Cookies & Cream Salted Caramel Popcorn Bars

October 31, 2013

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Happy Halloween! I LOVE Halloween. Our neighborhood, which is near “Sleepy Hollow” (I kid you not!) is all decked out in all of its spooky finery

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I’ve noticed quite a few new residents

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who seem to be getting up to all sorts of mischief

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and well some of them are just downright creepy!

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I am so sad to say that the husband and I have not attended a proper Halloween costume party since 2010! I am simply appalled!! Unfortunately that trend is continuing this year as we have no big plans at all. As I mentioned in my last blog, things around here are craaaaZy (that’s right…with a capital Z) right now. I had all sorts of plans for the Halloween goodies I was going to conjure up for you. I’ve made some really fun treats in the past. I think my all time favourite Halloween creation is the Soul Cake.

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It might just be the historian in me that makes me love it so much, because truth be told, unlike most sugar laden, tooth-achingly sweet candies found in abundance on Halloween, these little cake like cookies are only mildly sweet. There is not a speck of chocolate to be found in them, only a few currants top the cakes arranged in a cross pattern. What can I say, sometimes less is more. Here is a little bit from my Soul Cake blog post which talks about the origins of Halloween and the Soul Cake connection.

Our modern Halloween celebrations are derived from the Celtic holiday of Samhain. Samhain was Celtic New Year. It was a harvest festival which marked the dying of the sun-god and a turning to the colder, dormant half of the year. On this night, the Celts believed the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was at its lowest point. The dead could more easily travel back over to our side, and if we weren’t careful, we could accidentally wander over in to their world and be trapped-a good reason to stay close to home and bonfires, no doubt! This belief likely gave rise to our Halloween legends of ghosts, ghouls and witches wandering about on this night in particular. As Christian beliefs took hold, Samhain celebrations became re-branded as All Soul’s Eve. By the eighth century beggars, rather than the spirits from the other world, would travel door to door on this night. In exchange for their prayers for the family’s departed, they were given a small cake, known as a Soul Cake.

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I also was quite fond of these Halloween Popcorn Balls I made back in 2011.

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The husband is a big fan of popcorn. He would be quite happy to eat it every day. And I think his love of popcorn has rubbed off on our pup. He actually recognizes that word now and can make it into our kitchen from anywhere in the house in less than 10 seconds when he hears the telltale rattle of the popcorn kernels hitting the metal pan.

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Alas, all I could manage to get done this year was this batch of Cookies & Cream Salted Caramel Popcorn Bars. Yup, there sure is popcorn in this treat. I figured if I could only get one of my intended treats done, I would pick one that I knew would make the husband very happy. And turns out this one was a real winner!

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Believe me, if you find yourself a little short on time today and haven’t managed to conjure up any fabulous holiday treats, this might be the recipe for you. But let me tell you about these little devils. The bottom layer is a cookie dough crust. I used chocolate chips and those Halloween white chocolate Candy Corn M&M’s that can be found this time of year. I am so thankful that they are only found around this time of year, because those things are similar to the Cadbury Mini Eggs for me…pure crack! I could literally eat them until I popped….or more likely until the top button popped off my britches! So as happy as I am to see them arrive in stores, I am somewhat relieved when they disappear again. But back to the recipe, if you aren’t as fond as I am of the Candy Corn M&M’s (I can’t imagine!) you can throw in a cup of whatever candy you like and customize it to fit your taste. The original recipe I had for these uses Reese’s peanut butter cups, which I think would be delicious as well. I am a big fan of the Reese Cup, but I was really trying to Halloween things up around here so the candy corn colours of the M&M’s won out. On top of that great cookie base you will find a thin cream layer, similar to what you find sandwiched in the middle of a Oreo cookie. The top layer consists of gooey salted caramel coated popcorn, which has been drizzled with chocolate and sprinkled with flaky sea salt. Good grief! They are amazing! I think I chose well.

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Although there are several steps involved in making these bars, they are all pretty quick and easy. Make sure you allow for cooling time for the bottom cookie layer as well as at least 1 hour or so for the bars to set before cutting them. If you want to make them look even more “Halloween-y” you could sprinkle some candy corn over the caramel popcorn layer or even some Candy Corn M&M’s that you have left over from the cookie base. I’m sure you know by now that I did not have any “left over” M&M’s by the time I was adding the salted caramel popcorn layer. Nope I promptly inhaled the rest of the bag shortly after it was opened. I had to keep my strength up in the kitchen, I had no choice. But you might be able to exercise some self-control and set a few aside. Although I really wish the husband and I were getting all dressed up tonight and heading out to a fancy party to celebrate Halloween, I guess there is always next year. I definitely feel somewhat less deprived finding myself in possession of these sinfully delicious, salty sweet bars. Or maybe it is them who have possessed me……Mwa-hah-hah! Happy Halloween!

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Cookies & Cream Salted Caramel Popcorn Bars

recipe slightly adapted from: Half Baked Harvest

yield: 18 -20 bars depending on how you slice them

Ingredients:

For the Cookie Layer

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup Halloween Candy Corn M&M’s (or your favourite)

For the Cream Layer

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Salted Caramel Popcorn

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar + 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup butterscotch chips
  • flaked sea salt
  • 5 cups popped popcorn
  • melted chocolate for drizzling

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9×13″ baking tin or line in with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large mixer bowl until creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in the flour mixture and the 2 teaspoons water. Fold in the chocolate chips and M&M’s (or candy of your choice.)

Spread the dough into the prepared pan. Bake 18 – 25 minutes, until just set in the center. Allow to cool completely before adding the cream layer. You can pop the pan into the freezer or fridge to accelerate the cooling process if you are pressed for time.

Once the cookie layer is cool, make the cream layer. In a stand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the powdered sugar slowly. I usually do 1 heaping Tablespoon at a time. It will be less gritty if you add the sugar slowly. Add the vanilla and salt and beat until smooth. Spread the cream over the cookie layer.

Now for the caramel popcorn. Combine the brown sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once it begins to boil watch closely and whisk until the mixture starts to smell like caramel. This will take about 5-6 minutes. Add the butter cubes and slowly pour in the cream, whisking constantly. Continue to heat over medium-high until the mixture has thickened, about 5 -10 minutes more. rEmove from the heat and stir in the butterscotch chips, vanilla and a good pinch of salt. Stir until smooth. Place the popcorn in a large bowl and pour the caramel over it. Toss well and then spread the popcorn over the cream layer. Melt 1/4 cup chocolate chips and drizzle over the top. Sprinkle with a good amount of flaked sea salt. If you would like to add some additional candy decoration such as candy corn or the elusive “left-over” Candy Corn M&Ms, do so now. Let sit at least 1 hour before cutting. You can place them in the ridge to help them set faster. Cut into bars.

Enjoy!


Happy Halloween! Celebrate with a batch of Soul Cakes

October 31, 2011

Princess Arwen

Happy Halloween! I know I’ve said it before, but I LOVE Halloween. Unfortunately, this year Jay and I did not have any fabulous Halloween parties to attend. We didn’t actually get to go to one last year either (note to self: start planning to throw Halloween party myself on 2012, thus ensuring we get to dress up!) Even without the party, I still love it and as you can see, if Jay and I can’t get gussied up for the occasion, I have no problem tormenting my pets with little costumes! (Yes, sadly I am one of those people…)

The Dread Pirate Gimlet

Howdy Partner! Arwen just loves Halloween...

Here is a bit from a blog I wrote last year on the origins of our Halloween celebrations:

Our modern Halloween celebrations are derived from the Celtic holiday of Samhain. Samhain was Celtic New Year. It was a harvest festival which marked the dying of the sun-god and a turning to the colder, dormant half of the year. On this night, the Celts believed the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was at its lowest point. The dead could more easily travel back over to our side, and if we weren’t careful, we could accidentally wander over in to their world and be trapped-a good reason to stay close to home and bonfires, no doubt! This belief likely gave rise to our Halloween legends of ghosts, ghouls and witches wandering about on this night in particular. As Christian beliefs took hold, Samhain celebrations became re-branded as All Soul’s Eve. By the eighth century beggars, rather than the spirits from the other world, would travel door to door on this night. In exchange for their prayers for the family’s departed, they were given a small cake, known as a Soul Cake.

I wasn’t going to bake any Soul Cakes this year, I thought I’d just publish a picture from last year, but this time include the recipe for folks. However, once I started reading over the recipe, the desire to keep up the holiday traditions, no matter how old they may be, took over and before I knew it, I had an impromptu batch of Soul Cakes. I’m glad that I baked them. These cakes are a mildly sweet and a bit spicy, a cross between a cookie and a cake that is topped with currants in the shape of a cross. Jay, who tends not to like super-sweet desserts (what?!!) really liked them. They are quite nice with a cup of tea. The recipe comes together very quickly, so it’s not too late! Make a batch for any wandering souls that you may come upon tonight!

Soul Cakes

recipe from NPR by T. Susan Chang

yield: 12-15 2″ Soul Cakes

ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Generous pinch of saffron (I left this out of my cakes and thought they were fine if not a bit anemic looking :) )
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup currants

For the glaze:

  • 1 egg yolk, beaten or a bit of watered down heavy cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the flour, the nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Mix well with a fork.

Crumble the saffron threads into a small saucepan and heat over low heat just until they become aromatic, taking care not to burn them. Add the milk and heat just until hot to the touch. The milk will have turned a bright yellow. Remove from heat.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon (or use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment). Add the egg yolks and blend in thoroughly with the back of the spoon. Add the spiced flour and combine as thoroughly as possible; the mixture will be dry and crumbly.

One tablespoon at a time, begin adding in the warm saffron milk, blending vigorously with the spoon. When you have a soft dough, stop adding milk; you probably won’t need the entire half-cup.

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead gently, with floured hands, until the dough is uniform. Roll out gently to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Using a floured 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can and set on an ungreased baking sheet. You can gather and re-roll the scraps, gently.

Decorate the soul cakes with currants and then brush liberally with the beaten egg yolk or cream. Bake for 15 minutes, until just golden and shiny.


Witches’ Froth

October 28, 2011

Oooooooo! Spooky, Spooky! That’s right, this is the dessert that is a favourite among all witches’ covens. Witches’ Froth is a baked apple mousse. Very light, apple-y and refreshing, especially so after we’ve been chowing down on all of those heavy Halloween chocolate goodies. I first came across this recipe all the way back in May on the blog, Girl Cooks World: Gluten Free Recipes from Around the Globe. Apparently this is a Hungarian dessert (Boszorkanyhab in that language…I think I’ll just stick with calling it “Witches’ Froth)

It has a bunch of stuff I love like apples and vanilla and booze (not Jack Daniels this time but Rum). I knew this would be a perfect and unique adult treat for Halloween and have been planning on whipping it up ever since. I was not disappointed. Very yummy and once the apples are done baking, it comes together in a snap. I served this treat a couple of different ways, in spooky fall tree glasses and as a cute mini dessert/taster  in little dark Belgian chocolate cordial & toasting cups topped with candy corn.

Witches’ Froth

Recipe from: Girl Cooks World

Yields: 4 servings in glasses and many little dessert cups

Ingredients:

  •  4 baking apples
  •  1 cup vanilla sugar
  •  2 egg whites
  • 2 Tablespoons rum
  •  2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  •  whipped cream, optional

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Wash and bake the apples for 50-60 minutes, until softened.  Let them cool, peel and core them, and puree the pulp in a blender or food processor.

Stir in the egg whites and sugar and beat 10 minutes with an electric mixer, until fluffy and thick.  Add the rum and lemon juice and continue beating for another 5 minutes.

Spoon into individual serving glasses or bowls and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  Top with whipped cream, if desired.

Note: This dessert uses raw egg whites, so please be aware that there is a small risk of salmonella contamination.


Halloween Popcorn Balls

October 20, 2011

It’s getting to be that spooky time of the year. Recently when walking our pup through the neighbourhood, I’ve noticed tiny cemeteries full of scary tombstones and skeletons springing up where the flowers used to grow among the otherwise pristine lawns. There are a plethora of ghosts to be seen fluttering from every tree branch. And we couldn’t help but notice the twin 8 foot tall grim reapers standing vigil at the end of the driveway across the court. Yup…pretty dang spooky everywhere you look. This can only mean one thing Yay! It’s Halloween! (At least I hope so or my neighbourhood has really taken a turn for the strange!) Halloween is one of my favourite holidays. I have been wanting to make popcorn balls for some time now, so there’s no time like the present.

Popcorn balls are great as they can be customized for almost any holiday. I made these particular ones “Halloween” popcorn balls because I added good old candy corn to them. Really you could add anything”halloween-y” that you wanted, say M&M’s – plain or peanut, or chopped up bits of any of your favourite halloween candies. I’ve even heard M&M’s are making a white chocolate M&Ms in candy corn colours for this year’s festivities. Apparently you can only get these at Walmart, and I don’t have a Walmart close to me. But for those of you who do, they might be worth a try. I was quite happy with the simple addition of candy corn and since I didn’t use any chocolate, that meant my dog could enjoy a bite or two as well, which made him quite happy.

"Hey! Does anyone else see this treat here on the edge of the table?"

"Guys...this smells like popcorn!"

"Guys...this smells like popcorn!

"Oh Please! Oh Please!"

"Score!"

These treats are super easy to make and a real crowd pleaser! Essentially they are Rice Krispie Treats but with popcorn used instead of the puffed rice. And don’t forget the addition of the fabulous, seasonal candy corn (or “root canals in a bag” as we used to call it in the dental office. (Remember to brush and floss folks :) )

I do have a couple of hints to offer before you get to work on these beauties. After you pop the popcorn for the treats, remember to add salt to it as you normally would as if you were going to be eating it as a snack. I am a total sucker for that salty/sweet combo. Also, once you add your candy corn to the melted marshmallow/ popcorn mix, work quickly, because that candy corn will start to melt. Once the marshmallows, popcorn and candy corn are all combined, you can use an ice cream scoop to form the balls if you like, but I usually just butter up my hands and shape them that way.

Have a Happy Halloween!

Halloween Popcorn Balls

Yield: 12 popcorn balls (medium sized)

Ingredients:

  • 9-10 cups of popped corn – salted as you like it
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) bag of mini marshmallows
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 bag candy corn or whatever your desired Halloween treats might be

Directions:

In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Add popcorn and stir gently until combined with melted marshmallows. Quickly add desired amount of candy corn or treat of your choice. Remember, work quickly once your treat is added as it may melt.

Butter an ice cream scoop, or simply butter your hands. Shape popcorn mixture into balls and place on parchment paper lined baking tray to cool.

Enjoy!


Happy Halloween!!!

October 31, 2010

 

Arwen Witch

 

Arrrgh...me matey!

I LOVE Halloween! Unfortunately this year, Jay and I did not have an actual costume party to attend. We’ve had a lot of fun with our outfits in the past years, and had even started to get something together for this one, but I supose it will have to wait until next year.

 

Amish Halloween 2006

Space Odyssey 2008

Steam Punked 2009

At the last minute, we decided to have a few folks over on the Saturday before All Hallow’s Eve for some adult beverages, a bonfire and weenie roast.

Princess Giuliane was in attendance

All Hallow's Snacks

Spooky Halloween fog!

Our modern Halloween celebrations are derived from the Celtic holiday of Samhain. Samhain was Celtic New Year. It was a harvest festival which marked the dying of the sun god and a turning to the colder, dormant half of the year. On this night, the celts believed the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was at its lowest point. The dead could more easily travel back over to our side, and if we weren’t careful, we could accidentally wander over in to their world and be trapped-a good reason to stay close to home and bonfires, no doubt! This belief likely gave rise to our halloween legends of ghosts, ghouls and witches wandering about on this night in particular. As Christian beliefs took hold, Samhain celebrations became re-branded as All Soul’s Eve. By the eighth century beggars, rather than the spirits from the other world, would travel door to door on this night. In exchange for their prayers for the family’s departed, they were given a small cake, known as a Soul Cake. Paying homage to the history of my favourite holiday, I made some soul cakes for our gathering.

Soul Cakes

They are a mildly sweet, spicy cross between a cookie and a cake that is topped with currants. Perhaps more of a historical novelty than a culinary delight, but fun to have nevertheless. Thanks to all who stopped by and Happy Halloween!

The Dread Pirate Arwen


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