Every year, I like to make up little holiday gift bags of cookies to take to the daycare, work, etc. Brianna loves to help hand them out, and I figured that this year Gillian would want to get in on the act as well. I usually pick up some cute bags at Target and fill them with a few of whatever cookies I've made. But this year has been a weird one for baking. For the most part, I've been making one cookie recipe at a time, and they get mostly eaten before I move onto the next one. So I didn't have a good stockpile of cookies to choose from.
A few weeks ago, I saw a post on Clara's blog that looked interesting. It was for a snack mix with cereal, nuts, m&ms and marshmallows. Instead of being the usual salty mix, it was caramely and sweet. I've made some yummy caramel things over the past few months, and thought it would be nice to add another one to my list. Plus, I volunteered to make treats for Brianna's kindergarten class party, and thought this would be something that the kids would like.
For the party batch, I stuck pretty closely to the recipe on Clara's blog. I knew the kids probably wouldn't like the nuts, so I decided to substitute mini pretzels. I kept the m&ms and marshmallows, though. =) The recipe takes some time, due to the long baking time, but most of it is hands off and you can work on other stuff in between. You melt together some butter, brown sugar and light corn syrup, then pour it over the mix of cereal and pretzels (or nuts) and mix them together. Then it goes into a low oven (250 degrees F) for 45 minutes, to be stirred every 10 minutes. Once it's done, you let the mixture cool a bit and mix in the other ingredients.
The verdict? Brianna didn't like it. Figures. =) She prefers to just eat the plain pretzels. Gillian liked it. I loved it. This stuff is seriously addictive! Jamie agreed. I'm not sure what the kindergarteners thought--they were so wound up that I don't think they ate much of it. But the parents at the party really liked it.
A few days later, it occurred to me that this snack mix would be a great treat for my holiday bags! Since my target audience was adults this time, I changed things around a bit. I kept the cereal and pretzels, but added some pecan halves as well. And I left out the marshmallows. I wanted to add a bit more flavor to the caramel part, as well. I thought about using a bit of cayenne, but decided on ground ginger. And I sprinkled a bit more salt on everything, as well. I ended up making two batches with my variations, because one wasn't enough!
The new verdict? Everyone seemed to love it. I love the pecans with the caramel coating. And the ginger was subtle, but definitely added to the overall flavor. I printed out the recipe on holiday paper and handed it out with the treat bags, figuring I'd get a number of requests for the recipe. =) This one is a permanent addition to my holiday baking!
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
10 cups Crispix cereal
6 cups mini pretzels
2 cups pecan halves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain m&ms
Preheat your oven to 250F.
Line a very large roasting pan (or two rimmed cookie sheets) with quick release foil and lightly spray with PAM.
In a medium size sauce pan over low/medium low heat, stir together the syrup, brown sugar, butter and ground ginger. Stir constantly until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved. Place the cereal, pretzels and pecans into the prepared roasting pan or cookie sheets. Carefully pour the brown sugar mixture over the cereal mixture. Use a buttered spatula to toss and completely coat the cereal, pretzels and nuts with the brown sugar mixture. Evenly sprinkle with the kosher salt.
Bake for 45 minutes, removing the pan from the oven every 10 minutes to gently toss the mixture with a buttered pair of tongs or spatula to ensure even baking. While the snack mix is baking, spread a few large sheets of parchment paper on the counter. After the mixture has finished baking, turn it out onto the parchment, making sure to spread it out to prevent large clumps. Add the m&m candies and stir to combine.