Cherry Marshmallows – Dipped in Chocolate!

Chocolate Cherry Marshmallow HeartsI adore chocolate covered marshmallows. Plain, flavored, dark chocolate, milk chocolate – I love them all. Well…except for the cheap kind (not even individually wrapped) you get in an egg carton at Easter. Those suck. Patooey!

Anyhow, since I’m working my way through a gallon jug of maraschino cherries, it only makes sense that they found their way into gooey chocolate covered marshmallows. Making marshmallows is really very easy, and they taste so much better than the ones from the store.

Dipping things in chocolate isn’t my favorite thing to do; for some reason I don’t have any problem getting flour and powdered sugar everywhere, and can dig my hands into a big pile of dough, but I really don’t like getting chocolate on my hands.

I pull up my big girl panties and do it, though – because the results are always, always good.

These marshmallows are mild tasting, with little bursts of cherry flavor. I think it complements milk chocolate coating very well.  If you want a more distinct cherry taste, or are using a strong dark chocolate for dipping, just add a little cherry flavoring in place of some of the vanilla. You can also add a dash of coloring if you choose.Chocolate Cherry Marshmallow Hearts up close

Cherry Marshmallows - Dipped in Chocolate
Print
Author:
This recipe will make about 15 large chocolate hearts.
Ingredients
  • 24 maraschino cherries (more or less, to taste)
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 3 packages of powdered gelatin (like Knox)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ⅔ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (or ½ teaspoons vanilla, ½ teaspoon cherry flavoring)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon shortening or coconut oil
  • 12 ounces chocolate, chopped - or you can use good-quality chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Finely chop the maraschino cherries. Roll in paper towels, pressing firmly to remove as much juice as possible. Set aside.
  2. Line a 9x13" (quarter sheet) pan with plastic. I find it's easiest to do this if I oil the pan lightly first to hold the plastic in place. Lightly oil the plastic.
  3. Put ½ cup cold water in a large mixing bowl (a sturdy stand mixer works best) and sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes to soften the gelatin. You don't need to stir it..
  4. In a medium pan on medium heat, bring sugar, ¼ cup water, and corn syrup to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the mixture boils, stop stirring and let it boil for 2 minutes.
  5. Pour hot syrup slowly over gelatin mixture, mixing on low speed until well combined.
  6. Add salt and beat on high until very thick. It doesn't have to hold a stiff peak, but when a beater or spoon is lifted, it should hold shape and not immediately return into the bowl. This could take anywhere from 5 minutes to 15 minutes, depending on your mixer.
  7. Add vanilla, flavoring if you're using it, and chopped cherries.
  8. Spread evenly in pan. Allow the marshmallow to set for at least 3 hours. The top should not feel sticky!
  9. in a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch.
  10. Lift the plastic wrap and marshmallow out of the pan and set on a level surface. Cut with a lightly greased cookie cutter, dredging each heart in the powdered sugar, cornstarch mix. Flip the marshmallow from hand to hand to dust off excess sugar.
  11. Melt shortening or coconut oil and chocolate together slowly, using a pan on lowest heat or a microwave at 50% power in 30 second increments. Stir often! Chocolate should be smooth and barely warm. If it is too thick, add a little more oil. Stir, stir, stir!
  12. Cover a baking sheet with parchment.
  13. Dip each marshmallow in the chocolate, covering completely. The marshmallows are pretty sturdy - they won't melt. A large serving fork works well for this. Tap against the edge of the bowl or pan to remove excess chocolate. Use a knife or spatula to slide heart onto parchment.
  14. Chill in refrigerator until chocolate is firm. Decorate if desired, using drizzled chocolate, sprinkles, or edible glitter. Or write names on the hearts with royal icing.

 

Squeeze out all the juice from the chopped cherries.

Squeeze out all the juice from the chopped cherries.

Sprinkle gelatin over old water.

Sprinkle gelatin over old water.

Boil sugar, water, and corn syrup.

Boil sugar, water, and corn syrup.

Slowly add hot syrup to gelatin mixture.

Slowly add hot syrup to gelatin mixture.

Beat until VERY thick. It looks like it's falling off the beater, but it's just hanging there.

Beat until VERY thick. It looks like it’s falling off the beater, but it’s just hanging there.

Add flavor and cherries and spread into prepared pan.

Add flavor and cherries and spread into prepared pan.

When firm, cut out shapes using greased cutter.

When firm, cut out shapes using greased cutter.

Dredge hearts in powdered sugar and cornstarch.

Dredge hearts in powdered sugar and cornstarch.

Dip!

Dip!

Chocolate Cherry Marshmallow Hearts dipped

 

We’ve still got some cold weather here, and I’m thinking I’ll try one of these plopped into a big mug of hot cocoa tonight.

Enjoy!

Lorinda

Easter Recipe Collection

For several years I created recipes for my Food for Thought column in Yummy Northwest, and loved every minute of it. The website is in the middle of a transformation, so all of my past columns are archived for now, but you can still read them at any time. This Easter I’m posting photos of my Yummy Northwest favorites, with links to the recipes.

Easter hot cross buns watermark YNW
Easter Kulich Watermark YNW
Hot Cross Buns and Kulich were two recipes I created for an old-time Easter theme. This link will take you to both recipes:Old Time Easter Treats
easter egg clip art cropped


Easter bunnies watermark YNW



Easter Birds watermark YNW

easter lambs Watermark YNW

Easter sugar eggs watermark YNWLittle bread bunnies, birds, and lambs are fun to make, and kid-approved. Using the link below, you’ll find instructions for making bread critters and sugar eggs. Let your creativity loose on this project! I have a Rowdy blog about them, but there’s good info in this column too.
Bread Animals and Sugar Eggs

Who says you shouldn’t play with your food? Use your imagination and enjoy!

