Lemon Thyme and Ginger

Classic Caramel Apples

Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

It is amazing to realize no matter how much time goes by, special memories remain as vivid as if it happened a day ago. Even if it is just a portion of the memory, a picture of that moment develops like a photograph creating a snapshot of time. Such is the case of my childhood Halloween memories. What I remember most about Halloween is Mom making caramel apples and popcorn balls for trick or treaters brave enough to walk up our steep and dark road. Mom was not crafty and rarely made homemade gifts or treats, but every Halloween she spent the day dipping apples in sweet caramel and forming popcorn balls like it was her mission in life.

Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

Our house was situated on a side road up a very steep hill. The surrounding houses in the neighborhood were scattered around the hill, in valleys, and down along the bay. It was steep territory to traverse and the neighborhood kids cleared trails from house to house creating shortcuts, so we could easily walk from one friend to another with the purpose of climbing up and/or down the hill only once in our travels. Walking up to my house was a steep hike and Mom believed that anyone who was willing to walk up our hill on Halloween deserved a reward for their efforts.

On Halloween, we traveled in packs, so mom could expect at most three groups of trick-or-treaters from the neighborhood. She bestowed upon her Halloween trick-or-treaters with not one, not two, but three treats: caramel apples, popcorn balls, and hot apple cider. We could sit and eat our treasure right there in the comfort of our kitchen or continue on our costumed journey. I am not sure if we timed it so we would stop at my house midway on our travels to warm up and take a break. Often, we paused only long enough to drink our hot cider, and then went on our way seeking more candy treasure. Mom was always so happy to see everyone dressed up in their costumes, and those caramel apples never tasted so good.

Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

Caramel Apples

Despite my vivid picture of Mom dipping apples into caramel, I have no memory of how she made them or what recipe she used. Additionally, I cannot remember ever seeing a recipe for caramel apples in her recipe file either. Chances are she got the recipes from either Joy of Cooking or Sunset Magazine, but after a couple of years making them she knew the recipe by heart.

My lack of family recipes from Mom left me to figure out how to make caramel apples on my own. I did not keep up her Halloween tradition, but I love caramel apples and want to bring them back into my life. Over the years I tried a couple of different recipes and I found two options producing delicious caramel for apples. You can choose to go all out and make your own caramel for dipping. Or, you can go the semi-homemade option and melt soft caramel candies for your caramel sauce.

Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

Tips for making caramel apples

Making caramel apples is easy, temperamental and I learned some helpful tips the hard way from my mistakes and triumphs.

First, make sure there is no wax on the apples. The wax just creates a slippery surface on the apples and the caramel will slide right off. This is one reason why making caramel apples with freshly picked apples is ideal.

All apples bought at a grocery store are coated with wax. To remove the wax, drop apples one at a time in just boiling water for less than a minute. Make sure the apple’s entire surface area gets a good soaking from the boiling water. Be careful with the amount of time the apples spend in the hot water because you do not want to cook them.

Remove the apples from the hot water and rub them with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel. You can also add apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to the boiling water. The acid helps break the bonds of the wax. Before you dip each apple in the caramel, make sure the apple is dry.

Another method to remove wax from apples is to wash the apples and rub super fine sandpaper over the apples being careful not to break the skin. Rinse off and thoroughly dry the apples. (Full disclosure, I have never tried this, but I am very tempted to for the next time I make caramel apples.)

Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

Second, firmly secure each stick, popsicle stick, or lollipop stick inside the apple. However, do not push it all the way through the apple. The juices from the apple will leak out and weaken the caramel.

Third, chill the apples for 30 minutes in the refrigerator before you dip them in the caramel. Cold apples will set the caramel faster.

Fourth, if you do not make your own caramel, use the best quality soft caramel candy you can buy. The better the quality of the caramel, the more reliable it is for dipping. Do not use store-bought caramel sauce.

Fifth, less is more. Allow the excess caramel to drip off. Aim for a thin even layer around each apple. This will help prevent the caramel from sliding down and pooling around the base of the apple. The pooling caramel is often unavoidable. You can fix it by pressing on the caramel and pushing it back into shape over the top of the apple.

Sixth, refrigerate the caramel apples until the caramel sets. Once set, serve them or dip them in melted chocolate, then chopped nuts or candy if using. Refrigerate the chocolate dipped caramel apples until the chocolate sets and gets hard.

Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

More Apple Treats

Smoky Apple Dutch Baby 

Apple Muffins with Lemon Glaze

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots

Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

If you have leftover caramel apples, slice them up and briefly sauté them in butter. Serve the sautéed caramel apple slices over vanilla ice cream, french toast, waffles, or Dutch Baby pancakes.

