Ruffles & Roses Banana Cream Pie

Treat your Valentine to a very special pie this year. A thick, ruffled pastry surrounds the vanilla wafer bottom crust topped with velvety banana cream filling. Add whipped cream, a few pastry decorations, or even a drizzle of chocolate sauce to take this dessert to the next level.

You don’t have to have a pie-shaped pan (though this might be a good excuse to splurge on one), but you do need a deep-dish pie pan because this makes a generous amount of filling. It might be a good idea to be prepared with a few cupcake liners in case you have extra filling. Just layer a spoonful of cookie crust, a few banana slices, and a dollop of filling and put the mini desserts in the freezer for another time.

And . . . speaking of freezers, if you want neat, tidy slices of banana cream pie, I recommend freezing the pie and cutting it frozen. Add the little decorations and fresh banana slices before serving. If you’re using fresh whipped cream, add it after the frozen pie has been cut. If you’re using topping in a tub, it can be added before freezing.

ONLY cut as many pieces as you need, and return the remaining pie to the freezer immediately, because once it’s frozen it won’t look pretty when you take it out of the fridge the next day. 

You don’t have to freeze it, of course, but a cream pie is, by nature, soft . . . and it can get a little messy when serving. If you’re more about eating it than taking photos of it, then this won’t bother you one bit. And oh, my is it creamy. Mmmm.

I just have to tell you, as much as I love the soft, creamy pie, I really can’t resist it when it’s frozen. I may have added a little chocolate sauce, some peanuts, and a cherry to create my own “banana split pie”. The frozen filling is just like rich ice cream.

Ruffles & Roses Banana Cream Pie
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This is a generous recipe, enough for a large, deep-dish pie pan. You may want to reserve a little of the cookie crust. If you have extra filling, layer a few cupcake liners or ramekins with crumbs, banana slices, and filling. Wrap well and freeze for later!
Ingredients
  • PASTRY CRUST:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shortening, chilled
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vodka (or vinegar, if you prefer)
  • COOKIE CRUST:
  • 1 cup finely crushed vanilla wafers
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • FILLING:
  • 2 eggs, plus 2 yolks
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup cornstarch
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 large firm bananas (save one for garnish)
  • Whipped cream (or topping in a tub), banana slices, sprinkles, pastry garnishes, chocolate drizzle for decorating if desired
Instructions
  1. PASTRY:
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Work the cold shortening into flour until the size of peas.
  3. Combine the milk and vodka (or vinegar) and drizzle into flour mixture, tossing with a fork. Stir gently until it comes together.
  4. Working with half of the dough at a time, place between lightly floured pieces of parchment and roll until about ⅛-inch thick. Cut strips wide enough to reach from the bottom edge of your pie pan to about ½ inch over the top. Cut strips into manageable lengths (for me, this was about 6 -7 inches long) and, one at a time, lay them loosely along the side of your pie pan, gently pleating as you go to create ruffles. Each time you use a new piece, roll the end a little and nudge it up against the piece you just added, to hide the edge. Press the dough along the bottom edge of the pie pan as you go. (The cookie crust will fill the bottom later.) Gather dough scraps and reroll all at once if needed.
  5. Place a piece of foil along the bottom of the pie pan and fill with pie weights or beans. Any extra scraps may be cut into hearts or shaped into roses and leaves for decoration. Place those on the crust now, using a little milk to anchor them. Press firmly. Place crust in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (Small shapes - like hearts - can be baked on cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown.)
  6. Heat oven to 375 F.
  7. Place pie pan on baking sheet for easy handling, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully lift out the foil and weights.
  8. COOKIE CRUST: Combine crushed vanilla wafers, brown sugar, and melted butter. Put in bottom of pie pan and press down firmly, using a measuring cup or your hand. Be careful, the pan will be hot!
  9. Return to oven for an additional 20 minutes, or until the pie crust is golden. Cool on a rack.
  10. FILLING:
  11. In a small bowl, whisk together the two eggs and 2 yolks and the lemon juice. Set aside.
  12. In a large pan, combine the sugar, salt, cornstarch, and milk. Whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture is steamy and beginning to bubble. Reduce heat to low.
  13. Slowly add about 1 cup of the hot mixture into the egg mixture, whisking vigorously. Pour the egg mixture back into the pan and stir well.
  14. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick and begins to make big bubbles in the center, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Pour into a heat-proof bowl and cover. Chill for 1 hour.
  15. Slice 3 bananas. Pour half of the cream filling into the pie pan. Cover with all of the banana slices. Top with remaining filling (as much as your pie will hold.) Chill for at least 4 hours. Top with whipped cream (or topping in a tub) and decorate if desired.
  16. If you want frozen banana pie (yum!) lay a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the filling, wrap well, and freeze. When ready to serve, cut as many pieces as you need and then return remaining pie to the freezer; it will not hold well in the refrigerator once it has been frozen. Allow the pie slices to thaw slightly, top with whipped cream, and serve.

Cut wide strips of pie dough to create ruffles

Pleat the ruffles and press along the bottom edge of pie pan.

I used a silicone mold for the roses and a cutter for the leaves and hearts.

Add foil and weights (I have a bag o’ beans I use over and over) and any pastry decorations you’re using.

Bake 20 minutes, then press cookie crumbs into the bottom of the pie. Bake an additional 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Cook filling until thick and bubbly, then whisk about a cup into the egg mixture and return all to the pan on low heat.

cook and stir on low heat until thick. It should be “blurping” big bubbles.

Add a layer of chilled filling, add sliced bananas, then top with more filling. Place plastic wrap right on top of the filling and chill for at least 4 hours

Add real whipped cream when ready to serve. (I made ruffles.) If you’re using tubbed topping, this can be done a couple of hours ahead. Decorate.

My apologies to Dean Martin, but I’m going to change his song just a bit:

“When the moon hits your eye like a big piece of pie, that’s amore”

Nothin’ says amore like a beautiful slice of pie, right?

Lorinda

Cherry Nut Fudge

This easy fudge is full of sweet dark cherries and walnuts . . . and a little bit of Baileys Chocolate Cherry Liqueur. You don’t have to add the liqueur, of course (a dash of cherry flavoring is a good substitute) but it sure adds a festive touch for Valentine’s Day.

I used silicone heart molds to create perfect little fudge hearts. You could also pour the fudge into a large heart-shaped pan, or into a regular sheet pan and cut hearts out with cookie cutters. (I’m sure you can think of something to do with the leftover scraps.) This makes a lot of little hearts, so unless you have several silicone pans, have a small pan lined with parchment to put excess fudge into.

When I say the fudge is easy, I mean it’s not a complicated recipe. It does require your undivided attention at the stove for ten minutes or so, though. You can do that, right? For simplicity, leave the fudge plain. If you want to play with your food, you can “ice” it with a thin layer of melted chocolate and decorate with sprinkles, or roses made of royal icing or candy clay.

The heart on the left below is unadorned. The heart on the right was flipped over and the smooth side was coated with chocolate and gussied up with a few candy roses.

You’ll need a candy thermometer for this recipe. I started out with the recipe on the jar of marshmallow fluff, but because I added frozen sweet cherries to the mixture, it took a lot longer to reach the proper temperature – about ten minutes instead of the four minutes in the instructions on the jar. Not something you should guess at!

Speaking of temperatures, did you know that altitude really matters when making candy? My home is at an altitude of 2,500 feet, so I deduct five degrees from the target temperature. Subtract one degree for every 500 feet in elevation.

This recipe calls for 12 ounces of chopped chocolate. I use good dark chocolate and include 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate because I want my fudge to be really rich. I tend to have little chunks of different brands of chocolate in the cupboard, so I just throw them all together on my kitchen scale until I have 12 ounces. Mix and match! (And yes, to make it even simpler, you can use dark chocolate chips.)

Cherry Nut Fudge (with a little something extra)
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Ingredients
  • 1 cup (packed firmly) frozen dark sweet cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cups sugar
  • ⅔ cup evaporated milk
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme (or fluff)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup Baileys Chocolate Cherry Liqueur (or substitute 2 teaspoons vanilla and ½ teaspoon cherry flavoring)
  • Optional for decorating: Melted chocolate, sprinkles, nuts, candy, royal icing flowers
  • Candy thermometer and silicone molds (or 9x13-inch cake pan)
Instructions
  1. If using a 9x13-inch pan or heart-shaped cake pans instead of silicone molds, butter lightly and place parchment in the bottom of the pan. Silicone molds do not need to be greased.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine cherries, sugar, evaporated milk, and butter. Stir frequently until mixture comes to a boil, then stir constantly until it reaches 234 F. on a candy thermometer. (Adjust for high altitude if necessary, lowering temperature by 1 degree for each 500 feet.)
  3. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and marshmallow creme.
  4. Add walnuts and liqueur (or flavorings) and stir until well mixed.
  5. Spoon or scoop into ungreased silicone molds (tap lightly to level the fudge) or spread into prepared pans.
  6. Allow mixture to cool completely, then cover and place in cool location. Refrigerate for firmer fudge (and easier cutting.)
  7. Decorate fudge by spreading with a small amount of melted chocolate and adding desired candy, nuts, or icing flowers.

 

Chop up the chocolate! (Yes, you can use dark chocolate chips if you prefer.)

Prepare and set aside everything that you will add at the end. Trust me, you don’t want to be trying to stir and chop at the same time!

Combine cherries, sugar, milk, and butter in large pan

Almost done! Love that purple color.

Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate and marshmallow.

Add nuts and Baileys (or vanilla and cherry flavorings if you’re substituting) and stir well

Fill silicone molds or prepared pans and chill until firm.

I use a knife to put a thin layer of chocolate on the smooth side of each heart because I love the little “snap” when I bite into one. Or two. It would be fun to write names or little conversation heart sayings on each one, too. So many possibilities!

More sweet treats coming soon,

Lorinda

 

Grape Balls of Fire!

If you’re making snacks for a football game, these spicy appetizers will be a guaranteed fan favorite. Meatballs are dipped in a fiery glaze and baked in a spicy puff pastry wrap. Set aside some of the glaze for dipping, and watch the hearty treats disappear.

I have a real aversion to storebought frozen meatballs, but if you like them, by all means, use them and save yourself some time! I used ham balls because I had just made a bunch of them. They were wonderful, (you’ll find the Taste of Home recipe here: Brown Sugar Glazed Ham Balls) but beef would be great too!

I admit to being a total wimp when it comes to spicy foods, so I ask you to use your judgment and season the glaze to taste. You may want to add a whole lot more hot sauce that I used. If you’re making your own meatballs, you could add a little Chinese hot mustard to the raw meat, or red pepper flakes for another layer of spiciness. This is a recipe that is just begging for you to make it your own!

Tips:

  • If you want to use store-bought puff pastry (not phyllo dough!) you can roll the spices onto the dough before cutting out the circles.
  • If you make your own dough, don’t panic if it’s very, very crumbly and messy at first. With each roll, fold, and turn, it will get more cooperative. Every time I make this I think I’ve done something wrong, but it always comes together!
  • The dough can be made ahead, which will make the assembly a snap. I even cut out the circles, dusted them with flour, and stored them in a zipper-type freezer bag for 3 days and they worked perfectly. I left the dough a tiny bit thicker and cut out smaller circles, then when I was ready to use them I used a small roller to thin and enlarge the dough.
  • When you dip the balls in glaze and roll in breadcrumbs, your fingers will get messy, so either get an assembly line going or be near a sink or bowl of water.
  • After baking, immediately move pastries from the cupcake pan onto a cooling rack so the bottoms won’t get soggy.
  • The tops will open up a little during baking to show the top of the meatball. If you don’t want this, you can go with Plan ‘B’ and use two smaller rounds of dough (imagine a flying saucer) like this:

It’s a little bit more work, but pretty. Not sure if “pretty” is critical if you’re making this for a group of football fans, though! Your call.

The pastry on the left uses two rounds. The one on the right uses one larger round.

Grape Balls of Fire!
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Makes approximately 24 appetizers. Pastry dough can be made ahead and stored for a day or two in a heavy plastic storage bag.
Ingredients
  • SPICY ROUGH PUFF PASTRY:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon spicy garlic seasoning (or ½ teaspoon garlic salt and ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes)
  • 1 teaspoon Chipotle seasoning - more to taste.
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter
  • ⅔ cup very cold water
  • GLAZE:
  • ⅔ cup brown sugar
  • ⅔ cup grape jelly
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons chili paste
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne (more to taste)
  • a few dashes hot sauce of your choice
  • ASSEMBLY:
  • 24 cooked MEATBALLS, approximately 1-inch to 1½-inches
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (I use Panko)
  • 1 egg plus 1 teaspoon water for egg wash
Instructions
  1. PASTRY: Combine flour and seasonings directly on work surface.
  2. Cut cold butter into small chunks, 1-inch or less
  3. Using a bench scraper, knife, or sturdy spatula, chop butter into flour until butter pieces are about the size of a large pea.
  4. With scraper in one hand and cold water in the other, drizzle and toss until all the water has been incorporated. Don't overwork it - it should look like a shaggy mess.
  5. Use your scraper or spatula to shape into a 5x8 inch rectangle, with a short edge facing you.
  6. Roll out dough to approximately 6"x10", using the metal scraper to form straight edges. Keeping the short edge facing you, Flip the bottom edge up to the middle (it will be crumbly...just do the best you can) and the top edge down to the bottom. This will create three equal sized layers. Give the dough a turn to the left, lightly flouring the surface if necessary to keep it from sticking, and repeat. Repeat 3 more times. Wrap snugly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 days.
  7. GLAZE: In a medium saucepan combine brown sugar, grape jelly, vinegar, chili paste, and cayenne. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from heat and add hot sauce to taste. Reserve ½ cup glaze in a small bowl for dipping.
  8. Heat oven to 400 F. Grease (very lightly!) the bottom of each cavity in 2 cupcake pans.
  9. Remove dough from the refrigerator. If the dough has been in the fridge for more than an hour, allow it to warm up slightly on the counter for a few minutes. Following the previous instructions, roll and turn two more times, then roll out dough very thin - about 15 x 22". (Similar to wonton or eggroll wrappers.)
  10. Cut circles from the dough, keeping them as close together as possible. Stack scraps, each piece on top of the previous piece) for re-rolling if necessary. For a meatball that is 1½ inches across, you'll need a 4½-inch or 5-inch circle.
  11. Dip each meatball in the glaze, roll in breadcrumbs (this will keep help absorb the glaze), and place in the center of the dough circle. Moisten the edge of the dough all around with egg wash and lift the dough up, pleating it around the meatball and pressing together at the top. Place in the prepared cupcake pan and brush lightly with egg wash.
  12. Bake 18 minutes, or until golden brown.
  13. Serve with glaze.

Add spicy seasoning to flour on work surface.

Cut butter into small pieces

Chop the butter (don’t blend!) into the flour. Butter pieces should be about the size of large peas.

Use a scraper to corral it into an 8×5-inch rectangle.

See this crumbly mess? This is what the first “fold” may look like. Don’t worry!

The next roll and fold will look better!

Final fold before it goes in the fridge. The small, flattened pieces of butter that are visible are your friends. They will make the pastry flaky.

Glaze ingredients.

Boil the glaze ingredients for 2 minutes, then add hot sauce. Allow glaze to cool until it’s thick and sticky. Mmmmm.

Coat meatball with glaze, then roll in breadcrumbs. (I use Panko.)

Place meatball on the circle of dough. Brush egg wash around the outer edge of dough.

Bring edges up, gather together at the top and pinch together, like an Asian dumpling.

Brush with egg wash and they’re ready to bake

Baked. Lift them out of the pan and let them cool on a rack. Or . . . just eat ’em!

Okay, I know these are a little more work than Pigs in a Blanket, but c’mon. Puff pastry! Meatballs! If you’ll try these, I promise to come up with a very easy recipe next time.

Lorinda

Gingerbread Houses (and other edible abodes)

I’ve been holding a Rowdy Baker “Holiday House” contest for five years running now, and have seen some great houses made . . . mostly made by youngsters. I love seeing kids in the kitchen, and am thrilled to have them participate, but am convinced that adults are missing out on all the fun!

And it is fun. It’s also messy, frustrating, and persnickety, but mostly FUN!

