Salted Caramel Shortbread Cookies

Caramels have become my new obsession.

I was buying cookie-making materials recently and happened to see one last jug of Martinelli’s Apple Cider hidden on the juice shelf.  Normally just available in the colder months, I snatched it right up to make another batch of those apple cider caramels from smitten kitchen.  They are to die for.  And shouldn’t be limited to certain times of the year by such a thing as seasonal fruits…

But then, after I forced Brad to take bags of the addicting wrapped candies to work so I would stop eating them by the handful, I started brainstorming different ways I could eat caramels no matter the season.  Things I could put in caramels when apple cider is unavailable.  Things I could put caramel on.  Things I could put caramel in.

Endless possibilities.  Expect a lot of variations on caramel coming up.  Like these.  Salted caramel on shortbread.  It sounded delicious.

salted caramel shortbread cookies

Gooey caramel on top of a flaky, sweet, buttery cookie?  Yes.  Sign me up.

salted caramel shortbread cookiessalted caramel shortbread cookies

So I gave it a try.  I found myself two tart’s recipe that didn’t use cornstarch (because – really? is that necessary??) and got to work.

salted caramel shortbread cookies

I only changed the recipe a tiny bit, using unsalted butter because I like to have more control over the amount of salt in my candies.  I think I’d rather sprinkle the salt on top than have it all mixed in.  I also got really excited and forgot to let the shortbread chill for 30 minutes before baking.  It still turned out wonderful… but I recommend using patience if possible.

salted caramel shortbread cookies

Also!  I have found for my kitchen, which is less than 300 feet above sea level, cooking to 254°F gives me the perfect caramel consistency. I will tell you that it took a lot of frustrating experimenting and candy thermometer testing to reach that conclusion, so don’t get discouraged.  If your candies come out too hard, I’ve learned that you can slowly (medium low or lower) melt the candies again with an additional 2-3 tablespoons of cream before letting it set up again.  Too soft?  Try slowly heating them up again to a higher temperature, or just scrap it and use the caramel as a sauce on ice cream.  It’s amazing.

salted caramel shortbread cookiessalted caramel shortbread cookies

Salted Caramel Shortbread Cookies

slightly adapted from the two tart’s recipe

Shortbread

10 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg yolk, whisked
1 2/3 cup all purpose flour

Line the bottom of a square 8 inch baking pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper criss-crossing. Combine the melted butter, sugar, and salt with a fork in a large bowl. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the flour and stir with a heavy spoon until it is thoroughly mixed. Press the dough into the prepared pan so it is evenly spread. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour. Bake at 350°F for 25-28 minutes, until very lightly browned. While the shortbread is cooling, prepare the caramel.

Caramel

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, room temperature
4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into squares
course sea salt for sprinkling

Combine sugar, honey and vanilla in a large, non-reactive pot.  Over medium heat, cook until the mixture reaches a deep brown color. (this took me about 15 minutes, but watch your sugar carefully! it will burn!)  When caramelized, whisk in the butter.  Once the butter is fully incorporated, whisk in the cream until smooth.  With a candy thermometer attached to your pot, cook until the temperature reaches 254°F, or until a small amount dropped into cold water forms the consistency you’d like.  At 254, pour the hot caramel over your cooled shortbread.  Allow to cool at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, then sprinkle with sea salt.  Once the caramels are cooled, cut them into small squares and enjoy!

xoxo

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A New Staple: Snapper Crudo

I don’t know what it is lately, but we’ve been eating a lot of snapper.

And not of the deep fried variety, although that will never get old.

fishing with dynamite snapper

No, Brad has been buying whole snapper…

snapper crudosnapper crudo

…fileting that baby down with his fancy Japanese knives…snapper crudo

And creating the most delicious tiny bites of sashimi you could imagine.

You might remember this plate from my birthday celebration.  Snapper with kumquat, Serrano and mint.snapper crudoAnd then this one that appeared a few weeks later.  Snapper with english peas and mint. 
snapper crudoNot only was this version delicious, but it went fabulously with a bottle of Cremant d’Alsace that someone brought over for my birthday.

snapper crudoWe even had a wonderful version of the dish at Gjelina a few weeks ago with blood orange and fennel pollen.

gjelina snapper crudo

Then, the birthday version was duplicated for the Coleman Lunch last week…snapper crudo snapper crudoAnd what a beautiful dish that was…

snapper crudo

I will say – as a seafood lover – that I am very excited about this new addition to Brad’s repertoire.  I think I’d eat snapper sashimi every day if I could…

xoxo

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Music to Cook To: Four Hour French Baguettes

four hour baguette

In seventh grade, we had the choice to start taking Spanish or French in school.

I very adamantly insisted on taking French.  I remember thinking it was such a beautiful, exotic language.  I thought it was the language of love.  It was the country of butter and croissants and pastries and delicious things galore.  It seemed exciting and romantic in a gorgeous way that, at the time, I didn’t find Spanish.

I don’t think my parents were thrilled – Spanish is so much more practical in our country – but when a kid is excited about learning a new language, who’s going to stop them?

four hour baguette

I ending up sticking with French up until my junior year in high school.  When I graduated, I could absolutely hold a formal conversation with someone in the language.

In college and beyond I became interested in wine, which – of course – included those of the French varietals.  I was thankful I had the background to understand a little extra from the labels.

four hour baguette

And now, as the wife of a chef, I have found so much happiness in baking.  Recently, I even tried my hand at what looked like a relatively simple recipe for Four Hour Baguettes.  Because who doesn’t love a hot, soft loaf of bread with dinner?


four hour baguette four hour baguette

Continuing with my “Music To Cook To” series, I thought I’d not only share the recipe for this delicious bread – that I made while throwing together strawberry tarts for the Coleman lunch last month – but I’d also share a few chansons that inspire me to keep exploring the rich French culture.

