Wednesday, February 26, 2014

One caramel - many brittles

Brittle is a hard candy made out of caramel and nuts/dried fruits. As you would have guessed by now, it needs only 3 ingredients- sugar,water and nuts. Making caramel is tricky and temperamental, especially for beginners. After burning my sugar couple of times and making horribly crystallized caramel, I have finally nailed making caramel every single time. I do not have a kitchen thermometer. I use bowl filled with cold water, drop little caramel into it and if it forms a hard ball, caramel is ready; if not,give it couple more minutes.

Once you nail the difficult part - i.e making caramel, making brittle is fairly simple. Few key points to remember-
1) Prepare chopped nuts, any flavorings that you want to add in advance and have it ready for the brittle. Caramelized sugar never waits for anyone.
2) If you take long time to mix the flavorings and nuts with caramel (after you remove pan from heat), chances are that you will end up having burnt brittle.
3)  Grease the baking tray / pan in which you want to set your brittle in advance.
4) Do not move far away from the stove while the sugar is caramelizing. Your going away from that pan might just turn your beautiful golden caramel into a burnt mess.
5) Remove caramel from the heat as soon as it starts to change color. Sugar will keep cooking even after removing from heat. Once you get to the color that you are looking for, add everything and stir vigorously just until everything is well mixed. Pour the hot mixture immediately onto a greased plate/tray and let it cool completely before you break it into pieces.
6) Last and most important, when starting to make caramel, stir just until the sugar is dissolved. Avoid stirring after that (stirring can cause crystallization). You can swirl the pan , but never stir until you want to mix the nuts.

Golden caramel ready for mixing of  nuts to make brittle.

1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water

Combine water and sugar into a heavy bottomed pan. Bring it to boil on medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Swirl the pan until sugar starts to change the color. Remove from heat once you see brownish color to the mixture. Sugar will keep cooking and reach the beautiful color in the picture. Caramel is done.

Now onto brittle. Proportions are given for the caramel of 1 and 1/2 cup  sugar. General guideline is to take 1 to 1 and 1/4 cup of nuts / dried fruit for 1 and 1/2 cup sugar. Don't go overboard with the nuts , that makes it difficult to coat everything with the caramel.

1) Orange-Cranberry-Almond brittle
Substitute water with freshly squeezed orange juice to make caramel. Once the color is achieved, remove from heat and add 2 tb spoon orange zest, 1/2 cup chopped roasted unsalted almonds, 1/2 cup chopped cranberries, 1 tb spoon butter and 1/2 tea sp baking soda. Baking soda helps to make a "brittle" brittle. Stir everything to combine and pour immediately onto a greased plate/pan. Sprinkle 1/2 tea sp. coarse sea salt and cool to set. Break into pieces and enjoy!

2) Sesame seeds
Caramel made out of 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup sesame seeds
1 tb spoon butter
1/2 tea sp baking soda
1 tea spoon ground ginger + 1/2 tea spoon cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tea spoon salt

Possibilities are endless when it comes to brittle. I am listing few of my favorites apart from the above.
1.Peanuts with cardamom powder
2.pecan with vanilla extract
3. Pistachios and cashews

It takes anywhere form 1-2 hours for brittle to set. Or if you are impatient like me, put brittle pan into the refrigerator and it will set quickly (in 20 minutes).

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cranberry rolls

During Thanksgiving I had bought a bag of fresh cranberries to make jam. After the early loot of eating the jam every morning, the leftover in the bottom of the bottle was neglected for some time and one fine 'clean your fridge' day, I discovered the bottle! Now making rolls out of a leftover jam might sound like an overkill, but wow they taste good.
     The idea of this roll primarily came from the classic cinnamon roll. Instead of brown sugar cinnamon mixture, I used the leftover jam. Cranberries, orange and almonds go very well together so the usual bread dough became orange scented bread dough and sprinkling of candied almonds added the crunch.

Follow top to bottom and left to right

2 cups all purpose flour
1 and 1/4 tb spoon yeast
3/4 cup warm milk
2 tb sugar
1 and 1/2 tb spoon orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tb spoon butter, melted

1 and 1/2 cups cranberry jam
1/2 cup, chopped candied almonds

Mixture of 1 tb spoon sugar with 1 tea spoon cinnamon to sprinkle on top (optional)

Making cranberry jam is very simple and fairly quick. Mix together 3 cups cranberries, 1/2 cup sugar, zest and a juice of 1 large orange. Heat the mixture on a low heat for about 35 minutes or until the mixture gets a consistency of  a loose jam. Making jam at least a day in advance helps it to thicken.

In a small saucepan, warm 3/4 cup milk. Remove from heat and add 2 tb spoon sugar and let it melt. Sprinkle 1 and 1/4 tea sp yeast on the milk and let it dissolve. Keep aside for 15 minutes or until the yeast starts foaming up.
     In a large mixing bowl, add all purpose flour, melted butter and orange zest and mix everything together. Add the foamy mixture of milk and yeast, along with 1/4 cup orange juice and mix until the dough is easy to handle. Knead dough on lightly floured surface for 7-8 minutes or until the dough becomes smooth. Place in well greased bowl and make sure to coat the dough as well. Cover and keep aside in a warm place to rest until the dough doubles in size, for about 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours.
When doubled, punch down the dough and divide it in 2 equal size balls. Roll 1 ball into a rectangle. Spread half of cranberry jam into a thin layer. Sprinkle chopped candied almonds on the jam. Start rolling the dough from the longer side of the rectangle near to you. Keep rolling and tuck the ends securely so that the filling won't come out. Cut into 2 inch slices and arrange into a baking dish so that the jam is visible (cut side down). Place slices close together in the buttered baking dish and let it rest until it doubles in size (about 30 minutes). Repeat the process for 2nd dough ball.
 Preheat oven on 350 F. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on the risen rolls just before putting in oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown. Serve warm.
    Store in air tight container and refrigerate for 3-4 days. Warm it up in microwave before eating.