Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Honey Orange Marinated Chicken

Tips:
  • This chicken may be grilled instead of baked. If grilling, make sure to discard any leftover marinade.
  • This "marinade" can also be used as a salad or vegetable dressing. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of white or cider vinegar if desired.
  • Add a 1 tablespoon of fresh, minced herbs (examples: basil, rosemarry, even mint) for additional flavor.
  • A small frappe blender/whisk works great for blending the marinade.



Honey Orange Marinated Chicken

4 Tablespoons olive oil

4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons orange rind, finely grated
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cayenne Pepper to taste
3-4 lbs Chicken


For marinade:
Combine oils and honey in a small  mixing bowl. Squeeze juice from oranges and lemon; strain to remove any pulp and/or seeds. Add juices, orange rind, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to bowl. Whisk to blend and adjust seasonings to taste. Whisk to blend completely.

Add chicken and marinade to a shallow pan or resealable (Ziploc style) bag. Allow chicken to sit in mixture for 2-4 hours.
Place chicken in a lightly greased baking dish and pour excess marinade over all chicken pieces. Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes or until juices run clear.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Buttery Sugar Cookies

I love these cookies not just because they have a crisp outside and soft middle, but also because you can taste the butter and the salt in them. They aren't too rich or overly sweet and make a perfect snacking cookie.

Tips:
  • For thicker cookies increase baking powder by 1/4 a teaspoon.
  • Roll in cinnamon sugar for snickerdoodles.
  • I used vanilla paste for this recipe because of it's rich and slightly sweet vanilla flavor. It doesn't contain alchohol like vanilla extract does and isn't truly a paste but more like a thick syrup (it's called paste though). It also leaves little specks of vanilla bean in the cookies, which I find interesting to look at. You can find vanilla paste at Williams Sonoma, Whole Foods and other specialty markets. Pure vanilla extract can easily be used  in this recipe though.
  • I like to sprinkle just a little more sugar on top of each cookie right after I remove them from the oven.


Buttery Sugar Cookies
 
2/3 cup butter flavored shortening

2/3 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar, divided
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla paste or extract
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups flour


In a large mixing bowl, cream together the shottening, butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Mix in the eggs and vanilla paste/extract. Add the baking powder and salt. Beat in the flour 1/2 cup at a time until mixture is thouroughly combined. Roll the dough into small balls and roll in remaining sugar. Place the balls on a parchment or baking-mat lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool slightly before removing from pan. Repeat for rest of the dough.
 


 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I've Been Published!

On Thursday, I received a piece of mail that I've been waiting since February to receive. Advance copies of the three Gooseberry Patch cookbooks I will have recipes published in! I submitted several recipes to Gooseberry Patch last summer (that was actually what inspired me to start this blog). In February, I received letters telling me that not one, not two but FIVE of my recipes would be published between three different cookbooks! The letters happened to come right around my birthday, and what a great gift it was!
As I mentioned, advanced copies of those three books arrived on my doorstep Thursday. I have to admit that I literaly jumped up and down upon opening the package!
The first of the cookbooks is called Homemade Harvest.  It's a marvelous addition to the Gooseberry Patch collection, filled with recipes that, much like this blog, are inspired by the flavors of Autumn. The book contains three of my recipes in it, Maple-Pineapple Ham, Raspberry Crumb Cookie Bars and Spicy Pumpkin Warm-Up. The Maple-Pineapple Ham is a flavorful glaze that compliments an oven baked ham so well. The Raspberry Crumb Cookie Bars use prepared sugar cookie dough as a crust and are finished with an easy to make crumb topping. Spicy Pumpkin Warm-Up is a thick, delicious drink made from pumpkin and happens to be a wonderful alternative to hot coccoa on a cold night.
101 Autumn Recipes is the second book with one of my recipes. It's a beautiful cookbook with amazing full color photography of each recipe. The No-Bake Pumpkin Butterscotch pie is mine in this book.  It's absolutely as good as it sounds!
The final cookbook coming out is Homemade Christmas. It's chock full of amazing, made-from-scratch recipes and crafts.  The recipe I had published in it will have to remain a secret for now. I want it to be a surprise for someone special (more on that another day). One hint though, is that it's mentioned on the back of the book!

These books won't be available for sale until August but you can pre-order them on Amazon right now. Just click the link/title of each cookbook above. I'm not going to publish any of these recipes on here right now but closer to the books' release date, I might be persuaded to give you a sneak peak of one of the recipes!

Stay tuned and I will have a yummy cookie recipe up for you Tuesday!