Print
Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

Classic Caramel Apples

Whenever I see caramel apples it brings me back to watching Mom make these delicious treats for all the trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Caramel apples are one of my favorite fall treats. Sweet and soft caramel, coating tart and crisp apples bring out the best flavors in both foods. A perfect marriage. For this recipe, you can either make your own caramel or use store-bought soft caramel candies to melt then dip your apples in. Buy the best quality caramel candies you can buy and make sure it is real caramel and not just corn syrup and flavorings. If you have never made caramel before, making caramel apples with store-bought soft caramel candies is more reliable. Making caramel is temperamental because in a flash your caramel can go from perfect to burnt, or the butter separates from the caramel if it has experienced some form of temperature shock. The homemade caramel sauce is from the caramel apple recipe in Tartine, by Elizabeth Prueitt. The homemade caramel sauce is from the caramel apple recipe in Tartine, by Elizabeth Prueitt. I adapted the recipe for caramel made with soft caramel candies and included some of the same flavors from Elizabeth Prueitt’s recipe. Use tart apples, like Granny Smith to complement the sweet caramel sauce. For your handle, use popsicle sticks, lollipop sticks or fresh tree twigs. If you use tree twigs, make sure to use ones that are cut off from the tree and not found on the ground. Wash and dry the twigs then make a point at one end for ease of poking them into the apples. Caution: Working with caramel is extremely hot. As a precaution keep a bowl filled with ice water at close range in the event you burn yourself from the steam or caramel.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword apples, Caramel apples
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Chilling time 1 hour
Total Time 30 minutes
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Caramel Apples

  • 8-10 medium tart apples like Granny Smith
  • 8-10 handles like lollipop sticks popsicle sticks or clean tree sticks
  • 1 recipe of caramel sauce
  • 8 oz (200 g) pistahios, or other nuts like walnuts or pecans, chopped fine (optional)

Caramel Sauce from Tartine

  • 1 cup (225 g) sugar
  • ½ cup (133 g) unsalted butter (one stick)
  • 2/3 cup (150 ml) heavy cream
  • ¼ cup (60 ml or 85 g) light corn syrup
  • 2 TB (30 ml) maple syrup
  • 1 TB (15 ml) Blackstrap or dark molasses
  • ¼ tsp (1 ml) real vanilla extract
  • Pinch of Kosher salt

Caramel Sauce Using Store-bought soft Caramel Candies

  • 1 lb. (500 g) 500 g soft real caramel candies
  • 3 TB (45 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 TB (15 ml) real maple syrup
  • 1 TB (15 ml) dark molasses

Instructions

Prepare your apples

  1. Wash and dry the apples. Remove the wax from the apples before you start. See the Caramel Apple blog post for wax removal instructions.

  2. Secure the handle into the apples. Pierce one stick into the stem end of each apple. Do not push the stick all the way through the apple because the juices will leak and weaken the caramel. 

  3. Place the prepared apples on a tray and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. If using parchment paper, lightly spray it with cooking oil. Set aside.

Make the caramel sauce

Tartine caramel sauce

  1. Add all the ingredients into a heavy-duty saucepan with a minimum of a 3-quart capacity. Place the pot over medium-high heat. Occasionally stir the ingredients to prevent the sugar from burning on the bottom of the pan. Bring the caramel to a boil and cook the caramel until it reaches 236°F (113°C), about 7 minutes.

  2. Remove the pan from the heat and rest the caramel until it cools down to 180°F (82°C).

    Continue to Make the Caramel Apples.

Caramel Sauce Made from Soft Caramel Candies

  1. Add water to the bottom portion of a double boiler filling the saucepan until it reaches shy of 2-inches up the side of the pot. Place the top portion of the double boiler on top then add all the ingredients to the pot. Turn the heat to medium-high and melt the caramel. Occasionally stir the ingredients to incorporate the ingredients and promote even melting. Once the caramel is melted, turn down the heat to low and begin making the caramel apples. 

Make the Caramel Apples

  1. Remove the chilled apples from the refrigerator and bring near your saucepan with the caramel sauce. Position the prepared rimmed sheet pan at the opposite side of the caramel sauce.

  2. One at a time, dip an apple into the caramel, turning it over to get an even coating of caramel. Lift the apple out of the caramel and let the caramel drip back into the pot. Turn the apple around to encourage the caramel to evenly drip off and not collect over one spot. Turn the apple right side up and hold it upright for 30 seconds.

  3. If you are dipping your apple into chopped nuts or candies, turn the apple upside down and dip the apple into the bowl filled with nuts or candy.
  4. Place the finished apple on the prepared sheet pan. Once you are done with all the apples. Place the sheet pan in the refrigerator and chill the apples until the caramel firms up.
  5. Once set, serve immediately. Store the caramel apples uncovered in the refrigerator for up to three days. 

Recipe Notes

After you dipped all your apples and notice caramel pooling at the base of the apples, you can press the caramel back into place with your fingers.

Many different types of nuts and candies taste great with caramel apples. Sprinkles, Heath Bar Crunch, Chocolate Chips, and or any nut will easily stick to the caramel if chopped in small size pieces. 

Classic Caramel Apples recipe. Recipe for caramel apples, a classic fall and Halloween treat. In this recipe there are two methods available to make the caramel for the apples. One is homemade and one is semi-homemade using soft caramel candies.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Ginger Plum and Pear Crisp

Ginger Plum and Pear Crisp recipe.

Last week I was making a vegan plum crisp for my brother-in-law and while shopping for some plums I spied ripe Forelle pears. It may seem a bit too early for pears, but Forelle pears are now ripe and ready at my local farm stand. I love the way Forelle pears look, they are so adorable in its petit form looking like a baby Bartlett pear with rosy cheeks. I find them hard to resist and are the perfect size for an afternoon snack. Change of plans, my plum crisp just got a makeover and turned into a vegan plum and pear crisp with lots of fresh ginger and a hint of nutmeg.

Ginger Plum and Pear Crisp recipe

What Is A Crisp?

