Caramel Muffins for Valentine’s Day

IMG_3765

Ever since I received an amazing homemade caramel sauce from my sister in law for Christmas a few years ago, I’ve wanted to try making it myself. I’ve never been much of a caramel person, but the homemade version that I tasted converted me into a fan of the ooey gooey sweet goodness.  I still don’t eat it all that often but I certainly crave it once in a while!

My husband and I don’t usually celebrate Valentine’s Day (we thrifties can’t stand the hiked-up prices at restaurants and spend money on overpriced flowers and gifts lol ), but I used today as an excuse to indulge in this super sweet treat. I was also in the mood for something cake-y so I decided to make Caramel Muffins — the best of both worlds!

pink lineMaking the Caramel Sauce
pink line

Ingredients:
Inspired by this video instruction but modified slightly!

— 1 cup of granulated sugar
— ½ cup milk (many recipes call for heavy cream but I used 2% milk)
— 5 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut in pieces

Instruction:

① Warm the milk in low heat. Pour the sugar in a separate sauce pan and melt in high heat.  I learned that the key to caramel making is to work quickly so make sure to have the milk and butter close by!

IMG_3755

② The sugar will begin to turn dark after a few minutes.

IMG_3756

③ Stir the sugar until it melts into a golden, or even amber-colored syrup.

IMG_3757

④ Once the sugar is completely melted, add the butter and stir. Your kitchen will start to smell sweet and lovely right around now!

IMG_3758

⑤ Once the butter is melted, remove the pan from the heat (or simply turn off the heat), add the warm milk, and stir. The bubbles will rise but there’s nothing to worry about. Just keep on stirring.

IMG_3759

⑥ That’s it! Cool the caramel sauce for a few minutes.

IMG_3760

You can simply enjoy the caramel sauce without using it in muffins. It’s great on vanilla (or any flavor) ice cream, in coffee drinks, or just out of the jar! You can transfer the leftover caramel sauce in a clean jar. Let the sauce come to a room temperature before closing the lid.

(You will get a lot more sauce than you see here.)

IMG_3763

pink lineMaking the Caramel Muffins
pink line

Ingredients (makes 8 muffins):
Recipe inspired by Asuka, from a Japanese blog お菓子と猫とパリ.

— 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
— 75 grams granulated sugar
— 180 grams cake flour (Don’t fret if you only have all-purpose flour. Simply remove 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and replace them with 2 tablespoons cornstarch. I learned this wonderful trick from Joy the Baker)
— 2 eggs
— 1 tablespoon baking powder
— 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
— The caramel sauce (I put some aside for later use)

Instruction:

① Preheat the oven to 375 degree F.  Line the muffin tin with baking cups (I used my reusable silicon cups) and set aside.

② Cream together the butter and sugar in a bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, and vanilla extract and mix well.  Don’t be lazy here — you need to beat the heck out of the mixture!  I used a hand-held mixer for this since my KitchenAid stand mixer was too heavy for me to carry into the kitchen!

③ Add the flour and baking powder, and mix. Don’t over mix here, as the dough can get tough.

④ Add the caramel sauce and mix lightly.

IMG_3762

⑤ Pour the mixture into a lined muffin tin.  Drizzle a little bit of the leftover caramel sauce (about one tablespoon each) on top of each muffin, for a crunchy muffin top!

⑥ Bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the inserted toothpick comes out clean.

⑦ Let them cool on a cooling rack.

muffins

pink lineThe Verdict!
pink line

I must admit that these muffins didn’t come out perfect in terms of looks but they are still very delicious nonetheless.  I think you’ll especially enjoy them if you’re a caramel lover!  These muffins have more of the texture of an airy cake than a typical muffin, probably because of the cake flour that was used, instead of the usual all-purpose kind.  .

I know that eight muffins are an odd number (most recipe makes 12) but that works out better for me so I won’t end up eating them all!  lol  Although every bite is worth it, be warned that these little innocent-looking muffins are super buttery, sugary and incredibly high in calories.  Definitely consume in moderation!

IMG_3622

These are the orchids that I received from my mother on my birthday last month! It’s not a bouquet of roses, but they are still so beautiful and very appropriate for this romantic day!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day, if you celebrate this Hallmark holiday! My husband and I had a not-so-sexy Chinese takeout for dinner tonight but I couldn’t be happier spending the evening with the love of my life.

Cheesy TV Calls for Cheesy Meal: Mushroom Risotto

a3There are things in this gastronomic world that are meant to coexist to create a lovely harmony.  Goat cheese and honey, for instance, compliment other’s strengths – with the sweet drops of syrup gently balancing out the subtle tanginess of the cheese and its grainy texture. And the golden brown honey drizzled playfully over the ivory bar of goat cheese is like having Jackson Pollock’s artwork on a plate (or a kid’s doodle, you be the judge).

Another match I adore is spinach and bacon, where the sizzling, crispy bacon wilts the leaves on contact, creating the soft – but not mushy – texture good enough to eat at a kitchen counter, never making it to the dining room.

Others, however, are quite contradicting in theory, like chocolate and chili (wtf!) but it somehow works like magic.  For me, green tea ice cream ranks as one of the most bizarre creations. No reasonable Japanese would have ever imagined putting sweet confection in green tea, as the drink is something to be enjoyed straight, sans sugar and milk unlike its British cousins. But tradition takes the back seat to the out-of-the-box imagination, especially when the result is a specutacular success.  The combination of the slighty grassy bitterness of the tea leaves and the silky, luscious mixture of vanilla, cream and sugar, is a true culinary masterpiece (yatta!).

But above all that, my all-time favorite duo is combining cheesy with cheesy – and I’m not talking about piling four kinds of cheese on a dough to create a perfect slice of pizza.

The cheese I’m referring to here is Women’s Murder Club, author James Patterson‘s popular, best-selling series. Yep, books. I admit that I am addicted, although the series is one of those real corny thrillers where you know the murderer before the murder is committed. The characters are also quite predictable.  I picked up the book as a way to kill time during my frequent business travel and I would have never picked up this genre of books otherwise, but there’s something very soothing about mindless, effortless read (this is somewhat reminiscent of the time I secretly watched the endless reruns of embarrasingly plotless, severely nutrient deficient Saved By the Bell although I didn’t dare tell anyone about my sickening behavior … oh god, please forgive me).  So, when I learned that this book was turning into a television series on ABC, I had to make sure that I make this momentous Friday night a very special one for the series premier.

To celebrate the cheesiness of it all, I’ve decided on cooking mushroom risotto with lots of freshly graded Parmesan cheese — my first attempt on creating this Italian staple.

Mushroom Risotto

(Note: This is a quick and less sophisticated version of the real deal, which usually calls for more bourgeois ingredients such as truffles. We’re talking cheesy paperback thriller and not the work of Fitzgerald here, so this will do.  Also, I’m notorious for not following a recipe so this is completely my own creation.  Therefore, there’s no guarantee of success if you follow this poorly written instruction).

Ingredients: Pancetta or bacon (1/4 cup), Portobello mushroom (2 cups), garlic (1 clove), onion (1/2 of large or one medium), green peas (defrosted, 1 cup), arborio rice (2 cups), chicken broth (6 cups, unsalted, heated), dry white wine (1/2 cup), Parmesan cheese (bring that sucker on!), Italian parsley for garnish, salt, pepper and olive oil.

1. Begin by sautéing diced pancetta with a teaspoon of olive oil, then add minced garlic, onion and sliced Portobello mushroom in a large saucepan. Add salt and pepper to taste. I know I’m supposed to also add dried mushroom for more robust flavor but I couldn’t find it at Trader Joe’s (shucks).

2. Once the mixture is cooked all the way through (about 5-7 minutes), put aside half of the mixture. With the remaining mixture in a pan, stir in and cook Arborio rice until each grain changes color to slightly clear. Add the dry white wine and cook until the alcohol evaporates but still retaining the flavor.

3. Begin adding the heated chicken broth to the rice mixture, one cup at a time and stir, stir, stir, stir … darn, my arm hurts!

4. Once the rice is almost cooked, add the mixture you put aside earlier back in the pan, and stir again. Add a handful of green peas for color and lovely sweetness.

5. Add grated Parmesan cheese and top it with chopped Italian parsley. Add loads and loads of cheese, as this is the tribute to something cheeeeeeeeesy.

a116. Pour the remaining white wine in the glass and make yourself comfortable in front of your television. But if you’re like me, you might have to grab another bottle because all the wine was consumed during cooking.

7. Put your feet up and enjoy a relaxing Friday night with delicious wine, cozy plate of risotto and indulge in the guilty pleasure of cheesy television.  However, when Monday rolls around and your friends ask you what you did on the weekend, politely smile and walk away.  Afterall, you still have to maintain your image and what’s left of your reputation.