Warm Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce

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I’m not a huge drinker.

In college, I was that girl who always ordered the “fluffy” drinks with mounds of whipped cream…then I’d basically just eat the whipped cream and leave the alcohol part to sit and fester at the bottom of my cup.

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Oh, who am I kidding; I’m that girl now! I just can’t hold my liquor, and need a wildly disproportionate ratio of heavy cream to actual alcohol before I obtain any enjoyment out of the experience.

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However, that said – I love boozy desserts. There is something so wonderful about the warmth and depth of flavor that alcohol brings to desserts, especially on a cold winter’s evening.

So this morning, as the snow fell and I gazed upon our freshly decorated Christmas tree, I thought, what better thing to do today than make a warm and ooey gooey dessert? A caramel sauce perhaps…

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Are you still with me? Good.

Because I need you to do something for me:

Forget everything you’ve ever heard about making caramel. Particularly the part about it being difficult to master.

Because.It’s. So. Easy.

I promise. (And I’m a girl of my word).

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Last year was the first time I tried making caramel sauce, and as most people do when in need of guidance, I turned to Google. After browsing a great many food websites and blog posts, I realized that written instruction wouldn’t be enough: I needed a video to break it down for me.

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That was when I found this on YouTube. The guy who made this video is awesome. His instructions are simple to follow, and he captures every step of the process on video, explaining things like color, safety, and storage. If you’ve never made caramel before, I highly recommend that you watch his video. Then make this recipe, of course 🙂

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I used this guy’s basic recipe for caramel sauce, but decided to add my own twist: Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey. And it couldn’t have been easier!

More importantly to note, I made this caramel sauce without:

1) A candy thermometer (GASP. I know.)

2) Extensive candy making experience.

If I can do it, you can do it too!

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I hope you enjoy this warm, fragrant, and rich caramel sauce. It’s perfect as an accompaniment to your holiday desserts, or drizzled atop a simple vanilla sundae.

For added gluttony, add some Moonshine Cherries:

For added gluttony, add some Moonshine Cherries!

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Happy scooping!

Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Yield: a little over two cups

You will need:

1.5 cups of sugar (cubed or loose)

1/2 cup of water

1 cup of heavy cream

2.5 tablespoons of butter (salted or unsalted…i never use unsalted anything, but if you don’t enjoy over salting everything like I do, you might want to go the unsalted route)

Healthy pinch of salt

1 tsp of good vanilla extract (I like this)

1 tablespoon of bourbon (not gunna lie – I ended up using two tablespoons and some extra, but adjust to your flavor preference.)

Directions:

1. In a medium saucepan, pour in sugar and cover it with water. Don’t mix. Heat over medium high heat until sugar reaches a rolling boil.

2. Continue boiling for about ten to fifteen minutes. DON’T TOUCH. Not even a little. Just let it do its thing. (See how easy this is?).

3. Once the sugar has been boiling for fifteen minutes or so, it will start to turn a light amber color. At this point, you will know that you are almost done. Watch it like a hawk! As sugar changes from a light amber to a rich amber (and begins to smell like caramel), remove from heat. Remember that it will continue cooking slightly once you remove from heat.

4. Carefully but quickly whisk in a quarter cup of the cream. BE CAREFUL. The cool cream will cause an intense amount of steam to rise up from the caramel. Mix furiously, taking care to scrape the bottom and edges of the pan. Continue adding cream, a quarter cup at a time, until completely incorporated. If you add the cream too quickly, the caramel will seize up, but don’t worry – just place the saucepan over low heat and stir until caramel  melts again.

5. Add the butter and stir until incorporated.

6. Add in the tsp of vanilla, and a healthy pinch of salt (you can always add more).

7. Now for the fun part: add in the bourbon, tasting as you go. I love a rich, boozy flavor, so I’m pretty liberal with the amount that I incorporate, but a tablespoon is a good starting point.

Let cool slightly before you add to your dessert. Enjoy!

Quick ‘N Dirty Sundae Cones

Sundae Cones

Earlier this week, I met up with a dear friend of mine on campus for a quick powwow before class.  Once we had exchanged pleasantries about the boring stuff (i.e. work and school), we got down to business discussing the most pressing issues of our day: peppermint mochas, holiday shopping, and eventually, this blog.

“Always with the eggs!” my friend complained. “I’m tired. Maybe I don’t want to cook half a dozen eggs into custard and then submerge into an ice bath just to wait 8 hours before I can even churn the ice cream. Why can’t you just do something quick and dirty?”

Quick…dirty…ice cream?

Yum

I was baffled.

This was ice cream we were talking about, after all…not an oil change.