Crumble or crisp? I have confused the names of these two desserts for so many years. It is just that the actual name of each dessert is opposite to what my backward brain believes it should be. Essentially aren’t they the same dessert after all? Yes and no. Both the crumble and crisp are baked fruit desserts with a crusty topping. However, one has rolled oats in the topping and the other does not.

A fruit crisp has the rolled oats and flour topping and is so named because the rolled oats make the rough and tumble topping crispy like an oatmeal cookie. A fruit crumble is made with all-purpose flour, butter, sugar and gets all soft and crumbly while baking and soaking up the fruit juices.

Ginger Plum and Pear Crisp recipe.

Ginger Plum and Pear Crisp recipe.

Plum and Pear Crisp

This is one of the easiest desserts you can make, and it is one that is so satisfying. Essentially it is baked fruit with a giant cookie topping like two desserts in one. Top it off with some vanilla ice cream and you have 3 dessert indulgences on your plate.

Ginger Plum and Pear Crisp recipe.

The recipe is a basic formula for all fruit crisps. Usually, crips have around 6 cups (1.5 Liters) of fruit filling for the standard amount. This formula works with any type of fruit like plums, pears, apples or other stone fruit. This amount of fruit filling fills a nine-inch (23 cm) pie plate or 8-inch (20 cm) square baking dish.

The topping generally has equal parts of rolled oats to all-purpose flour with butter and sugar. For this recipe, I wanted to make a vegan dessert so, I used a vegan butter substitute. I have success using Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread. (Not an ad.) The flavor is pleasant and tastes natural, unlike some kinds of margarine. FYI, not all margarine is vegan. It is one of the easiest desserts to convert to a vegan option because the butter is the only animal product to find a substitute for.

Ginger Plum and Pear Crisp recipe.

Keys to Success

The key to a perfectly baked plum and pear crisp lies in the fruit selection. The type of pear or plum is not as important, but how ripe they are is. Your fruit must be ripe. Ideally just ripe or a smidgen off ripe. Overripe plums and pears will dissolve into a sauce and not keep their shape. Unripe plums and pears will never get soft no matter how long you bake them. It is just not their time. Plus, they do not have any flavor.

Types of Plums

Types of Pears

I used a combination of black plums and European plums, like a Moyer plum. The European plum has a longer and oval shape compared to the roundness of black plums. Any type of plum will taste great as long as they are ripe.

For the pears, I used only Forelle, because they were ripe. Bosc pears work very well in a crisp or pie because they keep its shape. I did not peel the Forelle pears, but if I used Bosc pears I would peel them as the skin is rougher and thicker than Forelle pears.

Best pears for Baking

Ginger Plum and Pear Crisp recipe.

My Mistake

I have made this plum and pear dessert many times, yet as you can see in my photographs, this time around I went a little overboard with the fruit filling. Ideally, you want a level surface of fruit filling for the buttery topping to spread over. The fruit cooks evenly when it is not piled up so high and the rolled oats in the topping won’t burn before the crisp is done.

My problem is the result of a shallow baking dish, that I chose because it would photograph better than my trusty Pyrex deep dish pie pan. My vanity resulted in a delicious plum and pear crisp, but one that did not bake as evenly as it should. I say this, so you can learn from my mistake and not feel you must make your crisp overflowing with fruit like I did.

Ginger Plum and Pear Crisp recipe.

More Fruit Desserts: Nectarine and Blueberry Galette, Peach and Mixed Berry with Sabayon, Nifty Cake, Gluten-free Nifty Cake, Lemon Cake, Apricot Streusel Cake, Almond Cherry and Peach Galette.

Mix It Up

Use any fruit for the filling. Apples, pears, plums, nectarines or other stone fruit. I added some blackberries with the plums and pears in my crisp just for fun. If you want to make a mixed berry crisp, mix the berries with a type of fruit that retains its shape like nectarines,  plums, or Bosc pears. Otherwise, it will look saucy without any distinctive fruit shapes.

Change the spices. I love fresh ginger with fruit and use it often. Other good spices are cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, or ground clove. Lemon zest and lemon juice brighten up the fruit and the juice prevents apples and pears from browning. Lemon zest is also a nice accent flavor mixed in the topping.

Add dried fruit like chopped dried apricots or cranberries. They add a tart concentrated flavor to the fruit filling and help absorb some of the fruit juices. Add about a half a cup (125 ml) at the most. Dried fruit should be an accent flavor, not a featured one.

Add nuts or unsweetened coconut flakes to the topping. Pecans, walnuts or almonds give the topping some extra crunch. If you add unsweetened coconut flakes, add a 1/2 a cup (125 ml), and remove equal amounts of rolled oats and all-purpose flour (1/4 cup, 60 ml, each).

Ginger Plum and Pear Crisp recipe.

P.S. Yes, I do see the reflection of the chandelier in the spoon. I could not get the darn clone stamp to work in Photoshop so I gave up and included the photo anyway. To all the Photoshop experts out there, how do you get rid of reflections in shiny objects like a silver spoon?

Print
Ginger Plum and Pear Crisp recipe.

Ginger Plum and Pear Crisp

Fruit crisp has a basic formula that is suitable for any seasonal fruit. This basic formula makes it easy to personalize your crisp using the fruit and spices you love. I love using fresh ginger with fruit as it adds some bite and compliments most fruits like pears, plums and apples. However, ground ginger does not taste as bright as fresh ginger in baked desserts.

Often, I need a vegan dessert and I find fruit crisps are an easy vegan dessert option. There are no eggs or dairy products to maintain the structure of a crisp so all you need to substitute is a plant-based butter-like spread. In this recipe, you can use equal amounts of vegan butter spread or real butter. When selecting a vegan butter spread, read the ingredients list carefully to make sure there are no dairy or other animal-based ingredients in the mix. 

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword pear crisp, vegan dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Resting time 15 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 6 cups (1.5 L) prepared fruit. Depending on the type and size of plums you will need 5- 6 plums. And, 4-6 Forelle pears or 3-4 Bosc pears
  • 6 oz (170 g) blackberries optional
  • 1 ½ inch (14 g) knob of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2/3 cup 113 g packed brown sugar
  • ¾ cup 75 g rolled oats ( not quick rolled oats)
  • ¾ cup 100g all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup 27 g toasted nuts, like pecans, almonds or walnuts, chopped
  • 5 TB 86 g straight out of the refrigerator vegan butter substitute or butter
  • Pinch 1/8 tsp of Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Set the oven rack into the middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Lightly butter a 9-inch (23 cm) pie pan or 8-inch (20 cm) square pan. Set aside.

  2. Slice open the plums and remove the pits then slice the plums into wedges. Add the plums into a large mixing bowl.

  3. Slice each pear in half and remove the core. Then cut each pear into chunks about 1/2 -3/4 of an inch (1 cm - 1.5 cm). Add the pears into the bowl with the plums. The skin on Forelle pears is very thin and tender so I do not peel them. However, if you are using Bosc pears, you might want to peel the skin.

  4. Add the minced ginger and grated nutmeg to the bowl with the fruit along with the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Mix together until the sugar and spices are thoroughly mixed through the fruit. Set aside.
  5. In another bowl add the sugar, rolled oats, all-purpose flour, toasted nuts and a pinch of Kosher salt. Mix together with your clean hands until the butter and all ingredients are evenly incorporated and forming soft clumps of dough.
  6. Pour the fruit into your prepared baking pan then sprinkle the crisp topping evenly over the top of the fruit. Place your baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, then slide into the oven. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the top is evenly browned and the juices are bubbly.
  7. Cool on wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve hot or room temperature. Best eaten the day it is made. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, loosely covered in aluminum foil.
Ginger Plum and Pear Crisp.Recipe for a plum and pear crisp seasoned with fresh ginger and nutmeg.

 

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Summer Backyard BBQ Menu Ideas

Summer Backyard BBQ Menu with recipe links.

There is nothing like getting together with friends and family for a day into night BBQ. The warmer temperatures and longer days just invite people to relax and hang outside. I put together a delicious BBQ Menu designed for ease of preparation,  seasonal produce, diet flexibility, and just good eats. When preparing a BBQ menu, the first thing to evaluate is know your guests’ dietary restrictions, if any. Don’t put any of your guests in the position where they must bring their own food. A courteous host will design a menu around their inspiration and friends and family food restrictions. In my case no matter if I am entertaining friends or family, I always need food for vegetarian, sometimes vegan, and gluten free diets. The whole menu does not have to include all the restrictions, but having at least one selection per course for any specialized diet is greatly appreciated.

Food allergies are taken more seriously than when I was growing up and there are times when people have so many food allergies and restrictions they opt to bring their own food. No one wants to put anyone out or feel like they are needing a special meal just for them. As a courtesy describe your menu to your friend or family member and inform them of your menu. If you are making something they can eat, let them know.

Summer BBQ Menu

Beer   Wine   Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita

Appetizers

Muhammarra   Grilled Shrimp Cocktail   Pickled Deviled Eggs

Main Course

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

Cold Sesame Noodles

Grilled Asparagus

3 Bean Salad

Dessert

Double Coconut Pie

Gluten Free Strawberry Tart

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel

 

Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita with Jalapeno, recipe.

BBQ Menu: Drinks

Serving a selection of wine and beer and non-alcoholic beverages is all anyone expects at a backyard party. However, these days people are very particular about the type of wine and beer they like to drink. Most likely your guests will bring a beverage they like and willing to share.

For beer, offer a variety like a lager, IPA, and Saison. This variety should cover most people’s taste preference. You know you guests best, if the only beer your guests drink is Corona, then that is all you need. For me, I am surrounded beer aficionados, so the more diverse selection the happier they are.

My summer wine selection usually includes, red, white and rosé wines. Here again, people are particular about what wine they like to drink and based on my experience two types of white wines are necessary. There are two distinct white wine camps, those who only drink chardonnay and those who do not drink Chardonnay period. A choice of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio will round out the white wine selection nicely. Another option is offer White Bordeaux. It is a dry white wine and should appeal to both white wine camps.

For red wine, Merlot pairs nicely with the steak and is not as heavy as a Cabernet Sauvignon. Additionally, I found during the summer a lighter, dry red wine like Cotes de Rhone is another all-purpose red wine choice.

The great peace keeper is Rosé. Both red and white wine drinkers enjoy a dry rosé. So, if you do not have the white or red wine they prefer, rosé to the rescue. It is a refreshing wine and perfect for summer.

