Tag Archives: caramel

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Curried Apple Chutney

23 Dec

Winter is in full bloom in Minnesota, although this dinner was cooked and eaten when it was still officially fall. My apologies for taking a full season to update this blog with a new post!

When the colder seasons make their appearance, I like nothing better than to turn on my oven and bask in the smells and warmth of baking warm comforting food and sharing it with friends.

Butternut Squash Soup

I got together with a few of my friends at the house of Kyle (the photographer of the professional looking photos on this post–thanks, Kyle!!), we had a lovely dinner and as always, fun conversation and a great time together.

We enjoyed the Bear’s Den (aka Kyle’s garage) and the great company. We had butternut squash soup with curried apple chutney (recipes posted below), potato leek soup with bacon jam (recipes will be posted at a later date), grilled cheese sandwiches, purple cabbage salad and brats with onion jam, topped off by apple crisp with ice cream and salted caramel sauce (recipe taken from the caramel here with sea salt added).

Purple cabbage salad

Purple cabbage salad

Laura loosening the sauerkraut lid

Laura loosening the sauerkraut lid

John got it open!

John got it open!

Apple Crisp with ice cream and salted caramel sauce

Apple Crisp with ice cream and salted caramel sauce

But back to the recipes…butternut squash is a favorite of mine. It’s fantastic cut up and roasted, is delicious roasted and mashed as a side dish and it makes a beautifully creamy soup. As a shortcut to prevent cutting off your own extremities, roast the squash first, then simply scoop the softened flesh out of peel, rather than struggling with cutting and peeling the slippery, solid whole squash.

Butternut Squash roasted

Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, brush with melted butter, then salt and pepper and pop right into the oven.

onion and apple

While the squash is roasting, finely chop an onion and an apple (aren’t they just so pretty?)

apple and onion

Saute the chopped onions and apple along with some sliced fresh sage and salt and pepper in a large pan over medium heat.

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Once the squash is soft and fully roasted, scoop it out of the peel and add it to the soup pot along with the chicken stock and water and let it simmer.

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Once everything is soft and well cooked, blend it well. You can put it in your blender in batches – carefully so you don’t burn yourself or blow the top off your blender – or with an immersion/hand blender. I love my immersion blender as it makes tasks like this so easy! Mine has a plastic blender base, so I can use it with my enamel cookware without fear of damage to the pots.

Butternut Squash Soup 048

I served this soup with curried apple chutney (the one in the middle), which was a snap to mix up and let cook for a few hours on the back of the stove.

Onion Jam, Curried Apple Chutney and Bacon Jam

Onion Jam, Curried Apple Chutney and Bacon Jam

Curried Apple Chutney 006

Just add all the ingredients to the pan and cook. Really. It’s that easy.

Curried Apple Chutney 002

1-Curried Apple Chutney 013

Cook until the apples are soft and it’s all cooked into even more of a browny-beige color (if that is even possible).

1-Curried Apple Chutney 018

This recipe made three jars of this chutney and was an excellent addition to the soup.

1-Curried Apple Chutney 026

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup 
adapted from Chow

4 pounds whole butternut squash (about 2 medium), halved lengthwise and seeds removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
1 medium Granny Smith apple (about 8 ounces)
1/2 medium yellow onion
8 fresh sage leaves
2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/3 cup heavy cream

Heat the oven to 425°F/220°C and arrange a rack in the middle.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the squash pieces cut-side up on the baking sheet. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and brush all of it over the tops and insides of the squash halves. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until knife tender, about 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, peel, core, and cut the apple into medium dice. Cut the onion into medium dice. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the apple, onion, and sage, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

When the squash is ready, set the baking sheet on a wire rack until the squash is cool enough to handle. Using a large spoon, scoop the flesh into the saucepan with the sautéed apples and onions; discard the skins.

Add the broth, water, and measured salt and pepper, stir to combine, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up any large pieces of squash, until the flavors meld, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream.