Friday, June 25, 2010

PieDay Friday-Quick Strawberry Cheesecake

This is a quick and easy dessert you can whip together when you need something fast and yummy. It takes about 5 minutes to put together from start to finish but thanks to the ready-prepared cheesecake filling, no one would know. You can certainly make your own cheesecake filling and pie crust, this particular recipe is just about keeping it simple, speedy and scrumptious!



Tips:
  • The cheesecake filling is made by Kraft's Philadelphia (cream cheese) label. It can be found in most super markets near regular cream cheese or refrigerated pudding.
  • Any flavor gelatin will work. For Indepence Day try using or layering a red color gelatin, a blue colored gelatin and regular unflavored cheesecake.


Super Quick Strawberry Cheesecake

1 8" Graham cracker crust (or 6 mini)
1 container Philadelphia brand Cheesecake Filling
1 3oz package Strawberry gelatin
stawberries/blueberries for garnish, optional

In a medium mixing bowl, stir the strawberry gelatin into the cheesecake filling until well blended. Ladle into pie crust/s. Garnish as desired. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Homemade Sour Cream

A few years ago, I was making a Thanksgiving style dinner at, what was then, our new house. I had everything going and was up to my elbows in all kinds of ingredients. I had sent my visiting mother-in-law to the store a little earlier and just minutes after she returned I realized that I was out of sour cream. The sour cream was a crucial ingredient in a mashed potato recipe I was using and I had to have it to make the dinner I had planned (and wanted).

At that time, our house was about 25 minutes away from the closest store so sending anyone out to get the missing ingredient would set me and the dinner back by about an hour. I couldn't wait, so I stood helplessly in the kitchen and started thinking.

Quickly I realized that sour cream is just what it's name suggests, soured cream. I'd substitued milk and vinegar before when I needed buttermilk, so I figured the same methodology would work with sour cream. I pulled out a carton of whipping cream and slowly added in a little vinegar. Immediately the cream began to thicken. I figured if I whipped it a little with a mixer it would thicken even further. Sure enough, in just a few minutes time I had all the sour cream I needed and it tasted better than any I had ever bought.

Since that day I've made homemade sour cream countless times. I like that it's all natural and the fact that I can control how "sour" I want it. I will still buy it prepared on occasion but I find something so satisfying about making things from scratch. Plus, it never fails to impress when you tell someone that you make your own sour cream!


Tips:
  • Try adding in different ingredients for a flavored sour cream. Mashed avacado, minced herbs,wasabi, horseradish, minced garlic or onion, crumbled bacon or grated cheese are all tasty options.
  • A little salt can make anything better, try adding a little at a time as a flavor enhancer.
  • I've had mixed results using half and half (half cream/half whole milk), sometimes it works for me and other times it just doesn't. Just be aware if using half & half that it may or may not thicken thouroughly.


Homemade Sour Cream

1 cup heavy cream (cold)

1 to 2 teaspoons white vinegar

In a small mixing bowl, add chilled cream and pour the vinegar over it. Using an electric mixer, mix until thickened (adjust amount of vinegar to your tastes, ie. how sour you want it)





Friday, June 18, 2010

PieDay Friday: Choco-Peanut Butter and Banana Pie

This week my brother-in-law, Dr. Pie Fiend, and I had lunch together. It wasn't to catch up or just a casual meal, our power lunch had a purpose. We met to discuss pies. Nothing else but pies. He loves to come up with new and interesting pie ideas as much as I love baking them. Not only did he come prepared with a few ideas but he typed them up and made circular graphs to diagram the construction of each pie. If we were both already nerds because of our love of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, then this pie symposium of ours bumped us up to a higher class of nerd; uber-nerds if you will.

 
Now Dr. Pie Fiend has never been one to spend much time in the kitchen. His culinary prowess is relegated to sandwich making and ice cream scooping. During our meeting I convinced him that if he used a semi-homemade approach, that he just might be able to make one of his own creations himself. Reluctantly, he agreed. I took him to a grocery store and helped him pick out a prepared pie shell, instant pudding and other ingredients. At the store I decided that I too was going to prepare one of his creations and we would meet a couple of days later for taste testing.

 
One of  Kevin's pie ideas was for a Chocolate Banana pie, another was for a peanut butter and banana pie, just to name two of many. Being similar, we decided that he would make the Chocolate and Banana pie and I the Peanut Butter and Banana pie. We brought our respective pies to my parents house on Wednesday night and pigged out. Dr. Pie Fiend can be proud of his very first pie because it was delicious. They were both were, everyone agreed.

 
Since I couldn't decide which pie to feature today, I decided to combine the 2 recipes. Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Banana pie. The combined efforts of my brother-in-law and myself have created this wickedly awesome hybrid pie. Enjoy!