For fun, offer a signature cocktail like Raspberry Hibiscus Margarita with Jalapeno. You get two drinks in one with this recipe. The raspberry hibiscus juice is excellent in a cocktail and a non-alcoholic beverage mixed with seltzer or ginger ale.

BBQ Menu: The Beginning

No BBQ menu is complete without a good selection of appetizers. Chances are, your guests will arrive hungry anticipating a night of eating and drinking. Appetizers give people something to do other than drink, plus they set the mood of your party. Also, it is my experience people love appetizers or nibbly foods, sometimes more than the main dinner selection. Some people like to help and pass around a tray of appetizers because it gets them connected to everyone at the party.

Three recipes, Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Bacon, Roasted Red Pepper Dip with Walnuts and Pomegranate, Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots

BBQ Menu: Appetizers

Depending on the amount of people determines how many appetizers you need. For a party with 8 people, I usually have three appetizers. Having more than 2 appetizer selections gives people choices for their meal, it looks welcoming and people feel like they are going to be well fed. When there is a small selection of food, people feel self-conscious about eating, because no one wants to be the guy who eats more than their fair share, and like I mentioned earlier people are usually hungry as soon as they arrive to a BBQ. Even if you have a larger party, 3 appetizers are a nice selection but make enough of each for two appetizer stations.

Variety is the name of the game. People love chips and dip of any variety. Serve with a vegetable crudité, and chips and crackers. All my dips published in this blog are some of my favorites and picking one is like choosing which of your children is your favorite. They are all my favorite. For a small party, I would select one dip, for a larger party I make two or three dips depending on the other appetizers.

 

Muhammarra is a delicious roasted red pepper dip from Syria. It is a vegan dip, but not gluten free. You can easily eliminate the crackers and add more walnuts for a gluten free option. Next to guacamole, Muhammarra is one of my favorites.

No one can resist shrimp cocktail and this roasted shrimp cocktail with Sriracha horseradish cocktail sauce is a definite crowd pleaser.  As long as you got your grill going, grill the shrimp over indirect heat instead of roasting them.

If it is not super hot outside people love Deviled Eggs and the Cornichon Pickle Deviled Eggs will pair nicely with the rest of the menu.

Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Spicy Citrus Dressing Recipe

BBQ Menu: Main Course

I went traditional with this BBQ menu and selected a meat entrée because this flank steak is easy to prepare and cooks up quickly.  My recipe for Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak is an oldie but goodie and one I use regularly. The marinade is also delicious for pork tenderloin. The photographs may need updating but the steak has a sweet, salty and smoky flavor that is timeless. With grilled sherry marinated flank steak, you can make all sorts of crowd pleasing main entrées. Serve it as is, make into a steak salad, or make tacos or steak fajitas. Additionally, any leftovers make the best steak sandwich.

Very few people don’t like grilled asparagus and it pairs well with this flank steak. On several occasions I discovered grilled asparagus is the only prepare some people will eat asparagus. As long as you got the grill going, you might as well grill up some vegetables. You can serve the grilled asparagus as is or have an orange mayonnaise dressing on the side. If you have vegetarians at your party be considerate and grill the asparagus before you grill the flank steak.

I often find a green salad is not the most popular food item at buffets and barbecues. My theory is people pile their plates with the main food selection with the best intention of returning for salad. But chances are they go back for seconds and forgo the salad. However, no one will miss the leafy green salad as long as there a couple of vegetable dish selections. For a leafy green salad substitute, I enjoy this 3 Bean Salad, made with two types of string beans, kidney beans and a lemon ginger vinaigrette.  Not only is it a delicious salad, it provides some protein for vegan and vegetarian guests.

For an unexpected side dish, serve Cold Sesame Noodles instead of potato salad. Cold sesame noodles also give your vegetarian guests some more protein with the 3 bean salad. If you need a gluten free side dish, make the cold sesame noodles with your favorite gluten free pasta, or Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit.

Nectarine and Blueberry Galette recipe

BBQ Menu: Dessert

For a small party one dessert is plenty, but if you are having more than 8 guests, then offer a selection of desserts. I prefer desserts that can easily be made in advance and maintain their vibrant appearance and taste. Unless I make a sheet cake, like Pioneer Woman’s, Best chocolate Sheet Cake, I do not bake cakes for barbecues. Pies, cookies, brownies, crisps, or make your own ice cream sundaes are perfect for a summer BBQ menu. An excellent pie, and gluten free to boot, is Double Coconut Pie or, Gluten free Strawberry Tart made with pistachio cookie crust. The strawberry tart taste best when it is assembled right before serving, but that does not take too much time.

Nothing beats these fudgy brownies with sea salt and caramel, and they can easily fit in to make your own brownie sundaes. Just add the caramel sauce after you top off with the ice cream. But if you want a cold and refreshing dessert, Lemon Mousse or Yogurt Panna Cotta are excellent options for a small backyard parties.

Party Success

All these recipes were published to feed an average size family, yet they can easily scale up to feed any number of number of people. If I am only serving one main entrée selection, I figure on 6 oz (175 g) per person for the main entrée. A 6 oz (175 g) serving is a normal sized dinner portion. If you have a lot of food in your buffet and a second entrée, figure on 4 oz (150 g) of meat or fish per person. A half cup (125 ml) per person is a good portion size for any salad, vegetable or grain side dish.

