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Turtle Cookies


Since this is my second cookie post in a row, and I have enough cookie recipes to share every day this week*, I’m officially declaring it “Cookie Love” week on Veronica’s Cornucopia!  Next to dog love, this is the best kind of love there is. ;)

*Except for Thursday, of course, when I will be doing my Thankful Thursdays feature.

These are the cookies I made for The Postcard Project Cookie Swap.  I had purchased a bag of Kraft Caramel Bits on sale, because I couldn’t resist the 75-cent sale price, even if I had no specific purpose in mind for them.  As with the Snickers and the Sneaky Snickers Cookies, thought maybe I could use them in my cookies for the swap.  My first idea was to use them in a vanilla dough with chocolate and pecans, and it turned out to be a great one!  These are now in my top five favorite cookies, for sure.

I based the dough off the recipe for these blue-ribbon chocolate chip cookies and just stirred in chocolate chips, toasted pecans, and the caramel bits.  I was surprised how something so simple (no browning of the butter, no toasting & grinding of oatmeal!) could be so wonderful.  Soft, crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, gooey with caramel and studded with chocolate & pecans.  Just soooo wonderful.  If I do say so myself. :)

Turtle Cookies

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
½ teaspoon white vinegar*
2 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup caramel bits
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped**

Preheat oven to 350 and line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats to prevent the caramel from sticking.

Cream the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and vinegar together until light and fluffy, five minutes. Add the eggs and baking soda and beat until combined. Add the flour and mix just until combined. Add the chocolate chips, caramel bits, and pecans, and either stir them in or beat just until combined.

Using a cookie scoop, portion the dough out onto the cookie sheets, leaving an inch between cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes or just until the cookies are beginning to get golden brown around the edges. Remove and leave on pan for 5 minutes before removing cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

*The vinegar helps make the cookies tender. You can not taste it, as the extra baking soda neutralizes its flavor.

** To toast the pecans, place them in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between with fingers, until toasted and fragrant, 1-2 minutes total. Set aside to cool. Chop before using in recipe.

***

I wanted to share the cookies I received in this swap like I did yesterday for the ones I received in the blogger cookie swap.  Amber sent me four each of three kinds in a holiday tin (I had no idea you could ship in a tin–very cool!): gingerbread cut-outs, chai snickerdoodles, and spiral slice-and-bake cookies.

And check it out–I even got a stocking with my name on it! :)

The chai snickerdoodles were fantastic–they were (were because they have long since departed this world through my belly) all-butter snickerdoodles and instead of a plain cinnamon-sugar coating, there are other spices in the mix to give them a chai flavor.  I can’t even imagine how great these must be fresh from the oven!  However, despite their yumminess and being Amber’s favorite, I have to say my favorite in the tin was the spiral sliced cookies. I know, I’m so boring, but I just love a good sugar cookie (much like my favorite cake is white with white icing!) and these were perfect–nice and soft with a kiss of almond. Yum! Thanks, Amber!

Katie sent me two kinds of cookies, both recipes from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.  I was so tickled when Katie wrote that is her favorite baking blog because it is one of my favorites too–in fact, I think I trust Mel more than any other food blogger!  Her recipes have never failed me.

Katie sent me cranberry white chocolate cookies that she adapted from Mel’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies with Coconut:

These were nice and soft and chewy and I really loved the white chocolate and cranberry combo.

However, the other cookies Katie sent are the ULTIMATE and my favorite of ALL COOKIES SENT IN BOTH SWAPS.  Yes, I needed caps for that statement, that’s how strongly I feel about these cookies.  These are Mel’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, and they arrived tasting so fresh, I doubt they were any better the day she made them.

Seriously, just like with the Sneaky Snickers Cookies, I have been dying to make this recipe ever since I first laid eyes on it over a year ago.  But I was able to steer clear for the sake of my thighs.  Do you even understand how wonderful it was to receive just six of these cookies, the best cookies perhaps of all time, and maybe, just maybe, even better than my favorite cookies, so that I could savor them without risking my health by eating an entire batch made in my own kitchen?!?!?!  Thank you Katie, you rocked my world. :)

I haven’t received my third dozen yet, but as I wait patiently, I have a few cookies stashed in my freezer to keep me happy until it arrives.  See you tomorrow for a cookie that is perfect for shipping!

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Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars

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I like to have an arsenal of easy emergency recipes on hand for gifts, and recently added this one because I happened to have a caramel cake mix and dulce de leche in my cupboard when I was scrambling to get something ready for a friend with a birthday, who I was going to see later in the day.  If you can’t find caramel cake mixes in your grocery store, you can request them at your customer service counter like I do, or purchase them online.

Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 (18.25 oz) Duncan Hines caramel cake mix
2 eggs
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup butter
¼ cup water
1 (12 oz) package semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1 (14 oz) can dulce de leche

Preheat oven to 375 ºF.. Spray a 9×13 dish with oil. Combine cake mix, eggs, water, brown sugar and butter in large bowl. Stir until thoroughly blended. Mixture will be thick. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread in greased pan.

Bake for 24 to 27 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. While it’s still hot and fresh from the oven, spread dulce de leche over the top and sprinkle chocolate chips over that. Wait five minutes, then use a butter knife or spatula to swirl the chocolate into the caramel. Cool completely in pan. Cut into bars.

Recipe source: adapted from Duncan Hines

Caramel Banana Amish Friendship Bread

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Have you ever heard of Amish Friendship Bread?  This is how it works.  A friend gives you a bag of starter and instructions with a recipe, and over the next ten days you knead the bag and add more flour, sugar and milk to it.  On the tenth day, you take out three cups of the starter and put one cup each into three bags to give to friends along with instructions and recipes.  Then you add stuff to your leftover starter to bake two loaves of Amish Friendship Bread.  It’s the bread that never dies!

Back in 2000, I got burnt out on Amish Friendship Bread because it spread like the plague among my friends.  We couldn’t seem to get rid of it.  I finally had to stop accepting bags of the starter because I couldn’t bear to eat one more piece of the bread.  Eleven years later, I was finally ready to make another go of it, although the thought of it made me feel a little ill.  When I eat something until it makes me sick, I can hardly ever enjoy it again.

Thankfully, Amish Friendship Bread is proving to be an exception.  Perhaps because I flaunted the usual recipe instructions that comes with the starter, which always includes a pudding mix, or perhaps because I gave myself enough time to recover from the AFB overload, but my love for the bread has been fully restored.

This variation was inspired by the circumstances that inspire me most frequently in the kitchen: what I had on hand.  In this case, homemade caramel sauce and overripe bananas.  The bread is very moist, almost like a pound cake, with plenty of banana and caramel flavor.  OK, so mine was heavier on the banana flavor because I happened to add some banana extract to it, believing that 1 1/2 cups of caramel sauce in the recipe would surely overpower the flavor of banana, but the extract was completely unnecessary, so I omitted it from the recipe below.

I chose to dust my pans and the tops of the loaves with cinnamon sugar, which I thought was nice, but you could simply grease and flour your pan and maybe swirl some dulce de leche on top before baking.  Mmmmm.  Or serve with extra caramel sauce.  Double mmmm.  No wonder I kept a starter for myself from the batch I made!  I can’t wait to make this again.

Caramel-Banana Amish Friendship Bread

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Remaining Friendship Bread starter
1 ½ cups caramel sauce, room temperature
1 1/3 cups mashed banana (3 medium)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. Butter two loaf pans and dust with cinnamon sugar. Shake excess out onto a sheet of wax paper, or a large dish, and reserve extra for topping.

Put the friendship bread starter in a large bowl and beat in the caramel sauce, banana, eggs, and vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir until blended. Pour into prepared loaf pans and sprinkle remaining cinnamon sugar over the top. Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Caramel Walnut Brownies


These things are killer. But I must apologize because they have a very unique ingredient that can be hard to find:

Seriously! Did you know that this even existed??  Can I tell you how much I LOVE this product now that I’ve discovered it?????  Caramel cake–it’s every bit as delicious as you imagine it would be.  And the mix makes for some seriously excellent “brownies.” (I put that in quotations because they actually have no chocolate in them and I thought that chocolate was essential to a brownie!)

Do I even need to tell you how good these are?  Caramel on caramel with walnuts in the middle.  Ooooh, so delicious and they were a favorite at our family’s Christmas party.  If you haven’t seen the cake mix on your store shelves, see if you can get the store to get it special for you like I did.  It’s worth the extra effort!

Caramel Walnut Brownies

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

14-oz. bag caramels
5-oz can of evaporated milk, divided use
1 box Duncan Hines Caramel Cake Mix
1 teaspoon cinnamon
12 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9X9-inch pan and set aside.

Place the caramels in a microwave-safe bowl and add 1/3 cup of the evaporated milk. Microwave for 1 minute on high and stir to combine. Continue microwaving on high at 30-second intervals, stirring each time, until the caramel and milk are melted, smooth, and combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, cinnamon, butter, vanilla, and remaining 1/3 cup evaporated milk. Stir until combined and no lumps remain.  Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Set the remaining cake batter aside. It will firm up as it sits.

Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Spread the walnuts onto a shallow pan and toast them while the cake is baking. Remove the walnuts from the oven when they are fragrant and golden brown.

Allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes. Pour melted caramel over the semi-baked batter and evenly sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top. Take large spoonfuls of the remaining batter, approximately 1/3 cup, which is now firm, and press it between the palms of your hands. Pat it as thinly as possible without breaking it apart. Lay the batter on top of the walnuts. Continue patting the batter and placing it on top of the walnuts. There might be some overlapping of the batter, and there might be several spots where the caramel barely peeks through. Precision is not necessary.

Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool in pan on a wire rack. It is helpful to refrigerate the brownies before cutting them into squares. Serve at room temperature.

*Veronica’s notes: I used an 8×8 pan, which made them a bit thicker, and I had to bake them five minutes longer to get them done.  I also found it difficult to cut them after refrigerating them overnight because the caramel was so hard.  I’d say either only refrigerate them an hour or two or leave them out for at least fifteen minutes before trying to cut them if you’ve left them in there for a long time.

Recipe source: Sassafras Cafe

Crispy Caramel Puffed Corn

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When I stopped in on a friend this summer, I couldn’t help but notice her kitchen counter was covered with drying caramel corn. I mean, I tried not to notice (because I’m trying to lose weight, dagnabbit!), but caramel corn is just not a thing I can ignore. I looked closer at it, and then got really close.

“Where in the world did you find popcorn that pops up so large?” I asked.

Her boyfriend piped up. “It’s not popcorn–I used puffed corn.”

I’m pretty sure an exclamation mark went off over my head. I loved this idea. He urged me to try it and as soon as I did, I knew I had to make some. He didn’t share his recipe but I just went with the recipe I always use, omitting the salt, halving it and using the puffed corn instead of popcorn. It was a hit at a family reunion and got devoured pretty quickly.

While I prefer caramel corn made with real popcorn, this is more of a snacky treat that is particularly appealing to kids and teens. It has a light coating of caramel and has a nice, salty taste and airy, crispy crunch from the puffed corn. That salty-sweet-puffy crunch can get pretty addicting! Try it out at a children’s Halloween party or pass it out to guests at a holiday party. Just try not to nibble on it while it’s cooling or you’ll have to make a second batch! I may or may not know this from experience.


CRISPY CARAMEL PUFFED CORN
Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 (8 oz) bag butter flavored puffed corn
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
½ teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Pour puffed corn into a large bowl. Melt butter over medium heat, then stir in brown sugar and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil, without stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda. Stir well. Pour over the puffed corn and stir to coat well. Bake in a roaster or two jelly roll pans for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on waxed paper to dry, separating pieces with a silicon spatula as you go. Serve once cool or store in an airtight container.

Recipe by Veronica Miller, inspired by Gary R.

Rich Chocolate and Caramel Cake

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My friend, Jaci, in Texas contacted me last week to order a cake for her sister’s birthday. Her sister and I are both in Kansas and she figured since she was unable to make a cake for her herself, she’d get the next best thing.

After she told me that Liz loves chocolate and caramel, I started brainstorming and finally settled on this conconction: two layers of devil’s food cake, filled with caramel buttercream, iced with whipped caramel ganache and decorated with ganache and caramel sauce. With all the chocolate, caramel, cream, and butter involved, this is definitely a special-occasion cake!

Rich Chocolate and Caramel Cake

1 recipe of your favorite chocolate cake, made into two round layers and cooled (I used a Pillsbury devil’s food cake mix)

Caramel Sauce
1 c sugar
6 T unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 t vanilla
1/4 t salt
1/2 c heavy cream

Caramel Buttercream
6 T unsalted butter, softened
1 T dulce de leche, room temperature
1 c powdered sugar
2 T caramel sauce, room temperature

Whipped Caramel Ganache
1 c sugar
1 ½ c heavy cream
1/8 t salt
1 lb semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 lb (4 sticks) butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, softened

Simple Ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Prepare the Caramel Sauce at least 4 hours in advance: Heat the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until the sugar has begun to melt and is brown around the edges, about 3 minutes. Using a heat-safe spatula or spoon, pull the melted sugar toward the center until all sugar is melted and caramel is deep amber in color, about 3 minutes more. Continue pulling and stirring until all the sugar is melted. It will be amber in color. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the butter, vanilla and salt. When mixed, whisk in the heavy cream. Pour into a heat-proof bowl and allow to come to room temperature. After removing 2 T for the buttercream, cover and refrigerate the remaining sauce.