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Ice cream is a process. Albeit, some may call it a long, arduous, and unecessary process…but still.

If I learned anything from my 6th grade English teacher, it’s that nothing worthwhile in life is ever easy.

Or…is it?

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This little conversation had my wheels spinning all week, as I thought about ways to cut corners in the ice cream making process. I wanted to make something quick, as my friend suggested, but per the Official Ice Cream Blog Rules, it had to be something decadent, rich, and easily photographable. I was stumped!

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Sundae Cone

Then one day, my Senior Product Manager aka fiancé reminded me about a treat that I had made for him a few months ago. “Do you remember that one time you disappeared into the kitchen and came out a few minutes later with that chocolate covered ice cream cone thing?”

*Enter lightbulb moment*

Aha, that’s it – Quick n Dirty Sundae Cones!

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These fit the bill perfectly.

Quick? Check. These cones come together in a flash! In fact, you only need 4 ingredients:

1). Ice Cream

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2) Cones

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3) Chocolate or Peanut Butter Shell

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4) Toppings

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But the big question: are they dirty enough?

Well, if the melted chocolate and sprinkles all over my kitchen counter have anything to say about it…then yes, we shouldn’t have a problem.

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The best thing about these cones (other than the quick ‘n dirty part) is that you can choose your level of involvement: you can hand-make all of the ingredients, or purchase every single one at the store.

(However, making homemade cones is nice because you can make mini versions – who wants one giant sundae cone after dinner when you could eat multiple smaller versions throughout the day? If you’re moving around the house while you eat them, you’re basically breaking even calories.)

Hungry? Try a chocolate covered pumpkin cone with graham cracker crumbs.

Hungry? Try a chocolate covered pumpkin cone with graham cracker crumbs.

Like most things homemade, these cones knock the store-bought version out of the park (those ones are still awesome though, don’t get me wrong). But these are richer, messier, and a truly impressive dessert that doesn’t take much time at all.

Messy and beautiful, quick and dirty….these sundae cones are sure to be the bright spot in your day.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cone

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cone

Can you imagine bringing these out at your next holiday party? Or, encouraging guests to make their own? Forget party games – bring out the make-your-own sundae cones!

What’s your favorite sundae cone combo?

Happy Scooping!

Quick ‘N Dirty Sundae Cones

Yield: However many you feel like making!

You will need:

Waffle cones (homemade or store bought)

Chocolate Shell (homemade or store bought)

Your favorite ice cream (homemade or… you get the point)

Nuts or other favorite toppings (crushed cookies, pretzels, graham crackers, or toffee)

Directions:

  1. Obtain a waffle cone. With a spoon, carefully line the bottom and sides with the chocolate (or peanut butter) shell, letting a little build up at the bottom (you know how store bought version have that delicious little nugget of chocolate on the bottom?). Refrigerate on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper until hardened, about ten minutes.
  2. Once the shell has hardened, pack the cone with ice cream, just like a normal cone. Take a little time to round out the top.
  3. Dip cone in the bowl of chocolate shell, or drizzle chocolate over the top with a spoon. Immediately garnish with desired topping. Eat right away, or store in an air tight container for up to a week.

Sriracha Peanut Ice Cream

Sriracha Ice Cream

Several important things are happening in our household at the moment:

1)   We have a beautiful, tender pot roast gently bubbling away in the slow cooker, marking the first time in a few weeks that we’ve been able to enjoy a real, home-cooked meal. I used this recipe and the smell alone is making my mouth water, so I can only imagine how wonderful it tastes!

2)   I accidentally just swallowed a lemon seed. (Remember when you were five and someone told you that swallowing seeds would make you turn into a tree?)

3)   There is a quart of freshly churned Sriracha Peanut Ice Cream in the freezer, anxiously awaiting its arrival into my Belly Monster.

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Yep, I said it. Sriracha! (Does that make me cool?)

Sriracha seems to be one of the uber trendy flavors this year, with many major food brands introducing Sriracha flavored this or that. Actually, I think Sriracha has probably been popular for quite some time now, but I generally lag behind major trends and never know what’s cool and what’s not, so I apologize if this Sriracha business is old news and I’ve just been living under a rock.

I clearly remember the very first time that Sriracha was brought to my attention. Several years ago, I was at my Awesome Akron Brother’s house, eating an oversized bowl of chili, when he removed a big red bottle from the kitchen cabinet.

“Would you like some Sriracha?”

Um. Some what?

“Sriracha.”

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Generally, I don’t like to eat food that sounds like a sneeze. But, as previously mentioned, I trust AAB’s food sense, so I dug in.

At the time, my 20-year old palate must not have thought much of Sriracha, because I never ended up purchasing my own bottle.

