Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Just cuz

So I had this dark beer lying around leftover from a whole grain mustard beer battered onion ring adventure (I forgot to take photos, darnit, or I'd share.).  We are not huge dark beer drinkers, and I wondered whether we'd end up tossing it....until I was mercilessly beckoned by a recipe for Beer-Pretzel Caramels.  Sold.

I casually mentioned them to my sister, who inquired "what will you do with all those caramels?".  I realized I hadn't considered that a bit, and at this point, said caramels were prepared and chilling in the fridge.  While it was a good question in light of it still being early in the New Year, Paula Deen's diabetes diagnosis, general caloric awareness, etc, I nevertheless paused and confidently replied, "consume them".   Sometimes there is no agenda necessary to make a delicous treat.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Pretzels are a brilliant addition to anything sweet, but they are particularly divine nestled in gorgeously rich caramel.

I love a recipe with a brief ingredient list.

The prep is fun and fast.  Half of the beer reduces to a beautiful, thick syrup...

...while the second half of the beer is stirred into the other ingredients and then cooked to reach 235 degrees of amber perfection. 

These two pots do their simultaneous magic in about 12 minutes.  Once the mixtures are combined, along with crumbled pretzels, the whole concoction is poured into a buttered dish to be refrigerated until firm - but still luxuriously chewy, just as I had hoped!

While the boys were playing in the family room last night, Molly and I sneaked into the kitchen for an "our little secret" caramelfest.  I'll excuse the indulgence for mother-daughter bonding!

Beer-Pretzel Caramels
courtesy of Food Network

1 12 oz bottle brown ale
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
 11/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups coarsely crushed thin pretzels

1.  Pour the beer into a glass; let sit until flat, about 1 hour.
2.  Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.  Bring half of the beer to a boil in small saucepan over medium heat; cook until reduced to 2 tsp, about 10 minutes.
3.  Meanwhile, combine the remaining beer, the brown sugar, corn syrup, cream and butter in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer registers 235 degrees (10-12 minutes).  Remove from the heat and stir in the beer syrup and pretzels.  Spread in the prepared dish and chill until firm, 45 minutes to an hour.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Warm and Fuzzies

I did the happy dance on our last visit to my parents' house when my dad suggested preparing one of my favorite childhood breakfast feasts:  crepes.  A handful, okay a lot, of experiences evoke total giddiness in me -  like the coffee maker's "I'm ready!" beep, the smell of freshly cut grass, an empty dishwasher, a good pedicure, a perfectly folded fitted sheet (oops, secret's out: I'm indeed insane), to name a few - and my dad's crepes have a special place on that list.

Memories of giggling with my sisters in our pj's over our plates of powdered sugar dusted, jam filled crepes rank pretty high on my warm and fuzzy scale.  I'm certain we each inhaled at least six of them at a sitting, which I, as a parent now, can imagine elevated the giggles to an irritating decibel given the sugar content.  I am so thankful for those sweet moments, and I just love the opportunity to now be able to share them with my kids.   

An integral part of this story is this pan... a pan that made a wholelotta crepes in its (clearly) long life.  Its magical crepe powers, along with the perfection of my dad's technique of course, yield the perfect batch.

A little tidbit I just learned in Bon Appetit, by the way, is that the ceramic coated frying pan has totally made a comeback.  Holla. 

Anyway, here is the pile of fluffy goodness before they are rolled into their classic sugar/jam tunnel.

And then, the real deal.  Just.Divine.

Here is the recipe, but I have to confess that I have yet to try to make them!  I kind of love that I - and now my little ones - associate them affectionately with Poppop Kevin and Grandma Connie's house.  Yes, I am a total sucker for nostalgia.  But since my sweet parents have graciously bequeathed The Crepe Pan to me, I clearly have no option but to summon courage and attempt them myself one of these days!