Using a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth, removing the small cap (the pour lid) from the blender lid and covering the space with a kitchen towel (this allows steam to escape and prevents the blender lid from popping off). Alternatively, use an immersion blender. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Curried Apple Chutney
recipe from West Coast Mama – adapted from the Well Preserved Cookbook

9 cups peeled, chopped and diced apple
2 cups finely chopped onion
2 cups golden raisins
2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon each of ground turmeric, cumin, coriander, cardamom and ginger

Combine all the ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until thickened, stirring often. Stir almost constantly during the last 15 to 20 minutes of cooking time to prevent scorching.

Remove from heat. Ladle into jars and store in the fridge for up to 30 days. If you wish to be able to preserve them outside the refrigerator, you will need to follow the instructions below and learn about canning here.

If canning or preserving, then prepare the preserving jars.
Ladle the chutney into hot, sterilized jar leaving 1/2 inch head space. Wipe rims clean. Seal and process jars.

Toffee Crunch Caramel Cheesecake

19 Nov

Alice’s dessert was so beautifully light, fresh and delicious. This dessert is not light or fresh but is delicious…and rich and decadent. As we are heading into our Thanksgiving week here in the US, it’s a time to indulge in all those rich, decadent foods that you steer clear of the rest of the year.

If you have never made a cheesecake, you might think it’s difficult but it really is not that hard. It’s involved, yes, but not difficult. You’ll make this one in three separate steps – crust, filling and caramel topping. So jump on in and give it a try.

You will need a spring form pan for this. They can be found at most house ware stores. I got mine at Target.

First, you’ll need to make the crust. This crust is a fun change from the traditional graham cracker crust – it calls for ginger snaps. I like the thin little ginger cookies that you can get at IKEA, so that’s what I used. I put them in a zipper bag and crushed them with a rolling pin. Actually, I used a wine bottle, which is what I use as a rolling pin when I can’t find mine.

Melt the butter and combine with the crushed cookies and brown sugar. Remember to pack your brown sugar into the measuring utensil to get the proper measurement.

Pat the crust mixture into the bottom of the spring form pan, making sure to get up to the edges. Then wrap the bottom and sides of the spring form pan in aluminum foil. Later you’ll be baking it in a water bath, so this prevents the water from getting into your cake.

Bake the crust at 350°F (175°C) for 14 minutes until it is slightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool, keeping the oven at temperature.

In the meantime, mix together your filling – the actual cheesecake part. I used my Kitchen Aid mixer to easily blend all of the ingredients.

First beat together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy. Then add the butter and drop the eggs in one by one before adding the vanilla.

When everything is fully combined, pour the filling over the crust and place the pan into a larger pan, adding about one inch of water to the larger pan to make a water bath. This will keep the cheesecake from cracking and will give you a beautifully creamy final result.

Bake for an hour and 10 minutes, until the top shakes slightly when jiggled and is lightly browned.

Remove pan from water bath, remove foil from pan and place hot cheesecake uncovered into the refrigerator overnight.

And now on to the caramel topping. It’s amazing to me that a few simple ingredients can make such a wonderfully complex and rich caramel!

Stir water, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar has all dissolved, then turn up the heat to bring it to a boil. Let it boil without stirring until the syrup turns a deep amber color, about 9 minutes.

Pour in the cream and reduce the heat. Let it simmer until thickened and reduced a bit, about 8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and let the caramel cool for about 15 minutes before pouring onto the top of the cheesecake.

Pour the caramel over the cheesecake and spread in a smooth layer. You can sprinkle some sea salt over the top for a wonderful sweet/salty flavor. If you have any of the caramel left over, it also makes for a tasty topping for ice cream.

Chop up toffee bars – I used mini Heath Bars – and sprinkle around the top edges of the cake.

Let the cheesecake chill for at least two hrs or overnight.

Remove the spring form pan ring and serve.

If you are celebrating a special occasion, you can put a candle in it and sing Happy Birthday to your dear friend before cutting into it.

Alice, I don’t know if you could handle all this richness! Where can we go from here?

Toffee Crunch Caramel Cheesecake
Bon Appétit
Yield: Makes 10 to 12 servings

Gingersnap crust:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1/2 cups ground gingersnap cookies (about 7 1/4 ounces)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar

4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caramel topping
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy whipping cream

4 1.4-ounce English toffee candy bars (such as Heath or Skor), chopped

For gingersnap crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom of 9-inch springform pan with 2 1/2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Stir ground cookies, butter, and sugar in medium bowl until moist clumps form. Press cookie mixture firmly onto bottom of prepared pan. Wrap outside of pan with 3 layers of heavy-duty foil. Bake crust until firm and beginning to darken, about 14 minutes. Cool crust. Maintain oven temperature.