So if you also have four hours in between tarts, head over to food52 and give this recipe a try.

And if you’d like to listen to my entire playlist, you can hear Music to Cook To: French Cafe here on Spotify.

First, we must start with the infamous Edith Piaf.  Probably France’s most beloved singer, there’s just something about her vibrato and the emotion in her voice that absolutely pulls you in.  She typically chose chansons that had tragic story lines, but I love “Milord”, which has a little bit more of a rousing tendency.
International star Bridgette Bardot.  I just love this song, with its cheery handclaps and her talk-like singing. Doesn’t it just make you want to dance around?
This song is an absolute classic, but when I heard this version over on Kitchen Vignettes, I immediately went on a hunt for Andre Touissant‘s.  I feel like I could sit in a smoky, dark bar all night listening to songs just like this one.
Because it is terrible that so many people only know Eartha Kitt as the original “Santa Baby” singer, and because this version of “Je Cherche Un Homme” and her version of “C’est Si Bon” are sexy, exotic and kind of slinky.  Eartha Kitt rules.
Probably my favorite chanson – I even sang it in college in my voice lessons.  Madeleine Peyroux has the perfect voice for French chansons, emotional, fluid, and lovely. Also listen to “Dance Me to The End of Love“.
This song is on our playlist at work, so I don’t listen to it at home that often, but it’s just a beautiful song that I had to include.  Melody Gardot has an inspiring story and a gorgeous, velvety smooth voice.  Listen to all of her stuff.

 

Although every day I’m in the kitchen at work I think how I could have definitely benefitted from learning a little Spanish, I still think all of those romantic, exotic things about the language of France.  And one day I will sit with my love at a French cafe, sipping red wine and eating pastries, and it will make all of my seventh grade dreams come true.

xoxo

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Fox Day 2014 Mixed CD

Alright, post concussion sweets addiction meltdown, I gotta get back on the horse.

But today is Fox Day at my alma mater, Rollins College – so I decided that although I didn’t crack my first beer at 6:30AM, I had to at least see the ocean today.

IMG_3436Not exactly a picture perfect beach day, but it was a nice day for my first post-concussion run.  And college-aged Kels would have already had enough of a tan by mid-April to care about a little fog.IMG_3437

Here are a few new tracks I’ve added to my playlists that get me motivated, but would also be a nice start to a Fox Day 2014 Mixed CD. Because when I was in college, we were still somewhere in the gray between Napster and Spotify…

This is just the first single I heard from Danish singer a few weeks ago, and it had me hooked. (and dancing like a crazy person) Check out her album.  So many good, upbeat and funky tunes.

Little Dragon‘s first single off their latest album, due out May 13th, is everything I expected from them and more.  They also just released a video for a second single, “Paris” the other day.  You can listen to that one here on Pitchfork.

I loved the Tune-Yards first album.  Crazy horn parts, crazy looping, crazy beats and percussions, crazy vocals.  I first saw them on Jimmy Fallon years ago before immediately downloading their first album, but any of their live videos will equally blow your mind the way that performance blew mine.

I just recently found Kiesza, and not only is this a great song to run to, but the chick was a code breaker for the Canadian Royale Navy, attended Berklee and competed in the Miss Universe Canada patent.  Hello, I’m listening.

I know nothing about Chuck Inglish, but I know that this song makes me smile.  Plus, it makes me want lean, long legs.  So I keep on running.

Happy listening!

xoxo

 

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Concussions to Sugar Cravings

So, I hit my head.  Hard.

It’s a stupid story, but let’s just say that the rest of last week didn’t go as expected.

Yes, it was our third wedding anniversary on Wednesday, and I started out the day feeling pretty good.  Being in the car was a little weird and I was making really spacey comments about how slow we were driving and how it made me feel like I was in a movie… but overall, we had a great day!  Market, coffee, nap, and an amazing dinner planned…

We made it to dinner.  We even really, really enjoyed dinner.  I’ll have to tell you all about it another time.

Because as soon as I stood up from my chair to leave the restaurant, it was like I was on a boat.  A boat on really rocky waters.  I was dizzy and nauseous, and by the time I got home I was a total wreck.

You don’t need all the gory details.  Let’s just say it all ended up with me wearing this bracelet that I never wanted to wear.

kels hospital braceletYep, that was me the morning after our wonderful anniversary dinner.  Waiting to get a CT scan at the Santa Monica ER because that bump on my head was most definitely part of a concussion and I just wanted to make sure I was alright.  You know, because not being able to think clearly and mixing up words in normal conversation gets a little scary.

Don’t mess with your brain, folks.

Turns out my brain was ok and I was sent home to rest and take care of myself.

Except that chocolate craving I had the night of the fated head collision with the dog?  It never went away.  I’m not even kidding when I say I think Gibson knocked a sugar sensor loose.  All I’ve been wanting to eat is sugar all day, every day.

So since Brad bought me a beautiful cake stand (complete with amazing dome! yay!!) for our anniversary, I couldn’t let it go empty.  Plus, having a recipe to concentrate on seemed to be helping my brain heal.  At least that’s what I’m going with, since everything turned out delicious.

This is what I’ve been making…

IMG_3248 IMG_3229 DSC_0987 DSC_0002DSC_0232DSC_0247With plans for many more sugary projects.

Have you ever heard of people craving sugar after a head injury?  I’ve Googled and Googled, and I can’t find anything that looks credible.  One doctor even gave a one word answer on his website: No. So maybe I can’t use brain swelling as an excuse to bake anymore?

Not that I needed an excuse in the first place.

xoxo