Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Salted caramel just may be my favorite thing in the world. Whether it’s in the form of caramel sauce, chewy caramels, or the sweet and salty crunch of caramel corn…I love it all! When trying to decide what to make for our PTA’s Pumpkin Tour a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that I didn’t have any cupcakes devoted to that sweet & salty combination that I love so dearly. That was a situation that needed to be remedied immediately!

So, I did what I always do with experimental cupcakery – used my favorite vanilla cake recipe, and then proceeded to add a bunch of homemade salted caramel sauce to it. Same deal with the buttercream frosting. An additional drizzling of sauce and a sprinkle of top-notch sea salt…and you have yourself a damn fine cupcake!

While I love fleur-de-sel, I used Maldon sea salt here, which is actually a British hand-harvested sea salt. The crystals are giant square shaped flaky pyramids, but still as light as a feather. They really show themselves off nicely, and don’t just melt into the frosting as some finer salts would.

I ordered mine online a year or so ago, but I’m pleased to report that my local gourmet food shop now carries it for a really reasonable price – so if you’re local, Poseidon’s Pantry here on Chincoteague has you covered.

What you end up with is a deliciously tender and moist cake bursting with the roasty sweet notes of caramel. And the pinch of sea salt on top just adds the perfect salty bite and slight crunch. They went in a flash at the bake sale, and I know it’s definitely one I’ll be making again and again. It’s also great in cake form as well! I hope you get a chance to make and enjoy it soon. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Pumpkin Crumb Coffee Cake

You guys. This cake. It has everything you could possibly want in a fall dessert, and then some. This past Saturday night was our PTA’s Pumpkin Tour here on Chincoteague. It’s always a great time that the whole community looks forward to. I’d volunteered to bake a few sweets to bring to the bake sale table. And, this was one of the goodies that I came up with.

The Banana Crumb Coffee Cake that I posted last year has always been one of my favorites, and popular with everyone else too. I figured a pumpkin twist on this favorite would be a hit, so I went with it. I substituted a can of pumpkin puree in place of the mashed banana, and amped up the spice profile a little bit by adding some cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove to the cake batter. It turned out even better than the banana version, which really says something…

It went quickly at the Pumpkin Tour, and the few bites I saved here at the house disappeared that night as well. Planning to make another one this week! It was that good, y’all. Absolutely perfect with a cup of coffee and some company on a chilly autumn evening.

caramelcorn

One of my favorite things about our local fireman’s carnival in the summertime is their homemade caramel corn. Sure, you can get great caramel corn on the boardwalk in Ocean City…but the site of a giant copper kettle full of popcorn, butter and brown sugar being continuously stirred by one of our local hard-working guys is one to behold. For me, that scent wafting through the air means summertime on Chincoteague.

But then fall arrives, and the carnival is over for another year…leaving me without a giant tub full of caramel corn to munch on. So, I decided to start taking matters into my own hands a couple years ago, and started making my own. A few basic ingredients and about an hour – and you have a giant batch of caramel corn that stays good for a couple weeks, or also make excellent gifts when bagged up and tied with a pretty ribbon.

Peanuts, are of course optional…but we love the nutty crunch that it adds. Looking forward to playing around with some different ingredients to change the flavor up a bit…maybe a little cayenne to spice things up, or a little cinnamon and nutmeg for an autumnal spin! With Halloween coming up, it’s the perfect excuse to try making this classic for yourself at home – you won’t regret it!

Homemade Caramel Corn

1 cup popcorn kernels, un-popped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 250° F. Line two baking sheets with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper, set aside.

Pop popcorn using your preferred method, I use and air-popper and have to do two batches. Place the popped popcorn onto the baking sheets.

Meanwhile, to make the caramel, melt the butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, mix in the corn syrup, brown sugar and salt. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.

Once the mixture reaches a boil, let the mixture continue to boil for 5 more minutes without stirring. Remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the baking soda and vanilla extract. The mixture will bubble up and become frothy. Evenly drizzle the caramel sauce over the popcorn on the baking sheets, and use a silicone spatula to gently toss and coat thoroughly. It’s okay if there are some clumps of caramel throughout, it will melt and become better spread out while baking.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, removing from the oven to toss/stir every 10 minutes. After 40 minutes, test a cooled piece of popcorn. If it is not completely crispy (i.e. still slightly mushy when you bite it), bake for 10 minutes more.

Remove the baking sheets to a wire rack and allow popcorn to cool completely before breaking apart for serving or packaging. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks (no way in hell it’ll last that long).

Source: adapted from Annie’s Eats

Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Cheesecakes are one of those sweets that I don’t mess with very often, and not just because I run the risk of eating the entire thing myself. They’re kind of time consuming with the whole chilling process, and results can be a mixed bag – raise your hand if you’ve had a cheesecake with a giant sunken hole in the middle? *raises hand* And again, the risk of the I’ll eat the entire thing factor…

On the other hand, they’re relatively easy to make using just a few ingredients. And, well – when it’s done right, it’s hard for any other dessert to touch it in my book. When I found this basic cheesecake recipe years ago (word to Ina), I stuck with it. It’s never let me down, and it’s easy to tweak the flavor profile and turn it into something completely different. All my boys are huge fans of peanut butter, so I thought that would be a welcome twist…

Turns out I was right! Rich, thick, and silky – this cheesecake packs a wallop of peanut butter flavor. I topped it with a simple chocolate drizzle, and crushed up Butterfinger bars. But, chopped up peanut butter cups would be an awesome choice as well…I mean honestly, when is it not?

I haven’t been in the kitchen much these past couple of month – with so much going on with boating and beaching (half the time we were cooking dinner on the beach itself!), and just summertime livin’ in general. I’m sure many of you can relate, in one way or another. But this is the time of year where I really love getting back in the kitchen, and spending more time on recipes and cooking in general. Now that chillier temperatures have arrived, I’m looking forward to doing just that. And, this cheesecake was a great place to start!