramekin.** Set the cookie sheet aside to cool completely (about an hour).

After an hour, place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for an hour.

To finish the candy bars:
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Set aside. Melt the milk chocolate according to your favorite melting method. Remove the candy from the refrigerator and flip it out onto a cutting board. Remove the aluminum foil. Cut the candy, following the spaces between the pretzels, making 11 rows. Then cut after every 2nd pretzel (see picture below). Flip the candy over (this is the last time, I promise!), and using a fork, dip each piece into the melted chocolate. Let the excess drip off for a second, then place it onto the wax paper lined cookie sheet. Repeat until all the candy has been dipped (or you run out of room on the cookie sheet). Refrigerate for 5-10 minutes, or until the chocolate has set. Peel the candy off the wax paper, and if needed, finish dipping the rest of the candy. Enjoy!

Notes:
*The process I just described- I am having you invert the candy. I did this as the peanut butter mixture is a little too thick to spread it on top of the pretzels (and to keep the pretzels in nice, neat rows).
**I only used 3/4 of the caramel in order to keep all the layers even in thickness. If you like more caramel, go ahead and use all of it for your candy bars.

Homemade Take 5 Candy Bars

Homemade Take 5 Candy Bars

This is showing the peanut butter/pretzel layer inverted. Now it’s ready for the caramel.

Homemade Take 5 Candy Bars

Made with love, not calories!

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This is my first month with the Secret Recipe Swap group, and I am excited! Each month participants are given a blog. From this blog, we get to pick one of their recipes to make and share with our audiences. Now, we have to keep this a secret. I can’t tell (ahead of time) which blog I have been assigned. Then, we all reveal our posts on the same day! A big Thank You goes out to Jutta, from the Hungry Little Girl, who is our recipe swap leader!

This month I was given the blog “Feeding Big“. After going through Cynthia’s blog and drooling over her Best Shrimp Recipe Ever, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, and Best Ever Onion Strings, I decided on her Moist Caramel Apple Cupcakes! You know how fond I am of desserts! I made a few small changes to the recipe: I diced the apples instead of grating them (I was too lazy to get my box grater out) and I topped the cupcakes with a caramel buttercream frosting and a caramel drizzle instead of using melted caramels.

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

One Year Ago: Banana Boat Tarts

Caramel Apple Cupcakes
Recipe lightly adapted from Feeding Big via The Recipe Critic
Makes 12 cupcakes

Cupcakes:
1 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 Granny Smith or Rome apples, peeled and finely diced

Homemade Caramel Sauce:
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt

Caramel Buttercream Frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup homemade caramel sauce
2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a cupcake pan with baking liners.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vanilla extract, and the eggs. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until everything comes together. Fold in the diced apples. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin liners. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let cool completely.

To make the caramel sauce (can be made ahead of time):
In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring continuously. Once the mixture is boiling, stop stirring. Continue to boil until the sugar turns an amber color. Remove the pan from the heat and add in the butter and salt (this will bubble, so be careful). Whisk until all the butter has been incorporated, then add in the heavy cream. Again, the mixture will bubble, so whisk this carefully. If the caramel turns hard, put the pan over low heat and stir until the caramel has melted and the mixture is smooth. Strain the caramel sauce through a sieve into a heat-safe container. Refrigerate until needed.

To make the caramel buttercream:
In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, cream together the butter and cooled caramel sauce. Add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Slowly add in the heavy cream until you have reached the desired frosting consistency.

Spoon the caramel buttercream into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Frost the cooled cupcakes, then drizzle on additional caramel sauce. Enjoy!

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Made with love, not calories!

If you are interested in joining the Secret Recipe Club, please visit Hungry Little Girl!

HungryLittleGirl

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Here is day 2 of the 12 Days of Christmas Cookies!

Peanut butter, chocolate, and caramel!

I really don’t think I need to say anything more about this cookie. You aren’t going to read it anyways! You are probably already scrolling down to see the recipe!

Well, if you are sticking around and reading this…thank you :), though I won’t take up too much more of your time. Here we have peanut butter cookie dough that is wrapped around a Rolo. The Rolo’s that I used are relatively new to the stores- Rolo minis. If you can’t find the minis, you can always use the regular sized Rolo’s, just cut them in half. Oh, and the mini Rolo’s are already unwrapped- which means you can eat them faster (not that I do that!).

