By Kevin Williams
I do like to try Amish recipes and since this is heavily food-oriented site, it's a good thing I like to do it. I think cooking and baking is a great activity to do with kids. It gets their brains moving and thinking and it's a fun way to spend time together. Aster is only 2 1 /2 and her attention span flits around like a butterfly in the spring so I'm trying to pick recipes that are relatively fast and easy. If she's bored and running into the other room and I'm finishing the recipe myself, that sort of defeats the "time together" part of my mission.
So, yesterday, we tackled Amish Caramel Cinnamon Squares, a recipe from an Amish woman in Clare, Michigan. Wow, these were/are good. Between going to the Olive Garden for my Mom's birthday and nibbling on these squares, SIGH, I'm definitely slowing the diet down.
The recipe I had called for a pan to be lined with foil. That was probably my biggest mistake. I don't see any reason why it couldn't just be a lightly greased 9 X 13 pan, so I am going to edit the foil out of the recipe. It's even worse if you do what I do and accidentally use the non-stick side of the foil.
One version I've seen of the recipe calls for making your own homemade caramels. Forget that, no way I'd get through the whole recipe with Aster then. So I took a short-cut - I thought - and bought a 14 ounce bag of soft caramels. Another version of the recipe says that is a good "short cut." Well, it is - if you are like most Amish ladies and have 7 kids to help you - if you are doing it by yourself or with just one 2-year-old helper it is actually pretty time-consuming to stand there and unwrap 40 caramels. They actually weren't that easy to unwrap (thank you, Brach's) I was fumbling with them and trying to quickly unwrap them. Aster managed to get a few unwrap and shrieked excitedly "I did it!!!" each time. She's a very talkative two-year-old. At one point in the recipe she got bored and went into the adjacent room and sounded absolutely adult-like when she said "Daddy, I'm going to read now but if you need help just yell `help me' and I'll come running in." Sheesh. How did I become the kitchen help and she the director?
These bars do come out very thin, but they are rich and dense (but a cinnamony kind of rich) so I don't know that you'd want it to be thicker. Well, I would....but....I don't know, I was trying to think of a way to bulk up the bars...I guess you could double the recipe and increase the amount of time in the oven.
Anyway, if you ditch the foil (and maybe the store-bought caramels) these are definitely a keeper! Oh, and in the instructions it says to melt the caramels on low heat on your stove top, I just microwaved the milk and caramels for 3 minutes and it was fine. I stopped once half way through to stir.
- 1½ cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups firmly packed brown sugar
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 package (14 ounces) caramels, unwrapped (or make your own homemade)
- ¼ cup milk
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl.
- Set aside.
- Mix brown sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla in large bowl until well blended.
- Add flour mixture; mix well.
- Reserve 1 cup of the batter.
- Spread remaining batter into lightly greased 13x9-inch baking pan.
- Bake 15 minutes or until firm.
- Over low heat melt caramels and milk stirring constantly.
- Cool 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.
- Pour over baked layer in pan, spreading to within ½ inch of edges.
- Drop reserved 1 cup batter by spoonfuls over caramel layer.
- Cut through batter with knife several times for marble effect.
- Bake 15 to 20 minutes longer or until center is set.
- Cool in pan on wire rack.
- Lift from pan.
- Cut into bars.