Thursday, May 2, 2013

Pro-Tip: Boxed Brownie

Okay, I know I already posted today, but I just had to share.

Today, I made brownies. Not for any special reason, except that the boxed mix in my cupboard was just past expiration so I thought I ought to use it.

I also had a half-used package of toffee bit left over from last holiday's Bake-All-The-Things adventures. I prepared the mix per the box, and folded in the remaining package (about a scant cup) just before pouring the whole thing into the prepared greased pan.

The end result is delicious. Rich, yet still simple without the mess of cream cheese or spooning peanut butter into the batter. Added benefit of using up odds from the pantry. Downside: now I have to eat a pan of brownies. Luckily the Hubster likes them, so he can bring them to work. I can't wait to be back in an office where I can pawn these things off on my coworkers...

Caramel Week: Red Wine Caramel Sauce

Welcome back for my second recipe as part of Caramel Week!

Truth: caramel making always made me super nervous. The molten sugar? The burning? The crystalizing? Cleaning?!? No thanks. Obviously I was missing out on some crazy mouth parties.

I've seen a great many fruit-flavored caramels, and several booze caramels, but it wasn't until I had a half a bottle of red lying around (trust me - a rarity) that I wondered if I could combine that with caramel. Yes - it took booze to help me take the risk of making a caramel sauce. And I don't mind telling you that I failed THREE TIMES before I finished. But when I did...

So worth it. First I tried cooking a simple caramel before adding wine and butter... but without the fat to bind to the sugars, I got lumps of sugar in my wine. The second time, I tried a recipe without water in the sugar, it didn't melt - I just got a giant disc of hard sugar. The third time burned (from amber to burned in the blink of an eye). 

But the third time, I finally had it figured out. First the wine was reduced by half while being infused with a little bit of vanilla bean. Then, and a basic caramel was started (sugar with a little water). Then, the wine was added to the cooked caramel - the reduction helped create a homogynized mixture. A little cream, butter, and grey sea salt finished off the sauce. The dark wine (I happened to have malbec on hand) created a very deep flavor despite not creating a very deep caramel color. The final texture is somewhere between "pourable" and "spreadable". It would be great in pie, dipped with fruit, licked off fingers... really anything.

Be sure to check out the other caramel week contributors, as well!

  • Friday--Country Cleaver-Pear Caramel Mini CheesecakesMunching in the Mitten-Caramel Cake

  • Red Wine Caramel Sauce
    Adapted from

    1/2 Vanilla Bean, halfed lengthwise and scraped
    1 cup red wine (I used malbec, but about anything would do)
    1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
    1/4 cup water
    2 Tbls butter
    2 Tbls heavy cream
    Pinch grey sea salt
    1.  Add the vanilla bean pod and scrapings into a small saucepan. Add the wine. Simmer over Medium-Low heat until reduced by about half (mine took ~10 minutes).
    2. Meanwhile, add the sugar and water to a separate pan. Stir to dissolve. Over Medium-High heat, melt the sugar until it forms a pale amber color - it will continue to deepen as you remove it from the heat.
    3. Remove the pods from the wine reduction discard. Add the wine to the caramel by pouring it down the side of the pan. Stir thoroughly to combine. Add the butter until melted and combined. Finish with the cream. Add a heavy pinch of grey sea salt (to taste, of course).
    4. Pour into a mason jar to cool. Will stay about 1 week in the refrigerator.