Sunday, October 21, 2012

It's All About Caramel

Ice cream.  I love it.  In fact, it's my firm belief that a day without ice cream is like a day without sunshine.  It's also like a day without peanut butter.  Or chocolate.  But those are posts for another day.  This one is about ice cream.  Caramel and ice cream to be exact!

The weather is cooling down, but you can believe I'm still enjoying my daily dose of ice cream.  Pumpkin treats and desserts seem to be all the rage right now, for obvious reasons, but I've never been a big pumpkin fan.  Fall has me dreaming of harvest at Apple Hill, in El Dorado County, California, where orchards are plentiful and competition for business offers a huge variety of baked treats and yummy goodies.  I have very fond memories of the former Honey Bear Ranch that sold Pie Royale, the very best apple pie ever (no lie), served with vanilla ice cream and covered with caramel.  So when I came across a recipe for caramel apple ice cream, which combined my love of ice cream and transported me back to my retro autumn days, I knew I had to try it out!

Caramel Apple Ice Cream
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman and Cookies & Cups
Printer-friendly copy

For the caramel:
4 tablespoons Land O' Lakes Light Butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the ice cream:
1 tablespoon Land O' Lakes Light Butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of Kosher salt
2 small apples, cored, peeled and diced small
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon Penzey's Baking Spice
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup caramel sauce (from above)

Mix light butter, brown sugar, heavy cream, and Kosher salt in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until thicker.  Add vanilla and cook another minute to thicken further.  Turn off heat and pour sauce into a clean jar.  Refrigerate until cold.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter.  Add brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and diced apples and cook on medium-low until apples are soft (cooking time will vary, depending on the variety of apple used).  Set aside to cool.  In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together the cream and Baking Spice, beating until stiff peaks form.  Fold in the sweetened condensed milk.  Transfer mixture to the frozen bowl of an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's directions.  When approximately 1-2 minutes of mixing remains, add in apples and caramel sauce.  Transfer ice cream to a freezer-safe container and place in the coldest part of your freezer, at least 6 hours or overnight.  Serve with additional caramel, if desired.

What is YOUR favorite fall treat?  Do you prefer pumpkin or would you rather eat apples?  I'd love to hear your comments!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Inspiration Re-Creation

Last month, we visited the Cheese Days Festival in Monroe, Wisconsin.  Hubby's mother grew up in Monroe, so it's a bit of a family tradition to attend the event held every other year.  Cheese Days is a celebration of the Old World tradition of cheese making, and is all about, you guessed it, cheese.

This year I discovered (and how I've missed it all these years remains a mystery) the BEST grilled cheese sandwich ever, a Master's Grilled Cheese.  The gooey cheese oozed out of the crispy bread and I had to break off the huge strings because my arms weren't long enough to stretch any further.  It.  Was.  Heavenly.

Another treat we enjoyed was fried cookie dough.  Just the idea made my mouth water.  Cookie dough?  Fried?  How could that possibly be bad?  Um, yes, please!  I have to say, though, what I was served wasn't quite what I expected...

The cookie dough was inside a wonton wrapper.  Now, don't get me wrong, it was good!  Definitely good.  But when I have an idea of how something should look and taste and it doesn't quite meet expectations, I feel the need to create it myself.

Which is how I arrived at this...

Fried cookie dough BALLS, which is how I imagined them.  Googling "fried cookie dough," I settled on a recipe that I thought could satisfy my inner cravings (and FYI, self-rising flour is a combination of all-purpose flour, salt, and baking powder -- see recipe here).  Using my own tried and true recipe for chocolate chip cookies, I substituted a half-cup of Egg Beaters for the two eggs to ensure the raw dough would safe to eat.  I dipped the dough balls in the batter, fried them up (outside on the patio in an effort to keep the house free of "fry smell," and yes, I'm aware that's kind of weird) and enjoyed.  The result was nearly exactly what I'd hoped for.  Warm and melted doughy goodness!  I'm glad I only made six, because I could have easily eaten more.  Way more. 

Keeping with the re-creation theme, I thought I'd try to make some grilled cheese sandwiches, too.  At the time, I wasn't certain which variety of cheese was used in the Master's sandwiches.  We had purchased some gourmet Muenster and some Monterey Jack from Brennan's Market in Monroe, so those were a given.  I also wanted to include American, because all good grilled cheese sandwiches should have American.  Just my opinion.  I figured the combination would get me where I wanted to go.

I started by making a loaf of artisan bread.

Which turned into this...

Admittedly, my version was not as good.  I didn't use full-fat butter.  I didn't have quite the right cheese (I later learned the original contained Brick).  But it was good.  And it did in a pinch, which is essentially what all cravings are!

Now if only I could recreate the fried cheese curds, I'd be in business.  I'd share a photo of my own, but we inhaled them so fast, I didn't get a chance to take one.  This is a Googled image, showing the actual fried curds from Cheese Days in all their glory...

In case you'd like to attend the next one, Cheese Days will be held again September 19-21, 2014, and it will be the 100th anniversary of the festival.

On another note, I'm adding brick cheese to my grocery list...