The key to a fun and relaxed backyard BBQ is don’t fret it. Do as much as you can in advance and let people help when offered. Once the appetizers are made, the only food you need to time is the flank steak, everything else can be made in advance. Keep any cold food chilled before serving. There is nothing on the vegetables dishes you need to worry about going bad, except if you serve the orange mayonnaise.

Summer parties are less formal, and people enjoy making a dish to share. The main point of your get together is just that, a gathering of friends and family for a relaxing evening of good food, and fun. There is nothing wrong with asking people to help. Know your talents and limits, if dessert is not your forte, ask friends to bring dessert or buy it. Or, maybe you love making dessert but can’t swing the appetizers or salad, ask for help. Honestly, most people enjoy bringing a contribution because it makes them feel they are part of the party’s success. As much as you do not want to be alone in the kitchen, your guests want to visit with you as well, so ask for help when you need it.

Here is to a summer full of lots of parties and barbecues. Enjoy!

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake, with a recipe.

Chocolate is a separate food group in my household and just like protein, I can’t live without it. Whenever I order a dessert in a restaurant, it is the chocolate desserts I gravitate to. However, I hesitate whenever I see a flourless chocolate cake on the menu because I do not know if it going to be fudge or cake. When it comes to flourless chocolate cake, I like them on the lighter side, not the ones that taste like dense fudge. It is not that I believe they taste bad, it is just they are very rich. The type of flourless chocolate cake I prefer, have a lighter airy texture, despite being moist and loaded with dark chocolate.

So far, I have come across two flourless chocolate cake recipes that satisfy my requirement of biting into a slice of cake, not a chunk of fudge. What makes them different from most flourless chocolate cake recipes out there is the use of finely ground nuts and whipped egg whites. The nuts act like a flour replacement and give the cake some texture and body. Also, because of the whipped egg whites, there is some air which gives the cake some lift and tastes light. Just like brownies, the cake is fudgy without being dense.

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe

The only challenging aspect to making a flourless chocolate cake is how fragile they are. Especially the types of cakes I prefer. Without the gluten to hold it together, the cake can easily break and crack. Transferring the cake off the bottom of the springform pan onto a serving dish requires the strength of all the good karma, prayers and best wishes you can muster. As well as patience and your best problem-solving skills. It is a very moist cake, especially in the middle which makes it very delicate.

My recipe is adapted from Diana Henry’s Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe in her cookbook, Simple. She uses ground almonds which I love, but I could not bring myself to use almonds a day after I wrote a post about Earth Day Recipes and how growing almonds in California is depleting their water supply. I will not give up almonds altogether, but I should leave some time before I start using them again.

Bitter Orange Chocolate Cake recipe

Flourless Chocolate Cake Variations

In my recipe I substitute almonds with ground walnuts and I added orange zest and Grand Marnier. Chocolate pairs well with many types of nuts, so you can’t go wrong using any type of nut. I do love walnuts and chocolate, especially with bitter orange flavors from orange zest and orange flavored liqueur. I kept all the proportions the same, but I also added Grand Marnier for an extra orange punch. There is just enough of the walnuts for a subtle nut flavor with the dark chocolate the focal point.

However, the addition of Grand Marnier makes the cake more fragile than without it. I believe this is because of the extra moisture in the cake batter. I don’t believe baking it longer will help. If you are concerned about the final show stopping appearance, then don’t add the Grand Marnier. The whipped cream has Grand Marnier in it, so the dessert will have the great chocolate and boozy orange flavor.

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe.

Removing the cake off the bottom of the spingform pan is challenging with this moist and delicate cake. If you don’t care, remove the sides of the pan and place the cake still on top of the pan’s bottom, on a serving plate. No one will care or notice while they are enjoying your delicious cake. Or, you can try lining the bottom of the pan with parchment paper to see if that helps. If your cake does break don’t despair, you can break it up and make ice cream sundaes with chocolate and vanilla ice cream, dark chocolate sauce, whipped cream with orange flavors and candied orange peel. Or, cut the cake up into bite size pieces for people to nibble on with their coffee or tea.

Orange Essence Flourless Chocolate Cake is worth making regardless of its delicate nature. Because the chocolate is the dominate flavor, use the best quality of chocolate you can buy with 70%- 72% cocoa butter. I have great success with Lindt chocolate and Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate, twilight delight found in candy section of the grocery store. Here is a link for more information on the best chocolate bars for baking from Serious Eats.

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe

Enjoy!

Print
Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake, with a recipe.

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake

An effortless flourless chocolate cake with intense dark chocolate flavor and a light and nutty texture. The cake is very moist and fudgy but not dense.   

Serve with whipped cream 

Course Dessert
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Cooling Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Flourless chocolate cake

  • 6.75 oz (192 g) unsalted butter about 1 2/3 sticks
  • 11.5 oz (328 g) good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces 70% coco solids
  • 3/4 cup (164 g) super fine sugar
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup (57 g) ground walnuts (see note)
  • finely grated zest from half a navel orange
  • 2 TB Grand Marnier Optional
  • Confectioners' sugar for dusting the cake

Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 TB confectioners' sugar or to taste
  • Zest from half an orange
  • 2 TB Ground Marnier or a 1/2 teaspoon of Orange Blossom Water

Instructions

For the Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F (177°C /Gas Mark 4) oven. Butter an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan. Set aside. 