Lorinda

Drunken Leprechaun Balls



leprechaun balls vertical with boozeYes, you read that correctly; I’m posting a recipe for Leprechaun Balls. There are so many jokes that will be left unsaid…probably.

These green confections are quite (ahem) firm – a cross between fudge and cookies. To make them you will need to bake a batch of green shortbread cookies, but trust me…the cookie recipe is very easy, and the balls are a slam dunk!

My shortbread recipe makes a little more than you’ll need, so you should end up with 6-8 extra cookies to munch on. I tried rolling the dough out on a cookie sheet and baking it in one piece, which worked pretty well, but it’s harder to get the center of the dough cooked completely that way. So…I recommend you make cookies, even if they’re just squares of dough. You’ll be crushing most of them, so the shape doesn’t matter.

Drunken Leprechaun Balls
Print
Author:
Green shortbread is baked and crushed, then blended with Irish Cream Liqueur and Whiskey for a tasty adult treat. Makes about 36.
Ingredients
  • SHORTBREAD:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • green food coloring
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon milk (if needed)
  • BALLS:
  • 3 cups crushed green shortbread (recipe above)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • ¼ cup Baileys (or other Irish Cream Liqueur)
  • 2 tablespoons Jamesons (or other whiskey)
  • powdered sugar and green sugar for rolling cookies in
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl (use a stand mixer if possible; this is very stiff dough) beat the butter until soft and creamy.
  3. Add powdered sugar and mix well.
  4. Add egg yolk and enough food coloring to create a deep green color, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl often.
  5. Add dry ingredients. (If using a stand mixer, you may want to switch to your dough hook.) The mixture will be very dry and stiff, but should come together into a dough. If it isn't cooperating, add milk a little at a time until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and you can form it into a ball.
  6. Roll dough out to about ¼-inch thick and cut into cookie shapes. (You can also form into small balls and press with a cookie stamp if you prefer. ) Place close together on baking sheets and bake for approximately 10-12 minutes. If you see a tiny bit of brown along the bottom edges, they are done. Don't overbake them, because green cookies turn an unpleasant color if they brown.
  7. Cool cookies on a rack and crush in a bowl until you have 3 cups. Eat the rest!
  8. BALLS:
  9. Combine the crushed cookies, nuts, and powdered sugar in a medium bowl.
  10. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.
  11. Roll scant tablespoons of dough into balls and roll them in a dish of powdered sugar and colored sugar.
  12. Refrigerate until firm. These can be served chilled, which will give them the texture of fudge, or at room temperature, which will make them a little softer.
  13. I'm sure you know this, but just for the record: DO NOT SERVE TO MINORS.

Combine dry ingredients, then stir in wet ingredients.

Combine dry ingredients, then stir in wet ingredients.

Roll the balls gently in your palms, then dust with sugar.

Roll the balls gently in your palms, then dust with sugar.

leprechaun balls vertical
By all means, improvise. Use walnuts instead of pecans, switch the booze around and use 1/4 cup of whiskey and 2 tablespoons of Irish cream (you may have to add a little more crushed cookie in this case), or roll them in coconut or sprinkles. Pop Rocks? Hmmmm.

Enjoy! And…hello? Keep ’em out of the reach of kiddies, of course.
Lorinda

For each petal on the shamrock this brings a wish your way. Good health, good luck, and happiness for today and every day. (Irish Blessing)

 

 

 

 

 

Macadamia Nut Eyeballs

candy round upThere’s always something fun cooking with this crazy group of bloggers I hang out with. This month we’re challenging ourselves with Halloween candy. That could be taken two different directions – a recipe made with Halloween candy OR homemade Halloween candy. I opted for making my own, because…well…what’s creepier than eating eyeballs?

eyeballs on leaf watermark
These are so simple. A softened caramel is wrapped around a macadamia nut (you could use hazelnuts if you prefer) and then dipped in dark chocolate and white chocolate. A touch of red food coloring for blood vessels, and they’re ready to pile in a bowl for brave souls to grab.

Here’s what you’ll need:
ingredients

This recipe gives you more than enough chocolate for dipping, because the chocolate needs to be deep enough for smooth results. If it thickens as you work, simply microwave it for 10 seconds and stir.

