Friday, November 20, 2015

Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

Buttery shortbread cookies filled with silky, sweet dulce de leche and topped with a sprinkle of salt to create the perfect salted caramel cookie.  If you asked me what my favorite flavor was, up until a couple of years ago I would have told you chocolate without skipping a beat but then I learned to make caramel myself and that changed completely.  Now I am basically caramel obsessed - whether it be homemade vanilla bean soft caramels (recipe coming soon), dulce de leche, caramel sauce, or basically any baked good recipe involving caramel you can count me in.  Of course, I still love chocolate, especially caramel covered in chocolate...perhaps next time I make these cookies I will try drizzling them with chocolate?? Now that is an idea to remember!

These cookies are absolutely amazing, perfect for caramel lovers like me or anyone who appreciates an easy to prepare and delicious cookie that only requires a few ingredients.  The shortbread cookies aren't too sweet which compliments the rich, caramel filling very well.  The sprinkle of salt makes the caramel flavor pop and nicely balances the sweetness.  Plus just look at how beautiful they are with the bold amber centers that resemble lovely little caramel kisses.  I would highly recommend that you give these cookies a try for one of your upcoming holiday events this season.  One thing to note is that the dulce de leche does remain a bit sticky, so they are not the easiest cookie to package.  However, you won't be disappointed by how yummy these cookies are, so hopefully that makes up for the fact they are not very easy to transport.  You could also change the filling in the cookies, if you don't share my love for caramel.  You could try nutella, chocolate kisses or other chocolate candies, or even put some jam in the centers before you bake them and you have beautiful traditional jam thumbprint cookies!  

Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
2/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
14 oz dulce de leche
1/2 tsp sea salt or other flaky salt

Cream the softened butter together with the sugar using an electric mixer or a whisk by hand until light and fluffy.  Mix in the vanilla and then add the flour in several additions until everything is well combined.  Scoop out small spoonfuls of the dough and roll into approximately 1.5 inch balls.  Place the dough balls on a parchment lined (optional) baking tray, flatten each ball slightly and then lightly press your thumb into the center of each cookie to form a well.

Bake the cookies at 350°F for about 10 to 12 minutes or until they are very slightly golden brown around the bottom edges.  Cool the cookies completely on wire racks.  Once the cookies have cooled, spoon the dulce de leche into a zipper bag and cut a small hole in one corner.  Use the bag to pipe dollops of caramel into the well of each cookie.  Sprinkle the top of each cookie with a few flakes of salt.  These cookies are best if served the same day, but they can be stored in the refrigerator for maybe one day. The caramel does remain sticky so you can't stack these cookies on each other without making a mess.

For instructions on how to make homemade dulce de leche see the very bottom of my post for dulce de leche revel bars. You can also purchase this premade at most grocery stores.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Caramel Apple Pie

Amazing caramel apple pie with beautiful golden, flaky crust and sweet, buttery apple filling.  This apple pie would be a wonderful addition to your dessert table this holiday season.  You can decorate the top of the pie however you would like. You could go with a more traditional solid or lattice crust or do some sort of cut-out decorative top like I did. I had a fancier image in my mind when I started but it came out rather rustic looking, in my opinion. Mid-pie making I discovered that in my box of 101 cookie cutters there weren't any shaped like leaves. So my quick thinking husband got out some paper and a pencil and I drew a freehand maple leaf template. Then we just placed the template on the rolled out pie dough and traced around it with a knife until we got enough leaves to cover the pie. I wasn't too impressed with how it looked at the time, but once it was baked I actually ended up liking it a lot more than I expected.  You can get really creative if you want too. I have seen some amazing pie crust designs on other blogs and on pinterest lately.

I have tried a lot of apple pie recipes over the years with varying results but I will definitely be adding this one to the "for keeps" pile.  I have so many "to try someday" recipes collected, especially when it comes to desserts, that is fairly rare that I will make the same recipe more than once.  This delicious pie will absolutely be making an appearance again at my house this holiday season and for many more years after.  Although this pie is fantastic it is very different from my Great Grandma's perfect apple pie that I was able to enjoy for so many years. I think I have established how picky I was as a child here before, and at one point in my life I actually thought that I did not like to eat pie, except for Great Grandma's apple pie, of course.  It was always my go to dessert on Thanksgiving and I have yet to find a recipe that even comes close to her's.  I did have a very good slice of apple pie this year at the Ashfield Fall Festival that was a fairly close replica and it brought back lots of wonderful memories.  I hope that you enjoy this apple pie recipe and maybe it will even create some lasting holiday memories for your loved ones. :)

Caramel Apple Pie

Pastry Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp ice water

Place the flour, sugar, salt and cubes of very cold butter in a food processor.  Pulse these ingredients until you have a crumbly mixture with butter pieces the size of small peas.  Start by adding 4 tablespoons of the ice water and continue to pulse. Continue to add the water until the mixture looks like fine sand and if you pinch some crumbs together between your fingers it holds together like dough.  Turn everything out into a pile of crumbs on a flat surface and use your hands to bring the dough together into a round disk.  Just the light pressure from pushing the crumbs with your hands will be enough for his dough to hold together. Take care to not over work the dough here; once it all comes together you are done. Divide the dough into two even disks and wrap each one in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Note that you can use any double crust recipe or store bought crust in place of this recipe.

Caramel Sauce
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt

Add the sugar and water to a medium/large pot and turn on the heat to  medium high. Stir the water and sugar together and then do not stir at all while the sugar cooks until it turns a light amber color.  You can swirl the pot around gently if you need to.  Once the sugar has reached your desired caramel color, carefully add the heavy cream and then the butter (this will bubble a lot) and stir the caramel together until smooth.  Add the salt and let the caramel cool for at least 1 hour.  Alternatively you can just use 1 cup of prepared/store-bought caramel sauce.

Apple Pie
3 lbs apples of your choice, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon

In a large bowl, toss the prepped apples together with the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon.  Add the cooled caramel sauce and stir until the apples are evenly coated. Roll out one disk of dough on a smooth floured surface to about a 13 inch circle.  Roll the dough up loosely around your rolling pin and then transfer it into a 9 inch pie plate.  Carefully lay the dough out in the pie plate taking care not to stretch the dough - it should over hang around the edges slightly.  If you get a tear, just take a piece of the excess and patch it up. Cut any large excess areas of dough off around the edges and create a crust border by pinching the dough together between your thumb and index fingers.  Add the apple mixture to the pie plate and spread it out evenly.  Roll out your second disk of pie dough into a similar size as the first circle.  You can decorate the top of the pie however you like. I went with a leaf pattern but you could use any cookie cutter that you want, or do a lattice top, or even just leave it a solid double crust pie. Make sure you cut a few slashes on top of the pie for the steam to vent if you do a solid top.  Bake the pie in an oven preheated to 375F for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.  If the crust is getting too brown, tent the pie with foil and finish cooking.  Allow the pie to cool for at least 4 hours before serving for best results.