Sweet and Sticky Caramel Love

Things have been pretty exciting lately in my little Floured Apron world!  I conducted my first baking class and it was wonderful!  The theme was “Falling for Cupcakes” and I featured my Pumpkin Patch and Caramel Apple cupcakes.  This class was a dream come true for me because I’ve always wanted to share my passion for baking with others.  The women who attended were fun, enthusiastic and so supportive.  I can’t even explain how fulfilling and rewarding this was!

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The prep for this class was the perfect opportunity for me to start my annual caramel making.  As I was making it, I decided to snap some photos so I could share.  I remember the first time I tried making caramel.  It was a disaster because I had no idea what I was doing.  Now, I’m kind of addicted to the process and, of course, the final product!  These pictures aren’t the best because I was trying to take them while I was making it but you’ll get the idea.

Start by heating the sugar and water in a pan on medium-high heat.  Stir constantly!  The sugar will burn (trust me).

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Keep stirring.  You will see some of the sugar begin to turn brown.  Keep stirring.  I promise it will liquefy!

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As the sugar dissolves, you will see it transform to a beautiful golden brown liquid.  Keep stirring.

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Once the sugar is dissolved, add butter and vanilla.  Remove from heat and slowly whisk in heavy cream.
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Once the cream is whisked in and you have the gorgeous color, set aside to thicken for about 15 minutes then refrigerate. It is an absolute must to keep a small spoon near the pan, as it’s cooling, so you can test the temp. 🙂 YUM!

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I love to pour my cooled caramel into jars.  They make great gifts and I keep plenty on hand this time of year so I can make Caramel Apple Cupcakes whenever the urge strikes (which is pretty often).  I also like to eat a spoonful every time I open the fridge.  It’s fall, right?  I gotta do it!  Look at this cute jar full of deliciousness.

Caramel Jar

One of the best things about having homemade caramel around is our Caramel Apple Cupcakes!  These cupcakes are the perfect combination of everything fall…cinnamon, apples and caramel.  They are a mouthful of gooey goodness!  When you finish eating one, you are a sticky mess and it’s wonderful!  Did I mention these are filled with caramel?  I could just drink caramel so the more the better for these little beauties!

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Caramel Apple Cupcakes are available to order now.  Please contact us if you want some for your fall festivities!

Here is the full recipe for the caramel.  I’m going apple picking next week and I can’t wait to make more caramel and apple concoctions!  I’m on a pumpkin kick too, but that’s another post!  Yay for fall!

From the heart, Shannon

Caramel
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon water
12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, at room temp

Pour the sugar and water into a large sauce-pan. Heat on medium-high heat and stir constantly until the sugar completely liquefies. After sugar has dissolved, add the butter and vanilla extract to the saucepan and mix thoroughly. Once the butter has melted and the butter and sugar are completely mixed, remove from heat and using a whisk, slowly whisk in the heavy cream until you reach a beautiful golden brown caramel color. Set aside and let cool and thicken for 15 minutes at room temp. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to thicken further before using.

 

Third Grade and Rustic Tomato Tart Recipe

Things have been a little hectic in our house lately as both my daughters started school this week.  I’m sure many of you are facing the same brutal reality that summer break is coming to an end.  Hannah and I hit the road Tuesday to move her into her dorm room.  She is happily embarking on year 2 of college and I couldn’t be more proud (and kind of sad because I miss having her around)!  I made the 9 hour drive back home on Wednesday and Carrie started third grade Thursday.  Our school district has different buildings for different grade levels.  Last year, Carrie was in a building that was first and second grades.  This year, she switched to a much larger school for grades 3, 4 and 5.  She was really excited and popped right up out of bed, ate breakfast and we were out the door no problem.  When we got to school and she saw all the other kids, she seemed a little nervous (4th and 5th graders can be intimidating).  Of course, she had a fantastic day, loves her new teachers and saw many of her friends!  My sweet girl is growing up way too fast!

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To help ease the transition from summer break to school days, I thought I’d surprise her with one of her favorite dishes for dinner and really celebrate her first day of third grade.  I’ve made this Rustic Tomato Tart a couple times this summer.  As a matter of fact, this is Carrie’s request for her birthday dinner every July.  I snagged some gorgeous tomatoes from a farm stand in North Carolina on Wednesday and couldn’t wait to top off Carrie’s first day of school with a delicious summertime dinner!