  2. In a medium metal mixing bowl, add the broken-up chocolate, the butter and sugar to the bowl. 

  3. Add some water to a large 10-inch (25.5 cm) skillet just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Set on a burner over medium heat. Bring the water to a gentle simmer and place the bowl with the chocolate, butter and sugar in the center of the skillet. Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally. Do not let the water get to a brisk boil. Keep it at a gentle simmer, being careful not to splash water into the chocolate. 

  4. Remove the bowl from the skillet just before all the butter has melted and stir until all the chocolate and butter has melted. Let the chocolate cool for four minutes. 

  5. Add the egg yolks one at a time to the chocolate, stirring between each addition until each yolk is incorporated. 

  6. In a separate bowl, with a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff with soft peaks and still wet. Soft peaks will form when you lift out the beaters. Gently fold in the Grand Marnier if using. 

  7. Add the orange zest to the ground walnuts and mix together. Add the walnut mixture to the chocolate and half of the whipped egg whites. Fold into the chocolate. Then fold in the remaining egg whites. 

  8. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and place on a rimmed sheet pan in case it leaks.  Place the cake in the oven and bake for 35 minutes. 

  9. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a cake rack. Don't get upset if you see the cake deflate and crack as it cools. When the cake is completely cool, unlatch the pan and carefully remove the sides. Run an icing spatula, or thin sharp knife under the cake to loosen. It helps to clean off the spatula or knife every time you pull it out from under the cake. Carefully transfer the cake onto a serving plate.

  10. Dust the cake with confectioners' sugar right before serving. 

Whipped Cream

  1. Right before serving, use a hand-held mixer and whip the heavy cream until it just holds its shape. Sprinkle in the confectioners' sugar and Grand Marnier, if using. Whip until combined soft peaks form. Taste and correct the whipped cream for sweetness and the Grand Marnier. Place in a small serving bowl. 

  2. Serve the whipped cream with the cake and extra fruit, like berries. 

Recipe Notes

Before you start the cake, toast the walnuts in a preheated 350°F (177 °C / Gas Mark 4) oven. Spread a couple of handfuls (60 g) of the walnuts over a small rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 7 minutes. Spread the toasted walnuts over a clean lint free kitchen towel. Fold a portion of the towel over the nuts to cover and rub the towel with the walnuts back and forth to remove the walnut skin. No need to go crazy rubbing off all the skin. Rub back and forth a few times until no more skin comes off without scrubbing. Collect the walnuts leaving the loose skin behind and grind the walnuts in a food processor. 

Bitter Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake. A flourless chocolate cake recipe made with ground walnuts and flavored with orange zest and Grand Marnier. It has intense dark chocolate flavor complemented with the bitter orange essence. A very moist and light cake.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, reicpe

When you crave fudgy brownies like nothing else matters, sometimes the only way to satisfy this desire is make them for yourself. It is my experience, homemade brownies have just the right texture and flavor that I want. There were too many times I bought a brownie at a gourmet store and they were dry and dull. I guess I am very particular about my brownies. Fortunately, it is not difficult to make good fudgy brownies at home.

Other than the dark chocolate, what I love about making brownies from scratch is I can mix them by hand. It doesn’t take a lot of whisking, whipping or timing, just a good stir to mix everything up. For the novice baker, homemade brownies are a good place to start learning how to bake.

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, recipe

This recipe is from Ina Garten’s Salted Caramel Brownies from her book, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof. Ina’s cookbooks and recipes are very well organized and constructed. You can trust her to present each recipe clearly, accurately and efficiently. Her brownies are dangerously delicious. They have deep dark chocolate flavor with just the right amount of moisture without being gooey. For all brownie lovers out there, chocolate fudgy brownies with rich caramel and flaky sea salt drizzled over the top are a masterpiece. There is nothing that grabs your attention like chocolate, caramel and sea salt all in one delectable brownie bite. This is a happy marriage.

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, recipe 

I made two changes to Ina Garten’s recipe. In the original recipe she uses semisweet chocolate chips in the brownies chocolate foundation. Chocolate chips have additional ingredients besides cocoa butter and sugar and I believe should only be used as chips. Sometimes, melted down chocolate chips has a chalky flavor and grainy texture. This is not something I want in my brownies. A bar of good quality semisweet chocolate melted with a bar of unsweetened chocolate gives the brownies a lighter texture and a purer chocolate flavor.

The other change I made is, I use less caramel sauce than she recommends in her recipe. She specifies 5 ounces of caramel sauce to drizzle over the brownies. That is a lot of caramel sauce and looks more like frosting on a cake then a glaze. Feel free to adjust the amount of caramel sauce according to your preference.

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, recipe.

Caramel Sauce for Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel

If you are buying caramel sauce, please seek out real caramel sauce. The common brands you’ll find in a super market are mostly made with artificial flavor and corn syrup. You want the real deal to drizzle over your homemade real chocolate brownies. Ina Garten recommends Fran’s, but I also like Cara Sel and Fat Toad Farm Caramel. Fran’s is a company out of Washington that specializes in chocolates. Cara Sel comes from a family run company in the NY Hudson Valley. You can find their caramel sauce in stores all over NY State and on-line. Fat Toad Farm is a family run farm in Vermont and their caramel sauce is made with goat’s milk. All three sauces are delicious artisan caramel sauces you can buy online or in specialty stores. Use any brand you like, but please make sure it is the real stuff.

