Saturday, July 24, 2010

Caramel Corn

Caramel corn holds a special place in my memory. My Grandma Unruh made it every Christmas that I could remember. She would leave it in a big tupperware container in the guest bedroom until after we had eaten dinner, but all the grandkids knew where it was. We would sneak in and try some out while dinner was still being prepared.

Grandma's caramel corn was always PERFECT. It was soft but not chewy, and perfectly coated (or at least that's how I remember it). I've honestly been scared to make my own because I didn't want to ruin that memory, and most of the homemade caramel corn I've had just didn't cut it. But this recipe has a great tip for getting everything coated - putting it in an oven in-between mixings so the caramel can soften up. The only thing I would do differently is maybe not leave it in quite so long in-between, because one batch seemed to have just a bit of a burnt taste to it. I'm definitely over my fear of making caramel corn.

Caramel Corn

5 quarts popped popcorn
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp butter, unsalted, softened
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Put the popped popcorn in a large pot, and place in a 350° oven. (This will keep it warm while you make the caramel and make it easier to stir.) Combine the sugars, corn syrup, water and 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan and heat until it reaches 400° on a candy thermometor. Remove from heat and stir in the baking soda and salt. Remove the popcorn from the oven; pour the caramel mixture over and stir with a wooden spoon. When the caramel hardens and it is difficult to stir, put the popcorn back into the oven. After 10 minutes, remove the popcorn from the oven and re-stir to coat the popcorn. Continue returning the popcorn to the oven as many times as necessary. When the popcorn is evenly coated, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to prevent clumping - do not over-stir at this point. Pour the popcorn out onto a clean countertop and separate out the kernels. Allow to cool.
I hope the instructions are correct - I took the cookbook back to the library after typing the ingredients but before typing the instructions. :-) I think I pretty much got it right.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mexican Chocolate Pie

I wasn't so sure about this one... it's a Pampered Chef recipe which sometimes are fabulous and other times just ok. Plus I got the crust a little darker than I would have liked. BUT when I served it at Book Club, it was a hit and we also enjoyed it the next night when my sister visited.

Mexican Chocolate Pie

1/2 package refrigerated pie crusts (1 crust)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels, divided
12 ounces whipped topping, thawed
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 package (3.9 oz) chocolate instant pudding & pie filling

Preheat oven to 425°. Let pie crust stand at room temperature 15 minutes (my package actually said 40 minutes, so I did the longer amount). Gently unfold crust into pie plate, pressing dough into bottom and up sides. Prick bottom and sides. Bake 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven; cool completely.

Reserve 1 tablespoon of the chocolate morsels for garnish. Microwave remaining chocolate on HIGH 1 minute, stirring every 10 seconds until melted and smooth. Do not overheat. Spread chocolate over bottom and 1 inch up sides of prepared pie crust.

Reserve 1 cup of the whipped topping for garnish. Whisk cream cheese until smooth; gradually add in milk until well blended. Add remaining whipped topping and cinnamon; whisk until smooth. Add pudding mix; whisk again until smooth. (Mixture will be thick.) Spoon filling into crust, spreading evenly.

Grate reserved chocolate over top of pie. Pipe a decorative border around edge of pie with reserved whipped topping. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon, if desired. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until ready to serve.

I really liked the melted chocolate spread over the crust. It made it hard to cut, though, and we laughed about all the noise we were making at the table trying to cut each bite off. Still a good thing!