Cinnamon Sugar Crackers

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There’s a large grocery store chain back in the Mitten that when I was growing up, sold their own generic brand of products that they would sell alongside the name-brand stuff. It wasn’t so very different from the name brand, and you could get just about anything. And believe me, we certainly did (it being the cheaper option and all).

One of the things I remember that my mom would get for us from this grocery store’s line of products were these cookie/crackers that the chain sold in the snack aisle. They came in an orange bag and were marketed as butter-flavored animal shaped cookies. But since, they were on the thin side, I always thought of them as crackers. They were SO delicious.

For whatever reason that still irritates me to this day, the product was discontinued. I haven’t seen it in years and there’s not even a trace of them left on the internet (which is how you KNOW they’re not coming back anytime soon). Nothing I’ve seen sold in stores since has ever replicated them in appearance or taste.

Isn’t that just the worst? Sometimes I wonder where the recipe for those crackers is now; shoved away somewhere at the bottom of a drawer in some corporate office, never to see the light of day again. And who was the genius who made the call to stop selling them in the first place? I want the name of their supervisor so I can write in a strongly worded complaint. Such a waste.

I mentioned before in my last few posts that I’d started in on a kind of cracker-making spree. When my first attempt turned out great, I started experimenting with a bunch of other recipes that I knew I would eventually get around to sharing on the blog. It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes I’ll make something that I end up liking SO much, that I almost immediately want to make it again–just to have plenty of it. Sometimes, I don’t even want to share it. I just want it all to myself.

That’s what happened here.

I tried this recipe on a whim. I had all the ingredients on hand, plus I made some additions/modifications of my own that I thought would make it taste a bit better, but I wasn’t expecting anything *huge* to come from it.

So, imagine my surprise when I tasted one and was immediately transported back to my childhood, reminded of the delicious butter cookies/crackers in the orange bag from the supermarket’s generic knock-off line.

Are they 100% the same? No. They’re (if I may say so myself), actually an improvement. Te vanilla in the dough gives them a wonderful aroma as they’re baking. The cinnamon and nutmeg is noticeable, but not overpowering. Besides the flavor, the texture of these is what I love best about it; it’s a tender crumb that still has that perfect amount of snap that gives it the ‘cracker’ feel. Then, the coarse sugar topping gives it a pleasant crunch to compliment the cracker itself.

I was SO impressed/thrilled/greedy with how these turned out that as soon as the first batch of these were done cooling, I was already washing out my dishes and getting all the ingredients back together again to make another. This is a very easy and forgiving dough; I just stuck with regular squares, but I think they will hold just about ANY shape, so if you have cookie cutters and want to make these with kids, I’d say anything will go & work.

I’m sure that that recipe for the discontinued butter cookie/crackers is out there somewhere; but I think that this one is a very easy and delicious substitute. So take that, processed food corporate execs.

Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #169, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Elaine @ Foodbod.

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Cinnamon Sugar Crackers

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dry powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, plus 1/8 teaspoon
  • 1 egg white
  • Extra flour for dusting
  • 1 heaping tablespoon coarse sugar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer, (or using a handheld one) cream together the butter and sugar with the dry powdered milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking soda. It doesn’t have to be light and fluffy, just combined.

With the mixer still running, drizzle in the vanilla. Add the egg white little by little alternately with the flour until dough just comes together. Don’t overmix.

Gather together into a ball, shape into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the freezer for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dust a clean work surface with flour. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Roll the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. Run a metal spatula underneath the dough as you roll and turn it out to make sure it doesn’t stick, sprinkling with additional flour if necessary.  Use a cookie cutter or bench scraper to cut out the dough into crackers. Place the crackers on the baking sheets and freeze for about 20 minutes.

Using the tines of a fork, evenly prick holes through the dough. In a small bowl, combine the coarse sugar, brown sugar, a dash of cinnamon and the 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Lightly sprinkle this on top of the crackers.

Bake for 12-13 minutes until just beginning to brown at the edges. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Crackers

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A few weeks back, I shared my first attempt at making crackers with you guys. They were a huge hit with my taste buds, and because they were just so easy to put together, I said that it made me enter into a cracker-making spree for the next few weeks or so where I tried out several other flavors & recipes.

You didn’t think I was playing, right? I’ve definitely tried like…three different cracker recipes and probably made close to about 100 since then. I’ve loved them all. And now, you guys are going to love them too. Trust me on that.

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So I did a quick Google Shopping search and as it turns out, pumpkin cinnamon flavored crackers are something that aren’t exactly in huge supply from the major cracker name brand producers. Triscuits has a limited edition Pumpkin Spice flavored Triscuit that they put out, but it’s a limited edition release that only gets exposure at, you guessed it: autumn.

It’s not autumn right now though. And suppose you’re like me and want to cure that pumpkin spice itch now and don’t feel like waiting for August?

I’ll tell you what you’re going to do: you’re going to make these and thank me later.

And if any one of you start to object and say that making your own crackers is too hard, time-consuming and a waste of effort–just…hush. Making crackers from scratch is actually simple. It’s worth it, guys. It really is. We’ve established that already with these curry and ginger crackers. That was my first attempt, it was a success, and to this day I still don’t know what took me so long to start doing this for myself.

It gets a bad rap from being so mass marketed in the fall, but I love pumpkin spice baked goods and there’s not a person who can make me feel bad about it.

A few tips: I used a teddy bear cookie cutter I had, but you can feel free to use any shape you like. You could even just cut them out into rough squares with a pizza cutter if you want, just don’t skip the step of pricking your shapes with the fork. You need the holes in the dough to help the heat circulate through the dough as it bakes and for air/steam to escape it, which will help them to crisp up better and avoid air pockets in the crackers themselves.

If you have a broiling pan, I’ve found that the top tray with the slats works REALLY WELL for baking crackers, even better than normal cookie sheets. The holes in the pan help the heat circulate better through the dough and nowadays, it’s my go to for them in general.

These are, of  course, ready to eat just as soon as they’re given time to cool crisp up, but I’ve found that the flavor does improve after they’ve sat for a few days. So if you can possibly help it and be patient, I’d put the cooled crackers in an air tight jar or bowl for about 2 days, then come back to them and go ham.

They’re not overly sweet as I wanted the flavor of the pumpkin and spices to come through, but you can always add about a tablespoon or two of extra sugar if you’re making them for kiddies or you just have an extra large sweet tooth yourself.

Oh, and yes: they are very yummy. I may or may have had trouble with portion control when eating them. I couldn’t possibly confirm, though.

Linking this post up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #164, co-hosted this week by the lovely  Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Pumpkin Cinnamon Crackers

Recipe Adapted from Pearls on a String

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Ingredients

  • One cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • Two teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon (plus more for sprinkling)
  • Pinch cloves
  • One tablespoon brown sugar
  • Four tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • One cup pureed pumpkin (from the can is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Coarse turbinado sugar for sprinkling

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and mix together with a fork. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a handheld one) beat the butter together with the pumpkin and vanilla extract until evenly combined (it’s fine if there are still bits of butter showing).

Slowly add in the dry ingredients. Switch to the dough hook and continue to beat until a ball of dough forms (it shouldn’t take very long)

Mold the dough ball into a thin disc, wrap the disc in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for about 30-45 minutes. Prepare 2 baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sprinkle a clean work surface  (like wax paper or a pastry mat) with flour, and flour a rolling pin as well. Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a small cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out desired shapes for crackers and place the crackers on the prepared parchment paper baking sheets. Place the baking sheets in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes.

Using the tines of a fork, prick the crackers evenly, pressing through the dough to make holes. Sprinkle the tops with the coarse turbinado sugar. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. (You can bake them longer for extra crunchy crackers, just be sure to cover them with foil so that they don’t get too browned or burn.)