 
Tips:
  • For the dipping chocolate, Kevin used Baker's Dipping Chocolate and it was excellent. Not only was the taste great but you don't have any additional bowls to clean up!
  • The peanut butter pudding recipe is no fail. Follow the directions step by step and you won't go wrong.
  • You can easily leave out the peanut butter chips from the pudding and add an additional tablespoon of vanilla for an out of this world vanilla pudding.

 
Choco-Peanut Butter and Banana Pie

 
Pudding
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks
2 1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup peanut butter chips

 
1 chocolate cookie crust
2 bananas, thinly sliced and divided
4oz dipping chocolate
1/3 cup hot fudge
1/3 cup shelled and chopped peanuts, optional

 

 
For pudding: Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in egg yolks followed by the milk. Cook over medium heat, whisking continuously until mixture thickens. Once mixture has thickened and comes to a low boil, continue cooking and whisking for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla, butter and peanut butter chips. Stir until butter and peanut butter chips have melted.

 
Allow pudding to cool slightly (3-5 minutes) and pour half of pudding into prepared chocolate cookie crust. Place half of the thinly sliced bananas over pudding, top with remaining pudding. Warm up hot fudge and spread over pie. Sprinkle with peanuts if desired. Dip remaining bananas in dipping chocolate and place decoratively over pie. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

 

 

 

 
Check out Simply Sweet Home...My Pink Lemonade Pie is featured there this week!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Orange Hummus

This recipe comes from Smuckers.com and just sounded so good I had to share it! I'm a big fan of hummus and like to serve it with pretzel crisps/crackers. The combination of the smooth, silky hummus and the crisp, coarse pretzel thins is a simply fantastic combination.


Orange Hummus

2 cups canned garbanzo beans, drained

1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
3 tablespoons Smucker's® Sweet Orange Low Sugar Marmalade
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin


 Place all ingredients in blender or food processor container and process on slow to medium speed until all ingredients are pureed. Cover and refrigerate several hours to allow flavors to blend.

Remove from refrigerator 15 to 30 minutes before serving. Drizzle with additional olive oil, if desired. Serve with pita chips, pretzel crisps, sesame crackers or cut fresh vegetables.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Simple Corn Salad

This basic corn salad is a light summer dish that pairs well with just about anything. I adapted it from a similar Martha Stewart recipe to make it slightly less pretentious!
Tips:
  • The possiblity for "add-ins" are abundent. Diced tomatoes, jalapenos, or cucumbers just to name a few.
  • Green onions can be substituted with chives, red onion or scallions.
  • This dish can be refrigerated, covered for up to 24 hours. After that the olive oil and vinegar begin to degrade the quality of the corn.


Simple Corn Salad
 
4 1/2 cups corn (fresh or defrosted from frozen)
1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon white pepper (more to taste)
salt to taste

In a medium bowl, add corn kernels, scallions, vinegar, and oil. Season with pepper and add salt to taste. Toss to combine. Cover and chill slightly (30 minutes) and serve.


 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Plum-Blueberry Slush

Another yummy, refreshing slush to beat the summer-time heat! This one utilizes the often looked over plum and pairs it with blueberries for a unique slush that's as delicious as it is purple!

Tips:
  • Try Cran-Raspberry, Cran-Grape or any other mixed berry juice for extra flavor.
  • For a sweeter slush add a teaspoon or 2 of sugar.
  • For a natural sweetner, add a couple slices of sweet mango
  • Keep the skin on the plums to make sure you capture all of their nutrients and true plum taste.
  • Peel the plums for a smoother textured slush.


Plum-Blueberry Slushes

2 medium red plums, roughly chopped
1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup cranberry juice
2 cups ice

Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until combined and ice is crushed.

Friday, June 11, 2010

PieDay Friday-Pink Lemonade Pie

This is a perfect "take-along" pie for your next BBQ, potluck or block party.  It's light and refreshing on a warm night.  It's taste, paired with the novelty of something different always makes this pie a hit.
The fact that it takes all of 5 minutes to put together doesn't hurt either!

Tips:
  • Add a few drops of red food coloring to enchance the pink hue.
  • Garnish with fresh raspberries, strawberries, lemons or sprigs of mint for a pretty presentation.
  • This pie is still a little tart, even with the addition of vanilla pudding and sweetened condensed milk.  If it's too tart for your tastes mix in a few tablespoons of powdered sugar.

Pink Lemonade Pie

1 8oz container Cool Whip, thawed
1 6oz can frozen Pink Lemonade Concentrate
1 4oz package Instant Vanilla Pudding
1 14oz can Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 Graham cracker crusts, prepared

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together Cool Whip and pudding mix. Stir in sweetened condensed milk. Gently add the frozen lemonade and stir to combine. Pour mixture into prepared Graham cracker crusts. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.




504 Main

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mango Salsa

This mild and slightly sweet salsa is a refreshing and delightful summer dip. Served with tortilla or pita chips or as a garnish for steak or fish, a simple mango salsa is sure to deliver.

Tips:
  • Spice it up with some diced habenaro and chopped cilantro.
  • A diced cucumber adds a cool crisp taste and is a welcome addition.
  • Try it on top of a burger for a healthy and flavorful condiment.


Mango Salsa

1 mango, peeled, cored and chopped

1 bell pepper, diced (any color will all work)
1 tomato, diced
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and roughly chopped
1/4 red onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
juice of half a lime
salt and pepper to taste, optional

Combine all ingredients and toss together in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight for best results. Garnish with cilantro if desired.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pancetta Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Pancetta, Mozzarella and roasted red peppers fill these lightly breaded chicken breasts. Combined with just a spritz of lemon juice,  these somewhat ordinary ingredients create something special.

Tips:
  • Pancetta can be found pre-diced in most grocery stores near the deli section. You can also ask the deli to give you a 1/4 pound of thick cut pancetta if you can't find the pre-diced.
  • Bacon can be used in place of Pancetta.
  • Roasted red peppers are usually found near pickles and banana peppers if you want to buy them already roasted.
  • Make sure to slice your Mozzarella thin. Otherwise rolling up the chicken will be a difficult task.
  • A basil leaf can also be added to the "filling" or diced basil to the breadcrumbs for extra flavor.
  • Don't skip the lemon juice, it really brightens the dish and adds a note of citrus that just enhances all of the flavors.


Pancetta Stuffed Chicken Breasts

3lbs boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
1/3 cup pancetta, diced
6oz Mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
1/3 cup roasted red peppers, diced or thinly sliced
1 stick butter, melted
Juice of 1 lemon, divided
1 1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
salt and pepper

In a small skillet, saute the diced pancetta until crispy.  Drain on a paper towel. Lay pounded out chicken breasts flat and layer sliced mozzarella, roasted red peppers and pancetta onto each piece of chicken. Going length ways, tightly roll up each chicken breast and secure with a toothpick or skewer.
In a large bowl combine melted butter and the juice of half a lemon. In a seperate bowl, combine breadcrumbs, parsley and salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Dip each chicken roll-up into butter then dip into breadcrumb mixture.  Place in a lightly greased baking dish. Drizzle any excess butter over top of chicken (will help breadcrumbs to brown). Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until juices run clear. Remove from oven and spritz with the juice from the remaining half a lemon. Remove toothpicks before serving.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Strawberry-Watermelon Slushes

Summer weather is upon us and the heat can be oppressing.  I know I will spend the next few months wilting like a delicate flower in the Texas sun.  If you think I'm being over-dramatic, try being around me in late July when the non-stop complaining and Scarlett O'Hara like attitude really kicks in!  I'm a cold weather girl through and through, always waiting for Autumn's welcoming embrace. Until then, I try to keep cool with fruit smoothies/slushes.  I make them several times a week during the Summer. I even  have one waiting for my husband when he comes in from mowing the yard. Not so much because I'm a caring wife, but because it's a good excuse to make myself one as well!

I'll be putting a few different recipes for slushes up over the next couple of months but this is one of my favorites.  It's simplicity and cool summer flavors can't be beat.



Strawberry-Watermelon Slushes

1 cup Strawberries, sliced
1 cup Watermelon, cubed and seeded
1 cup Pineapple juice
2 1/2 cups ice

In a blender, combine sliced strawberries and cubed watermelon. Pulse several times until the fruit is pureed. Pour in pineapple juice and pulse again to blend. Add ice and pulse until ice is crushed and well blended with drink mixture.

Friday, June 4, 2010

PieDay Friday-Mocha Caramel Toffee Pie

As I mentioned last week I came up with the idea for this pie for my brother-in-law, Kevin's birthday. I eventually ended up making 2 of these pies. One for Kevin to take home and one for me to sample. Unfortunately Kevin got the first pie, the "Test" pie as it were. The first thing I did wrong was not tempering the eggs enough before adding them to the hot filling. I tempered them, just not enough. The filling wasn't as smooth as I imagined it would be, but figured it would smooth out once it cooled.

