Foodie Gifts 2013

Marzipan How To~ A Stack of Dishes .com

Step by Step instructions for making traditional marzipan fruits.

 I’ve had a few folks ask me about some things I’ve made in the past as gifts recently. So I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite things- from my recipes for food gifts, a book, and a coupon to one of the best Healthy Menu Services in the world! {OK, it’s MY company, but I think you are seriously going to love it}.

Buffardi_GreatBalls.rev1

 This is an adorable and awesome little cookbook written by my associate Michelle Buffardi, is packed with some adorable and clever cheese ball ideas- with delicious fresh flavor combinations. She’s got a cute idea for Super Bowl you’re going to want to check out. Great Balls of Cheese

is a sweet book, which at just over $10 on Amazon, makes the perfect hostess gift or stocking stuffer for the entertainer in your life.

penguin

Two seasons ago I did a marathon 12 days of gift giving that contains over 25 recipes for food gifts. You can find the full compilation HERE.

2 Days of Food Gifts~A Stack of Dishes

12 Days of Edible Gifts with over 25 recipes.

Flavored Vinegars~ A Stack of Dishes

Here is the link for 3 different flavored vinegar combinations that you can make yourself. My favorite was the grapefruit. In fact, I plan to make a batch for myself today. It’s bright with a hint of tangy citrus that is wonderful on salads, fish and meats.

8 tips for perfect caramels~ A Stack of Dishes

 

Homemade caramels are quite the rage these days. This post has a list of 8 tips for making successful caramels.

And lastly I am offering my readers a COUPON for a 50% discount on any menu plan at A Healthy Hunger. For anywhere from $2.50-5.00/month you can help someone get their health on track and love every bite.

A Healthy Hunger has meal plans for Diabetics, or Pre-Diabetics and my Clean Eating plan is great for anyone with high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, heart health concerns- or anyone who just wants to eat better and doesn’t know where to begin.

The menus are designed with nutritional balance for your health, and great taste for the foodie. And check out the blog for health tips, kitchen wisdom, inspiration and more!

Holday50Click HERE to find out more and use the coupon code at checkout. The coupon expires December 31.

 Happy Holidays All!

8 Tips For Making Successful Caramels

Man do I love me some caramels. They are an awesome holiday food gift and easy to make, and they are also easy to not do well.

People often say to me that they can cook but not bake. Their reasoning is that baking is specific and scientific, whereas cooking is more forgiving. To certain degrees this statement is true, but when it comes to candy making it is hard fact.

Variations in degrees, humidity, ratios or handling can make or break a candy. Some you can get away with, but honestly, not really.

Here are a few best practices and tips for making candies in general and specifically caramels.

1. Thermometer– Pre-test your thermometer for accuracy. A degree or two off can make the difference to how your sugar hardens. To test take a pot of boiling water and completely submerge the thermometer into the water without touching the bottom of the pot. Boiling water is 212˚- no higher or lower. Make a note of where your thermometer lands. If it’s a degree or two off, make a note and adjust your recipe accordingly.

2. Cleanliness– Some recipes call for an absolute grease free environment. Before making candy I rewash all utensils- bowl, pot, spatula, thermometer, measuring instruments, etc.- in hot soapy water and dry with paper towels or air dry. I do NOT use a used kitchen rag.

3. Pure Ingredients– make sure that the sugars you are using are contaminant free. If you used a wet spoon and dipped into the sugar bin, or used a measuring cup that was previously used for flour, this can contaminate the sugar. You can get away with this with baking, but not with candy making.

4. Prepare– Making candy is about timing and readiness. Have all ingredients and utensils prepared and laid out before you begin. Sugar temperatures can change quickly sometimes and you don’t want to be caught unawares.

5. Patience– Don’t rush the sugar boiling stage. A better caramelization happens with a slow development over time. It will also serve you by inadvertently overshooting the temperature when your head was turned for just a moment.

6. Eyes on the Prize– Boiling sugar is it’s own animal. It can turn quickly, and it can also hurt you. Boiling sugar is about the most dangerous thing in the kitchen- boiling oil being second.  If you get splashed with molten sugar it sticks to the skin and can cause nasty burns. So especially with inexperienced kitchen helpers, you MUST stay vigilant.

7. Don’t Stir– This is a very common mistake for first time candy making. Stirring boiling sugar causes the crystals to become unstable and start to bind. The result is grainy, cloudy or lumpy candy. When it comes to making pralines this happens to be the effect you want, but with caramels, absolutely not.  You can stir in the very beginning to incorporate the ingredients, but once it gets boiling, hands off! It will be tempting, even if sugar crawls up the sides, just let it go. Promise me-  you’ll be glad you did.

8. Don’t Touch– It’s also very common to want to poke your fingers into the just finished candy. After all it looks SO beautiful- but it will hurt you. Admire your work- from afar, and give it twice as much time as you think to cool. Sugar is dense and holds its temperature very well, so please err on the side of caution.

I’ve used several different recipes over the years. Martha Stewart printed a recipe in the latest Living issue {December 2012, pg 99} that was a bit different. Typically the heavy cream is added into the hot syrup once it has reached temperature. This recipe added the cream at the start. I was skeptical but I tried it and it was great. Pouring cream into hot sugar is a bubbling, steaming, terrifying and dangerous thing, not to mention often messy with cream boiling over onto the stove (the WORST to clean up). Adding the cream at the start avoided all that. This will now be my method of choice.

Martha Stewart’s Salted Caramels
modified from the December 2012 Martha Stewart Living Magazine
makes approx 120 pieces
 
vegetable oil, for greasing baking sheet
2c heavy cream
2.25c sugar
6T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1.25c light corn syrup
.5t coarse salt- I used Maldon flaked salt
.5t pure vanilla extract
 
wax paper or cellophane wrappers
 
 
 
Lightly brush bottom ans sides of a 9×13″ rimmed baking sheet with oil. Line with parchment, leaving an overhang, and oil that as well.
 
In a heavy 5qt saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, butter and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and continue to boil without stirring, until the thermometer reads 248˚. It took me about 25 mins.
 
The cream will be bubbly and high at first. It will calm down as it reaches temperature and turn a beautiful caramel color.
 
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the salt and vanilla. Immediately pour into the prepared pan and do not scrape the bottom. Just let whatever pours out fall into the pan.
 
After 3 minutes, sprinkle the top with more salt to your taste.
 
Allow the caramel to rest, uncovered, overnight or at least 8 hrs.
 
Remove the caramel from the pan and peel away the paper. With a sharp knife cut the caramels to the shape you want. .75″x 1.25″ is the size she made.
 
Immediately wrap in cellophane or wax paper. 

Enjoy, be safe and have fun. Your friends will love you for making these.