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Curry and Ginger Crackers

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I know what you all are thinking.

Crackers. This chick actually took the trouble to make crackers? Like, from scratch?

But…why? For what? There are grocery stores with entire aisles of shelves holding droves and droves of crackers. Good ones. Some, *really* good. So, what is even the point of this post?

I can explain. Not only the why and how of me taking the trouble to make crackers, but why they’re actually something that I think YOU should be taking the trouble to make for yourself as well.

The first reason is that they’re actually not hard to make at all. They come together VERY quickly, the ingredients are not only minimal, they’re ALL recognizable and easy to pronounce–something that can’t be said of many of the mass produced popular name brand crackers out there.

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A few weeks ago, I started making my own ginger syrup. I’ve been drinking water diluted with lemon juice and the ginger syrup to ease some digestive issues that I’ve had for a while; the stuff really works. Maybe I’ll get around to sharing the ‘recipe’ to that one of these days, but the main takeaway for today’s is that to make the syrup I would simmer raw ginger slices in water and sugar until their flavor infused the syrup. The ginger was ‘candied’ by the syrup, then I rolled it in some white sugar and let it chill out in the fridge overnight. Voila: crystallized ginger that comes MUCH cheaper than the pricey stuff in the spice aisle.

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There are many things you can do with crystallized ginger, most involving a dessert of some kind.  My first instincts before resolving to make a cake or gingerbread or something like that, was to see if there was something else I could do with it using the ingredients that were already in my house as opposed to buying extra stuff. A quick scanning of the index of my King Arthur Flour cookbook brought me to this recipe. I’d never made crackers before, but the instructions did look very easy to follow, the flavor combination was intriguing and finally I figured hey…I hadn’t done it before, after all. Why not?

I’ll be upfront with you guys: besides these, I’ve already made 3 OTHER cracker recipes in the last few weeks. This is NOT the last you’ve seen of my homemade cracker endeavors. I’m kinda hooked on it. That’s how much I liked these.

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Look, I know they’re far from pretty. This WAS my first time. I’ve gotten better with practice, but for these, I just cut them out in haphazard shapes with a pizza cutter. But that’s the thing: the recipe is so easy to follow and hard to mess up that you can cut these out however the heck you want, and it won’t make a lick of difference because they’re just so damn tasty. The combination of the ginger with the curry powder is a match made in Heaven: it’s a perfect blend of sweet & balanced spice. There’s a kick in the aftertaste for sure, but it’s a subtle one that’s quite pleasant. ANDAND! Ginger and turmeric are natural remedies for upset stomach/nausea. Sooooo, how cool would it be to have these around for an absolutely delicious alternative to plain ol’ saltines? I’m pretty sure this is a cracker you can’t find on just any grocery store shelf anywhere–and in my humble opinion, these can compete with the best of them. Just saying.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #154. Have a great weekend everyone.

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Curry and Ginger Crackers

Recipe Courtesy of King Arthur Flour Baking Companion

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups (8 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup crystallized/candied ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • About 6 tablespoons cold water
  • Coarse sugar or salt, optional

 

Directions 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a blender or food processor, combine 1 cup of the flour and candied ginger. Process until the ginger is very finely diced.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour-ginger mixture, the rest of the flour, salt, curry powder, turmeric, sugar and cayenne pepper if using. Cut in the butter using a fork, working it into the dry ingredients until the mixture forms small and even crumbs. Add enough of the water to form a smooth, workable dough.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces and roll each out to a flatness of about 1/8 inch thick. Using a pizza cutter, a bench scraper or a sharp knife, cut the dough into squares and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Freeze the crackers for about 15 minutes. Using the tines of a fork, prick the crackers evenly, pressing down all the way through to make holes. Sprinkle with either the coarse salt or sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until they’re a very light golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Popcorn Graham Cracker Toffee

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So you guys want to hear a pretty fun fact about my niece? She’s three years old and she already has an all-time favorite movie.