I’m just beginning to get comfortable with creating my own templates for the structures. I (loosely) followed instructions from a great book: “The Gingerbread Architect” by Susan Matheson and Lauren Chattman, for some of my creations and still use the recipe in the book for my gingerbread base, though I add a little less leavening and a little more spice than the authors call for.

The collapse of my house in 2015 was not the fault of the plans in the book. I think I just wasn’t patient enough. It really helps to spread your efforts out over a few days and let that royal icing set hard as you go.

I don’t enter my own contest, of course, but I do play along. I can’t ask people to do something I wouldn’t do, right? Besides, I love making huge messes and staying up until the wee hours creating all the little details. Sometimes it’s challenging, but I try to make every single item on my houses edible.

I’ll show you the five I’ve made so far, and just add to this post every year.

2017 A mountain of fudge with a gingerbread cabin and gingerbread critters.

2016 (my personal favorite) a barn with gum paste and/or chocolate clay reindeer and farm animals inside. This thing was huge. And heavy!

2015 I actually made two. One was a monster of a house (which collapsed the next day in a very dramatic fashion.) and the other was an igloo made of sugar.

2014 was a more traditional house. I put a glow stick inside and the light shone through the windows.

2013 was the year that started it all. A blogging friend and I put out a challenge to make a pretzel house. The two of us were the only ones who actually entered, but we sure had a blast. 

So there you have it: five years of planning, swearing, and creating. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The holidays are so busy, it’s hard to cut out time for a project like this, but so much of it can be simplified. And when it’s done (which is never, because you’ll keep thinking of just one more thing to add to your house) you’ll be pretty proud of your accomplishment.

Let that flour fly!

Lorinda

Orange Cranberry Cupcakes

Chopped fresh cranberries and orange zest add little bursts of flavor to these sweet vanilla cupcakes. The fluffy orange icing is made with a generous amount of whipping cream, which keeps it from being too sweet.

Make sure to freeze lots of cranberries this season, because these cupcakes aren’t just for the holidays – you’ll want to make them all year long.

You know how many sweets I bake (my sweet tooth is legendary), so you might be surprised to know that I really prefer my cake unadorned, or at least minimally so, and sometimes even (gasp) scrape off some of the icing. Peer pressure often has me piling the icing on cupcakes just like everyone else, and I have to admit it makes for beautiful photos.  But how on earth are you supposed to eat a cupcake with mountain-high icing without having it go right up your nose?

Eeeuw. Not attractive.

So I’ll give you two options. A half-batch of icing is enough for a sweet little rosette on each cupcake, like this:

Or, if you love your icing, make a full batch and pile it higher, like this:

Yes, you could make even more and go for the mountain effect, but I didn’t go there. This time.

For an artsy effect, you might want to gently heat and drizzle orange marmalade or cranberry sauce over the icing, which would be lovely. But for the love of all that’s holy, do NOT use fresh cranberries to decorate the cupcakes unless you want to watch everyone pucker.  Sour, sour, sour. The berries that are baked into the cake itself are delicious, though.

Orange Cranberry Cupcakes
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Sweet orange cupcakes studded with bits of chopped fresh cranberries, topped with whipped orange icing. Makes 24 tall cupcakes, or approximately 28-30 standard cupcakes.
Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2¼ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 3½ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • grated zest from 1 large orange
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ICING:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 2 tablespoons concentrated frozen orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • grated zest from 1 large orange
  • pinch salt
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • orange food coloring if desired
  • Candy orange slice or sprinkles for decorating
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Place extra large baking cups in two 12-cavity cupcake pans. (If you are using regular baking cups, this recipe will make approximately 28-30.)
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy - about 5 minutes.
  3. Add vanilla and orange extracts and mix until combined.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating and scraping the bowl between each addition.
  5. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
  6. Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture, beginning with the flour and ending with the buttermilk, approximately ⅓ of each at a time. Stir each addition well before adding the next.
  7. Beat mixture just until well blended.
  8. Add 1 tablespoon flour to the cranberries and toss to coat. Fold cranberries and orange zest into batter.
  9. Scoop into cupcake liners. For extra large (or tulip-type) liners fill a little over half full - about level with the pan. If you're using regular liners, fill approximately ⅔ full.
  10. Bake approximately 20-25 minutes, or until cupcake springs back up when pressed on the top.
  11. Cool on a rack.
  12. ICING:
  13. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, shortening, orange juice, and vanilla together well.
  14. Add powdered sugar and orange zest, beat until combined. If too stiff to mix, add a little of the whipping cream.
  15. Add whipping cream and beat until light and fluffy. This will take several minutes.
  16. Place half of the icing in a bowl and add a small amount of orange food coloring.
  17. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large open star tip with both colors to get a swirled look. For a rosette, start in the center of your cupcake and work in circles outward. For a mounded "mountain" effect, start on the outside and work your way in, increasing pressure at the center. Top with a candy orange slice or sprinkles.

My next-door neighbor, Pam, gave me some wonderful parchment supplies and I’m in love with these extra-large liners. They come up high so you can use a little more batter. (They fit nicely into two of my standard cupcake pans but were a little too big for the other.) If you can’t find them, you can use tulip-type liners or just make more regular-sized cupcakes.

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add vanilla, orange extract, and eggs. Beat well.

Add one-third of the flour. Stir.

Add one-third of the buttermilk. Stir.

….and repeat. Again!

Dust the cranberries with flour. Fold into batter along with orange zest

Fill tall cups a little over half full.