Macadamia Nut Eyeballs
Print
Author:
12 chewy, crunchy, melty eyeballs...perfect to eat as-is or to decorate cupcakes or cookies.
Ingredients
  • 12 macadamia nuts
  • 12 caramels
  • 12 ounces dark chocolate (chips are okay)
  • 12 ounces white chocolate
  • 12 dark brown mini M&Ms, or chocolate chips
  • red food coloring for adding blood vessels to finished eyeballs
Instructions
  1. Place 4 unwrapped caramels at a time on a small plate and microwave for 10 seconds to soften.
  2. Wrap one softened caramel at a time around a macadamia nut and roll in your hands to smooth into a round ball. Repeat until all nuts are covered.
  3. In a small bowl or a coffee mug (make sure the container is completely dry), melt the dark chocolate. Place in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir thoroughly. Repeat at 15 second intervals until chocolate is thoroughly melted. You may thin the chocolate by adding 1 teaspoon of shortening if desired.
  4. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.
  5. Using a fork or a special chocolate dipping tool, dip each ball in the chocolate. Tap well on the side of the bowl to remove excess chocolate and slide the ball onto the waxed paper. A toothpick can be useful to help slide the ball from the fork.
  6. Add a dark brown mini M&M or chocolate chip (pointy side down) to the top of each ball for a "pupil". For a really creepy look, use a red mini M&M.
  7. When all of the balls have been coated, move the baking sheet to the refrigerator for 20 minutes, or until the chocolate is firm.
  8. Melt the white chocolate in a clean, dry bowl or mug using the same method for melting the dark chocolate. Stir until just barely warm; if it is too warm it will melt the dark chocolate when dipping.
  9. Using a fork or chocolate dipper, dip each ball quickly in the white chocolate, almost to the top. This will leave a dark "iris" and the M&M "pupil" showing. Tap well and carefully slide the eyeball onto the baking sheet. Refrigerate until completely firm.
  10. With a toothpick dipped in red food coloring, make thin lines on the white part of the eyeball, creating blood vessels. Allow the food coloring to dry before serving.
  11. Enjoy!

 

 

Dip it in dark chocolate.

Dip it in dark chocolate.

Slide onto waxed paper.

Slide onto waxed paper.

Dipping in white chocolate, using my toothpick method.

Dipping in white chocolate, using my toothpick method. (See “Note” below.)

A variation on the theme. ..red pupils!

A variation on the theme. ..red pupils!



eyeballs watermark

NOTE: I have issues with dipping, lacking the coordination to do it without a great deal of sighing and swearing. So…instead of putting the M&M on the chocolate when it’s warm, I used a toothpick stuck where the “pupil” would eventually go to help guide the ball in and out of the white chocolate, a two-handed method. Then, once the completed eyeball was firm, I used a small paring knife to carve out a spot for the M&M. So…in case you don’t have the dipping knack either, that’s an alternate method. Just sayin’.

The alternate method, adding the pupil after the eyeball is firm.

My alternate method, adding the pupil after the eyeball is firm.

These little guys are awfully good. Certainly much better than they look! As long as you’re going to the trouble of making them, I’d make as many as you have the patience for. Trust me – they disappear quickly!

Here are the other fun Halloween candy recipes this group has created.

Tampa Cake Girl’s Snickers Overload Cheesecake.

Hun, What’s For Dinner’s No-Bake Peanut Butter Cheesecake Pops.

Moore or Less Cooking Blog’s Chocolate Covered Caramel Popcorn Balls.

Cooking From a Stay at Home Mom’s Spider Crunch Bites.

Happy Halloween!
Lorinda

Star Spangled Cookies

Each month a group of crazy food bloggers gets together to make theme-related recipes. This month we’re running with a rousing patriotic Red White and Blue theme! After you’ve read this post, click on the links at the bottom of the page to see what the other gals have come up with. There are still a few to come, so check back every morning for the latest creation.

Can you hear the John Philip Sousa march playing in the background? Smell the burgers on the barbecue? See the kids lined up at the fireworks stand? Independence Day is right around the corner, and do I have a fun recipe for you! Kids will love to help with this one. Presenting…Star Spangled Cookies!



Star Spangled cookies I used cinnamon Jolly Ranchers for the red cookies. You’ll find lots of hard red candies to choose from, and may prefer cherry or strawberry flavors. Your biggest challenge will be finding hard blue candy. I used Dum Dum suckers from the dollar store, but found that there was blue and then there was blue.

My first batch turned green when they baked. Apparently blueberry flavored suckers held their color, and blue raspberry didn’t. I recommend that you test one or two cookies first, just to be sure they’ll turn out a nice, patriotic blue. Red white and green just doesn’t have the same impact. Unless you’re Italian.

I have two more options for you. I tried baking the cookies until they were almost done and then pulled them from the oven and VERY carefully dropped the crushed candy in the centers, returning them to the oven just until the candy was melted. That worked quite well. The candy didn’t cook as long, so it didn’t get that amber tone to it. (Yellow + blue = green, as I found out.)

The other option is to make your own hard candy. It’s really very easy to do. Here’s a simple hard candy recipe from Lorann Oils. I would recommend making the candy, letting it harden, and crushing it. Pouring hot candy into the small star centers would be very tricky. If you have better hand-eye coordination than I do, you might be able to pull it off. I’d make a mess of that!

Whoops…did I say two options? I have one more, though it’s a little artsy-fartsy. I think it’s pretty, and you could mix colors this way too. Bake your cookies and as soon as they’re done, add the crushed candy. The heat from the cookie and the baking sheet will partially melt the candy. It won’t be smooth and flat, but as long as the candy is touching the sides of the cookie in a few spots, it will stay put. Kind of interesting, huh?

This is fun, too!

This is fun, too!

I used a strong freezer bag and a hammer to crush my candy. It worked like a charm and got some of that aggression out! Star Spangled Cookies horizThe cookie itself is a sturdy shortbread. If you have a favorite sugar cookie recipe that doesn’t spread too much, that would work well too. You’ll need two star cookies, one large and one smaller. Here’s my recipe and easy instructions.