And nope. It’s not “Frozen”. (Thank God. She certainly loves Frozen but we’ve been given a temporary reprieve from Elsa and Anna for a long while now. I’d be fine if they made that reprieve permanent as well, but that’s probably wishful thinking).

Surprisingly, it’s also not one of the Pixar films like “Finding Nemo” “The Incredibles” or “Toy Story” (Come to think of it, I can’t remember right now if she’s EVER seen any of the Toy Story movies, which means I am majorly failing in one crucial aspect of my auntie duties.)

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There’s no point in me telling you guys to try and guess what her favorite movie is. You won’t guess. No way. This is NOT what you would think a typical three year old girl’s favorite movie would be. Kinda like…the exact opposite.

But we’ve all accepted long ago that my niece just isn’t a typical three year old and by now this is just normal to us.

Ok, so….her favorite movie?

Its’s “Jurassic Park”. Yeah. the ACTUAL “Jurassic Park” movie.

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See the thing is, my brother in law got her started on LOVING all things that have to do with dinosaurs. From there she graduated from playing with figurines to actually being able to sit through and be entertained by the actual movies with them. I have no idea why a tyrannosaurus rex doesn’t scare the living daylights out of a three year old. I’m pretty sure it would’ve scared the living daylights out of THIS girl when she was three.

But like I said: she’s not a typical three year old. And she loves the movie….to the point where she likes to watch it preeeeetty much every day. Seriously.

I have seen “Jurassic Park” so many times in the last year that I’m sick of it.

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What does “Jurassic Park” have to do with this post?

Well, there’s a scene in the move where the character Dennis Nedry is getting ready to try and sneak the dinosaur embryos off the island and in order to do so, he has to come up with a “believable” excuse for why he has to leave the control room of the park and shut off all the security systems so that he can leave undetected. He goes into this hilarious nervous rambling about going to the vending machine for something salty since he’s only had something sweet. I thought about that scene when I was making this recipe, since it’s a pretty good combination of both sweet and salty flavors.

Actually, correction: it’s an AMAZING combination of both sweet and salty flavors.

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I’ve made a recipe similar to this one before for the second year of the 12 Days of Christmas series on the blog; the main difference there with that toffee bark was that it was missing the extra add-ins that we see here. I’m pleased to announce that today’s recipe is actually a vast improvement. I first saw this on Bon Appetit and when I saw the list of ingredients, decided to go ahead and make my own modifications to it for my own personal tastes:

First, instead of using regular peanuts I went ahead and used the honey roasted variety, since those are a perfect mixture of sweet/salty all on their own. I also used cinnamon flavored graham crackers, as I do tend to prefer them to regular honey. However since having done this I CAN also see chocolate flavored graham crackers being a VERY delicious swap for choco-holics. I also made a note below regarding the sugar syrup mixture that gets poured over the add-ins before baking; if you prefer a very gooey toffee then I recommend you checking it out and reading the whole recipe before beginning.

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Look, I don’t have to sell you guys on this stuff, right?

You’ve got eyes. Use your “imaginatory” tastes buds to just stop and think about what this stuff would taste like: honey roasted peanuts, salty popcorn, cinnamon graham crackers, rice cereal that are all stuck together in a candy-toffee bite. It’s some SERIOUSLY addictive stuff.

Basically, it’s Moose Munch on steroids. And who doesn’t want some of that? Boom.

Happy Fiesta Friday #123, co-hosted this week by  Margy @ La Petite Casserole and Linda @ La Petite Paniere.

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Popcorn Graham Cracker Toffee

Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit

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Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 15 cinnamon graham crackers
  • 4 cups popped popcorn (from ¼ cup kernels)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped salted, honey roasted peanuts
  • ¾ cup puffed rice cereal
  • cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter*
  • ¾ cup sugar*
  • 1 cup chopped semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips (about 6 oz.)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with nonstick spray. Arrange graham crackers in a single layer on baking sheet, breaking to fit as needed to cover entire surface. Top with popcorn, peanuts, and puffed rice.

Bring butter and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Once boiling, stir once, then reduce heat and simmer, swirling occasionally, until mixture is golden brown and syrupy, 8–10 minutes.
Pour toffee mixture evenly over graham crackers and popcorn mixture. Bake until toffee is slightly darkened in color (the shade of a brown paper bag) and bubbling, 10–12 minutes. Remove from oven and evenly top with chocolate.
Turn the oven off, then return pan inside, just long enough to let the chocolate chips start to begin to melt and get gooey.Remove baking sheet from oven and using a fork or butter knife, begin to swirl and smear the softened chocolate so that it ‘sticks’ to the popcorn/peanuts/rice cereal.
Let cool in baking sheet before breaking into pieces. You can also place the sheet in the fridge for about 30 minutes or so to harden faster.
*This recipe I found created JUST enough boiled sugar syrup to cover the ingredients, with a few loose leaf pieces escaping after they cooled. This was fine with me, but if you personally prefer a ‘gooier’ texture to your toffee, then I do recommend doubling the sugar syrup mixture. You’ll probably have a little bit of extra, but better extra than not enough.

English Tea Farthing Biscuits

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About a few months ago I got hooked on a show that popped up in the Recently Added queue of my Netflix account called The Great British Bake Off. I’d vaguely heard of it before then but didn’t really know the specifics. The amount of competitive cooking shows I like to watch is typically limited to just three: Top Chef, Chopped and The Taste. Other than that I tend to think that they too greatly resemble game shows with too many reality-show style theatrics. However, because I was bored and because it had a 4.5 star rating I figured it was worth viewing an episode or two.

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The show is a HUGE hit in the UK, having already gone through multiple seasons already and after only watching one episode, I totally understand why. There are no frills, flares or bells & whistles on the GBB. Filming takes place in a tent in the English countryside where the amateur bakers perform a combination of signature challenges where they can make a dish of their own, technical challenges of recipes that are considered ‘standard’ in baking, then showpiece recipes where they can give their own fancy interpretations to a loose guideline of a particular baking dish. It’s an incredibly simplistic show, yet for a baking enthusiast it’s completely enthralling.

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So you can imagine my disappointment when after finishing the season that was posted on Netflix, I saw that there were no additional ones put there. It’s been several months since Netflix put the one season up and no additional ones have been added since then. This pisses me off.

I’m not ready for it  to be over. If other people in the world could get more of GBB, then why shouldn’t I just because I live in America? How’s that even fair? Where’s the justice in that?

I demand equality.

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All I’ve had to console myself with the fact that I’m not getting more seasons and episodes of the GBB is that I can always rewatch what I do have on Netflix–which, I of course have been doing. I’ve also discovered since then that PBS has posted a number of the recipes from the season I watched on their website for the public to try out for themselves.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited when I found that out. My Pinterest board was very active that day.

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The word ‘biscuits’ actually have somewhat of a different meaning for Americans than it does for the British, or even elsewhere in general. When I first hear ‘biscuits’ I think of the thick, flaky, bready, fluffy things my grandma makes that I get to slather in butter, jam and sometimes syrup for breakfast. However, elsewhere ‘biscuits’ are actually another word for a kind of crisp and/or tender cookie or cracker that gets eaten alongside some tea or hot chocolate.

One of my favorite episodes from the season on Netflix (which was actually Season 5 in Britain) was the second one where the focus for the week was Biscuits. For the signature challenge, each one of the contestants had to make their own rendition of a Biscuit. There were lots of creative renditions shown that round but interestingly enough, the ones that caught my particular attention were the simplest of the bunch. They’re made with little more than flour, butter and a little bit of sugar but they still looked just delicious to me.