For cheesecake:
Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat in butter, then eggs, 1 at a time, until just blended. Beat in vanilla. Pour batter over crust in pan. Place springform pan in large roasting pan. Add enough hot water to come halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake cake uncovered until filling is puffed around edges and moves slightly in center when pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove pan from water; remove foil. Place hot cheesecake uncovered in refrigerator overnight.

For caramel topping:
Stir sugar, water, and lemon juice in large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until mixture turns deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 9 minutes. Add cream (mixture will bubble). Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Chill until thickened but still pourable, about 15 minutes.

Spoon caramel over top of cake just to edges (do not allow caramel to drip down sides). Garnish top edges with chopped English toffee. Chill at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.

Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake; release pan sides.

Pudim de leite condensado (Brazilian-style flan)

17 Jul

We’ve worked our way through an entire meal with the addition of the delicious rabbit dish that Alice shared here, so now who is interested in dessert?

It seems that most countries have a variation on this classic dessert – custard, creme caramel, flan, etc. This is the Brazilian version, which is very simple.  With only three ingredients, you might say that it’s as easy as 1-2-3. (Ok, there are actually four ingredients, but we won’t count the sugar for our purposes here)

First, whisk together the eggs until they are smooth and a little frothy

Then mix in a can of sweetened condensed milk

Then fill the can twice with milk

Let that sit for a few minutes while you make the caramel sauce. Letting it rest for a while will allow the bubbles in the custard mix to settle down a little before baking.

In a small frying pan, heat the sugar until it has all melted and is dark amber in color

Pour the melted sugar into the baking dish, making sure that the bottom of the pan is completely coated

Top it with the liquid custard

Put filled pan into a water bath – which is as simple as a baking sheet with about an inch of hot water in it.

Place onto middle rack of a preheated oven

Bake for one hour at 350 F

Let it cool for about 30 minutes, then turn it out onto a deep dish serving plate. The sauce is very runny and sticky, so be sure it doesn’t spill all over your counter by using a serving dish that is deep enough to catch it all.

Cut into wedges and enjoy!

Well, Alice, we’ve had our little bite of sweetness. What’s next??

Pudim de leite condensado

1 can of sweetened condensed milk
2 cans of milk (use the empty condensed milk can to measure)
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups of sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.

Whisk the eggs in a medium sized bowl until smooth, then add the sweetened condensed milk and mix together. Use the empty condensed milk can to measure two cans of milk into the mixture and combine well. Set aside.

In small frying pan, heat up sugar until it is all melted and amber in color. Pour into 9 inch round or tube baking dish, ensuring that the bottom is completely coated with the caramel.

Top with the liquid custard. Place the baking dish into large pan and add an inch of hot water to make a water bath, being careful not to let the water splash into the custard.  Slide it carefully onto the middle rack of the oven and let it bake for one hour. When done, remove it from the oven and the water bath and let it cool for about 30 minutes. Run a knife carefully around the edge of the pan to loosen the custard before turning it out onto a deep serving plate.

Chill before serving. Spoon a bit of the sauce over each piece.

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Burnt Orange Caramel Sauce

28 May

This last week, three things happened to bring this dish together. I was in Bali for a wedding and over the dinner table I spent some time debating with the groom’s Nanna Val and cousin Kate, the ever important question of whether burnt caramel is better than sweet caramel. Before I left for Bali, my friend Karen (the uber wonderful cook you may remember from our ‘day of cooking’) made me panna cotta. Her panna cotta is like no other and I may have, once or a hundred times, expressed to her how much I love it when she makes it. I am subtle. Then B posts this incredible looking dessert with cumquats.  This is how things collided in my mind for me to start thinking about… burnt caramel with citrus alongside panna cotta.

Fortunately Karen was happy to come over and show me how she makes the panna cotta. And she does make it differently to the traditional method, mainly in that she doesn’t heat the cream. She thinks this keeps the taste cleaner and fresher. I made the sauce before she arrived.