Star Spangled Cookies
Print
Author:
Festive, summery shortbread cookies with a stained-glass candy window in the center. Makes about 36 cookies, depending on the size of your cutters.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • ⅔ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla (clear vanilla, if you have it)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ cup crushed blue hard candy
  • ½ cup crushed red hard candy
  • For decorating: ½ cup white chocolate chips, sprinkles, nonpareils.
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl (a stand mixer is best) beat the butter and powdered sugar together until creamy.
  2. Add the egg yolk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well.
  3. Add the flour and cornstarch. Mixture will be stiff - switch to a dough hook or stir by hand if necessary. Cover and chill for one hour.
  4. Heat oven to 350 F.
  5. Roll dough out to ¼-inch thickness on lightly floured surface. Using a large star cookie cutter, cut out stars and place them on parchment-lined cookie sheets.
  6. With small cookie cutter, cut a star out of the middle of each.
  7. Carefully put enough crushed candy in the center of each cookie to cover the parchment, but don't overfill or it will bubble up the sides. Use a toothpick to distribute the candy evenly. Make sure there are no little bits of crushed candy on the cookie dough. (Use the toothpick to flick them down where they belong!)
  8. Bake for about 10 minutes. Place baking sheets on cooling racks and let the cookies cool completely.
  9. Drizzle the cookie with white chocolate or royal icing if desired, and sprinkle with sugar decorations.

 

Here's what you'll need (plus fun decorations)

Here’s what you’ll need (plus fun decorations)

Distribute the crushed candy.

Distribute the crushed candy.

Just think of how pretty these will look in a basket on your picnic table this Fourth of July. They’ll be a hit with young and old alike. Now strike up that band and march over to these blogs to find some other great recipes!

Lorinda

Devilish Buffalo Eggs From Tampa Cake Girl.
(deconstructed) Berry Pies From An Affair from the Heart.
Double Decker Patriotic Pizookie From Cooking From a Stay at Home Mom.
Berry Pound Cake From Moore or Less Cooking Blog.
Red, White (chocolate) and Blue Trifles From Aunt Bee’s Recipes.
Red White and Blue Berry Poke Cake From Crumbs in My Mustachio.

Ginger Chews



Ginger chews horizontal biteI can’t begin to tell you how excited I am right now! The men in my life just don’t get it, and are watching me jump and squeal with looks of alarm on their faces. Pffft. This is my happy dance and I don’t care who’s watching.

Can you keep a secret? I have this little addiction that I’ve been trying to curb because it gets so expensive. Have you ever eaten ginger chews? Spicy, chewy, tummy-warming ginger chews? I buy mine at the local health food store, and can easily wipe out the handful of candies that come in the box before I even make it home.

I love, love, love them. And yet, I could never find a recipe for them. When I have a recipe idea in my head but don’t know where to begin with the ingredients and measurements, I do what every other person with a computer does: I Google it! I find several recipes, get a general idea of how they’re made, and then experiment until I make it my way. But no matter how hard I hunted, I couldn’t find one single recipe that sounded right. I tried one that seemed to have potential and ended up with a ginger hard candy. A very good ginger hard candy…but I wanted chewy.

With bits and pieces from many recipes, and my last piece of ginger root, I crossed my fingers and finally met with success! Take THAT, Google! I’m not claiming that they’re healthy. I plan to try a batch using agave or honey in the future, but these are basically sugar and ginger, and I.Don’t.Care. Ginger chews watermark

Disclaimer: An hour after I posted this recipe I made yet another batch (thank goodness for frozen ginger juice) because the guys said it wasn’t chewy enough. An additional tablespoon of cornstarch and 5 more degrees made all the difference! After the chews have sat out for 12 hours they are very firm, but after a minute in your mouth they soften up. If you prefer your chews softer, only use 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and bring the mixture up to a temperature of 260 F.

Here, at a fraction of the cost of imported chews, is my recipe for Ginger Chews.

Ginger Chews
Print
Author:
Spicy, chewy, ginger candy.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 5-6 ounces of fresh ginger root, or enough to make ¼ cup juice
  • 1 tablespoon of finely grated ginger root (optional)
Instructions
  1. Prepare a mold. You can use a pan lined with parchment paper sprayed lightly with oil, hard candy molds lightly sprayed with oil (not chocolate molds – they melt!), or combine 2 cups cornstarch and 1 cup powdered sugar and put it in a cake pan. You can adjust the amount if you want deeper molds. Make holes in it with your finger or spoon handle, or press designs with small objects. In the photos I used a star shaped ice cube tray.
  2. Juice the ginger root. I use a food processor and process the ginger skin and all, stopping to stir it several times. You could also scrape the ginger root with a spoon to remove most of the peel, and finely grate it. Place the processed or grated ginger in a small sieve and press out the juice with a spoon. The quantity of juice will vary depending on the freshness of the ginger. Extra can be frozen for another time.
  3. In a medium pan combine sugar, corn syrup, and corn starch. Turn the heat to medium. Stirring often, bring the mixture to a boil and watch the temperature carefully, using a candy thermometer. When it reaches 265 F, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the ginger juice and grated ginger (if you like it very spicy). Be careful and use a long spoon! It will sizzle and spit while you're stirring in the ginger juice.
  4. Pour into the mold of your choice. If you are using the cornstarch/powdered sugar method, pour carefully into each cavity. Pour any extra onto a lightly greased piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle with some of the cornstarch mixture if desired.
  5. Allow the candy to sit for several hours to firm up, then dust with cornstarch and wrap each piece in a square of waxed paper or parchment.

 

Pressing ginger for juice.

Pressing ginger for juice.

Combine sugar, corn syrup and cornstarch and bring to boil

Combine sugar, corn syrup and cornstarch and bring to boil

Bring mixture to 265 degrees.

Bring mixture to 265 degrees…almost there!

