This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hershey’s®. All opinions are 100% mine.
In the early 1900’s, Chicago was known as the Candy Capital of the World. With so much rich – and decadent – confectionery history, I’m always eager to learn the stories behind some of the most popular candy brands.
I was amazed to learn that the Lancaster Caramel Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was founded by Milton Hershey in 1886. It was his FIRST successful candy company and established him as a successful businessman.
He would later launch the Hershey Chocolate Company – the one most of us know today – as a subsdiary of the Lancaster Caramel Company. When he sold the Lancaster Caramel Company in 1900, he kept the Hershey Chocolate Company because he thought there was a large market for chocolate confections. Ol’ Milton was indeed a candy genius!
Now Hershey’s® has launched a new line of soft caramels, Hershey’s® LANCASTER Soft Crèmes, inspired by Milton’s original recipe. They come in three flavors: Caramel, Vanilla and Caramel, and Vanilla and Raspberry.
I sampled both the Vanilla and Raspberry and Caramel flavors. The Vanilla and Raspberry cremes are great right from the package, but I decided to try the Caramel cremes featured in a recipe for Caramel Blondie Bars. I made a few minor modifications, but the recipe is very straightforward and makes it easy to whip up a fun treat for the family.
Caramel Blondie Bars
20 LANCASTER Caramel Soft Cremes, cut and quartered
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
6 tablespoons butter, room tempterature
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat your oven to 350 F degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Spray with non-stick spray to ensure easy removal. Set aside.
Remove the wrappers from caramel candies. Cut each caramel into quarters. Toss the caramel pieces with 1 tablespoon flour to keep the pieces from sticking together.
Beat the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla. Beat well.
In a medium bowl, stir together the remaining flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry mixture to the web mixture. Beat until well blended. Fold in the caramel pieces.
Spread the batter into your prepared baking pan. Using a spatula, ensure the batter is evenly spread in the pan.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into 16 bars.
Overall, I really liked this recipe. Folding the caramels throughout the batter gave every bite a delicious burst of caramel. My only suggestion for improvement would be to add a cup of Hershey’s® Milk Chocolate Chips to balance the decadent caramel flavor. YUM!
Who doesn’t love Kraft caramels!?! We all grew up with those little tan squares of sugary goodness. As delicious as they are, it can some times be a bit of a chore to unwrap them in bulk for when a recipe calls for caramel. And because making caramel is not difficult to make (it just takes patience and an attentive eye so it doesn’t burn), most of my “from scratch” brownie recipes call for making caramel on the stove top. So when I saw the new Kraft Caramel Bits product at the grocery store, I just had to give it a try by creating a new brownie recipe where caramel is the star of the show. Find the closest store near you carrying this new product (or any Kraft product) using the Kraft Product Locator at http://productlocator.kraftfoods.com/kraftfoods/productlocator.htm.
Start by preheating your oven to 375° F. Lightly grease the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking pan (I prefer to use butter).
In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder. Then set aside.
Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat. Add the dark brown sugar, stirring until completely blended with butter. Then stir the flour mixture into the butter. After it is mixed, remove the saucepan from heat and set aside. Note: the mixture at this point will be very dry.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. Incorporate the egg mixture into the brownie batter in the saucepan. I like to take hard sourdough pretzels in a double plastic food bag – so if one bag breaks it doesn’t make a mess – and use a French rolling pin to smash them to bits. It’s a great way to let off some steam, too! Then fold in the crushed pretzels and chocolate chips.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Spread the caramel nibs evenly over the top of the brownie batter. Sprinkle sea salt evenly over the caramel.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until set. Let the brownies cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 6 rows by 4 rows to make 24 brownies.
So what did I think of the new Kraft Caramel Bits? They are a great time saver – and the salted caramel was heavenly in this brownie recipe. I did notice that the caramel bits didn’t lose their shape during the baking process. Because the caramel is on top, the brownies look like they are covered with caramel pebbles. Not a bad thing, but if you prefer a more traditional look to a caramel topping then I’d recommend melting them first in the microwave and then spreading the melted caramel on top of the brownies.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease the bottom of a 9x9-inch baking pan with butter or shortening. Whisk together in a large bowl the cocoa powder, flour and baking soda. Then set aside.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add dark brown sugar, stirring until completely blended with butter. Stir flour mixture into the butter mixture. When mixed, remove from heat and set aside. The mixture at this point will be very dry.
In medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. Incorporate egg mixture into brownie batter in the pan. Fold in pretzels and chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared baking pan.
Spread the caramel nibs evenly over the top of the brownie batter. Sprinkle the sea salt evenly over the caramel.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until set. Let brownies cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 4 rows by 4 rows to make 16 brownies.
Bacon makes almost every recipe better. I love the crunchy texture of crispy bacon. This recipe for bacon and salted caramel brownies features both crispy bacon and a deep bacon flavor because it incorporates some of the bacon grease into the batter. It makes for a very rich, very decadent explosion of flavor for your taste buds. This bacon and salted caramel brownies recipe has received great response from readers of the Baked Chicago blog, which is why it’s featured in the Simply Decadent Brownies Cookbook.
Update as of 10/26/13: The genius folks over at America’s Test Kitchen share an easy way to make caramel in the microwave. It requires a bit less constant attention than making caramel on the stove top, so I’m sharing their video quick tip in case you prefer to use the microwave for the caramel in this recipe.