Beat butter, shortening, orange juice, and vanilla together. Add powdered sugar and orange zest.

Whip in the cream. So fluffy!

Put both colors together in a pastry bag fitted with a large open star tip and make ’em pretty! Top with an orange candy slice.

These would make a perfect holiday dessert . . . not too rich, not too heavy, and so festive!

Time’s flying and Christmas is just around the corner. I’m so not ready. The next time you hear from me I’ll probably be pushing chocolate hearts, so let me say it right now:

Merry, Merry Christmas!

Lorinda

Apple Pumpkin Muffins

The spicy fragrance of fall will fill your kitchen as these Apple Pumpkin Muffins bake. Tender apples and a crunchy streusel top spicy, fluffy pumpkin muffins – perfect for a holiday breakfast.

I know I may have been a little . . . well . . . opinionated in the past when I said that muffins should be sort of rustic and not too sweet. I also may have stated that if you want soft and sweet you should eat a cupcake. Ahem. I’m making an exception for these luscious muffins.

I used cake flour and buttermilk to make these babies melt in your mouth. More dessert-like than a regular muffin, though they’re still (and I should know) wonderful for breakfast. Personally, I’d be happy to switch out my slice of pumpkin pie for one of these muffins on Thanksgiving; the pumpkin pie spice in the batter takes them over the top.

If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, you can substitute the following: 1 1/4  teaspoon cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon powdered ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, 1/4 teaspoon powdered cloves

Apple Pumpkin Muffins
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Makes 12 muffins using tall tulip-style paper liners. If you use regular liners the recipe will make approximately 18.
Ingredients
  • STREUSEL:
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • MUFFINS:
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅔ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup solid pack pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup chopped apple (about 1 medium) tossed in 2 tablespoons flour
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 F. Place 12 tall tulip style paper liners in muffin tin.
  2. In a small bowl, combine all of the streusel ingredients, breaking large lumps apart with a fork. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice until thoroughly combined.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, pumpkin, and vanilla.
  5. Add egg mixture and melted butter to the dry ingredients, stirring just until combined.
  6. Divide mixture evenly between the 12 paper liners – approximately ⅓ cup in each.
  7. Divide chopped apples between each muffin, without pressing into the batter.
  8. Divide streusel between each muffin.
  9. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle of a muffin.
  10. Cool in pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan and cool completely.

This recipe was made using tall tulip-style paper liners. If you plan on using regular muffin liners, the recipe will make approximately 18 smaller muffins and will bake for about 22 minutes.

I neglected to take in-process photos of the streusel, but I know you don’t need to see a picture. Just stir it together!  I did remember to grab my camera for the muffins though.

Whisk together the dry ingredients

Whisk together liquids.

Add egg mixture and melted butter to dry ingredients

Stir just until combined.

Divide batter between 12 tall tulip-style paper liners (or 18 regular)

Divide chopped apples between muffins and cover with streusel.

Allow muffins to cool for 5 minutes in the pan before removing and cooling on rack.

I’m down to my last can of pumpkin, so I think it’s safe to say that we’re through with pumpkin everything for the year.

Happy Holidays,

Lorinda

Maple Raisin Challah

What’s rich and brown, shiny and sleek, and smells like Vermont at sugaring time? The answer is Maple Challah, aka “the end of dieting as we know it”. Once this heady fragrance wafts out of your oven, all good intentions will be put aside and you’ll be a gonner!

I used maple syrup to sweeten the dough, but it doesn’t give enough maple “kick”, so I turned to my trusty Mapleine. Maple flavoring, maple extract, it’s all good! And, in case you’re wondering, I found kosher maple flavoring and refined coconut oil on the internet.

Whether you make a simple three-strand braid or go all out for the six-strand braid, this bread won’t fail to impress; it’s gorgeous even if you try desperately to follow instructions and still come up with a wonky braid!  

Ahem.

I tried a six-strand braid. Several times. I had no trouble with four strands (see my Pumpkin Challah ) but apparently, that was pushing the limit of my braiding skills. I hate videos, but this is one time I probably should have watched a tutorial. In the end, I did the best I could, tucked the less than attractive ends under, and hoped that a good, puffy rise and a lot of egg yolk would cover my worst messes. It wouldn’t pass the test of experienced challah bakers, but it worked for me.

Because I can never get enough maple flavor, I sprinkled the top of one of the loaves with maple sugar which gave a slightly burnt-sugar flavor and made the crust a tiny bit crunchy. I loved it, though it takes away the pretty shine. It’s totally optional, of course, but mmmmmm. Here’s what the sugar-topped loaf looks like next to one with a traditional egg yolk wash:

Left loaf was brushed with yolk wash and sprinkled with maple sugar

Remember that challah dough is rich and will take a little longer to rise than a basic sandwich bread. Make it when you’ll be home all day so you don’t try to rush it. Ninety-minute rise times are to be expected. You don’t have to sit and watch it – just set a timer and go about your business, and before you know it you’ll be tearing off a tender piece of maple goodness.