Until now, that is.

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Fast-forward to several years later, and all of a sudden, Sriracha is majorly mainstream. Lay’s recently introduced Sriracha-flavored potato chips, and now Subway even has some sort of Sriracha themed sandwich.

Naturally, I wanted a piece of the Sriacha pie, so I ran to Target this week and picked up a bottle. In the checkout line, the friendly cashier lady let me know she approved of my purchase:

“Oh, Sriracha! My boys put this on everything. Eggs, tomato soup, burgers. It’s wonderful!”

I smiled politely and made some sort of generic “OH REALLY, HOW COOL!” statement. But then, something she said awoke me from my Target Coma of Happiness.

“And you know…this raises your metabolism! I just saw it on Dr. Oz a few days ago.”

What.

Food..that raises your metabolism? Be still, my heart. All of your dreams are about to come true.

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For those of you who don’t live in the United States and don’t have access to our network television, Dr. Oz is some celebrity doctor person that came to fame through his frequent appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Now, he has his own television program and is a bona fide super star, openly discussing everything from heart health to constipation and all that lies in between.

And apparently, he makes a habit of delivering great news to the American public.

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I wish I could say that I thoroughly researched the effects of Sriracha on metabolism, but alas, I have not. I realized immediately following my encounter with the lady at Target that it didn’t matter to me whether or not the information was factual; my heart was already convinced that it was true.

Thus, I give to you my dearest friends and family, Sriracha Peanut Ice Cream, with magical metabolism-boosting capabilities.

Ice cream that makes you lose weight? Your welcome.

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On a more serious note, this ice cream is wonderful. Peanut-y and creamy, with a very subtle yet build-able heat. I experimented with various amounts of Sriracha until I found the amount that pleased my palate, but you may want to add more if you’re one of those people who likes how it feels when the skin on the inside of your mouth starts to peel (I’m talking to you, AAB!)

Also, if you’re feeling unmotivated and don’t want to make ice cream, just swirl some PB and Sriracha into store bought vanilla. Or, skip the ice cream altogether. But whatever you do, Make.These.Peanuts. They rock! Seriously..its like a spicy sugary peanut brittle, but easier to make. They would also work as an appetizer or snack at your next holiday party.

How do you use Sriracha?

Happy Scooping!

Sriracha Peanut Ice Cream with Candied Sriracha Peanuts

Yield: About 1 Quart

Don’t forget: Prepare an ice bath ahead of time. You’ll also want to place a sieve atop a large bowl or container.

For the ice cream:

6 large egg yolks

1 cup whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

¼ cup white sugar

2 tablespoons of honey

Large pinch of salt

¼ cup peanut butter

1.5 teaspoons Sriracha

For the Sriracha Candied Peanuts*

2 cups of raw peanuts

1 cup of white sugar

1/3 cup of water

Few splashes of Sriracha, or to taste

  1. In a medium bowl, lightly break up egg yokes with a whisk. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine whole milk, heavy cream, sugar, salt, and honey. Heat until the sugar is melted and the mixture begins to steam.
  3. Add the heated cream to the egg yokes, a little at a time, whisking the egg yolks constantly.
  4. Once all of the heated cream has been added to the yolks, add the mixture back to the pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat proof spatula or wooden spoon. After about ten minutes, the mixture will thicken (you will feel it start to “push back” against your spoon). Once the mixture covers the spoon, but leaves a clear path when you wipe your finger across, your custard is done!
  5. Pour the custard through the sieve and into the bowl or container. Stir in peanut butter and Sriracha, tasting as you go along. Stir to combine, then refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours.
  6. Make the Candied Sriracha Peanuts: Add peanuts, sugar, and water to the pan. Cook peanuts over medium heat, until sugar starts to bubble. Continue to cook peanuts until they look dry and crumbly (this is normal). Keep cooking for about ten minutes, until the sugar begins to caramelize and peanuts have reached an amber color. Remove from heat, then add Sriracha. Let cool.
  7. Make your ice cream according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  8. Swirl in Sriracha Peanuts. Enjoy!

*Note: If you don’t have raw peanuts around, you can use an alternative method: Beat one egg white until it is nice and frothy, then mix in 2 cups peanuts, ½ cup of white sugar, and a few splashes of Sriracha. Then, bake in the oven at 250 degrees for about 40 to 45 minutes, stirring halfway through. Let cool before you add to your ice cream, making sure you scrape the browned sugary bits from your baking pan. Voila!

Great Lakes Christmas Ale Ice Cream

Great Lakes Christmas Ale

Hello, everyone!

For those of you who celebrate Halloween, I hope that your bellies are full of candy.