Peanut Butter Chocolate Caramel Cookies
Recipe lightly adapted from Land O’Lakes 

11 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1- 8 oz. package of Rolo minis

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugars, and peanut butter. Add in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the baking soda, salt, and flour and mix until well combined.

Using a medium-sized ice cream scoop, scoop out the dough and place it in the palm of your hand. Flatten it slightly and place a Rolo in the center. Fold the dough around the Rolo to seal it completely (work the dough to make sure there are no holes or cracks all the way around). Place the dough ball seam side down on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, leaving 2 inches between each cookie. Bake in a preheated oven for 10-11 minutes, or until the edges are a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, move the cookies onto cooling racks and cool completely. Enjoy!

Made with love, not calories!

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November 21st is National Gingerbread Day!

Gingerbread is a sweet food product flavored with ginger and typically using honey or molasses (treacle) rather than just sugar. Gingerbread foods vary, ranging from a soft, moist loaf cake to something close to a ginger biscuit. The different types likely share a common origin.
The first documented trade of gingerbread biscuits dates to the 16th century, where they were sold in monasteries, pharmacies and town square farmers’ markets. One hundred years later the town of Market Drayton in ShropshireUK became known for its gingerbread, as is proudly displayed on their town’s welcome sign. The first recorded mention of gingerbread being baked in the town dates back to 1793; however, it was probably made earlier, as ginger was stocked in high street businesses from the 1640s. Gingerbread became widely available in the 18th century.” (Source)

While my first thought of gingerbread went to gingerbread men and gingerbread houses, I knew I wanted to make a soft gingerbread dessert. Note: I have never made a gingerbread house. I need to make a gingerbread house! I did some searching and found a recipe for gingerbread cupcakes. Ok, now what kind of frosting? I knew a cream cheese frosting would be really good, but that wasn’t thrilling me. I decided on a salted caramel frosting. The combination is wonderful! The cupcakes are a delight- rich with molasses and spices, while the frosting has a little hint of salt that hits your tongue, followed by the sweetness of the caramel. Don’t be too surprised when I post this combination in other recipes!

One Year Ago: Apple Cider Bread Pudding

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting
Cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart
Makes 18 cupcakes

Cupcakes:
1 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup molasses
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Salted Caramel:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup salted caramel sauce
3 tablespoons milk
2 3/4 cups powdered sugar

To make the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line 18 muffin cups with liners. Set aside.

In a small heat-safe bowl, whisk together the boiling water and baking soda. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, spices, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add in the molasses and the water/baking soda mixture, and mix well. With the mixer on low-speed, slowly add in the flour mixture. Add in the eggs and mix until well combined. Fill the muffin cups 3/4 of the way full. Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the cupcakes from the pan onto cooling racks and let cool completely.

To make the salted caramel sauce:
In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the sugar and water and cook over medium-low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the mixture reaches 350 degrees on a candy thermometer, or is a medium brown color. Note: you will usually see the color start to change in the center of the pan. Once you see that happening, start to carefully swirl the pan the make sure the sugar mixture doesn’t burn in the center.
Once the mixture has turned medium brown, remove from the heat and add in the butter. Carefully stir until the butter has melted, then add in the heavy cream. The mixture will bubble and boil when the cream is added, so be careful and don’t lean directly over the pan. Return the pan to the heat, this time over low, and continue stirring until the mixture is smooth. Once it is smooth, remove from the heat and add in the vanilla bean paste and sea salt. Let cool completely before using it in the frosting. Note: The caramel sauce can be refrigerated until needed. Use any leftover sauce over ice cream or apple pie!

To make the frosting:
In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, cream together the butter and salted caramel sauce. Add in the powdered sugar, alternating it with the milk. Mix until you have the frosting consistency you like (adding more powdered sugar or milk to get the consistency you prefer).

To finish the cupcakes:
Once the cupcakes are cool, frost the cupcakes. Note: I used a pastry bag with a star tip. Once the cupcakes are frosted, drizzle on additional salted caramel sauce, if desired. Enjoy!

I’m linked to: Chocolate, Chocolate & More!, Taste and Tell.

I’m featured at Taste and Tell!!

Made with love, not calories!

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Recently we celebrated my aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary! My aunt and uncle are avid golfers, so my cousins threw a surprise golf outing (and dinner) as their anniversary party! While the day was a little windy, it didn’t stop the golfers from having a good time (no, I did not golf). Afterwards, everyone sat down for dinner and desserts. It was wonderful to see so many friends and family, and to celebrate a joyous occasion!

I volunteered to bring desserts. Would you like to see what I made?

Chocolate cupcakes, decorated with vanilla bean buttercream frosting. I tinted the frosting green and used a grass tip for piping. I also added a sugar pearl as a golf ball. Can you see the little golf ball on each cupcake?!

These are white chocolate golf balls. In one basket, the golf balls were filled with homemade caramel. In the other basket, the golf balls had a chocolate truffle filling.

I also made vanilla bean sugar cookies, that I decorated with their monogram. The cookies are iced with gold royal icing, then when the icing was dry, I dry dusted them with gold luster dust (it gave the cookies a nice little sparkle!). Then using white royal icing, I piped on the monogram and the border.

Not shown: I also made a dessert tray with brownies, brown butter chocolate chip cookies, and snickerdoodles.

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Willow Bird Baking handed out our Week 3 baking challenge…Stuffed Cookies!

I have made stuffed (filled) cookies before (here, here, and here) and I think the idea is a lot of fun. The finished product is pretty tasty too!! So I was excited to once again create a stuffed cookie. I sometimes get flavor combinations that get stuck in my brain, just waiting for the right recipe to come along. Caramel, coconut, and chocolate have been whispering in my brain recently. You might recognize these as the flavors that make up Samoa’s. They are one of my favorite Girl Scout cookies, but I only limit myself to one box a year.

Anyways, I decided to use those flavors as the “stuffing” for my cookies, surrounded by a simple sugar cookie. The finished cookie may not look like much, but it is full of flavor. I think you will like them as much as I do!

One year ago: Cinnamon Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Samoa Stuffed Sugar Cookies

Cookies:
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 cups flour

Samoa Filling:
1 cup caramel bits
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups toasted coconut
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the melted butter and sugars. Stir in the egg and the vanilla bean paste. Add in the salt, baking soda, and flour, and stir until well combined. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, make the filling mixture. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the caramel bits and heavy cream. Microwave on high for 30 second intervals, stirring after each one, until the caramels are melted. Add in the toasted coconut and stir to combine. Let this mixture cool for 10 minutes before adding in the mini chocolate chips.

Once the dough has chilled and the filling mixture is ready, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Using a medium-sized ice cream scoop, scoop out dough and flatten slightly (I do this in the palm of my hand). Add 1 heaping teaspoon of filling mixture into the center of the dough, then form the dough to cover the filling. Make sure there are no holes or the filling will run out while it is baking. Place this seam side down onto the cookie sheet, leaving 3 inches between each cookie.

Bake in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are set and lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, move the cookies onto cooling racks and cool completely. Enjoy!

Made with love, not calories!

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June 16th is National Fudge Day!

I know I already did a national food day already this week, but that was a special occasion :)

Fudge is something I normally only make once a year- at Christmas time. I’m not sure why that is. Actually, I think I do know why! With fudge, I am often satisfied after eating a small piece (it’s usually very sweet). With all other baked goods, I will gladly eat more of it (a bigger brownie, another cookie, an extra scoop of ice cream…um, yes please!). Ok, so that was a long-winded way to say: with fudge, a little goes a long way!

There are 3 fudge flavors that I typically make: chocolate (of course!), peanut butter, and cookies and cream. To celebrate Fudge Day, I decided to try a different flavor…Caramel! Oh this is so good, and soooo sweet!!

Caramel Fudge
Adapted from One Pot Chef Show
Prep time: 4 hours, 35 minutes (35 active, 4 hours inactive)

11 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Grease (or line with foil and then grease) an 8×8 inch pan. Set aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the butter and brown sugar has melted. Set a timer for 15 minutes and stir continuously during this time. The mixture will thicken a little (don’t boil this). After 15 minutes, remove the saucepan from the heat and continue to stir the fudge for another 10 minutes. This will help to cool down the fudge. After 10 minutes, the fudge should be thicker, though still easy to stir. Pour this into the prepared pan, and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Note: depending on how cold your refrigerator is, your fudge might be ready after 4 hours, or it might need more time.

Once the fudge is set, cut into bite-sized pieces and enjoy!

Made with love, not calories!

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