I continued with the process and just when I was ready to pour the filling into the pie crust I noticed several crumbs on the bottom of the crust. I decided I would get them out first and tilted the pan over the sink to tap the loose crumbs out. Of course I tilted too much and the entire crust goes tumbling into my wet sink.
I began to panic, and did a quick inventory of my pantry trying to determine if I had the ingredients to make another chocolate cookie crust. I didn't. I had some Graham cracker crumbs and could make a Graham cracker crust, but that just wouldn't work. I came to the conclusion that I was going to have to go out and either buy a new crust or the ingredients to make my own.
During this entire time by the way, my pie filling is still sitting in a very warm saucepan, continuing to cook. Once I realized that fact, I poured the hot filling into a bowl and stuck in the refrigerator. I ran to the nearest store as quickly as I could, which isn't that quick since I live in a "new-ish" development on the outskirts of town. 

I returned home ready to finish preparing the pie. I pulled the filling out of the refrigerator and went to pour it into my newly purchased chocolate cookie crust. Nothing happened. The pudding/custard like filling had firmed rather swiftly while I was away, thanks to my under-tempering the eggs, and had conformed to the shape of the bowl. I used a spatula to release it from the bowl and it landed in the center of the crust, making a nice "plopping" sound. I spread it out in the crust, still concerned about the texture but being that it was now 11:30 at night, there wasn't much more I could do.

I brought Keving the pie and he took it home. I have assumed the worst and imagine the filling was a gelatinous glob that couldn't have been too good. I'm sure it tasted fine, but the texture was just unappealing.

A few days later I made a second pie, for myself to try out. I made sure I had 2 extra crusts, just in case and that my eggs were well tempered. The filling turned out silky smooth and the pie was amazing. My husband said it was like a dessert you would find at Disney World, the highest compliment he can give! Someday when the spirits of Harpo Marx and Lucy Ricardo aren't inhabiting my body, I hope to make Kevin another pie. As a spoon goes flying out of my hand and hits me in the forehead, the bottom of the salt shaker pops out right over tonight's dinner and I slip in puddle of water I spilled a few minutes ago, I  realize it might be a little while.




















Tips:
  • Make your own caramel sauce or use store bought. After all my troubles I used Harry and David's Caramel Cream Sauce. It was perfection (thanks Kim!)
  • I bought my espresso powder at William's Sonoma, though other stores carry it as well.
  • Don't let the long list of ingredients and multitude of directions fool you. This pie is easy to make (if you're not me on a bad night) and only takes about 20-30 minutes of actual work, the rest of the time it's chilling in the refrigerator.
  • Temper your eggs thoroughly!
  • Anything less than whole milk won't work. The pudding just won't set up firm enough.


Mocha Caramel Toffee Pie

1 chocolate cookie crust
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoon espresso powder
2 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups whole milk or half and half
4 egg yolks
1 oz semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1/4 cup Kahlua
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup caramel sauce (click link for recipe or use store bought)
1 recipe for Toffee Whipped Cream, recipe below

Pie Filling:
In a medium saucepan stir together cornstarch, sugar, espresso powder, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk in milk and cook over medium-high heat. Once mixture begins to boil and thicken, remove from heat. In a small bowl, lightly beat egg yolks and temper by slowly adding 4 tablespoons of hot mixture 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously. Whisk egg mixture into saucepan and return to heat. Bring to a boil and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Remove from heat Slowly pour melted chocolate, Kahlua and vanilla into saucepan. Stirring to combine. Add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each tablespoon to melt before adding the next.  Allow mixture to cool for 3-5 minutes and pour into prepared crust. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or until set.  Once filling is set, pour caramel sauce over top of pie and spread to edges (it's easier to spread if slightly warm). Return to refrigerator for 2-3 hours to let caramel firm up. Top with Toffee Whipped Cream and serve chilled.


  
Toffee Whipped Cream

1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup marshmallow cream, optional
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup toffee pieces

In a large, chilled mixing bowl beat/whip the cream until thick and peaks stand on their own. Beat in marshmallow cream, sugar and vanilla (add more sugar if desired). Once combined, gently fold in toffee pieces.



Thursday, June 3, 2010

Caramel Sauce

This recipe comes from Ina Garten and the Food Network. It's perfect as an ice cream topping, spooned over an angel food cake or to use in various recipes.

Tips:
  • Add more cream for a creamier, more spreadable consistency

Caramel Sauce

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/3 cup water
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Mix the water and sugar in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cover and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a medium brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Watch it carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly. Stand back to avoid splattering, and gradually add the cream and the vanilla. Simmer until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Serve warm, or add another 1/4 cup of heavy cream and serve room temperature.
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