For those of you who don’t, go buy yourself a big bag of Snickers. You deserve it 🙂

So, All Hallows’ Eve has come and gone, and here in Northeastern Ohio, that can only mean one thing: Great Lakes Brewery Christmas Ale.

If you live in the region, you understand the gravity of this sentence.

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Here in Ohio, Christmas season starts early. On October 24th, to be exact. This is when Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Co. taps its infamous Christmas Ale for the first time of the season, and you’d better believe it is THE event of the year. We’re talking media coverage, lines in the streets, even Santa himself makes the trek from the North Pole to get a taste of the spicy yet sweet-as-honey beverage.

Santa, people. It’s that good.

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About a week later, madness ensues as Christmas Ale starts showing up in local grocery stores. Normal, law-abiding citizens turn to crazed, Christmas Ale seeking fiends as they stalk Great Lakes’ delivery trucks, learning when and where stops are made each week. Contributing to the frenzy is the fact that this Ohio treasure is only available for about 8 weeks, which means folks are currently in the process of stockpiling for the entire winter.

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When our local supermarket received its first shipment, a Tweet was delivered to my phone…and my heart was instantly full of emotion: Excitement, as the dream of Christmas Ale in my fridge became closer to reality. Joy, as I thought of that very first sip. Then…crushing defeat as I realized that I was an entire work day away from being able to secure my first 6-pack.

I cannot explain the heartache I endured, sitting in my cubicle-home, wondering if any Ale would be left by the time I made it to the store.

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I don’t even really like beer all that much. But this stuff makes my mouth water.

Besides, it’s an Ohio tradition.

This year, in honor of the blog, I thought I’d start my own little tradition: Christmas Ale Ice Cream.

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I was a little nervous about adding so much alcohol to ice cream, so I turned to the undisputed experts: America’s Test Kitchen. If you too, are weary, read this article. Now.

I’ll wait.

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Are you done yet? Good.

So now you know – the key to a successful beer ice cream is to first simmer a portion of the beer to get rid of the excess water. The rest is easy peasy!

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The result? Rich and creamy, soft and smooth, boozy but not too boozy. This stuff is pretty darn perfect. I’ve also added a ginger and cinnamon graham cracker swirl – reminiscent of the cinnamon sugar mixture that many bars in town use to rim the glasses in which Christmas Ale is served.

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You can use any Christmas Ale, just as long as it’s between 8% and 12% ABV (Great Lakes is actually 7.5%, but was absolutely wonderful, so you could probably stretch those boundaries a little bit).

How do you know its the holiday season in your part of town?

Happy scooping!

Christmas Ale Ice Cream

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Yield: Approximately two quarts

You will need:

For the ice cream:

12 ounces (1 bottle) of Christmas Ale between 8% to 12% ABV)

1 tsp of vanilla extract

6 large egg yolks

2 cups of heavy cream

¾ cups white sugar

½ tsp of salt

For the ginger graham swirl:

1 package of graham crackers (about 6 crackers), crushed into fine crumbs

¼ cup white sugar

1.5 teaspoons ground ginger

½ tsp ground cinnamon

Dash of ground cloves

¼ cup butter (salted or unsalted), melted

Dont forget:

Ice bath

Fine mesh sieve

Directions:

  1. In a medium skillet, heat 5 ounces of the beer over medium heat. Cook until reduced by half (about ten minutes). Once reduced, combine with the rest of the beer in a large glass or liquid measuring cup. Add the vanilla extract, stir, and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, lightly break up egg yokes with a whisk. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine heavy cream, sugar, and salt. Heat until the granules of sugar are melted and the mixture begins to steam.
  4. Add the heated cream to the egg yokes, a little at a time, whisking the egg yolks constantly (you don’t want scrambled eggs!).
  5. Once all of the heated cream has been added to the yolks, add the mixture back to the pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat proof spatula or wooden spoon. After about ten minutes, the mixture will thicken (you will feel it start to “push back” against your spoon). Once the mixture covers the spoon, but leaves a clear path when you wipe your finger across, your custard is done!
  6. Pour the custard through the sieve and into the bowl. This is where you will add your beer! Stir to combine, and refridgerate mixture for 4 hours or preferably, overight.
  7. Make the graham cracker crust: combine the processed/crushed grahams with sugar, ginger, cinnamon, gloves, and melted butter. Stir to combine, and press to the bottom of a pie pan. Bake at 375 for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
  8. Freeze your ice cream according to the manufacturer’s direcions.
  9. Once the ice cream is frozen, swirl in graham pieces by hand. Then enjoy! Try not to faint. Or, freeze overnight for a firmer texture. You might not be able to wait, though 🙂