Maple Raisin Challah
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Makes 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves. Simple braids are very attractive. For more complicated braids, look for online tutorials.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup hot water
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • pinch sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs plus 1 yolk, divided (extra yolk is for glazing bread)
  • ⅓ cup refined coconut oil, melted (or you can use a mild-flavored cooking oil)
  • 1 tablespoon maple flavoring - or to taste
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
Instructions
  1. Combine hot water and raisins in a small bowl and let sit for 10-15 minutes to plump raisins. Stir in maple syrup.
  2. In a small bowl or cup combine warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow it to sit until yeast is foamy.
  3. In a large bowl, (a stand mixer with a dough hook is recommended) combine eggs, oil, maple flavor, the raisin mixture, and the yeast mixture.
  4. Add flour and salt. Mix well. Allow mixer to knead dough for 5-6 minutes. (If mixing by hand, drop dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 7-8 minutes.The Dough should be soft and slightly tacky. If it's too sticky, add a little more flour.
  5. Place dough in a greased bowl. Turn to coat the dough, cover with a dish towel, and allow it to rise until doubled - about 90 minutes.
  6. For one large 3-strand braid, divide dough into 3 equal parts. (For 2 small braids, divide into 6 equal parts.) Braid loosely and tuck ends under. Place on parchment covered baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth. Allow bread to rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.
  7. Heat oven to 350 F.
  8. Whisk egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water. Brush generously over entire challah. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until bread is deep golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
  9. Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.

Hot water, raisins, and maple syrup

Combine eggs, oil, maple flavor, raisin mixture . . .

. . . and the foamy yeast

Put dough in greased bowl and let it rise. It will go from THIS . . .

. . . to THIS. Now comes the fun part – braiding!

Braiding a round challah. I’m not EVEN going to try to explain this. The Internet is your friend, with lots of tutorials.

Brush with egg yolk and sprinkle with maple sugar if desired. The more sugar you add, the crunchier the crust will be.

Bake. Cool on a rack if you have superhuman self-control. Otherwise, rip and tear!

I haven’t tried it (yet), but I’ll bet this recipe would be great for rolls, too. I think I’ll add them to my Thanksgiving plan. And I may try mixing maple syrup with that egg yolk before brushing it on the bread. If you beat me to it, let me know how that works!

Lorinda

 

Chocolate Cupcakes with Grand Marnier Icing

I gussied these chocolate cupcakes up for Halloween, creating pumpkins with little spiders lurking on them, but without the spiders they would be perfect for Thanksgiving – a real crowd-pleaser. Grand Marnier makes these an adult indulgence, of course, but you can always replace the liqueur with orange juice if you are feeding them to littles.

I’ll go with the booze, thank you very much.

I love Grand Marnier and usually splurge on a bottle every year. Mostly for baking, though a little occasionally makes its way into a small brandy snifter. Who can resist that? What amazing flavor it imparts to buttercream icing! It doesn’t take much, so you could just buy one or two of those mini bottles at the liquor store if your budget is tight, or go with a knock-off version.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Grand Marnier Icing
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Makes about 30 cupcakes Decorating them like pumpkins uses a lot of icing! If you choose to simply frost the cupcakes, you can cut the icing recipe in half.
Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup cocoa powder (I use a mixture of regular and extra dark)
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup oil (I use peanut oil, but canola would be good too)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup hot coffee
  • Grand Marnier for drizzling over cupcakes before icing (optional)
  • ICING:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 tablespoons shortening
  • 9 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup Grand Marnier liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • Orange food coloring (optional)
  • Chocolate slivers, green icing for decorating.
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa powder.
  3. Add buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Beat well, scraping the bowl often.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well in between each addition.
  5. Stir in the coffee until mixture is smooth.
  6. Fill cupcake liners a little more than half full, but no more than ⅔ full.
  7. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until top springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  8. Cool on a rack.
  9. Once cool, you may want to poke inch-deep holes in the cupcake tops and drizzle each cupcake with ½ teaspoon Grand Marnier, letting it soak in through the holes.
  10. ICING: beat together the butter, shortening, and 2 cups of the powdered sugar until creamy.
  11. Add Grand Marnier, frozen orange juice, and cream. Beat until well combined.
  12. Add the remaining powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl often. Beat on high until fluffy, adjusting if necessary by adding more powdered sugar or cream to achieve a thick icing that will hold shape when piped.
  13. Add orange food coloring, if desired.
  14. With a pastry bag fitted with large round tip, pipe a mound in the middle of each cupcake. Starting at the base of the mound and working your way around the icing mound, pipe from bottom to top, releasing pressure on the pastry bag as you reach the top. Put a small sliver of chocolate in the center of the top for a stem and, if desired, use a small amount of green icing to add leaves.

Fill a little over halfway.

Poke holes with a skewer and drizzle with Grand Marnier.

Use large round tip to make a flat circle then center mound (like a witch’s hat). Or . . . just make a mound.

Pull icing up from the base of the circle to create a pumpkin.

Now just stick a little sliver of chocolate (or get creative: a pretzel stick, piece of Tootsie Roll, cacao nib, whatever) on top and, if you want, add a few leaves and curlicues with green icing and a tiny writing tip. I piped small spiders on mine with melted chocolate (because the crow requested them) but if you don’t want to get all crazy, you could just do this: 

Added bonus to taking this shortcut: you would only need half of the icing recipe for the pretty little floret. A drizzle of chocolate or a few sprinkles, and it’s a thing of beauty.
Enjoy!

Lorinda

Peanut Butter Pie Crust – and Chocolate Pie!

 

A peanut butter and banana sandwich is one of my very favorite comfort foods. And, of course, the combination of peanut butter and chocolate makes me very, very happy; my favorite candy bars fall in this category. So when The Man suggested I try adding peanut butter to my pie crust, it only took me seconds to get on board with that. Banana pie. Chocolate pie. A match made in heaven!