Prepare the Caramel Buttercream: Beat the butter, then mix in the dulce de leche until smooth. Beat in the caramel sauce and then the powdered sugar.

Prepare the Whipped Caramel Ganache: Make a dry caramel with the cup of sugar by putting it into a large saucepan and setting it over medium heat. When the bottom starts to melt and the sides turn brown, start pulling the melted sugar toward the center. Continue doing this, constantly pulling & stirring, until all the sugar is melted and it has turned a deep amber color. Remove from heat.

While the sugar is melting, take a minute to bring the cream to boiling and then remove from heat.

Immediately pour the hot cream into the burnt sugar as soon as you remove it from the heat. It will bubble like crazy and scare the heck out of you, but just keep stirring until all the caramel is dissolved into the cream. If some of the caramel seizes up, put the saucepan back on medium heat and stir, stir, stir, until all the caramel is dissolved and you have a thin, smooth mixture.

Let the mixture sit for five minutes.

Meanwhile, measure your chocolate into a metal or glass bowl. Pour the caramel mixture over the chocolate and allow to sit for a minute before stirring. Stir until all the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth. Allow to sit until the mixture is room temperature, about fifteen minutes. You can pop it in the fridge to speed the process, stirring every few minutes.

With an electric mixer, beat the softened butter into the caramel ganache on low speed and then increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture is thickened and lighter in color, about 2 minutes.

Prepare the Ganache: Bring the cream just to a boil over medium heat (or in the microwave). Place the chocolate in a glass or metal bowl and pour the hot cream over the top. Allow to sit for a couple minutes and then stir, stir, stir, until the chocolate is completely emulsified and you have a smooth, shiny dark ganache. Allow to cool slightly before using. You’ll want it still slightly runny but not hot.

Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer on a plate and spread the caramel buttercream over the top. Place the second cake layer over that and then smooth the whipped caramel ganache over the top and sides of the cake. Garnish the cake with the ganache and caramel sauce.  Serve at room temperature.  The butter and chocolate in the whipped ganache get hard when refrigerated, which isn’t as fun to eat as a light & velvety frosting. For a pretty presentation, you could drizzle some caramel sauce over each plate before placing the cake slices on them.

If you wish to write a message with the ganache as I did, you will have to let it set up further, so wait until it’s the consistency of thick buttercream before attempting that.  Otherwise, it will just leak out of your pastry bag and you’ll have smears and pools of dark shiny ganache on top and your sentiments will look like a threat rather than the good thoughts you’d intended. :)

You can use the extra whipped caramel ganache to pipe a border around the top and bottom.  There will be enough leftover whipped ganache to make 1-2 dozen cupcakes, so do it and take them to work to brighten everyone’s day!

Recipe by Veronica Miller

A word of warning: because of the light, velvety texture of the whipped ganache, it couldn’t support the weight of the ganache and caramel I put around the edges of the cake and the sides slid down to the bottom of the cake eventually.  (Luckily Liz got her cake while it was still pretty and everyone enjoyed a piece before this happened). Next time I make this cake, I will pour the ganache over the iced cake and let it ooze down the sides so that the weight is evenly distributed. Then I’d use caramel buttercream (I’d double the recipe so there’s enough for decorating) to write on top. I’d recommend the same to you, unless you plan on serving the cake shortly after applying the ganache.

These are (poor) photos of a birthday cake I made last year that illustrate my suggestion about pouring ganache over the top and letting it ooze down the sides.

Thanks to Liz for providing the following photos!

The beautiful birthday girl with her cake. Happy birthday, Liz!

Caramel Nut Crunch


My friend, Teri, is one of the best cooks I know and, lucky for me (and you!) she’s always willing to share her fabulous recipes.

This sweet & nutty Chex mix is a delightful change from the usual party mix that abounds during the holidays and not only makes great party food, but wonderful gifts as well.

Caramel Nut Crunch

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup dark corn syrup (light will work if you don’t have dark)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 cup Chex cereals (I used 2 cups of each kind)
1 cup pecan halves,walnut halves or peanuts (I used mixed nuts)
1 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 325. Butter a jelly roll pan, 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1 inch. Put cereal and nuts into a large bowl and set aside. Heat brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, pour over cereal and nuts and stir, stir, stir until well coated. Spread in prepared pan & bake 15 min. Cool until slightly firm, 5-7 min; loosen w/metal spatula. Let stand until firm, about 1 hr.and break apart. Store in covered container. Makes about 8 c snack.

Recipe source Teri B.

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