Collaborative Company Cooking During the Pandemic

Vegetable

When the pandemic hit, McCrea’s Candies put a number of new policies and plans in place.  Always one for strict cleaning, the candy maker stepped up its sanitizing routine with safeguarding employees in mind.  The company also sent home anyone not involved in cooking and packaging, and staggered hours for those employees who had to come in to do their jobs. Additionally, the company offered flexible hours and the ability to work from home. 

After hearing from several employees that trips to the grocery store were highly stressful because of risk of exposure, McCrea’s decided to expand its relationship with local produce supplier Katsiroubas Bros.  McCrea’s has long turned to the family-owned purveyor for ginger, rosemary and other fresh ingredients when making slow-cooked, handcrafted caramel.  It seemed a natural fit to increase orders with the fruits and vegetables its team needed to cook at home during quarantine. This decreased the need for employees to go out and shop, and also directed business to a partner during this extremely challenging time for small businesses.

The McCrea’s team, which includes both cooking pros and relative newbies in the kitchen, collaborated on what they would order and had fun sharing recipes and swapping tips and techniques since they were all cooking the same array of produce.  What could be better than having a cadre of cooks as a resource for how to prepare dinners?  Below, we share some of our more successful dishes (both sweet and savory) all based around the fresh fruits and veggies we sourced from Katsiroubas. 

Chicken Soup from Scratch (Via the New York Times)

Chicken Soup

 INGREDIENTS

 For the Broth:

  • 1 chicken, 3 to 3 1/2 pounds, with skin, cut up
  • 3 stalks celery, with leaves, cut into chunks
  • 2 large carrots, cut into chunks
  • 2 yellow onions, peeled and halved
  • 1 parsnip or parsley root (optional)
  • About 1 dozen large sprigs parsley
  • About 1 dozen black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste

       To Finish the Soup:

      • tablespoons reserved chicken fat, more if needed
      • leeks, trimmed, halved lengthwise, rinsed and sliced crosswise into thin half-moons
      • large carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
      • Kosher salt and ground black or white pepper
      • Egg noodles (fresh or dried), such as packaged wide noodles, spaetzle, fettuccine or pappardelle cut into short lengths (see note)
      • Finely chopped herbs, such as parsley, scallions, dill or a combination

      DIRECTIONS

      1. Place the chicken, celery, carrots, onions, parsnip (if using), parsley, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt in a large soup pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch.
      2. Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately reduce the heat to very low. Adjust the heat until the soup is “smiling”: barely moving on the surface, with an occasional bubble breaking through. Cook uncovered, until the chicken is very tender and falling off the bone, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
      3. When cool enough to handle, use tongs to transfer chicken from the pot to a container. Taste the broth and continue to simmer it until it is concentrated and tasty. Strain broth through a fine sieve (or a colander lined with cheesecloth) into a separate container. Discard all the solids from the strainer (or reserve the vegetables, chill and serve with vinaigrette, if you wish).
      4. Refrigerate chicken pieces and broth separately for at least 8 hours (or up to 3 days), until a thick layer of yellow fat has risen to the top of the broth.
      5. When ready to finish the soup, use your fingers to separate chicken breast meat from bones and skin. Discard bones and skin. Use two forks to pull the breast meat apart into soft chunks, or use a knife and cut into bite-size pieces. (Reserve dark meat for another use.)
      6. Skim chicken fat from top of broth and set aside. Place 3 tablespoons of the fat in a soup pot with a lid. Add leeks, stir to coat, and heat over medium heat until leeks begin to fry. Then reduce the heat to a gentle sizzle and cook, stirring often, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.
      7. Add carrots, sprinkle with salt, stir, and cover the pot. Cook until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes more. (Keep in mind that vegetables will continue to cook in the soup.) Do not brown.
      8. Pour broth into pot with vegetables and heat to a simmer. Add noodles and simmer until heated through, soft and plumped with chicken broth. Add the breast meat, then taste broth and add salt and pepper to taste. For best flavor, soup should have some golden droplets of fat on top; if needed, add more chicken fat one teaspoon at a time.
      9. Serve immediately, in a tureen or from the pot, sprinkling each serving with herbs.

      NOTE: Instead of noodles, almost any starchy garnish can be used here: matzo balls; partly cooked dry pasta, rice or other grains; or cooked white beans. Add them when you would add the noodles and simmer until heated through.

      Curried Apple Soup (Via The Enchanted Broccoli Forrest by Mollie Katzen)

      Curried Apple Soup (Via The Enchanted Broccoli Forrest by Mollie Katzen)

      INGREDIENTS

      Stock: 

      • Peels and cores from the apples needed for II.
      • Cleaned skins from the onions and garlic
      • 2 cinnamon sticks
      • 2 ½ cups apple juice
      • 2 ½ cups of water

      Soup: 

      • 3 tablespoons butter
      • ½ teaspoon fresh grated ginger root
      • 2 medium cloves of garlic
      • 1 ½ cups chopped onion
      • 4 heaping cups of peeled, chopped apples (any kind except delicious)
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      • Juice from one lemon

      Spice mix 

      • 3 tablespoons. Flour
      • 1 teaspoon each: dry mustard, turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander
      • ¼ teaspoons each: ground cloves and cayenne pepper (or to taste)

      Final mix in and topping 

      • 2 cups mixed yogurt and sour cream, any ratio you like
      • Slivered, toasted almonds

      DIRECTIONS

      1. Make the stock by combining ingredients in a kettle.
      2. Boil gently, partially covered for about 45 minutes.
      3. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.
      4. Strain and discard solids.
      5. Take our yogurt and sour cream to come to room temp.
      6. Heat a heavy skillet. Add butter, ginger, garlic, and a dash of salt. Stir and cook over moderate heat a minute or so, then add onions. Sauté another 5 minutes, then add 1 tsp. salt and apples, stirring well. Add lemon juice, and sprinkle in the pre-combined flour and spice mix, stirring constantly.
      7. Cover and cook 8-10 minutes.
      8. Heat the stock.
      9. Purée the stock and sautéed mixture together with an immersion blender until very smooth.
      10. Whisk in the yogurt/sour cream.
      11. At this point the soup shouldn’t be cooked any further. Just warm it over a low heat right before serving time.
      12. Add topping of almonds when served.
      13. Also, good cold.

      Brazilian Black Bean Soup (Modified from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen)

      Brazilian Black Bean Soup (Modified from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen)

      INGREDIENTS

      • 2 cans of black beans rinsed
      • 3 ½ cups of water or stock

      Group A

      • 1 cup chopped onion
      • 3 cloves garlic
      • 1 large chopped carrot
      • 1 stalk chopped celery
      • (optional: 1 cup chopped green pepper)
      • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
      • 2 tablespoons oil (approximate; use more as needed)

      Group B

      • 2 oranges; peeled, sectioned, seeded
      • ½ cup orange juice
      • dry sherry
      • ¼  teaspoon black pepper
      • ¼ teaspoon red pepper
      • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

       DIRECTIONS

      1. Put rinsed beans in a large saucepan with 3 ½ cups of water or stock and bring to a boil.
      2. Sauté group A ingredients, beginning with onions and garlic. When they are soft enough (to your liking) add to the beans and simmer over lowest heat possible.
      3. Add group B ingredients to the soup, stir, cover and simmer 10 minutes.
      4. Add water if you want it thinner, puree some if you want it to be thick and hearty.
      5. Adjust spices to taste.
      6. Serve with sour cream or yogurt.

      Orange “Beef” and Asparagus Stir-Fry

      beef and asparagus stir fry

      INGREDIENTS

      • 8 oz noodles of your choice (rice noodles and linguini noodles work well)
      • 8-12 oz seitan or other beef substitute
      • 5 tbsp. cornstarch
      • ¼ cup soy sauce, shoyu, or tamari
      • 2 teaspoon minced garlic
      • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
      • 1 ½ cups vegetable stock
      • 2 teaspoon sesame oil
      • 2 teaspoon minced ginger root
      • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
      • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
      • Pinch of red pepper flakes
      • Grated zest of 1 orange

      DIRECTIONS

      1. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse, and drain again. Set aside. Toss the “beef” with 3 tbsp. cornstarch. Set aside
      2. Mix together the soy sauce, garlic, sugar, vegetable stock, sesame oil, remaining cornstarch, and ginger. Set aside.
      3. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. When hot, stir-fry the “beef” for about 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and red pepper flakes and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
      4. Add the soy sauce mixture and continue cooking until the sauce thickens and the asparagus turns shiny and tender. Add the orange zest and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes more
      5. Top cooked noodles with stir-fry and garnish with an orange slice.

      Spinach Pesto Pasta with Roasted Vegetables

      Spinach Pesto Pasta with roasted vegetables

      INGREDIENTS

      • 3 cups spinach (can also use basil, arugula or any greens!)
      • 1 clove garlic
      • 1/3 cup pine nuts
      • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
      • pinch of pepper
      • 1/2 cup olive oil + an additional 2-3 tablespoons to toss vegetables
      • 1/2 lemon
      • Your favorite veggies cut into bit sized pieces for roasting (tastes fantastic wit butternut squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips, brussels sprouts, carrots)
      • Noodles of your choice

      DIRECTIONS

      1. Preheat oven to 400. Toss vegetables with salt and olive oil to taste.  Roast until lightly browned and fork tender.  
      2. To make the pesto: In the bowl of a food processor or blender add the spinach, garlic, pine nuts, cheese, salt and pepper and pulse until well combined, but not totally smooth. Slowly drizzle in ½ cup of olive oil while pulsing. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
      3. Toss pesto with your favorite noodles and top with roasted vegetables. Add protein if desired.

        NOTE: Pesto can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for 7-10 days or frozen for 3 months.Pesto also goes great over fish, chicken and vegetables on their own. 

        Roasted Broccoli with Creamy Tahini Sauce

        Roasted Broccoli with Creamy Tahini Sauce

        Serve with falafel patties (see recipe below) and lemony Israeli pearled couscous.

        INGREDIENTS

        FOR THE TAHINI SAUCE

        • 1 garlic clove, cut in half, green shoots removed
        • Salt to taste
        • ⅓ cup sesame tahini
        • 2 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (more to taste)
        • ⅓ cup water
        • Red pepper flakes for sprinkling

        FOR THE BROCCOLI

        • 1 to 1 ½ pounds broccoli crowns
        • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
        • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

        DIRECTIONS

        1. Mince the garlic. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the sesame tahini. Whisk in the lemon juice, beginning with the smaller amount. The mixture will stiffen up. Gradually whisk in up to 1/3 cup water, until the sauce has the consistency of thick cream (or runny yogurt). Add salt to taste.
        2. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Slice the broccoli crowns 1/3 inch thick, letting the flower buds on the edges fall off. Peel any large pieces of stem by gently pulling away the thick skin, then toss the slices and the unattached buds with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place on the baking sheet in an even layer. Roast until the tops are nicely browned, stirring and flipping the large slices over (tongs are a good tool for this) after 8 minutes, roasting about 15 minutes total.
        3. Remove from the oven and transfer to a platter or to individual serving plates. Drizzle on the tahini sauce and serve, or serve the tahini sauce in small bowls for dipping.

        Easy Broiled Falafel

        INGREDIENTS

        • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
        • 1/4 cup chopped onion
        • 3 cloves fresh garlic
        • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
        • 1 Tablespoon olive or avocado oil
        • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
        • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
        • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
        • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
        • pinch of cayenne
        • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
        • 3 tablespoons oat flour
        • olive or avocado oil cooking spray

        DIRECTIONS

        1. Preheat the broiler. Spray a baking sheet with oil.
        2. Add chickpeas, onion, garlic, oil, parsley, lemon juice, cumin, coriander, salt and cayenne into a food processor (affiliate link) and pulse until just combined. You don’t want to over-process the mixture or you’ll end up with hummus. Plus, having a few chunks of chickpeas gives the falafel a nice texture. Stir in baking soda and oat flour. At this point your mixture should be holding together quite well.
        3. Scoop spoonfuls of mixture out and form into small patties; you should get about 15. Place on prepped baking sheet.
        4. Broil 2-3 minutes, flip patties and broil for another 2-3 minutes until falafel are golden and cooked through.

        Thai Cucumber Salad with Peanuts

        Thai Cucumber Salad with Peanuts

        Serve as an accompaniment to a simple stir fry with the protein of your choice (Pictured: seitan with a spicy Szechuan sauce) with scallions and a handful of pea shoots lightly wilted and served over rice noodles.

        INGREDIENTS

        For the Salad

        • ½ red or white onion, very thinly sliced
        • 2 large English cucumbers, sliced crosswise ¼-inch thick
        • 1/3 cup packed chopped cilantro
        • ½ cup salted peanuts, roughly chopped
        • 1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
        • ¼ teaspoon of salt or to taste

        For the Dressing

        • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
        • 2 tablespoons canola oil
        • 1 ½ tablespoons shoyu or tamari soy sauce
        • 2 tablespoons sugar
        • 1 garlic clove, minced

        DIRECTIONS

        1. Place the onions in a small bowl of ice water. Let sit for ten minutes, then drain well and pat dry.
        2. In a large bowl, combine the drained onions, cucumbers, cilantro, peanuts, and jalapeno pepper.
        3. Make the dressing: combine the lime juice, oil, shoyu, sugar, and garlic in a small bowl and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Salt to taste.

        Thai Yellow Chicken Curry (Adapted from Pinch of Yum)

        chicken yellow curry

        INGREDIENTS

        Curry Paste

        • 4 large shallots
        • 4 large heads of garlic (not individual cloves – FULL HEADS of garlic)
        • 1 6-inch piece of fresh ginger
        • 5–20 whole dried Thai chili peppers** (they’re very small and usually found in the spice section)
        • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
        • 2–3 tablespoons turmeric
        • 2–3 tablespoons mild curry powder
        • 2 teaspoons roasted ground coriander
        • 3 tablespoons lemongrass paste
        • 1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves and stems

         Curry

        • 1 tablespoon oil
        • One yellow onion, sliced thinly
        • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
        • 1/3 cup yellow curry paste (see below)
        • 10 baby golden Yukon potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
        • 1 14-ounce can coconut cream (it’s like coconut milk, but even more luscious)
        • 1/2 – 1 cup water
        • 1 can pineapple chunks
        • Rice for serving

        DIRECTIONS

        Curry Paste

        1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
        2. Prep the aromatics:Peel the shallots – then drizzle with oil and wrap in foil. Peel the ginger and cut into thin slices. Arrange in a single layer, drizzle with oil, and wrap in foil. Pull the outer paper off the garlic. Cut the pointy tops off the heads of garlic so the cloves are partially exposed. Drizzle with oil, and wrap each head of garlic in foil.
        3. Bake the aromatics:Place all the foil packets on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the ginger (it should be soft), increase the temperature to 400, and roast the shallots and garlic for another 30 minutes until golden brown and very fragrant. When cooled, you can squeeze the garlic cloves out of the rest of the paper.
        4. Soak the chilisWhile the aromatics are roasting, pour boiling water over the chili peppers to rehydrate them. Let them soak for 15 minutes. Drain the water.
        5. Make the pastePut everything in a food processor or very strong blender. Pulse or puree until the yellow curry paste reaches your desired consistency. The recipe should make about 1 1/2 – 2 cups of curry paste, about 4-5 batches of curry. The paste keeps for about a week in the fridge and it freezes well.

        Curry Dish

        1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium low heat. Add the onions and sauté for a few minutes until the onions are fragrant and softened. Add the chicken and curry paste; sauté for 3-5 minutes. Add the potatoes and stir to coat with the curry paste.
        2. Add the coconut cream and 1/2 cup water to the pot – simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the chicken and potatoes are fully cooked, adding more water depending on the consistency you want for the sauce.
        3. Just before serving add in the pineapple chunks and some of the juice.
        4. Serve over rice.

        Crisp Gnocchi With Brussels Sprouts and Brown Butter (Via the New York Times)

        Crisp Gnocchi With Brussels Sprouts and Brown Butter (New York Times)

        INGREDIENTS

        • pound Brussels sprouts (or cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower or even cabbage)
        • lemon
        • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
        • Kosher salt and black pepper
        • ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
        • 1(18-ounce) package shelf-stable or refrigerated potato gnocchi
        • tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into 6 pieces
        • ½ teaspoon honey
        • Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

        DIRECTIONS

        1. Trim and halve the Brussels sprouts. Using a vegetable peeler, peel thick strips of lemon zest, then coarsely chop. (You should have about 2 teaspoons chopped zest.)
        2. In a large (preferably 12-inch) skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high. Add the Brussels sprouts, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper, then arrange the Brussels sprouts in an even layer, cut-side down. Scatter the lemon zest over the top and cook, undisturbed, until the Brussels sprouts are well browned underneath, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the red-pepper flakes, stir and cook until the Brussels sprouts are crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl.
        3. In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high. Break up any gnocchi that are stuck together, add them to the pan and cook, covered and undisturbed, until golden brown on one side, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the butter and honey, season with salt and a generous amount of black pepper, and cook, stirring, until the butter is golden, nutty smelling and foaming, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the brussels sprouts until warmed through. Serve with grated Parmesan.

        Steak and Shrimp Sheet Pan Fajitas (Adapted from Number 2 Pencil)

        Shrimp Fajitas

        INGREDIENTS

        • 1 pound steak
        • 1 pound shrimp peeled and deveined
        • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
        • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
        • 1 1/2 tablespoons of chili powder
        • 1 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder
        • 1 1/2 teaspoons of onion powder
        • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
        • 1 1/2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
        • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
        • 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lime juice
        • 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce
        • 1 yellow bell pepper
        • 1 red bell pepper
        • 1 orange bell pepper
        • 1 small red onion
        • 1/2 pound mushrooms
        • limes for garnish
        • fresh cilantro for garnish
        • serve in tortillas warmed or over tortilla chips

        DIRECTIONS

        1. Preheat oven to 450 degree. In a small bowl combine salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and paprika.
        2. In a large plastic storage baggie, combine 1 tablespoon of olive oil, lime juice, soy sauce and 2/3 of spice mixture. Add steak to plastic storage baggie and turn to coat, let steak marinate at room temperature while prepping shrimp, onions and bell peppers.
        3. In a small bowl, combine shrimp with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and remaining 1/3 of spice mixture and set aside. Slice peppers and onions into 1/4 inch slices. Add peppers and onions to sheet pan, drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, tossing to coat. Move bell peppers and onions to outer edges of sheet pan and place steak in the middle.
        4. Cook at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Remove flank steak from oven and arrange uncooked shrimp over onions and peppers then broil on high for additional 3-4 minutes, just until shrimp is cooked through. Use a meat thermometer to check steak for doneness. About 140 for medium rare to 150 for medium.
        5. IMPORTANT - for juicy and tender steak, let rest at least 10 minutes and cut against the grain. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice before serving.
        6. Tortillas can be wrapped in a foil packet and heated in the oven while steak is resting. Serve fajitas in warm tortillas or over tortilla chips with avocado and/or sour cream.

        Apple Crisp  (Modified from an ancient Betty Crocker cookbook passed to Jason McCrea from his mother)

        baked apple crips

         INGREDIENTS

        • 6 cups of apples
        • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
        • 1 tbsp water
        • ½ cup cold butter in cubes Butter
        • 1 cup Brown Sugar
        • ¾ cup all purpose Flour
        • ¾ cup oats
        • Pinch Salt
        • Optional 1 ¾ tsp. cinnamon
        • (Secret Ingredient: 2tbsp ground flax)

         DIRECTIONS

        1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
        2. Peel, core, and slice apples and put into a 10x10 baking pan or dish.
        3. Sprinkle the lemon juice and water over the apples.
        4. Place dry ingredients in a food processor and run briefly to mix. Add cold butter and process with the chopping blade until the mixture is pebbly, do not over process.
        5. Sprinkle this over the apples and bake for 45-50 minutes.
        6. Let cool before enjoying.

        NOTE: This is a very forgiving recipe. You can make it with apples and double crisp in an extra big Pyrex dish. It doesn’t matter how much is made, it’s never enough! 

        Baked Pears (Adapted from SkinnyTaste.com )

        baked pears

        INGREDIENTS

        • Pears
        • Honey
        • Cinnamon
        • Chopped Walnuts

         DIRECTIONS

        • Cut pears in half and scoop out the core
        • Place on a baking sheet with the inside facing up
        • Put a ½ teaspoon of honey in each core and sprinkle with cinnamon and chopped walnuts.
        • Bake for 30 minutes in a pre-heated 350-degree oven.

        Orange Sorbet

        orange sorbet

        This light refreshing sorbet is great on its own but is even better garnished with fresh clementine or mandarin orange slices and anything ginger such as a ginger snap cookie or sprinkles of crystallized ginger. Try with lemon, lime, grapefruit, or any other citrus fruit.

        INGREDIENTS

        • 2 cups sugar
        • 2 cups water
        • 1 ½ cups freshly squeezed orange juice
        • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

        DIRECTIONS

        1. Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer without stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 3-5 minutes. Cool completely. (This is called a simple syrup and may be made ahead in larger quantities to have on hand for making other sorbets. Keep refrigerated until ready to use).
        2. Add orange juice and zest; stir to combine.
        3. Process the mixture in an ice cream machine per manufacturer’s instruction. (I have a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker and churned the mixture for 25-30 minutes).
        4. Remove from machine and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

        Cinnamon Pear Galette

        galette

        INGREDIENTS

        Crust

        • 1 ¾ cups flour
        • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
        • ¼ cup cornmeal
        • ¼ teaspoon salt
        • ½ cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
        • 1/3 cup buttermilk (can sub 1/3 cup milk mixed with 1 teaspoon vinegar – let sit 15 minutes before using)
        • 1 egg beaten
        • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

        Filling

        • 2 pears, cored and sliced thin
        • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
        • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
        • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

         DIRECTIONS

        1. To make the crust, combine flour, sugar, cornmeal and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and cut in with a pastry cutter or food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Slowly add buttermilk and stir until dough begins to stick.  Remove dough and any remaining pieces, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 45 minutes.  Can be made in advance and stories for up to three days.
        2. While the dough is chilling, preheat oven to 350.
        3. Mix sugar and cinnamon together then combine with pears and lemon juice, tossing gently to coat.
        4. Remove dough from refrigerator and place on a pizza stone or parchment paper. Starting in the center, roll dough out to form a 14-inh wide circle. If using parchment paper, place on a baking sheet.
        5. Place pears on dough starting two inches from the outer edge and continuing inward to form circles until all slices have been used. Pour remaining juice/sugar mixture over the pears.
        6. Fold the edges of the dough over the pears and press gently to make sure the creases have adhered.
        7. Lightly brush the edge of the dough with the beaten egg and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.
        8. Bake for one hour or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling.
        9. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for 20 minutes.
        10. Serve warm or at room temperature.

        Happy Cooking!

        Heart-Shaped Caramel Desserts That Will Make the Sweetest Finish This Valentine’s Day

        The best way to say I love you on Valentine’s Day is with caramel.  The second-best way?  Dessert of course.  Even better than that?   A caramel dessert (we’re all about combining the best of the best!).

        To really up the wow factor this year and end your Valentine’s evening on a high note, consider crafting a heart-shaped caramelized concoction. We’ve collected a roster of sweet treats (from the best bloggers and chefs out there) that will warm the heart of your mom, friends, partner, kids...whoever needs something sweet on February 14.

        Of note, we show you how to modify each recipe (if needed) using our caramel but have also included links to the original recipe and the fabulous chefs who created them. In lieu of making sauce in the recipes that call for it, you can choose to melt McCrea’s Candies caramel with half-and-half in the microwave until desired texture is achieved.  Scale accordingly.  The recipe for this is below and works with any of McCrea’s Candies caramel flavors:

        Put half and half and caramel in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 10 second intervals, whisking in between, until smooth sauce is created. If sauce is too thin, add more caramels. If too thick, add more half and half in ½ tsp intervals.

        Shortbread Hearts with Salted Caramel and Chocolate

        tikkido.com caramel heart shaped cookies with caramel valentine's day

        Hearts will be sure to skip a beat when you whip up these fun heart-shaped and caramel-frosted cookies from Nikki Wells.

        Ingredients

        Shortbread Cookies Cookie

        • 1 pound butter (4 sticks), softened
        • 1 cup sugar
        • 4 cups flour
        • 1 teaspoon salt
        • 2 teaspoons vanilla
        • Salted caramel sauce (see below)
        • Your favorite chocolate
        Salted Caramel Sauce
        • 1 cup heavy cream
        • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
        • 1 teaspoon salt
        • 1 1/2 cups sugar
        • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
        • 1/4 cup water
        • 1 teaspoon vanilla
        • 1/2 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice

        Directions

        1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Beat the sugar and butter together, then add salt, vanilla, and flour, and mix until combined.
        2. Roll out the shortbread cookie dough, and use a heart shaped cookie cutter to create the basic cookie shape.  Dock the dough (put tiny holes in it) with a fork or a toothpick.
        3. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cookies begin to turn golden on the edges.  Let cool completely before adding the caramel and chocolate.
        4. Meanwhile, cook the caramel to 240 degrees
        5. Pour caramel mixture in a half-sheet pan (something with a lip, just in case of runoff) lined with a silpat.  This is critical if you want to get nicely shaped, appropriately thin caramel hearts to top your cookie
        6. Let the caramel cool completely on the silpat pan liner.  Once cooled and firm, use a slightly smaller cookie cutter than the one you used for the shortbread heart to cut out heart shapes in the caramel.  Lift the caramel hearts carefully with a spatula and place them in the center of the shortbread heart.  No need to add any adhesive; the caramel will meld nicely to the cookie in a few minutes.
        7. Melt about 1/2 cup of high-quality chocolate carefully in the microwave or over a double boiler.  Drizzle the melted chocolate over the cookies and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  

        Salted Caramel Brownies

        salted caramel brownies valentines day dessert

        These luscious brownies by Breanna's Recipe Box and based on a recipe from Smitten Kitchen will have friends and family thanking you from the bottom of their hearts when you serve them up at the end of your Valentine’s Day meal.

        Ingredients

        • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
        • 1 stick butter
        • 1 cup granulated sugar
        • 2 large eggs
        • 1 teaspoon vanilla
        • Heaped 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
        • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
        • Favorite McCrea’s Candies caramel

        Directions

        1. Heat oven to 350F degrees. Line an 8x8-inch square baking pan with parchment, extending it up two sides, or foil. Spray the parchment with a nonstick cooking spray.
        2. In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together. Remove from heat when a few small pieces of chocolate remain and stir until chocolate is fully melted and smooth. Whisk in sugar and then eggs, one at a time. Next add the vanilla and salt. Stir in flour with a wooden spoon or spatula.  
        3. Gently fold all but a small amount of caramel pieces into batter.  Scrape batter into prepared baking pan and spread until even. Scatter remaining caramel pieces on top of the brownies. 
        4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely and cut into hearts.
        5. Drizzle caramel sauce over the brownies and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt
         

        Chocolate Hearts with Honey-Caramel Sauce

        better homes and gardens magazine caramel valentine's day dessert

        Give your loved ones their heart’s desire with these rich chocolate hearts from Better Homes & Gardens.

        Ingredients

        • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
        • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
        • 1 cup whipping cream
        • 3 slightly beaten egg yolks
        • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
        • 1/3 cup milk
        • ¼ cup sugar
        • 2 tablespoons coffee or orange liqueur
        • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
        • Unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
        • Caramel Sauce 
        • Candied Orange Peel (optional)
        • Whipped cream (optional)

        Directions

        1. Chill a medium mixing bowl and the beaters of an electric mixer.
        2. Place chocolate in a heavy medium saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until partially melted; immediately remove from heat and stir until smooth. Cool slightly.
        3. In a chilled mixing bowl beat whipping cream with the chilled beaters on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Cover; chill until needed (up to 1 hour).
        4. In a heavy small saucepan stir together egg yolks, milk, and sugar. Bring to a gentle boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour mixture into a medium mixing bowl; add liqueur and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Add the melted chocolate, 2 tablespoons at a time, to the hot mixture, beating with an electric mixer on low speed until combined (mixture will be thick). Add 1/2 cup of the whipped cream and continue beating on low speed until smooth. Gently fold in the remaining whipped cream.
        5. Line 6 individual heart-shaped pans (about 3 inches in diameter) or 6-ounce custard cups with plastic wrap, allowing edges to hang over sides. Spoon chocolate mixture evenly into pans. Cover with heavy foil; freeze until firm (about 4 hours) or for up to 1 month.
        6. Before serving, remove pans or cups from freezer. Invert onto a baking sheet. Remove plastic wrap. Smooth tops of desserts with a knife that has been dipped in hot water. Let desserts stand for 15 minutes at room temperature.
        7. If desired, for a cocoa design, cut several 1/4-inch-wide strips of paper, making each strip slightly longer than one of the heart-shaped or round desserts. Place the strips atop one of the desserts in a lattice design. Sift cocoa atop. Carefully remove strips. Repeat with the remaining desserts.
        8. To serve, spoon Caramel Sauce atop 6 dessert plates, if desired. With a spatula, transfer the desserts to the dessert plates, placing them atop sauce. Dollop with whipped cream and top with Candied Orange Peel (see step 9), if desired. 
        9. If using Candied Orange Peel: with a vegetable peeler or small knife, cut strips of peel from orange, leaving the white pith behind. Use the rest of the orange for another purpose. Cut the strips of orange peel into thin julienne strips (about 1/8-inch wide). Place peel in a small pan of boiling water for 2 minutes; drain. Remove peel. In same pan combine water and sugar. Bring to boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat. Add peel. Simmer, uncovered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until the peel is transparent; drain. With a fork, transfer peel to a sheet of buttered foil; cool thoroughly. Use immediately or transfer to a tightly covered storage container and store in a cool, dry place for up to 1 week.

        Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart

        caramel chocolate tart recipe The recipe, from PopSugar contributor and TODAY Tastemaker Brandi Milloy,

        Love is definitely in your future if you make this tart filled with salted caramel, lavender infused ganache and topped with toasted marshmallow. The recipe, from PopSugar contributor and TODAY Tastemaker Brandi Milloy, will have loved ones eating their hearts out.

        Ingredients

        • 1 pie crust
        • 1 cup sugar
        • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
        • 1/2 cup heavy cream
        • 1 teaspoon fleur de sel
        • 2/3 cup milk
        • 1 tablespoon culinary lavender (or use lavender tea bag)
        • 10 ounces dark chocolate
        • 4 egg whites
        • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
        • 6 tablespoons sugar

         Directions

        1. The night before, add culinary lavender or tea bag to milk and let infuse overnight.
        2. Preheat oven to 450ºF.
        3. Unroll pie crust and press into a heart-shaped tart pan, removing any excess overhang of pie crust with the edge of the pan. Puncture the dough with the prongs of a fork and then bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the dough is cooked through. Remove from the oven and let cool.
        4. To make the caramelIn a medium sauce pot over medium heat, cook sugar, stirring occasionally until completely melted and the color begins to turn amber. Remove from heat and mix in butter. The sugar will start to bubble up but keep mixing until the butter is completely incorporated, and the mixture is smooth. Then add in the heavy cream and salt and keep mixing until combined. Return the mixture to the heat for short bursts to thicken the caramel until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and set aside.
        5. To make lavender chocolate ganacheStrain lavender infused milk through a strainer or cheesecloth. Heat milk in a microwave safe glass for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the milk starts to simmer. Remove the milk and pour over chocolate. Let sit for a minute for the milk to melt the chocolate and then stir to combine.
        6. Once the caramel has cooled to the touch, pour into pie crust in an even layer, about halfway up the crust. Place in the refrigerator to set. Then cover with chocolate ganache and spread evenly over the top of the tart. Return the tart to the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour or overnight.
        7. To make marshmallow frosting:In a mixing stand or using an electric mixer, whisk together egg whites, cream of tartar, and sugar until stiff peaks form and the meringue is glossy and smooth. Remove tart from refrigerator and dollop meringue mixture on top of the tart, making sure to pull as many peaks as you can. Use torch to brown the entire meringue (or pop it under a broiler for a couple minutes) and serve.

         
        Heart Shaped Caramel Churros

        Caramel churros from Sugergolden bakes

        Show your Valentine all kinds of love with a recipe that comes straight from the heart like these totally irresistible Churros. Developed by Supergolden Bakes, they’re perfect when served with a caramel sauce for dipping or drizzling. 

        Ingredients

        • 1 cup water
        • tbsp sugar
        • 1/2 tsp salt
        • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
        • 1 cup plain all purpose flour, sifted
        • 2 tbsp butter (can replace with vegetable oil)
        • 2 quarts sunflower oil or vegetable, canola etc
        • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
        • 1-2tsp ground cinnamon
        • Caramel sauce made from McCrea’s Candies caramel for dipping or drizzling

        Directions

        1. Mix the sugar and cinnamon on a large plate and set aside. Line tray with baking paper.
        2. Heat the water, sugar, salt, vanilla and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil then turn heat off and immediately add all the flour.
        3. Stir the flour vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a ball. Set it aside for a few minutes to cool down a little but pipe while stir warm and pliable.
        4. Fit a large piping bag with a large closed star tip. Spoon the dough into the bag and carefully pipe the hearts on the baking paper. If you mess up put the dough back in the bag and try again!  Note: You can draw hearts on the baking paper as a template. Flip the paper over when you are piping the hearts
        5. Heat the oil in a large, deep pot (Note: If you have a fryer, use it - it makes the process a little easier.). If you have a candy thermometer clip it on. The oil is ready when it reaches 375F. (To check if the oil is ready without the use of the thermometer drop a small cube of bread in it. It should brown within a minute.)
        6. Lower the hearts into the oil using a wooden spoon (they keep their shape remarkably well). Do not fry more than 2 at a time as the oil temperature will drop. Use chopstick to flip and fry until golden - about 2-3 minutes on each side.
        7. Drain on kitchen towels then roll in the cinnamon sugar.

        From our hearts to yours:  Happy Valentine's Day!

        Our Favorite Caramel Dessert Recipes -- Part One

        While we love our caramel on its own, we also really enjoy incorporating it into recipes whenever we can.  We’ve developed a wide selection of app-solutely delicious appetizers using six of our fifteen flavors of caramel.  We have also showcased a fabulous array of caramel-inspired drink recipes made from infusing various flavors of McCrea’s Candies caramel into different liquors with some phenomenal results (trust us).  Additonally, we've shown you how to pair caramel and cheese for a delicious end-of-meal finale.  

        The recipes below highlight some of our favorite caramel-themed desserts.  We’ve scoured the internet and taken inspiration from some of Instagram’s top dessert bloggers to create this heavenly collection of recipes, each one guaranteed to cara-melt in your mouth. 

        Of note, we show you how to modify each recipe (if needed) using our caramel but have also included links to the original recipe and the fabulous chefs who created them.

        Oh and P.S. This is only Part One.  We’ll be back soon with even more crazy-good caramel concoctions.

        Salted Caramel Puppy Chow

        Salted Caramel Puppy Chow

        This fan favorite dessert is the ultimate shareable snack.  It is an addicting powder sugar-doused, pop-it-in-your mouth ideal – and irresistible -- sweet treat for parties and potlucks.  The addition of caramel takes it to new heights and if you toss in bite-sized pieces of McCrea’s Candies caramel you’ve just achieved the pinnacle of perfection. We love The Cookie Rookie’s take on this.

        Ingredients
        • Chex Cereal
        • Salted Caramel Flavoring (jarred caramel ice cream topping works great)
        • Milk Chocolate Chips
        • Powdered Sugar (lots and lots)
        • Any flavor of McCrea’s Candies Caramel (chop or leave whole)
          Directions
          1. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds.
          2. Next, melt the caramel topping/syrup in the microwave for about 45-60 seconds. Then combine the melted caramel and chocolate.
          3. Place Chex cereal in a large bowl and pour the chocolate caramel mixture over it. Stir well, until the Chex is fully coated.
          4. Pour the coated cereal into two separate resealable plastic bags. Pour half of the powdered sugar into each bag, then shake until the Chex is fully coated.
          5. Once it’s done, pour the puppy chow mix into a bowl, and mix in your caramels. You can also add chocolate chips or caramel chips – or all three!

                   

                  Coconut Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

                  Coconut Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

                  Bake or Break is one of our favorite Instagrammers/ Bloggers.  Her mouthwatering sweet treats are to die for.  And she has a variety of caramel-based recipes from blondies and shortbread cookies to pies and cheesecakes.  One of our absolute favorites is her Coconut-Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies which combines sweet coconut cookies, rich caramel, and a sprinkling of salt. Sweet and salty and caramel-ly all over! Right up our alley.

                  Ingredients
                  • 3 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
                  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
                  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
                  • 12 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
                  • 1 & 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
                  • 1 cup granulated sugar
                  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
                  • 9 ounces McCrea’s Candies Caramel (about 30 caramels of any flavor)
                  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
                  • Sea salt, for garnish
                  Directions
                  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with silicone liners or parchment paper.
                  2. Whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside.
                  3. Place the eggs in a bowl. Place the coconut in another bowl. Set aside.
                  4. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla.
                  5. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Dough will be crumbly.
                  6. Using a tablespoonful of dough at a time, press the dough in your hands to form balls.* Roll each ball in beaten egg, and then roll in coconut. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheets. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to make an indentation in each cookie.
                  7. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes. Then, remove the pan from oven, and use the handle of a wooden spoon to make indentations again.
                  8. Bake the cookies 8 to 10 more minutes, or until cookies are golden brown. Cool the cookies on pans on wire racks.
                  9. Place the caramels and cream in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until mixture is smooth.
                  10. Spoon the caramel into cookie indentations. Sprinkle with sea salt. Allow the caramel to set before serving.
                    NOTES:
                    *The dough is very crumbly. Squeeze it in your hand for a few seconds to get it to hold together. Then, you should be able to roll it into a ball.

                     

                    Caramel Twix Cookies

                    Twix Caramel Cookies

                    Obviously, we love our candy around here especially those made with caramel.  That includes Twix Bars.  However, we guarantee you that this recipe for Twix Bar Cookies from Cooking with Karli is even better than the original.  It moves the gooey caramel and chocolate goodness of the candy bar onto a buttery soft sugar cookie crust.  Simply scrumptious and a definite crowd-pleaser.

                    Ingredients

                    • 1/2 cup butter
                    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
                    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
                    • 1 egg white
                    • 1 1/2 cups flour
                    • 1 tsp baking powder
                    • 20 McCrea’s Candies caramels
                    • 3-4 tbsp half-and-half
                    • 2 cups milk chocolate chips

                    Directions

                    1. Preheat oven to 350°. 
                    2. Cream together the butter and sugar.
                    3. Add in the egg and vanilla. Mix until well combined.
                    4. Add the flour and baking powder. Mix thoroughly.
                    5. Roll the dough out until 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Use a round cookie cutter to cut out circles. Transfer to an ungreased pan.
                    6. Bake at 350° for 6-8 minutes. Pull out of the oven when the cookies are puffy and no longer glossy.
                    7. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
                    8. While the cookies are cooling, microwave the caramels and half-and-half for 1 minute. Stir at the 30 second mark. Stir until smooth and creamy.
                    9. Carefully spoon a few teaspoons of caramel onto each cookie, spreading until it almost covers the cookie. 
                    10. Place the cookies and caramel into the fridge for 10 -15 minutes or until completely cold. 
                    11. Melt the chocolate chips for 30 second intervals until completely melted and incorporated. This will make a fudge!
                    12. Spread a small amount of chocolate onto each cookie. Let the chocolate layer cool and set up before serving.

                     

                    Salted Caramel Chocolate Cups

                    Salted Caramel Chocolate Cups

                    This simple recipe from Crème de la Crumb contains just four ingredients but the end results are out of this world.  Who can resist salted caramel chocolate cups filled with ooey-gooey caramel?  Not us and we bet you won’t be able to either.

                    Ingredients

                    • cups semi sweet chocolate chips
                    • cups McCrea’s Candies caramels
                    • 3-4 tablespoons half-and-half or heavy cream
                    • Coarse sea salt

                    Directions

                    1. Place cupcake wrappers in muffin tins. (You could use mini cupcake wrappers and muffin tins and make twice as many caramel cups)
                    2. Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on half-power for 2 minutes. Take out and stir. Continue to cook on half-power for 20 seconds at a time, stirring between each, until chocolate is smooth.
                    3. Drop about 2 tablespoons of melted chocolate into each cupcake liner. Do not use all of the chocolate, leave about 1/4 of it in the bowl. Use a pastry brush to "paint" the melted chocolate onto the bottom of the cupcake wrapper, and around the sides (only go about 2/3 of the way up the wrappers, not all the way to the top) Place muffin tin in the freezer.
                    4. In another microwave safe bowl combine caramels and milk/heavy cream. Microwave on high for 1 minute, then stir. Continue to cook on high for 20 seconds at a time, stirring between each until smooth.
                    5. Remove muffin tin from freezer. Pour caramel into chocolate cups until about 2/3 full. Return to the freezer for about 5 minutes.
                    6. Remove muffin tin from freezer again. Use pastry brush to "paint" melted chocolate over the top of the caramel being sure to cover all of the caramel. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Return to the freezer for about 30 minutes.
                    7. Remove muffin tin from freezer. Carefully peel away the cupcake wrappers from the chocolate cups. Store chilled (in the fridge) or at room temperature in an airtight container.

                     

                    Caramel Pecan Blondies

                    Caramel Pecan Blondies

                    These Caramel Pecan Blondies from Handle the Heat are hard to resist. They feature an ultra-chewy brown sugar blondie with a hidden layer of rich, gooey, and crunchy caramel pecan filling. A true slice of paradise!  We crave this one on a regular basis.

                    Ingredients

                    For the blondies:

                    • sticks unsalted butter, melted
                    • cups dark brown sugar
                    • large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
                    • tablespoon molasses, optional
                    • 1teaspoon vanilla
                    • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
                    • cups all-purpose flour

                    For the caramel pecan filling:

                    • 25 McCrea’s Candies caramel
                    • 3-4 tablespoons heavy cream or half-and-half
                    • cup pecans, chopped

                    Directions

                    Make the blondies:

                    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8 by 8-inch pan with foil or parchment. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Don't skip this, the caramel filling gets sticky!
                    2. In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs, egg yolk, molasses, and vanilla and stir until combined. Stir in the salt and flour.
                    3. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top begins to set. Keep oven at 350°F.

                    Make the filling:

                    1. Meanwhile, combine the unwrapped candies with the cream in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring between bursts, until the mixture is melted and smooth. Stir in the pecans.
                    2. Pour the caramel over the middle of the bottom baked blondie layer. Pour the remaining batter over the caramel layer is completely covered.
                    3. Return to the 350°F oven and bake for another 30 minutes, or until golden brown and set. Let cool completelybefore chopping into bars with a big sharp knife. Wipe the blade with hot water for cleaner slices.
                    4. Serve or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

                    Bon Appetit!

                    Plan a Sweet Caramel Tasting Party

                    Sharing our caramel with friends and family is sweet fun.  We’ve created this fun caramel tasting guide to help you plan and host a delicious caramel tasting party.  Gather with those who love caramel as much as you do.  Get to know your palate and discover the caramels that you love.

                    Here’s What You Need to Get Started

                    Tasting Mat and Tasting Notes

                    Pen or pencil for each guest

                    One piece of each of our nine flavors from our Flavor Family box of caramels arranged on the Tasting Mat

                    Cool water to cleanse your palate between tastings

                    Four Easy Steps

                    Arrange the wrapped caramel on a tasting mat or plate.  Start with the most traditional of flavors and work your way up to the most unexpected.  This allows you to appreciate the subtler flavors before introducing your palate to the more intense flavor combinations. 

                    Use your Senses.  Fully appreciate the intricacies of each caramel flavor using sight, smell, touch and, finally, taste.

                    Compare and discuss. Make notes about what you enjoyed about each caramel. Take note of your favorites.  Share your thoughts with the other guests.

                    Cleanse your plate.  Take a sip of water between flavors so that you can enjoy each caramel on its own merits.

                    How to Taste Caramel

                    Like tasting wine, there are many things to pay attention to when you taste caramel.  Here are some notes to guide you.  The most important thing is the enjoy the process!

                    Appearance

                    First look at the caramel and assess its color. Consider its texture.  Contemplate the properties unique to each caramel.  For example, can you see the dark grains of salt in the Black Lava Sea Salt caramel?

                    Aroma

                    Hold the caramel in front of your nose and inhale. What are the aromas?  Is it nutty? Buttery? Salty?  Chocolaty?

                    Mouthfeel

                    Take a bite of the caramel.  Roll it around your tongue and press it to the roof of your mouth. Start chewing and evaluate the mouthfeel. Is it smooth?  Does it have a bite?  Is it chewy or is it soft?

                    Flavor

                    Next look for the different flavor notes of each caramel.  Pay attention to the hints of flavors and how long they last.  Be aware of how the flavors develop and change in the mouth as time passes. For example, which do you taste first in our Rosemary Truffle Sea Salt…the herb or the mushroom?

                    Finish

                    Swallow the caramel and evaluate its finish. What flavors remain in your mouth? How long do they linger?

                    Fun Tasting Tidbits

                    Tasting is different from eating. When you taste, you slow down, pay attention, and savor the food in a structured fashion, evaluating a food’s appearance, aroma, flavor, texture, and finish.

                    Did you know?  McCrea’s contains only real-food ingredients.  We start with fresh rosemary and steep it in cream.  We juice fresh ginger and use organic New England maple syrup.  See if you can taste these ingredients

                    Try our salted caramels back to back.  The Black Lava Sea Salt contains a coarse-grain salt giving you crunchy pops of salt while the Cape Cod Sea Salt uses a flakier salt that dissolves in the cooking process.  Can you see and taste the difference?

                    Compare and contrast the Deep Chocolate caramel with the Dark Roasted Mocha.  Can you detect the addition of coffee?

                    We recommend letting our Single Malt Scotch caramel warm up in our mouth before you chew it so that it fully opens up, allowing you to experience the rich, peaty flavor of the Ardmore Scotch.

                    For a fun and unique taste experience try twisting two caramel together.  Create your own flavor(s).

                    In Japan, ginger is used to cleanse the palate between courses.  Savor this zesty caramel at the end of your tasting experience to leave your palate refreshed.

                    Caramel Pairings

                    Want to kick your party up a notch?  Add another dimension to the taste experience?  Try our caramels with wine, beer and/or spirits.  We’ve put together the ultimate pairings menu to get you started.  However, feel free to experiment and mix it up a bit.  Try different combinations; find out what you like best.

                    Wine/Spirit Parings

                    Classic Vanilla: Pair this with a lightly oaked Chardonnay or semi-sweet sparkling wine. This most traditional of caramels also goes well with a lighter Pinot Noir.

                    Tapped Maple: We love this sweet caramel with a rich, warm craft Bourbon.

                    Cape Cod Sea Salt: This salted caramel goes best with a Sancerre or any white with a bit of minerality to it.

                    Black Lava Sea Salt: Try it with a dry sparkling sweet sherry. Our personal favorite pairing is a dry, sparkling Rose. Savor the bubbles as they play off the caramel’s pops of salt.

                    Deep Chocolate: Pairs beautifully with a Tawny Port or a Cabernet with softer tannins.

                    Dark Roasted Mocha: Pair this rich caramel with a Madeira. This smooth, creamy and slightly sweet wines bring out the bold mocha flavor.

                    Single Malt Scotch:  Enjoy it with Ardmore whisky, of course. For an out-of-this-world treat, freeze this spirited caramel and replace the ice cubes in your glass of whisky. Mmmm….

                    Rosemary Truffle Sea Salt: This caramel is fantastic with a Sangiovese or any hearty Italian red.

                    Ginger Fusion: We recommend pairing with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, or a sweeter wine like a Riesling or a Moscato. The apple and tree fruit notes of these wines bring out the zing of the caramel’s fresh ginger.

                    Beer Pairings

                    Classic Vanilla: This caramel pairs nicely with the sweet caramel notes and smooth finish of an Amber Ale.

                    Tapped Maple:  Try this caramel with a Pilsner and watch as the hops aroma and bitterness of the beer balance the sweetness of the maple.

                    Cape Cod Sea Salt: The sea salt of the caramel pairs well with the light fruitiness that comes from a Fruit Beer or Summer Ale.

                    Black Lava Sea Salt: The malty sweetness and hoppy bitterness of a Pale Ale work well with the exotic salt.

                    Deep Chocolate: The increased maltiness of an IPA enhances the flavor of bold sweet desserts and goes especially well with our chocolate caramel.

                    Dark Roasted Mocha: The prevalent chocolate and coffee flavors of a Stout make this the perfect pairing.

                    Single Malt Scotch: This rich, spirited caramel is best complimented by a Cream Ale with its malty sweetness and balanced bitterness.

                    Rosemary Truffle Sea Salt: The intense aromatics of the rosemary and truffle are lovely with a refreshing Hefeweizen and its clove aromas.

                    Ginger Fusion: The refreshing and thirst-quenching qualities of a Lager match up well with Asian spices like the ginger in this zesty caramel.

                    Cara-melt Hearts with These Stay-at-Home Valentine’s Day Ideas

                    McCrea's Candies Valentines Day gift

                    It’s always nice to go out for Valentine’s Day, but the holiday doesn’t require sitters, fancy dinners, Ubers or new outfits to be memorable.  In fact, one sleeve of caramel is all you need for an unforgettable night at home. 

                    Here are some unique Valentine’s Day ideas for couples who want to skip the lines, avoid the crowds and spend a night solely in the company of each other.  You can easily say “I Lava You” to your significant other with these fun stay-at-home activities incorporating McCrea’s Candies caramel.

                     

                    Rev Up 

                    Get the evening started by making a variety of delicious appetizers together.  Pour a glass of champagne and get cooking.  We have a list of easy-to-make hors d'oeuvres featuring six of our fifteen flavors of caramel, several of which contain natural aphrodisiacs:

                    Avocado Maki With Ginger Fusion Caramel Drizzle

                    This delicious starter contains not one, but two aphrodisiacs:  Ginger and Avocado.

                    Ginger is known to wake the body up and increase the heart rate. Its active ingredient acts as a light natural stimulant while at the same time promoting relaxation and overall well-being. Avocado has been known to boost vitality due to its high levels of vitamin E, which helps maintain youthful vigor and energy levels.

                    Ingredients:

                    Two trays of store-bought Avocado Maki sushi

                    1 tbsp. half n half

                    4 McCrea’s Candies’ Ginger fusion Caramels (approximate)

                    Directions:

                    Place Maki on serving platter.  Put half and half and caramel in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 10 second intervals, whisking in between, until smooth sauce is created. If sauce is too thin, add more caramels. If too thick, add more half and half in ½ tsp intervals. Serve immediately by drizzling over the Avocado Maki.

                    Makes: 8-16 depending on size amount of purchased sushi; double sauce recipe as needed.

                    Black Mission Figs Stuffed with Tapped Maple Caramel

                    Figs are rich in amino acids which are known to increase stamina, as well as iron and potassium. Their reputation as a romance food permeates through history, and they’ve been written about by poets and literature for centuries. It’s even said that figs may have been the fruit that caused original sin in the Garden of Eden, rather than apples!

                    Ingredients:

                    12 black mission figs

                    3 McCrea’s Candies Tapped Maple Caramels

                    Directions:

                    Remove tip of fig. Slice a cross lengthwise down the fig without cutting all the way through to the bottom. Pull back the 4 pieces to reveal the interior of fig. Cut each maple caramel into quarters. Roll each section into a ball and place in the center of each fig.

                    Makes: 12

                    And if you just want to pop a caramel or two while you’re prepping dinner, try McCrea’s Classic Vanilla.  Vanilla has been long regarded as a food of passion. It is said to increase muscular energy, improve circulation, stimulate arousal, decrease stress and have a euphoric effect on the brain. It also helps create a feeling of comfort and peace, which encourages a feeling of safety and intimacy.

                     

                    Drink Up 

                    Wine and caramel are two of our favorite things.  They are so great on their own, why not pair these iconic Valentine’s Day treats together? After extensive research (hiccup), we’ve created the ultimate wine and caramel pairings list.  Try one of the pairings below or have some fun by creating your own favorite combinations, using blindfolds or not (that part is up to you!) ….

                    Classic Vanilla: Pair with a lightly oaked Chardonnay or semi-sweet sparkling wine. Also pairs nicely with a lighter Pinot Noir.

                    Black Lava Sea Salt: Serve with a dry sparkling sweet sherry. The bubbles play off the pops of salt. Our personal favorite pairing is with a dry, sparkling Rosé.

                    Deep Chocolate: Pairs beautifully with a tawny port or a Cabernet with softer tannins.

                    Cape Cod Sea Salt: Try this with a Sauvignon Blanc or a Sancerre or any white with a little bit of minerality to it.

                    Rosemary Truffle Sea Salt: Fantastic with a Sangiovese or any Italian red; try with a shmear of gorgonzola dolce on top for fun.

                    Ginger Fusion: Match this zingy flavor with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling or Moscato. The apple and tree fruit notes in these wines tend to pair nicely with the slightly spicy yet sweet, warm, and somewhat woody flavor of fresh ginger.

                    Dark Roasted Mocha: Enjoy with a Cava or Madeira. These smooth, creamy and slightly sweet wines bring out the bold mocha flavor.

                    Wines not your thing?  We’ve got you covered here too:

                    Single Malt Scotch: Freeze our scotch caramels and use them as an ice cube or cold stone in your glass.  Enhance the flavor without watering it down.

                    Tapped Maple: We love this with a rich, warm craft bourbon.

                    We’ve also collected a variety of delicious caramel-inspired drink recipes.  Dazzle your darling with fun, festive and easy-to-make caramel concoctions, including caramel-infused, caramel-rimmed and caramel-garnished cocktails like our Coconut Caramel Mule which contains our Ginger Fusion and Classic Vanilla caramels, natural aphrodisiacs (see above):

                    Coconut Caramel Mule

                    This luscious libation calls for coconut rum infused with McCrea's Candies Ginger Fusion and Classic Vanilla caramels and mixed with pineapple juice and ginger beer for the most delicious Coconut Caramel Mule, a fun take on a Moscow Mule.

                    Ingredients:

                    1 ½ oz caramel-infused Coconut Rum

                    ½ oz. pineapple juice

                    3 oz. ginger beer

                    Ice

                    Directions:

                    Infuse the rum with 14 pieces of McCrea's Candies Ginger Fusion Caramel and 6 pieces of McCrea's Candies Classic Vanilla Caramel. Build all ingredients in a copper mug and stir. Garnish with a lime wheel and McCrea’s Candies Ginger Fusion Caramel.

                     

                    Heat Up

                    Set up an indoor picnic with your favorite foods.  Use your coffee table and floor cushions or spread your coziest blanket in front of the fire. Lanterns or candles can add a romantic touch.  Serve up your favorite foods or turn your indoor feast into a tasting experience for two with McCrea’s Candies Flavor Family caramel.

                    If the way to a person’s heart is through the stomach, then McCrea’s Flavor Family might just be Cupid! Share mouthwatering sweet, savory, and spirited caramels with your Valentine’s Day sweetie. Our Flavor Family contains two pieces each of nine flavors of slow-cooked, handcrafted caramel. 

                    Perfect for a casual at-home Valentine’s date night, couples can enjoy Cape Cod Sea Salt, Rosemary Truffle Sea Salt, Ginger, Single Malt Scotch, Mocha, Vanilla, Maple, and, of course, Chocolate caramel. 

                    And, after you share, you can beg, barter or fight over the extra piece of Black Lava Sea Salt that we include in each sleeve. Just be sure to kiss and make up once the dust settles.

                     

                    Cozy Up

                    Want a simple evening of “Netflix and Chill?”  Don’t just make it a typical TV night—add something special and sentimental to show you care. Create a lineup of your honey's favorite TV show episodes or re-watch that movie you watched on your fourth date. Alternatively, check out this list of the streaming service’s most romantic movies.  Then snuggle up on the sofa with your sweetie and a favorite treat like cheddar popcorn mixed with caramel pieces (our take on the popular cheddar/caramel popcorn combo; just cut up a few pieces of your favorite caramel – or a mix of flavors – add, eat and enjoy).

                    If a movie is not part of the evening’s program, cozy up in front of a fire.  Toast up some s’mores topped with a McCrea’s caramel for an added punch of flavor or whip up this Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate.  Rim your favorite mug with caramel and then add mini chocolate chips or another of your favorite sweet treats. Melt-in-your mouth goodness.

                     

                    Finish Up

                    How you actually end the night is completely up to you, however, our caramel and cheese dessert board is certainly a penultimate and fitting run-up to evening’s end.  A simple dessert cheese plate makes for an easy and deliciously elegant final course.  And when you’re really trying to wow, a dessert platter pairing cheeses and caramels can be an easy-to-prepare yet mouthwatering end to a delightful Valentine’s night in.  We show you how to create the perfect platter here.

                    Staying in can fill your night with romance in unexpected ways. These caramelized Valentine’s Day ideas are designed to help you fashion an evening that’s personal and unique by offering delicious opportunities to express your love and create intimacy in the comfort of your own home.  We hope they cara-melt your loved one’s heart.

                    Happy Valentine’s Day!