I had qualms about how the peanut butter would affect my crust, but my concerns about texture were unfounded. The pie crust, though slightly less flaky than my favorite recipe, didn’t turn out heavy or tough as I’d feared. It was actually, well, perfect. I don’t use that word lightly because I tend to tinker with things until I’m satisfied, but I wouldn’t change one thing about this crust – and was tickled with it on my very first attempt.

So I’ll just amuse myself by considering all of the possibilities this crust offers. And believe me, I have a whole list of interesting recipes waiting for their turn in the limelight. For now, I’ll concentrate on pies. Specifically, chocolate cream pie. In this post, I’ll give you the recipe I used for my chocolate pie, and in a future post you’ll get this:

Coming soon: Banana Cream Pie with Peanut Butter Crust

The pie crust itself is very easy to work with. I had no problem at all fashioning some of it into roses, leaves, hearts, stars, and even holly. With a cookie cutter or press, you can easily customize for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Valentine’s Day.

Peanut Butter Pie Crust - and Chocolate Pie!
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This pie crust recipe makes enough for two deep-dish crusts or 1 generous crust and enough left to use for designing pie decorations. The dough can be frozen for later use.
Ingredients
  • CRUST:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter, chilled (not old-fashioned)
  • ½ cup shortening, chilled
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon vodka or vinegar
  • ¼ cup chopped chocolate, or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Finely chopped peanuts (optional)
  • FILLING:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon powdered espresso
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ cup butter
  • Decorations (optional): whipped cream, chopped peanuts, shaved chocolate, pastry crust cutouts.
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 F.
  2. Make crust: In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and brown sugar.
  3. With a pastry blender, work the peanut butter and shortening into the dry ingredients until well combined. There should be no large lumps.
  4. In a small bowl, combine buttermilk and vodka (or vinegar). Pour into dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Dough should not be too crumbly. If it is, drizzle in a tiny bit of water and combine.
  5. Divide dough into two pieces. One will be for the pie crust and the other will be for cut-out decorations if desired. (Hint: for ease of rolling, make the piece you will use for crust a little larger than the one for decorating.) If you don’t want to make decorations, divide into two equal pieces and freeze the other half for another time.
  6. Dust one piece of dough lightly with flour, place between two pieces of parchment, and roll out evenly until larger than the diameter of your pie pan, all the way around. Remove the top piece of parchment, place the pie pan upside down on the dough, and cut a circle at least 1 inch bigger than the pan, all the way around Remove scraps.
  7. Slide a flat baking sheet or large piece of cardboard under the bottom parchment and flip the pan, dough, and parchment over in one movement. Remove baking sheet and carefully remove parchment. Ease the dough into the pie pan, roll edges under, and crimp the edges.
  8. Line with foil and fill half way with dry beans, pie weights, or sugar. Bake for 20 minutes.
  9. Take crust from oven and gently remove foil and weights. Poke crust all over with a fork and return to oven. Turn heat down to 350 F. and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
  10. Remove crust from oven and place on cooling rack. Sprinkle with ¼ cup chopped chocolate and let it sit for 5-10 minutes, melting the chocolate. Spread over bottom of the crust and sprinkle with nuts if desired.
  11. Remaining dough can be used to make cutout designs for the pie or can be wrapped well and frozen.
  12. Make filling: In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks. Set aside.
  13. In a large saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, espresso powder, milk, and unsweetened chocolate.Cook at medium-high heat, stirring constantly until mixture begins to boil.
  14. Turn heat down to medium and continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Adjust heat as necessary to keep the mixture at a low boil.
  15. Add about ½ cup of the mixture into egg yolks and whisk together. Pour egg mixture into the pan, stir well, and return to low boil. Continue to stir and cook for 2 additional minutes. Remove from heat.
  16. Stir in vanilla and butter until the filling is smooth. Pour into the pie shell and let the pie cool. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 4-6 hours.
  17. Serve with whipped cream, a sprinkle of chopped peanuts, and shaved chocolate if desired.

Of course, you could also make an easy chocolate pudding filling. It’s not quite as good, but in all honesty, this recipe is all about the crust!

Work peanut butter and shortening into dry ingredients with pastry blender

Add liquids and stir just until dough holds together.

Roll out between pieces of parchment

Place dough in pan and flute edges. (Or use a pan that does it for you!)

Bake 20 minutes. Remove pie weights and poke holes with fork. Back in the oven!

Bake 15 more minutes. Move to rack. Add chocolate (chopped or chips) and let it melt.

Spread.

Sprinkle with chopped peanuts if desired.

Whisk eggs, set aside. Cook filling.

Pour a small amount of hot filling into egg yolks. Whisk and return to the pan.

Stir in butter and vanilla, then pour into crust and cool. Refrigerate 4-6 hours

Jazz the pie up however you wish, right before serving.

I suggest you make extra crust and freeze it, because I have some fun ideas coming your way!

Lorinda

Candy Corn Brownies

Hoo-boy! This is over the top–even for me. I hesitated and dithered about adding this to my blog because I didn’t know if anyone would actually want to go to this much work for a candy-coated brownie, but my trusted friend Mary assured me that the description of my struggles would be interesting, at least. We’ll see about that.

You know the drill. First I tell you about all the steps I used, then I let you off the hook with easy alternatives. Yes, yes, I’m going to do that again. But first, I want to mention that maybe it just seemed like this was an insanely big production. It took me a couple of days, but that’s because I had to adjust my brownie recipe so that it would bake as evenly as possible. No big, tall, crunchy sides and sunken center for this baby. And then I decided (no wine was involved, I promise) that it would save time if I coated one side with orange candy melts, thinking I could then just cut and dip in yellow and white. Um. I have issues with spacial concepts – can’t imagine how something will work unless I actually try it.

Nope. Learn from my mistakes, and don’t try to create a shortcut. Resign yourself to a lot of messy dipping!

It didn’t. There were still sides that would need orange coating, and I just used up all of my orange melts. Pffft. Luckily I had an extra bag of white melts, so naturally, I added red food coloring to my bag of yellow melts to make orange, and then colored the extra bag of white melts yellow. Why didn’t I just color the white melts orange? There was a reason, but I can’t remember. I’m old.

I also played with the icing, trying to incorporate melted candy corn. It.Did.Not.Work. That stuff is like taffy. (And as an aside, if you see the recipe that insists you can make homemade Butterfingers with candy corn, don’t believe it for a minute. You will get yummy chewy peanut butter taffy. I know.) So I finally gave up and used buttercream.

Maybe, maybe if I made them again, knowing what I know now, it wouldn’t seem overwhelming. But that ship has sailed, and I’m moving on. Give this a try if you’re bored and want a challenge . . . and if you enjoy washing lots of dishes.

If I were to make them again, I might make them smaller, too. They’d be easier to dip.

And if you decide to:

  • use a boxed brownie mix
  • use canned frosting
  • dip only half of them and eat the rest plain

. . . I will completely understand. And bravo for trying! Please send me photos, okay?

Candy Corn Brownies
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Brownies, decorated to look like candy corn. They're iced and dipped in three colors of candy melts. Add chopped candy corn to the brownie batter if that isn't enough sugar for you! Makes about 27.
Ingredients
  • BROWNIES:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup cocoa (I combine regular and extra dark for a richer color)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped candy corn (optional)
  • ICING:
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • COATING:
  • You will need approximately 18 ounces orange candy melts, 12 ounces yellow candy melts, and 8 ounces white candy melts. This may vary, depending on your dipping style!
  • Shortening or coconut oil to thin chocolate for dipping.
Instructions
  1. BROWNIES: Heat oven to 325 F. Generously grease and flour (or spray with an oil/flour baking spray) a 13x9-inch baking pan. Hint: you may want to lay a piece of foil or parchment across the bottom, extending up the sides to make it easier to lift brownies out.
  2. In a large pot on low heat, melt butter. Remove from heat and add sugar, stirring well. Allow mixture to cool until lukewarm.
  3. Stir in eggs, one at a time, mixing well.
  4. Combine cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture, along with candy corn (if using). Stir gently, just until blended. Do not over stir! Spread evenly in pan, smoothing the top as much as possible. An offset spatula or dough scraper works well for this.
  5. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.
  6. Cool completely in pan on rack. Once cool, remove from pan.
  7. ICING: In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and powdered sugar. Add milk and vanilla and beat until smooth.
  8. ASSEMBLE: Cut off any rough edges. Flip the brownies over and spread icing over the bottom side of the brownies (it's the smoothest) as evenly as possible. With long edge towards you, divide the brownies into three long strips, approximately 3 inches tall. (If you had to cut off much of the edges, they may be a little shorter than that.) Mark the bottom of each strip every two inches, then mark the top of the strip beginning with 1 inch and then every two inches. Cut from the bottom left corner to the 1-inch mark, then from the 1-inch mark down to the 2-inch mark on the bottom, creating a candy corn shape. You can be precise, or you can wing it from there.
  9. Set each candy corn shape on a large baking sheet and place in freezer for at least 2 hours. As you work with the brownies, dipping them in candy melts, keep them frozen, only removing part of them from the freezer at a time.
  10. Place orange candy melts in a small microwave-safe bowls or mug, adding about 1½ teaspoon shortening or coconut oil. Microwave, stirring every 15 seconds. Stop before completely melted; the hot bowl will finish melting the candy. Stir until smooth. As you're working with the candy, heat it for a few seconds if the mixture thickens. Thin candy is much easier to work with. Alternatively, you can keep the bowl of melted candy in a pan of hot water as you work - just be careful not to get any water into the candy.
  11. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment.
  12. Holding onto the wide end of each brownie, dip the pointed end about ⅔ of the way into orange candy. Place on parchment to harden. When all of the brownies have been dipped in orange, return to the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
  13. Heat yellow candy melts, adding 1 teaspoon shortening or coconut oil. Holding pointed end, dip wide end of each brownie into yellow candy, bringing it up to meet the orange candy. Don't leave any brownie showing! Once all have been dipped in yellow, return to the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
  14. Heat white candy melts, using ½ teaspoon shortening or coconut oil. Dip the tip of each brownie in the white. Allow coating to harden. These can be kept at room temperature for 2-3 days, or refrigerated if you prefer. They freeze very well too!

Combine melted butter and sugar well. Allow it to cool a bit.

Stir in eggs, one at a time.

Add dry ingredients

. . . and the candy corn, if you’re using it.

Spread evenly in prepared pan and bake.

A 3×5 index card might help with cutting those triangles.

Ice the smooth bottom side of the brownies, cut into 3 strips and cut out triangles.

Place pieces on parchment covered pan and freeze

Dip frozen brownies in orange candy melts. Pop back in freezer briefly.

Dip the other end into yellow melts until it meets the orange.

Dip the tip in white

See, wasn’t that easy? Hello? Hello?

Wait! I actually have another idea that would be good for Halloween or Thanksgiving, and it’s easier, though it still involves dipping. It even (GASP!) uses store-bought cookies. If these Candy Corn Brownies make your eyes roll back in your head, just stay with me, because the next post might be right up your alley.

Lorinda