6 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup salted butter, divided and cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
In a medium skillet, fry the bacon slices until just crisp. Remove the bacon, reserving the bacon grease in the pan. Add the cream to pan and let cool. When the bacon has cooled, crumble or chop finely. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat 1 cup of sugar over high heat until the mixture is liquid and deep amber in color. Add 6 tablespoons of butter and the cooled bacon cream mixture. Stir until the butter is melted. Add the chopped bacon and let cool.
Preheat your oven to 350° F. Lightly grease the bottom of an 8x8-inch baking pan with butter or shortening.
In a large saucepan, melt the remaining butter and dark chocolate over very low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa powder. Whisk until smooth and add in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the remaining sugar, vanilla and flour, just until combined.
Spread half of the brownie batter in the prepared baking pan. Drop half of the bacon caramel mixture by tablespoon, evenly spaced, over the brownie batter. Spread the remaining brownie batter over the top, and then drop the remaining bacon caramel mixture by spoonfuls over the top of the brownies. Drag the back of the tablespoon through the batter to create a swirled effect.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 4 rows by 4 rows to make 16 bacon and salted caramel brownies.
These turtle brownies were, in part, inspired by a favorite childhood candy: Kathryn Beich’s Katydids. Kathryn Beich’s (part of the Nestle company in the 1960’s and 1970’s and possibly longer) had operations in Central Illinois near where I grew up. They worked with schools and churches with fundraising programs where you’d order your favorite confections, including Golden Crumbles, Butter Mints and Katydids. I remember selling the candy for school groups in yearly fundraising efforts.
Today, the Kathryn Beich brand is barely visible and no longer part of Nestle. A Google search found some old pictures of those tin cans that required a key to “unlock” the vacuum seal.
For anyone who remembers these cans, can you believe we were actually allowed to open them as kids? The edges were so sharp that you could cut a bitch. Personally, I also loved the caramel filled chocolate bars which amazingly seem to still be available.
While that “technology” may no longer be used, I do remember it definitely locked in the freshness of the candy. The Katydids would melt in your mouth. The crunchy pecans and caramel were bite-sized portions of addiction.
Update on 10/26/13: America’s Test Kitchen has a great suggestion for making caramel in the microwave. For those who may be a bit timid about making caramel from scratch on the stove top (it does require constant monitoring), this might be a better solution. This recipe uses the stove top method for the caramel in the turtle brownies, but you can get similar results following the instructions in this video.
Preheat your oven to 325° F. Lightly grease the bottom of an 8x8-inch baking pan with butter or shortening. Melt the dark chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, set over pan of simmering water. Stir constantly until melted and smooth. Let the mixture cool slightly.
Whisk together in a large bowl this flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Whisk the sugar and eggs on medium speed with electric mixer until pale and fluffy (4 minutes). Add the chocolate mixture, milk and vanilla, mixing until combined. Reduce speed to low and add in the flour mixture, until well combined.
Pour the batter into your prepared baking pan. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few dry crumbs. Let the brownies cool, about 30 minutes.
Bring 1/3 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Constantly stir until the sugar has dissolved. Wash down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Cook until the sugar is a medium amber color (5 to 7 minutes). Remove from heat and add the heavy cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Gently stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add pecans and stir until caramel begins to cool and thicken.
Spread the caramel over brownies. Refrigerate for one hour to help set. Let the turtle brownies stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. Cut into 4 rows by 4 rows to make 16 brownies.
I just picked up at the store what might be my last batch of Honeycrisp apples for this season. I’ve been to Mariano’s, Jewel, Dominicks and Whole Foods and it seems everywhere that the only remnants are banged up and not up to my apple standards. So it looks like after I make this batch of Honeycrisp Apple Caramel Brownies that I’ll have to be patient until October when the next harvest hits. If you don’t have access to Honeycrisp apples where you live, you can substitute Granny Smith apples which are usually available year round everywhere.
Honeycrisp Apple Caramel Brownies
Preheat your oven to 350° F. Lightly grease the bottom of a 9×9-inch baking pan with butter or shortening. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, use a mixer to beat together butter, sugar and egg (about 2 minutes). Fold in the apples and caramel candies by hand until combined. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.
Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle chopped peanuts on top. Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden brown and slightly firm. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 16 bars. [If you decide to serve warm, try this dessert a la mode with some quality French vanilla ice cream or gelato.]
1/2 cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 3/4 cup Honeycrisp apples, cored, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 large apples)
30 soft caramel candies, unwrapped
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup peanuts (salted and skinless), chopped
Preheat oven to 325F degrees. For crust, combine graham cracker crumbs and brown sugar in large bowl. Stir in melted butter until combined. Press crust into bottom and sides of 9-inch pie pan. Bake until set about 6 minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool on wire rack.
Raise heat to 425F degrees. For filling, combine eggs, pumpkin, evaporated milk and brandy in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally until warm, about 7 minutes. Set aside.
Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in the pumpkin-egg mixture. Pour into the crust and bake 10 minutes. Lower heat to 350F degrees and bake until set (35 to 45 minutes). Remove pie from oven and let cool one hour. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
For whipped cream, combine confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. Combine the whipping cream and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Add sugar mixture to whipped cream, beat until medium peaks form. Service this caramel-cinnamon pumpkin pie with whipped cream and drizzle with caramel sauce, warmed.
1 cup crushed cinnamon graham crackers
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
15 oz pureed pumpkin
12 oz evaporated milk
1 teaspoon brandy
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
1 cup caramel topping
1/2 pint whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla