Jennifer Mastroianni: Putting the 'ah' in caramel

Jennifer Mastroianni

Guilty pleasures abound this time of year, so satisfying our lust for sweets is easy. Some folks go crazy for pumpkin. Others swoon for chocolate. My knees go weak for anything caramel.

The rich, gooey amber pushes all my buttons. I love both its taste and texture in hot beverages, cookies, custards, pies and more. If you, too, are a caramel fan, enjoy indulging in these recipes. They range from a simple Toffee Coffee to a surprisingly easy Caramel Apple Cake made with a box cake mix, to a more elaborate but rewarding recipe for Chocolatey Caramel Thumbprints.

And by the way, it’s pronounced KEHR-ah-mehl. Not CAR-mel. Here’s how to remember: It has an “ah” in the middle. And that’s no accident.


1 egg

1/2 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

16 vanilla caramels, unwrapped

3 tablespoons whipping cream

1 1/4 cups finely chopped pecans

1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate pieces

1 teaspoon shortening

Separate egg; place yolk and white in separate bowls. Cover and chill egg white until needed. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat well. Beat in egg yolk, milk, and vanilla.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat until well combined. Wrap the cookie dough in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. In a small saucepan heat and stir caramels and whipping cream over low heat until mixture is smooth. Set aside.

Slightly beat reserved egg white. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in egg white, then in pecans to coat. Place balls 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheet. Using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each cookie.

Bake for 10 minutes or until edges are firm. If cookie centers puff during baking, repress with your thumb. Spoon melted caramel mixture into indentations of cookies. Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool. (If necessary, reheat caramel mixture to keep it spoonable.)

In another saucepan heat and stir chocolate pieces and shortening over low heat until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Let cool slightly. Drizzle chocolate mixture over tops of cookies. Let stand until chocolate is set. Makes 36 cookies.

Tip: If desired, transfer the warm chocolate mixture to a resealable plastic bag. Cut a small hole in one corner of the bag. Drizzle cookies with chocolate mixture.

— Better Homes & Gardens


1 box yellow cake mix

1 (3.4 ounces) package vanilla flavor instant pudding

1 cup water

4 eggs

1/3 cup oil

3 Granny Smith apples (1 pound), peeled, coarsely chopped

20 Kraft Caramels

3 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 12-cup fluted tube pan or 10-inch tube pan. Beat first 5 ingredients in large bowl with mixer on low speed until blended. Beat on high speed 2 minutes. Stir in apples. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan 15 minutes. Loosen cake from side of pan; invert onto wire rack. Gently remove pan. Cool cake completely. Transfer to plate.

Microwave caramels and milk in microwaveable bowl on high 11/2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until blended. Cool 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Drizzle over cake.

— Kraft


1 tablespoon chocolate syrup

1 tablespoon caramel ice cream topping

3/4 cup hot freshly brewed coffee

2 tablespoons thawed Cool Whip

Place toppings in cup or mug. Add hot coffee; stir until well blended. Top with the whipped topping.

— Maxwell House

The Repository (Canton, Ohio)