As I started preparing the dough, it dawned on me that I could share this with everyone.  I came across this recipe in Cooking Light several years ago and it has been a dish my family looks forward to every summer.  It’s not fancy but it is so yummy!  The preparation includes several steps but they are not hard and totally worth it; all that’s required is a little patience.

I didn’t capture photos of the dough making because I thought about posting it after I finished that part.  The dough calls for fresh corn kernels (I just cut them right off the cob), a little lemon juice and sour cream.  I toss all that into my little magic bullet to blend then add them to the flour, cornmeal, butter and salt.  I use my hands to make the dough then roll it out between sheets of plastic wrap.  I then put the rolled out piece of dough on a flat cookie sheet and stick it in the freezer until I’m ready to assemble.  Today I made the dough early and left it in the freezer for a few hours.  It works like a charm and makes dinner prep much easier to do this step ahead of time.  My tip on cornmeal is to use coarse grind.  It gives the dough a nice little crunch and I love it so much more than regular cornmeal in this recipe.

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If you are already thinking this recipe sounds too complicated, stick with it!  This tart is scrumptious and, once you try it, you’ll be looking for every reason to make it again.

I sliced the tomatoes then placed them on paper towels and salted them.  The salt draws out some of the moisture.  Then I grated the cheese, grabbed the dough, preheated the oven and started putting the whole thing together.  Those are some good-looking tomatoes, huh?  I like to use a combination but you can use whatever kind you have on hand.

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Once I remove the plastic wrap from one side of the dough (it’s much easier to remove while the dough is frozen), I flip it onto a piece of parchment paper that is covered with the cornmeal.  Next, I remove the other pieces of plastic wrap and start with the first layer of fontina cheese, fresh basil and flour.  The scissors pictured here are amazing!  They are herb scissors and they make life so easy!  The flour gets sifted over the cheese to keep the crust from getting too soggy from those juicy tomatoes.

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Here come the tomatoes!  Just one layer for now and leave a little dough border.  Beautiful!

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One more sprinkle of flour then another layer of tomatoes.

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This part is fun and where the term “rustic” comes in.  Simply fold the dough around the tomatoes.  See the flecks of cornmeal?  You’re going to love the crunch!

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Pop it in the oven for about 30-35 minutes.  It will be golden brown and the tomatoes will be cooked.  I like to sprinkle more cheese (yep) on top and let it melt for a few minutes at the end.  Once I take it out of the oven, I top it with more fresh basil.  It looks pretty and, truth be told, I could eat basil 24/7 when it’s tomato season!  MORE BASIL!

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There you have it!  It’s fresh, healthy and delicious!  Carrie LOVES this dish!  Please don’t be intimidated by the numerous steps.  Once you make it a couple times, you’ll find it’s really simple.  Besides, you can’t mess it up because it’s rustic!  Find something to celebrate this weekend and make this before all the tomatoes are gone.  Let me know how it turns out!

From the heart, Shannon

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Here’s the full recipe from Cooking Light.  Again, I usually make the dough ahead of time.

Rustic Tomato Tart

1 1/2 pounds medium yellow tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 1/2 pounds medium red tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2-3 ears)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal (Bob’s Red Mill coarse grind is really good!)
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided
3/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Preparation

Arrange tomato slices in a single layer on several layers of paper towels; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let stand 20 minutes; blot dry with paper towels.
Preheat oven to 400°.
Place corn, juice, and sour cream in a food processor or blender; process until smooth. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add corn mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Knead gently 3 or 4 times.
Slightly overlap 2 (16-inch) sheets of plastic wrap (or parchment paper or wax paper) on a slightly damp surface. Place dough on plastic wrap; press into a 6-inch circle. Cover with 2 additional (16-inch) sheets of overlapping plastic wrap. Roll dough, still covered, into a 14-inch circle; place on a large baking sheet in freezer 10 minutes or until plastic wrap can be easily removed. Line baking sheet with parchment paper; sprinkle paper with 1 tablespoon cornmeal. Remove 2 sheets of plastic wrap from dough. Place dough, plastic wrap side up, on baking sheet. Remove top sheets of plastic wrap.
Combine 2 tablespoons flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Arrange half the cheese on dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Top with basil. Using a sifter or sieve, sift 1 tablespoon flour mixture over cheese mixture. Arrange half of tomatoes over cheese mixture. Sift remaining flour mixture over tomatoes; top with remaining tomatoes. Fold edges of dough toward center; press to seal (dough will only partially cover tomatoes). Bake at 400° for 35 minutes or until crust is brown; let stand 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and top with fresh basil and pepper.