Poured into cavities in cornstarch and powdered sugar.

Poured into cavities in cornstarch and powdered sugar.



Ginger Chews plated vertical on blue

Whether you eat them as an aid to digestion, to curb seasickness or morning sickness, or just because the hot gingery taste is amazing, these little candies will hit the spot. Excuse me while I go gloat.

Lorinda

Sweet Sugar Eggs

What’s pink and purple and yellow and white and green and covered in roses and violas and miscellaneous unidentifiable flowers and filled with bunnies and chickens and baskets of eggs and more flowers and bees and rainbows and clouds….

Gasp. Coming up for air, here.


sugar eggs

Panoramic sugar eggs, of course!

For the last week my kitchen and dining room table have been taken over by these eggs. Here’s what happens: I make up a couple of bowls of colored sugar to fill my egg molds with. Then, when they’ve dried for a few hours I turn the molds over and scrape out the soft sugar, which goes back into the bowl. Do you see what happens here? There isn’t quite enough for another whole egg, so I add more sugar and fill more eggs, then scoop the extra back into the bowl. And….repeat.

Somehow I just don’t have it in me to throw away the extra sugar.

The smart thing would be to start with a light color (like pink) and when the pink egg is filled and scooped, add a little extra sugar and a couple of drops of food coloring and turn it into something darker, like purple. At some point, though, you will have to throw away a little sugar. After a week of this madness, I finally reach the point where I can cheerfully do that.

Rather than give you instructions on this blog, here’s the link to a Yummy Northwest column I did a couple of years ago that shows you the basics of making SUGAR EGGS

I made some cute bunnies, carrots, and bees using gum paste. If you’ve never tried working with gum paste, you’re missing out on a lot of creative fun. It’s like playing with clay, only it hardens into something resembling tooth-breaking porcelain. Once made and dried it will last and last. I like to use the powdered gum paste; that way I can just make as much as I want. Keep it in a heavy plastic bag when you’re not using it, because it will dry faster than you’d ever believe.

For my bee I just made a little body, painted it with yellow food coloring, painted on stripes and eyes with black food coloring, and stuck two slices of jelly bean on it for wings.

Gum paste bee on a royal icing flower.

Gum paste bee on a royal icing flower.

For the bunny, begin with the head. Make a small ball. Give it a small triangular nose and press a mouth (shaped sort of like a soft “W”) under it with a toothpick. Poke two holes in the top for ears. Make ears, dampen the base of them slightly, and stick them in the holes. Poke a toothpick in the bottom of the head where it will connect with the body and let the it dry until the ears are stable. Meanwhile, you can paint the inside of the ears, the nose, and the cheeks with a little pink food coloring or petal dust.

For the bunny’s body, make a ball of gum paste slightly larger than the head. Make two flat feet (press lines with a toothpick for toes) and set the body on top of them. Any time you put two pieces of gum paste together, it helps to dampen the place where they connect. A damp washcloth works perfectly for this. Add a fluffy tail. Add the head, poking the toothpick into the top of the body. If the toothpick is too long, shorten it with a pair of scissors. Add arms, either individual paws or one long piece that stretches all the way around. You can have it hold a candy egg, flower, or carrot if you’d like.

Cute little guys.

Cute little guys.

Speaking of carrots, I’m SURE I don’t have to explain how to make one, right? But for the record, adding a little food color to the gum paste is simple, but it will get your hands messy. Plastic gloves might be a good option if that kind of thing bugs you. Also, powdered food coloring is easier to work with. If you use liquid, you may have to add a little more powdered sugar to the gum paste too.

Have fun with these! Go to your favorite search engine and find articles on shaping royal icing flowers and little critters – ducks, chickens, lambs, etc. I covered pieces of spaghetti with green gum paste for flower stems and made a basket with gum paste and then brushed it with dry cocoa to give it a light brown color. Use your imagination…or better yet, ask a child for advice! Go through your favorite candy store to find all kinds of potential decorations.

An upright egg with a peep hole.

An upright egg with a peep hole.



This one lays flat with a peep hole in the pointy end.

This one lays flat with a peep hole in the pointy end.

Half an egg on a sugar stand.

Half an egg on a sugar stand.

Beware. Sugar eggs are addictive to make. Oh, and though everything is edible (well, except for that toothpick) I really don’t recommend gnawing on these. They’re just to look at, okay?

Christmas Candy (How Sweet it Is!)

MiscDec2013 140I have to really be in the mood for this…and TODAY IS THE DAY!

Forget for a moment that candy making doesn’t have anything to do with baking. It’s still sweet and good and sometimes challenging. Right up my alley!

Most of my recipes were handed down from my Aunt Pat. We could always count on a big tin of homemade candies on Christmas Eve – the highlight of the evening! She’s gone now, but her torch will be carried on as long as I can wield a wooden spoon and candy thermometer.

Before I start throwing recipes and photos at you, there are a few recommendations I’d like to share.

  • Make sure your candy thermometer is accurate. A couple of my recipes just go by time (boil for 5 minutes) but most candy needs to reach a very specific temperature to come out right.
  • I usually just let ‘er fly in the kitchen, but this is one of those times when you need to be prepared before you turn on the stove. If your pans need to be buttered or lined, do it first. Measure out everything, because there will be no time to be looking for the vanilla or measuring the butter when your candy is at the correct stage.
  • Be careful! This stuff is HOT. Wear oven mitts when you’re pouring candy onto a pan or dish.
  • Above all, this is not the time to use store brand ingredients. Quality counts when you’re making candy! Good butter, cane sugar…very, very important. I usually avoid corn syrup like the plague, but there are times when it really is necessary. This is one of them! I’ll go back to being conscientious after the holidays.