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I pinned it to my Pinterest recipe board and this past week I decided to try it out for myself. There is I think both good news and bad news about how my biscuits turned out.

First the bad: even though I rolled them out as thin as the recipe instructs, for some reason when these hit the oven they started to puff up and thicken, which ultimately affected how long I could bake them without letting them get too brown while trying to get them ‘crisp’. I do think they could’ve taken a bit more time in the hot box, but I wasn’t in the mood for burned biscuits. Next time maybe I could think about rolling them ‘paper thin’ and seeing if that makes them bake at the right thickness, or just leaving them in the oven longer.

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The next point isn’t necessarily a negative, but it is something of note. These bake up VERY tender and buttery but upon tasting them all on their own, the overall flavor is very…subtle. If you’re eating them alongside some tea or coffee then I think this is fine. They’d even be GREAT with some jam or preserves smeared on top. However, at the last second I decided to take half of this particular batch and ‘jazz it up’ so to speak with a quick chocolate dip that I then sprinkled with nuts. It was just what they needed, I thought, but if you tend to like your biscuits less sweet you’ll probably like these exactly the way that they are. I also made some recommendations in my rendition of the recipe for some additional flavor profiles I think would be tasty.

Happy Fiesta Friday #114, where I’ll be taking my biscuits for anyone who’s in the mood for a spot of tea 😉 Thanks to Angie and her co-host for this week: the lovely Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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English Tea Farthing Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from The Great British Baking Show

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Ingredients

For Biscuits

  • 225g (8 oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 225g (8 oz) self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
  • 85g (3 oz) lightly salted butter, plus extra to serve
  • 85g (3 oz) lard
  • 1 tsp of vanilla, lemon, orange or almond extract (optional)
  • 1 tsp orange or lemon zest (optional)

Chocolate Dip

  • 1 cup diced pecans or walnuts, crushed
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

For the biscuits:

 Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Rub in butter and lard so that mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add just enough cold water (and the extracts and zest if using) to bring the mixture together to form a stiff dough (about 5-6 tablespoons). Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a thickness just less than a £1 coin.

Using a 9cm (3½ in) round cutter cut out biscuits from the dough. Prick the top of the biscuits all over to decorate, leaving a plain 5mm/¼in border around the edge.

Transfer to wire racks or baking mesh. Place the racks/mesh on baking trays. Sprinkle with the extra sugar, then bake for 14-16 minutes, or until the biscuits are dry but not browned. Set aside to cool completely.  If eating plain, then serve the biscuits with chilled butter or jam.

If using Chocolate Dip:

Heat chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a glass measuring cup, then stir with a spoon until smooth.

Spread the chocolate dip over the biscuits, then sprinkle with nuts.

Set on a wire rack and allow for the dip to set.

Gingerbread Caramel Crunch

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It’s Day 3 of the 12 Days of Christmas series and before I get into today’s recipe, I’d just like to take a brief moment to thank all of you so much for your kind words regarding my Springerle and Speculaas cookies, I really do appreciate them. I put a lot of work into pulling those ones off (wasn’t sure if I could in the days leading up to baking them to be honest) and I think that they’re going to probably be my favorite of the whole series this year.

Having said that, here’s to hoping that the rest of the series measures up and doesn’t disappoint.

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One thing about cranking out twelve posts of Christmas goodies is that you do learn to get creative with choosing recipes to make- especially when you’re trying to avoid having to JUST share cookie recipes for a Christmas-themed series.

Not to say that there’s anything wrong with cookies. There’s definitely more cookies coming in the series, I can promise you that.

But still, I still like to shake things up for you guys, and in order to do that, I’ve had to try out several new things in the kitchen I’d never attempted before. Most of have worked out very nicely for me so far.

(…most. There’s always the exception, but who wants to hear about that?)

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For last year’s 12 Days of Christmas, I put out two recipes of hand-rolled popcorn balls, but this post marked my first forage into the process of making caramel corn, which is somewhat different- and as it’s less labor intensive than popcorn balls, I also found it easier to do in general.

I got my first taste of caramel corn (and was subsequently a life long fan) through the classic Cracker Jack boxes. You know, the kind where a prize still came in the box. (Side note: do they still even MAKE those anymore?) However, I do have to say that nowadays in the sporadic times that I do eat it, it usually comes in a holiday gift basket set of some kind. The commercial brands that sell caramel corn are..meh. Average.

With the notable exception of Crunch n’ Munch. Their Butterscotch Toffee caramel corn is OMGAWD delicious and I dare anyone to fight me on that.

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I guess now the question would be raised: well Jess, seeing as how there are SO many options to get caramel corn out there, especially during the holiday season, why would anyone want to make their own caramel corn?

The answer is quite simple, grasshopper.

Sure, you can buy regular old caramel corn practically ANYWHERE nowadays. Some of it may even be good.

BUT, can you buy Gingerbread flavored caramel corn?

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I thought not. And now that I’ve got your attention, let’s get into the schematics of the recipes itself:

I did make stove top popcorn rather than the bagged microwave type. It tastes better, and also, this recipe calls for 14 cups (which would require quite a few bags depending on the brand you use).

Making caramel from scratch over the stove scares a lot of people. I get that. I used to be scared of it too. And to be honest, to this day it still makes me a little nervous every time that I do it for a recipe.

However, this one’s pretty much as easy as “from scratch caramel” can possibly get. It won’t require you to monitor the temperature or do the “water”test. It won’t really require you to much at all besides stirring it for those first few minutes. After it comes to a boil, you leave it alone for just 5 minutes, then take it off the heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. After that, you just pour the stuff over the popcorn and pop it in the oven for an hour.

And that’s it. No drama. No tears.

Gingerbread Caramel Crunch5

You see what you get for your efforts?

The first taste you’re going to be able to sense is the deep, rich flavor of the molasses in the caramel- especially if you did like I did and used dark brown sugar rather than light. The ginger flavor comes in towards the end, but it’s definitely there. If I had any suggestions for improving this recipe, it might be to add a tad more ginger, about 1/4 tsp of cloves and maybe even some pecans for added texture- but that’s nitpicking, honestly. All in all I, was still VERY satisfied with how this turned out.

Guys, this stuff is GOOD. You know what’s going to happen when you make this? I’ll tell you.

You’re gonna take that first bite…nod….say “Mmm…..then promptly reach down and take another bite. And another. And another.

(And if you’re anything like me, you’l tell yourself that those extra bites were strictly for quality control to make sure you made it right. Which you did. Of course.)

I’m taking me and my big ol’ bowl of Gingerbread Caramel Corn to this week’s Fiesta Friday #98, co-hosted by Sadhna @ Herbs, Spices, and Traditions and Natalie @ Kitchen, uncorked.

12 Days of Christmas Banner Second

Day 1: Springerle Cookies

Day 2: Speculaas Cookies

Day 3: Gingerbread Caramel Crunch

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Gingerbread Caramel Crunch

Recipe Courtesy of Taste of Home Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 14 cups hot, air popped popcorn
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions

Place popcorn in a large bowl coated with cooking spray; set aside. Butter the sides of a small heavy saucepan; add the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, molasses, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring for 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat; stir in baking soda (mixture will foam). Stir in vanilla. Quickly pour over popcorn and mix well.

Transfer to two greased 15x10x1-in. baking pans. Bake at 250° for 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from pans and place on waxed paper to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Baklawa

Baklava1

Over the course of the past several years since I started cooking for myself I’ve built up a collection of different recipes and foods that are on a little thing I call my Cooking Bucket List. I’m sure many of you have ones of your own. They’re really just a list of foods that have yet to actually attempt making for myself but are still very interested in trying out….y’know, before I, kick the bucket.

Baklava2

Some of these recipes (like souffle, candy or from scratch pastry cream) are rather complicated, which is the main reason why I haven’t tried them yet- having a fear that I’ll somehow mess it up and waste my time and the ingredients. Others (like standard ice cream, the Momufoku Milk Bar birthday cake,  require me to have to make a purchase of some other kind of something that I don’t have ‘just’ to make this particular recipe. I’m not the most frugal person in the world but I’m also hesitant to go out and splurge on an ice cream machine or shop online for baker’s ammonia or acetate strips when I know I don’t ‘need’ to make something.

Baklava3

Those are the first two types of recipes on my Cooking Bucket List. The third type, I’ve really got no fancy-dancy explanation for; they’re recipes and foods that wouldn’t really put me out of my way to make at all. They’re there, because I’m lazy and simply just haven’t gotten around to trying them out yet.

Today’s post was one of those.

Baklawa is one of my favorite Middle Eastern foods and one of my overall favorite treats in general. There’s a Middle Eastern deli nearby where I live that makes delicious baklawa, but I’ve still wanted to try it out for myself for years.

Baklava5

There are several markets in my area that sell Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine ingredients so I was able to find orange blossom water pretty easily for a fairly inexpensive price. I’d never heard of it before this and from what I understand, just a little bit goes a LONG way. So as a side note, if any of you know of any recipes using orange blossom water besides baklawa, I now have a nearly full bottle of it just sitting on a shelf that I don’t really know what else to do with- if you happen to have any suggestions, I’m all ears.

Baklava4

Now look guys, I know my first attempt at baklawa ain’t exactly the Belle of the Ball. It’s not as pretty as I would’ve wanted it to be and clearly my fillo layering skills could use some practice. But it was my first time and all, so cut me some slack.

And in any case, the taste more than made up for the presentation, I can guarantee you.

The fillo cooked up nice, crisp and golden brown. The recipe gives two options for how to handle the syrup: I chose the option of pouring the cooled syrup over hot baklawa right after I took it out of the oven, but doing it vice versa is an option as well. Whatever works for you.

So yeah: that’s one item off my Cooking Bucket List. I guess now I have to go back and pick  another to make. But first, guess I can share some of my Baklawa with the folks at this week’s Fiesta Friday #88, co-hosted this week by  Julie @ Hostess At Heart and Liz @ spades, spatulas & spoons.

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Baklawa

Recipe Courtesy of Kibbee ’n’ Spice and Everything Nice

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Ingredients

  • 2 packages of fillo dough

Filling

  • 2 lbs. walnuts
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. orange blossom water
  • 2 1/2 lbs. butter

Syrup

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp. orange blossom water
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice

Directions

Unwrap and carefully unfold thawed fillo dough; cover with plastic wrap or wax paper nd a damp cloth to keep the dough from drying out.

Filling: Grind the walnuts coarsely, mix with sugar and orange blossom water until well blended. Butter a 12 x 16 baking pan. Render the butter.

Syrup: Mix sugar and water together and bring to a boil. Boil about 15-20 minutes. Remove syrup from heat, add lemon juice and orange blossom water. Stir and let cool. (Tip: Syrup must either be cool and poured over hot baklawa or hot and poured over cooled baklawa. Never pour hot syrup over hot baklawa; it will make it soggy)

Assembly: Layer one package of the fillo sheets in the pan– buttering generously between each sheet with a pasty brush or cloth dipped in butter. Mix 2-3 tablespoons of water with the walnut mixture and put over the top of the last sheet, making sure to keep the walnuts level.

Repeat the same procedure with the second package of dough, buttering generously between each sheet and butter the top. Cut into diamonds, dipping the knife into hot water as you go for easier cutting. Pour over any remaining butter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on your oven) or until bottom is done and top is golden brown. If top does not brown nicely, put the baklawa under the broiler for a few seconds, watching constantly as it will burn very quickly.