Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels

Ah caramels…everyone thinks they are difficult to make, but in truth, the only hard part is keeping an eye on the thermometer. I’ve made a few variations..including this one: bourbon caramels, where 2 tablespoons of my husband’s precious 20 year Pappy Van Winkle replaces the 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. (He was mad at first, but got over it after 15 caramels, and the disappearance of a tin full). I’ve also replaced the butter with 2 tablespoons of duck fat, and used bourbon for the flavoring. I’ve even made vanilla caramels, fried up bacon, that I crumbled pretty small and sprinkled that on top! It’s a great flavor combo.

By the way, you can use any kind of salt you like, or none at all. Let me know if you experiment with any other flavor combos, next weekend I’ll be using spiced rum and ginger sugar to make caramels.

These are great individually wrapped in wax paper for the holidays and you can mold them to the shape you like, also I don’t know anyone who will turn away a tin of homemade caramels.

Bourbon Sea Salt Caramel – 36+ pieces of caramel
2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon pink sea salt + more for sprinkling
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon – don’t use anything you wouldn’t drink!

Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking dish with parchment paper and lightly rub with canola oil the paper.

Combine all ingredients except for the bourbon in a medium saucepan and heat on medium-high until it begins to boil, stirring frequently. Once boiling, insert a candy thermometer into the mixture, and turn heat down to medium. Cook until the mixture reaches 245 degrees F, gently swirl the pan, avoid stirring. Monitor the temperature closely when temperature gets to 240 (it will climb fast) so mixture does not reach 250 degrees F.

Remove the saucepan from heat, and gently stir in bourbon. Pour into prepared square dish. Let sit for 20 minutes and sprinkle with salt, top of caramel should still be warm. Let cool for at least 2 hours or until set. Spray your knife with non-stick baking spray, and cut caramels into bite size pieces. Either wrap individually, or space evenly on wax paper, and place in tin.

Happy Holidays! Bon Cooking!

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French Onion Soup Gratineed

It’s gotten a little chilly out here in Cincinnati, which means it’s time for me to break out my deepest pots and make some of John’s favorites, otherwise he’s just cranky the entire season. haha

French onion soup is a little time consuming at first, and it’s not easy with moist eyes, what with all the onion chopping.  Some use a food processor fitted with a slicing blade, I don’t recommend it, you end up losing all that lovely onion juice. If you insist on something quicker than a knife, a mandoline will do the job. But it’s worth the time, and it’s a great dish to make with a partner. And if you’re serving this at a dinner party, feel free to make it a day ahead, it will not compromise the flavor at all.

French Onion Soup – 6 servings 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 lbs onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 quarts low sodium beef stock
1 cup dry white vermouth
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese
French baguette
Minced parsley

In a large saucepan over medium, combine the butter and oil. When the butter has melted, add the onions and toss to coat. Cover the pan, and cook for 15 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent. Sprinkle with salt and sugar, the sugar helps with the browning process. Raise the heat to medium-high, and let the onions brown. Stir frequently until they are dark, like the walnut shell, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile warm up at least half the stock in another saucepan.

Sprinkle onions with flour and stir until it’s absorbed, cook for 3 minutes. Whisk in the hot stock, a little at a time, once it’s well blended, there shouldn’t be any bits of flour, add the remainder of the stock, and vermouth.

Cover the saucepan slightly, and simmer for an hour and a half. Add water, if the liquid reduces too much. Taste and adjust seasonings.

To serve onion soup gratinee; divide soup among 6 heat proof bowls, I recommend these: Grand Classiques Lion Head Soup Bowls. Top with 1/2 cup cheese or enough to cover the soup, and bake in the oven until bubbling.

Serve with warm and crusty baguette, and a chilled glass of sauvignon blanc!

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