MiscDec2013 101My favorite – absolute favorite of Aunt Pat’s recipes is her peanut brittle. If you look online, you’ll find many recipes, with a few variations. This is my standard. I’ve tried the microwave brittle, and it was OK, but nothing compares to this. In my opinion, peanut brittle needs to be so thin it melts in your mouth. If you don’t agree, just don’t stretch it out as much. You probably won’t burn your fingertips as often as I do!

Peanut Brittle
Print
Author:
Ingredients
  • 3 ½ cups white sugar
  • 1 ½ cups white Karo corn syrup
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 Tablespoons butter (NOT margarine!)
  • 1 pound raw Spanish peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon baking soda
Instructions
  1. Before beginning, generously butter at least 3 cookie sheets or flat pans.
  2. In a large pot, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and water on medium high heat until it comes to a boil. Boil until 250 degrees, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add peanuts and butter. Stirring constantly, continue to cook until mixture turns color (310 degrees).
  4. Remove from the burner and stir in vanilla and soda. It will foam up! Stir until most of the foam disappears. Pour onto cookie sheets. Spread as thinly as possible. (Hardens rapidly!) As it cools, pull the edges of brittle with buttered fingers or forks, to stretch thin. After a few minutes you should be able to lift one side and pull and stretch the whole piece even more.

 

Ingredients for Peanut Brittle

Ingredients for Peanut Brittle

And....310 degrees!

And….310 degrees!

Pour  it out on buttered sheets and quickly start spreading!

Pour it out on buttered sheets and quickly start spreading!

Lifting and stretching (Oh, boy...I sound like Richard Simmons.)

Lifting and stretching (Oh, boy…I sound like Richard Simmons.)

HPIM1611.JPG
Almond Roca   er… Chocolate Almond Toffee (don’t want to get in trouble with the copyright patrol) was probably my least favorite Christmas candy as a child, but I can’t get enough of it now. The homemade version is much more tender and delicious than the storebought kind – trust me on this. And it’s so very simple. Just remember: use good butter! The times I’ve had this candy separate (a total “fail”) I used cheap butter. I use a heavy skillet – I guess because Aunt Pat did. This is a little challenging with a candy thermometer, so if you want to use a heavy saucepan, that’s fine.

I have no in-process photos, since I forgot to put the card in my camera and there was no time to remedy that situation.  If I make another batch, I’ll add them later.

CHOCOLATE ALMOND TOFFEE

1 lb. salted butter (quality counts—buy the best!)
2 cups white sugar
1 12-oz bag milk chocolate chips
Chopped raw almonds (approx. 4 cups)

  1. Generously butter a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Sprinkle in enough chopped almonds—approximately half—to lightly cover the bottom of the pan.
  2. Melt butter and sugar in a heavy pan on medium heat, stirring constantly until hard crack stage (290 degrees). The mixture should just be turning a light caramel color. Immediately pour toffee over the almonds in the pan. Smooth with a spatula.
  3. Sprinkle on the chocolate while the toffee is still hot. Wait a few minutes for the chocolate to melt, then spread evenly over the toffee. Sprinkle remaining almonds over the chocolate. Let harden and break into serving pieces. This keeps well in a covered container for at least two weeks.

MiscDec2013 106

How can you resist this?

And…it wouldn’t be Christmas without DIVINITY!

MiscDec2013 111Divinity is the bane of my existence. My kryptonite. And yet, each year, I make the stuff because it’s so…so…well, DIVINE!

It’s tricky stuff! Basically, you will be successful if you follow these three rules:

  • Don’t make it on a day with high humidity. If it’s raining outside, make something else!
  • Make sure to cook the syrup to 260 degrees (or a hair higher.)
  • DO.NOT.UNDERBEAT!

One time I beat the mixture until it was a dry, crumbly mess, so I tend to shy away from mixing it as long as it needs to set up properly. Big mistake.

If you drop the freshly made candy on parchment or waxed paper, it should hold its shape…like a haystack (only prettier!) but my batch today fell a bit flat, like a thick pancake. It still tastes wonderful and the texture is correct, but with just another minute or two of beating it would have been perfect. I don’t have it in me to try another batch, so you will just have to imagine what these confections should have looked like.

Don’t even attempt this recipe unless you have a sturdy stand mixer. My first batch today was a fail because I tried to use a hand mixer so that I could get better photos. My brand new hand mixer. My brand new hand mixer that may have a burned-out motor now.

Have I scared you? If so, I’m sorry – it’s tricky, but certainly not impossible. Give it a try. One bite of this candy will make you SO glad you did!

DIVINITY

2 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup white Karo
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla (I use Wilton’s clear vanilla for this)
1 cup chopped walnuts

  1. In a medium saucepan bring the sugar, water, Karo, and salt to a boil on medium heat, stirring constantly. Once mixture has come to a boil, stop stirring and let it cook until it reaches 260-262 degrees F.
  2. While mixture is boiling, beat the egg whites in a large bowl, until stiff peaks form. Use a stand mixer for this!
  3. As soon as the temperature of the syrup reaches 260-262 F, pour the hot syrup in a very thin stream over the egg whites with the mixer running. Hold the pan up high so the syrup doesn’t get added too quickly. You don’t want to fry those eggs!
  4. Beat the mixture on medium high until it begins to lose its gloss and gets very thick. This could take 10 minutes or more. Don’t give up! Depending on your mixer, you may need to finish stirring it by hand. If you aren’t sure the candy is firm enough, drop a little bit onto a piece of waxed paper. If it holds its shape, it’s done. If it flattens into a puddle, keep mixing!
  5. When the mixture is thick, add the vanilla and chopped nuts. Mix to combine.
  6. Drop spoonfuls onto parchment or waxed paper. Let the candy dry for several hours before putting into a container.
Pouring hot syrup in a thin stream over egg whites.

Pouring hot syrup in a thin stream over egg whites.

Almost ready!

Almost ready!

This is one time when I’d trade my beloved Bosch mixer for a Kitchen Aid. It’s a lot easier to scoop the candy out if it’s in a normal bowl. But…there’s more left over in the bowl for me to eat with a spoon this way. Yay!

Here is a candy that makes a lovely gift. (Merry Christmas to ME!)MiscDec2013 133

Chocolate caramels are chewy but not too chewy – just right. You can wrap them up in parchment and twist the ends, wrap them in waxed paper like a package…ribbons and all, if you wish, or you can dip them in chocolate. I put a little coarse salt on the top of the dipped ones and painted them with gold powder. (This can be found at a cake supply store or online.)

Instead of vanilla I used Kahlua, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t think it really made much difference. If you have Kahlua, by all means use it, but vanilla is just fine. These are very easy to make, and delightful to receive.

CHOCOLATE CARAMELS

2 cups sugar
1 cup half & half
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white Karo corn syrup
1 cup butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla (or 2 teaspoons Kahlua)
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans (see below recipe for toasting instructions)

  1. Line  an 8×8 or 9×9 inch square pan with parchment. Butter lightly.
  2. In a 3 quart pan, combine sugar, half & half, espresso powder, salt, corn syrup, butter, and chocolate.
  3. Using a candy thermometer and stirring constantly on medium-low heat, boil until 248 F.
  4. Remove pan from burner and let the mixture cool until it is approximately 230 degrees (about 5 minutes.)
  5. Stir in the vanilla (or Kahlua) and the pecans. Pour into prepared pan and allow to cool until very firm – 2-3 hours.
  6. Lift the block of caramel out of the pan and set on cutting board. With buttered knife, cut into 1-inch strips. Cut strips to make 1-inch squares.
  7. Wrap individually in parchment or waxed paper, or dip in chocolate and refrigerate just until chocolate is set.
Line pan with buttered parchment. (Just one direction is fine.)

Line pan with buttered parchment. (Just one direction is fine.)

You can tell it's ready - see how thick it is?

You can tell it’s ready – see how thick it is?

Cut into squares.

Cut into squares.

Wrap 'em in parchment...

Wrap ’em in parchment…

Or waxed paper

Or waxed paper

Or dip 'em in chocolate!

Or dip ’em in chocolate!

Gussy them up for that "Wow" factor.

Gussy them up for that “Wow” factor.

One more recipe for you…MiscDec2013 141

Maple Nut Fudge is creamy and crunchy at the same time. How irresistible is that?
*Update* I found the fudge is firmer if cooked to 235 F. And I tried a batch with lots of toasted pecans, and it tasted just like maple nut ice cream. SO good!

MAPLE NUT FUDGE

2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (Karo)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups miniature marshmallows
12 ounces white chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon maple flavoring (like Mapleine)

  1. Line a 9-inch by 9-inch pan with buttered foil or parchment.
  2. In a 4 quart saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, milk, corn syrup, and salt.
  3. On medium heat, stirring constantly, bring mixture to a boil and cook until 235 F. (about 5-6 minutes)
  4. Remove pan from the burner and stir in the marshmallows, chips, and walnuts. When the chips and marshmallows have melted, add the maple flavoring and stir for one minute.
  5. Pour into the prepared pan and let set until firm. (Once it’s cool, you may refrigerate it to speed up the setting process.)
  6. Cut into squares.

There are so many wonderful candy recipes waiting to be tried, but tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I am officially out of the kitchen! I hope you won’t wait for next Christmas to enjoy some of these; Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, you know!

Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Lorinda

Triple Trouble Caramel Corn!

MiscNov 046I try to stay away from Google when I’m creating a recipe, because I don’t want to be influenced by other bakers’ methods or ingredients. When I’m happy with my recipe I take a peek, and am usually surprised (and yes, maybe a little discouraged) to find out how many other people have already made my “original” idea.

And RATS…it happened again.  I thought this was going to be at least a fairly new idea. My son, my husband and I were sitting around brainstorming ideas for caramel corn. (I love my caramel corn recipe, but it’s pretty basic, and I wanted something unusual.) I knew we were on a roll when the discussion turned to bacon. What goes with bacon? Maple, of course! And if you’re have maple, you must have pecans, right?

Caramel Corn with Maple, Bacon, and Pecans. Yeah, baby…come to Mama!
MiscNov 043

After we’d sampled it over and over and over, I checked the search engine, and pfffft – it’s been done. Sigh. I guess most things have already been done in one form or another – so I’ll just give you MY take on this tasty treat.

Triple Trouble Caramel Corn!
Print
Author:
Ingredients
  • 6 quarts popped popcorn
  • 8 oz bacon (or more) chopped and cooked
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar (golden brown is fine, too!)
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon maple flavoring (Watkins is good, but I prefer Mapleine)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 250 F.
  2. Prepare two large, shallow pans by coating with cooking spray. (I used coconut oil instead, and it worked pretty well.)
  3. In a very large bowl or roasting pan, combine popcorn, cooked bacon, and pecans. Set aside.
  4. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add the brown sugar, honey, and salt. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil.
  5. Without stirring, allow the mixture to continue cooking at a low boil for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat. Stir in the maple flavoring and baking soda. (It will foam up a little.)
  7. Pour over the popcorn and stir to combine. Divide between the two pans, spreading the popcorn mixture as evenly as possible.
  8. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. The mixture will seem soft when you're stirring it, but don't worry - it will crisp up nicely when it cools.
  9. Remove from oven and cool completely in the pans. Break apart.
  10. Store in airtight container.

 

Boil the sugar mixture for 5 minutes.

Boil the sugar mixture for 5 minutes.

Stir it into the popcorn, nuts and bacon.

Stir it into the popcorn, nuts and bacon. (If you’re making the bacon/maple/pecan version, this will look darker.)

Spread onto two greased baking pans.

Spread onto two greased baking pans.

Once you start eating it, you won't stop!

Once you start eating it, you won’t stop!

I implore you to cook up the popcorn in a big pan or an air popper. The stuff in the microwave bags is SO bad for you. I know, I know, butter and sugar aren’t exactly health foods, but at least they are real. The microwave bags have a coating inside that is really gross. It’s honestly not hard to make popcorn “from scratch”!

If you want the plain Jane version (just like Cracker Jack), substitute unsalted or lightly salted peanuts for the pecans, and skip the bacon. Use 1 teaspoon vanilla instead of the 1 tablespoon maple flavoring. Or…gussy it up with a variety of nuts. Almonds, cashews, walnuts…all are yummy.

I wish you could see my kitchen right now. I made a peanut batch first. Then I tried the maple/bacon/pecan batch, but wasn’t happy with it (maple syrup in the sugar solution didn’t work out well, and I chopped the bacon and pecans too small) so I tried again. Each of these batches makes about 5 quarts, so just picture 13 quarts (hey, we had to try some of it!) of caramel corn. Yikes! I’m going to have to find someone to give some of this to or else dig out my “fat pants.”

Think crisp cellophane bags with pretty ribbons and a little silk poinsettia. What a welcome hostess gift this would make!

 

Chocolate Walnut Meringues

Blog7 007 croppedThere are times when I really want to eat that huge piece of cake, or a big slab of pie, or a quart of ice cream. But sometimes (especially after a huge turkey dinner) I just want a taste of something sweet, to tell my mouth that I’m finished eating for a while.

Something light, crisp, and airy. Sweet, chewy, and satisfying. Throw in gluten-free and almost fat-free, and you have Chocolate Walnut Meringues.

If you’ve never had a meringue, you’re in for a treat. This recipe produces little delicacies that look like cookies, but dissolve in your mouth, except for the perfect chewy part in the center. They can be a light ending to a heavy meal, or a sweet pick-me-up with an afternoon cup of tea.

Crispy and a little crumbly, with a slightly chewy center.

Crispy and a little crumbly, with a slightly chewy center.

Meringues cook at a low heat and then are left to dry out in the oven overnight, so you’ll want to plan accordingly. If you store them in an airtight container, they’ll stay crispy for days. They can be piped into any shape you want, which can be a lot of fun. (I had limited success piping the meringue around foil cones to make cornucopias. If you have cream horn molds it might be worth a try!)

I used walnuts in this batch, but pecans are lovely too. You can grate a little dark chocolate in the batter if you wish. I felt the cocoa powder gave it just the right level of chocolate goodness; you can be the judge of that. If you are baking gluten-free, here’s a great list of gluten-free chocolates. I was glad to see that Dove chocolate made the grade.

As always when making any kind of meringue, separate the egg whites and let them stand until they’re room temperature for best results. Use squeaky clean beaters and bowls, and you’ll get perfect results.

Chocolate Walnut Meringues
Print
Recipe type: Makes approximately 36
Author:
Dainty little treats with a lot of flavor. Gluten-free.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts (or substitute pecans)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 5 egg whites (room temperature)
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • chopped walnuts or grated gluten-free chocolate for decoration
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 250 F.
  2. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Chop walnuts (or pecans) finely. Set aside.
  4. Combine the sugar and cocoa powder in a small bowl. Set aside.
  5. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until they hold a soft peak.
  6. Continue mixing as you add the sugar mixture ¼ cup at a time, mixing well between additions.
  7. Beat until the mixture holds a stiff peak.
  8. Gently fold in the chopped nuts.
  9. With a small cookie scoop (or you may pipe shapes if you wish) scoop onto the parchment. They will barely spread, so you can put them fairly close together.
  10. Sprinkle with topping of your choice. Nuts or grated chocolate look great. Use your imagination!
  11. Bake for 35 minutes. Do NOT open the oven door. Just turn off the oven and leave them in there at least one hour. Overnight is even better.

 

Finely chopped nuts.

Finely chopped nuts.

This is what you want...stiff peaks.

This is what you want…stiff peaks.

Carefully folding the nuts into the egg mixture.

Carefully folding the nuts into the egg mixture.

Sprinkle with grated chocolate or nuts. Or sprinkles!

Sprinkle with grated chocolate or nuts. Or sprinkles!

I love, love, LOVE these little sweeties. They’re simple to make and impressive to serve. Offer a bowl of them next to the pumpkin pie and you might be surprised about which gets eaten first!