The sauce…

is just freshly squeezed orange juice, sugar and some slices of orange.

I heated the sugar in a pan over medium heat. As I stirred, it melted, and then rapidly changed colour and frothed up. Perhaps my heat was too high, as it should take around seven minutes. I think it took me about 90 seconds.


Once it had reached a darkness I thought looked burnt enough, I took it off the heat and added the orange juice. It does spit a bit, so be careful. Also stir as you go. Because I was taking a photo, I got a few lumps so warmed it up slightly to melt them again.

I removed the pith and rind from the orange and then sliced the orange up finely. If you put the slices in to the warm sauce on low heat for a few minutes to allow them to macerate for a while, they will lose their acidic edge. Then I allowed the sauce and orange slices to cool.

And the panna cotta….

is cream (a little more than this one container), whole milk, caster sugar (superfine sugar), titanium grade gelatine leaf and vanilla bean.

We began by splitting a vanilla bean down the centre and scraping out the seeds. Both the seeds and the pod were added to the milk, and then heated until it just began to boil. Watch it the whole time as you don’t want it to over boil. The picture below shows when we took it off, just starting to bubble around the edge. We then set it aside to rest.

We soaked the gelatine leaf in cold water for around five minutes.

We then removed the vanilla pod from the warm milk, and added in the sugar, and then the gelatine leaves, which were squeezed out.

We warmed the milk mixture and stirred until the sugar and gelatine dissolved.

We put the cream in a bowl, and then we added a ladle full of the plain cream to the milk mixture and mixed to slightly reduce the temperature, then strained the milk mixture directly in to the bowl of cream. The straining made sure there are no gelatine lumps, or clumps of vanilla seeds.

We then stirred the mixture well. We were speeding the process, so we continued to stir the creamy mix until it began to thicken with our bowl of cream set over a bowl of ice. You do not need to do this if you make the panna cotta the day before and set it overnight, but if you make it only a couple of hours before you plan to eat it…

The mix was then ladled in to Dariole moulds on a tray, ready to slide in to the fridge. Dariole moulds in plastic like these ones are under a dollar apiece, and Karen likes them best for panna cotta as they slide out (relatively) easily.

When they had set, we ran a warmed knife around the inside of the moulds and inverted them on our plates. Then ladled on a little of the now cooled burnt orange caramel sauce and a slice of the orange.

Well hello there, deliciousness!

So now we have her secret recipe! And although the caramel debate will most likely continue, I am well and truly on the dark side.

Thank you, B, for your part in the inspiration.

I wonder where we are off to now?


Burnt Orange Caramel Sauce

1/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 orange, pith and rind removed, thinly sliced crossways

Stir the sugar in a pan over medium heat until it dissolves, and then cook until it turns a dark caramel colour. Remove from the heat. Carefully, as it spits, add the orange juice and stir until well blended. If you have lumps warm the pan up on low heat. Add the orange slices and allow to warm in the sauce on low heat for a few minutes before setting aside to cool and macerate further in the sauce.

Karen’s Vanilla Panna Cotta

750ml 35% fat cream (25.3 fluid oz)
270ml milk (9 fluid oz)
3.5 titanium grade gelatine leaves
160 grams sugar (5.6 oz)
1 vanilla bean, split in two and the seeds scraped.
Add milk and vanilla bean, along with the scraped seeds into a pan and bring *just* to the boil, then set aside to cool.
Soak gelatine leaves in cold water for five minutes.
Remove the vanilla beans from milk.
Return to the milk to a low heat and add the sugar. Squeeze the water from the gelatine and add to the milk and sugar.
Continue heating and stirring until sugar and gelatine have dissolved. Remove from the heat and add a little of the cream and mix through, this cools the mix a little and means the gelatine will have less of a shock when it is poured in to the full bowl of cream. Then strain the milk mixture with a sieve into the rest of the cream and stir until combined. Ladle the mix into moulds and allow to set overnight in the fridge.

To serve, run a heated knife around the edge of the mould and invert on your plate. We heated our knife by waving it quickly through a gas flame, but you could also dunk it in a jug of hot water and then dry.

Lift the mould up and let the panna cotta slide on to the plate.

Spoon over a little of the sauce and add a slice of the macerated orange.

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