Often, I make caramel sauce while these brownies bake in the oven. It takes about 20 minutes and is something worth knowing how to make. Loaded fudgy brownies have a lot of dark chocolate, almost 12 ounces worth, plus 6 ounces of chocolate chips. Depending on what brand chocolate you buy, brownie ingredients are expensive. Add another $10 to $16 for a 6 oz jar of caramel sauce turns these homemade brownies into gold.

The caramel sauce recipe I use is from Simply Recipes on the web.  It makes caramel sauce using the dry method, which I prefer because it takes less time and I am impatient. Here is a recipe for caramel sauce using the wet method. It takes longer but the sugar melts at an even rate. Also, it does not have butter in it. You need a good heavy-bottom 3-quart sauce pan to prevent the sugar from burning. Follow the directions carefully and please take the necessary precautions so hot caramel does not bubble over your mixing hand.

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, recipe.

Tips for Making Fudgy Brownies

  • One special piece of equipment you need is a double boiler to melt the chocolate and butter. If you do not have a double boiler, make one by fitting a small heat proof mixing bowl over a 3-quart sauce pan filled with less than an inch of water.
  • While melting the chocolate in a double boiler, keep the heat medium-low and make sure the simmering water does not touch the bottom of the pan, or bowl holding the chocolate.
  • Allow for several minutes to cool the chocolate before you add it to the eggs and sugar. If the chocolate and butter are too hot, it will cook your eggs.
  • Before you add the chocolate chips to the brownie mix, allow some time for the mix to come to a cool room temperature. This insures the chips don’t melt and ruin the brownies.
  • Be careful not to over bake the brownies. They are done when a tooth pick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out clean. If you do over bake them they will still taste good, but they won’t be as moist.

Whenever you need to bring a dessert to a friend’s house, a hostess gift, a dessert for a weekend getaway, or a last minute get together, these brownies will please everyone who loves chocolate. I even mailed them as a care package to Taylor in college. Fudgy brownies with sea salt and caramel are a family favorite.

Print
Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, reicpe

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel

Dark chocolate fudgy brownies with rich caramel sauce and flaky sea salt. It just doesn't get any better than this. This recipe is slightly adapted from Ina Garten's Salted Caramel Brownies from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof Cookbook To make your own caramel sauce try either of these recipes from Serious Eats or Simply Recipes or buy real caramel sauce at a specialty store.
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 12 brownies
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • ½ lb 226 g unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into pieces about 1 TB in size
  • 8 oz 227 g semisweet chocolate, broken in to irregular pieces
  • 3 oz 75 g unsweetened chocolate, broken into irregular pieces
  • 3 large eggs
  • TB 6 g instant coffee granules, like Medaglia D'Oro or Café Bustelo
  • 1 TB pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 TB 246 g granulated sugar
  • ½ cup 71 g plus 2 TB (17 g) all-purpose flour
  • tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • 6 oz 172 g semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2-4 oz 60-125 ml caramel sauce
  • 2-3 tsp flaky sea salt such as Maldon

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Place the rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Butter and lightly flour a 9 x 12 x 1½ inch (23 x 30 x 4 cm) baking pan. (preferably metal)
  3. Make a double boiler by placing a medium bowl resting on the rim of a 3 qt sauce pan filled no more than an inch (2.5 cm) of water. Turn the heat to medium-high and place the butter, semisweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate in the bowl. Melt the chocolate and butter. Every now and then, carefully stir the chocolate and butter. Watch to make sure the simmering water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Once melted, remove the bowl from the sauce pan and cool for 15 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl stir together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and granulated sugar. Do not beat the eggs, just stir to combine.
  6. After the 15-minute cooling time, slowly add the melted butter and chocolate to the eggs and sugar mixture. Pour about a quarter of the chocolate into the mix and stir to temper the brownie mix. Slowly add the remaining melted chocolate and butter and stir at the same time. Once mixed together, allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. See note.
  7. In a medium bowl add the ½ cup (71 g) flour, baking powder, and Kosher salt. Use a small whisk and whisk the flour mixture until the flour, baking powder and salt are evenly combined. Add the flour mixture to the bowl with the cooled chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Toss the chocolate chips in the flour bowl with the remaining 2 TBS of all-purpose flour until they become nicely coated. Add the chocolate chips and flour into the chocolate brownie mix. Stir to mix.
  8. Pour the brownie mix into the prepared pan and spread to form an even layer.
  9. Bake for 35 minutes, or when a tooth pick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean. The edges will look slightly dry and just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Do not over bake. The brownies will continue to bake while it is cooling.
  10. Remove the brownies from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
  11. When the brownies are just out of the oven, heat up your caramel sauce in a microwave until it thins out to a pouring consistency. Stir the caramel sauce until smooth.
  12. Evenly drizzle the caramel sauce over the hot brownies, then sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
  13. Completely cool the brownies before cutting into serving pieces.

Recipe Notes

Cooling the chocolate brownie mix to a cool room temperature is crucial. If the brownie mix is too warm when you add in the chocolate chips, all the chocolate chips will melt and ruin the brownies.

Nutrition Facts
Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel
Amount Per Serving (1 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel, recipe. Deliciously addictive Chocolate Brownie recipe with caramel sauce and sea salt drizzle . Adapted from Barefoot Contessa, Salted Caramel Brownies.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Food Blog Theme from Nimbus
Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: