The Lord is kind, and his timing is perfect.

Last Friday I had the opportunity to tour a local food bank that I plan to feature here on the blog in the new year. Talking with the staff, observing the volunteers, and taking in all the information about the services and material assistance they provide to their clients was humbling and exciting, providing timely encouragement to me at just the right moment. Cooking and developing new recipes for dishes that are balanced in flavor and texture are activities that I greatly enjoy and spend much of my time doing, but those don’t compare to the joy that fills me when I get to share that food with those in need. My desire to give runs deep, and though I sometimes forget it with the rush and worry of everyday life, all it takes is simple tour to rekindle the flame.

It’s not yet clear what my involvement will be with this organization, but I am most certainly aligned with their mission of feeding the hungry and equipping people with skills that will help them lead more successful lives. I can’t wait to share more with you soon.

Christmas is drawing ever closer so I want to be sure to tell you about a quick, last-minute idea that would make an excellent gift for your Christmas dinner host or, if you are hosting, perhaps a little treat to send home with your guests. This caramel sauce is smooth and buttery and everything I imagine when I think of what a caramel sauce should be. The flavor is relatively mild – perfect for topping ice cream or fruit, drizzling into hot chocolate, or – let’s be honest – eating with a spoon.

As for the preparation, this is a “wet” caramel in that it begins with a water-sugar mixture instead of simply plain, dry sugar. After experimenting with dry caramel recipes and a quick caramel (which was actually more of a butterscotch, technically), my opinion is that the wet caramel is totally the way to go. The chances that the sugar will burn are significantly reduced, and for me, the flavor, texture, and level of sweetness are superior.

I’d like to leave you with a song that I heard today for the first time. It’s written to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne” with the lyrics being changed by one of the worship pastors at my church. It impacted me, and I hope you enjoy it as well.

Should nothing of our efforts stand, no legacy survive
Unless the Lord does raise the house in vain the builders strive
To you who boast tomorrow’s gain, tell me what is your life
A mist, it vanishes at dawn
All glory be to Christ
 
 All glory be to Christ, our king
All glory be to Christ
His rule and reign we’ll ever sing
All glory be to Christ
 
 His will be done, his kingdom come on earth as is above
Who is himself our daily bread, praise him, the Lord of love
Let living water satisfy the thirsty without price
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet
All glory be to Christ
 
 All glory be to Christ, our king
All glory be to Christ
His rule and reign we’ll ever sing
All glory be to Christ
 
 When on the day the great “I Am,” the faithful and the true
The lamb who was for sinner sinners slain is making all things new
Behold our God shall live with us and be our steadfast light
And we shall yet his people be
All glory be to Christ
 
 All glory be to Christ, our king
All glory be to Christ
His rule and reign we’ll ever sing
All glory be to Christ
 
Lyrics by Dustin Kensrue, set to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne”, performed by Kings Kaleidoscope
 

From my family to yours, I’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you in 2013!

Homemade Caramel Sauce 2

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Makes: 2 cups sauce

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Place the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan with high sides, and stir to combine. Heat over medium heat until all of the sugar has melted, stirring occasionally and using a wet pastry brush to remove any sugar crystals that form on the sides of the pan. Increase the heat to high.
  2. When the sugar mixture begins to boil, do not stir. It will take several minutes before the sugar begins to change color, but once that process begins, things will move quickly. If you feel it needs stirring (for example, if it looks like caramelization is not happening uniformly across the pan), move the handle of the pan to gently swirl the contents.
  3. Once the caramel reaches a medium amber color, remove it from the heat immediately. Alternatively, you may allow it to cook longer, until it is more of a bronze color, but note that doing so will result in a darker caramel flavor and a thicker consistency in the final product.
  4. Quickly whisk in the butter, then add the cream and whisk until smooth. The caramel will bubble violently during this stage, but it will settle down once the butter and cream have been completely incorporated.
  5. Though the completed sauce will be quite thin at this point, know that it will thicken at it cools. Using the wet pastry brush in the beginning should have prevented chunks from forming in the caramel, but if there are any, simply strain out the solids using a fine mesh strainer. Pour the sauce into the jar or storage container of your choice and allow it to cool to room temperature, then secure it with a lid and transfer it to the refrigerator where it may be kept for up to 2 weeks. Serve the sauce over ice cream, pancakes, fruit, or whatever your heart desires. If the sauce is thicker than you want it when chilled, you can microwave it for a few seconds to soften it or place the jar in a bath of hot water.
http://www.pepperlynn.com/2012/12/homemade-caramel-sauce/

Tips and Tidbits

  • Caramel can be a bit persnickety and may seize up if there is even the slightest contamination in the pan. To avoid this, I recommend that the pan and utensils that you are using be impeccably clean. What should you do if seizing happens anyway? Cut your losses, wipe your tears, and start again. It’s a bummer to be sure, but thankfully the ingredients used here are relatively inexpensive. (As a note, I’ve read advice stating that it is possible to re-melt the caramel after seizing by heating the mixture over a gentle heat, but I haven’t had any luck with that. Once it seized, it was a goner.)
  • Are you out of heavy cream and thinking perhaps whole milk can be substituted here? The answer, unfortunately, is no. How do I know this? I tried it, and it turned into an ugly, gloppy mess that I had to throw out. Not cool.
  • To transform this into a trendy salted caramel sauce, simply stir in a pinch or two of salt to taste at the very end. You can also add in seeds that have been scraped from a vanilla bean for another variation.
  • Lastly, if you are looking for a visual aid to guide you in determining when the color of your caramel is just right, I suggest checking out this post from Bakers Royale. You’ll notice that Naomi recommends cooking the sugar until it is a dark, reddish brown color, but for me, that was too far and the sauce wasn’t quite as tasty. I prefer the medium range shown on her color comparison, but of course, to each his/her own. As you experiment with making caramel, you’ll discover what you like best and can make adjustments to suite your taste.

ENJOY!

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