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Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

You’re broke.  I’m not trying to be a prick, but you are.  You lost your job, you had to downsize your life, and get a lame part-time job.  While all of these  things are huge set backs, you don’t have to be the Grinch at your holiday get-together nor do you have to show up with the bag of coal (which I imagine is an expensive gift anyway – and total NOT green…).  I wish I could instruct you on producing homemade jams and other canned goods but alas, no one has offered to let me borrow their canning supplies (save my BIL 2,000 miles away).  Instead, load up on some chocolate, peanuts, peanut butter, corn syrup, and some booze because you are staying home and turning your kitchen into a candy factory!  Let’s give the gift of sweets, made with love – something I haven’t yet seen a commercial about from Hershey’s.

Here are a few things that I want to remind you to make as gifts:

  1. Diable Peanut Brittle.  I know one ought not think of evil thoughts like…diablo during such a festive season.  But it’s good and your receivers will be way pleased.

2.   Caramel:  Who can resist the milky goodness – and heavy cream laden caramel?  It’s so delicious, and clearly                         made with love.

3.   Chocolate Covered Caramels:  If you want to get super wild, take the caramels from above, cover them in                      your favorite chocolate (I always prefer bittersweet when baking with an already very sweet product), dip,                          decorate and fin.

4.   PEANUT BUTTER BALLS: You have already ‘wowed’ your friends, family, mail delivery person and cats with your candy making abilities.  However, now is the time to really suck up to that manager of yours and make peanut butter balls.  Though somewhat time consuming, the general idea behind PB Balls is simple; it merely involves the creaming method, tempering chocolate and coating peanut butter, after of course you formed them in to balls (many ball-base comments to follow). I totally gave you the tools in the above posts to set you up to dominate PBBs!

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/2 # butter (two sticks) melted
  • 2 cups of your favorite peanut butter (chunky, creamy natural?  I don’t give a damn  These are YOUR balls!)
  • 2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 2 cups dry/powdered milk (found in a box, not in an aluminum can like evaporated milk)
  • 2 cups of cheapo corn flakes – because why would you get Corn Flakes?  Let the PB do the talking here.

Take all of the above in your mixer and cream until thoroughly blended.

At this juncture, you PB mix is going to be way too warm to ball up.  Just place it all in a bowl and keep in the refrigerator until it and you, are ready for more work.  I needed a culinary beak for a few days, but when I was good and ready, I started balling them up.  I chose to make each serving only a teaspoon – big enough for one bite – then proceeded to roll the peanut butter in to a ball in my (clean) hands.  I set the balls aside on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  After heavy handling like this, the mixture becomes warm and needs to cool down over night before being coated in chocolate.

I put the cookie sheet with the balls in the freezer to get nice and hard.  A day or so later, I was ready (mentally anyway.  If you are mentally ready to dip over 100 PBBS in chocolate the next morning, they WILL be ready to go.  Unless your freezer is set to tropical rather than tundra) to temper my favorite bittersweet chocolate to dip the balls into.

Using candy dipping tools, a fork, or a skewer, merely coat and shake off any excess chocolate from the balls (dark – and I assume bittersweet chocolate – should reach a temperature between 110-120F to be tempered.  Though I am new to the game so I welcome any credible advice).  Have another  parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet ready to place the newly chocolate coated balls on.  The first few dozen will harden up quickly since they are so cold.  However you want o make sure that your chocolate is not so hot as to melt the PBBs.  Though tempered  at 120, you should coat the chocolate at a temperature ranging between 86-90F.  Will you live if it is a tad warmer?  Yes.  Though it may not have the same beautiful finish a week later.

Since we eat with our mouths and eyes, the last thing you want your gift receivers to think of is rabbit poo as they bite in to your delicious PBBs.  So when the chocolate has hardened, make it look pretty by drizzling some chocolate over it, all spidery-web-like.

When finished, I like to put the balls in the freezer again to harden up the PB though I am unsure if it is necessary.  The PB mixture is awesome and the corm flakes add a really nice mouth feel, but more importantly, your recipients will be wowed.

If you get done making all of this candy and feel as though it still needs some bulk, add an assortment of wonderful citrus from your favorite co-op, like clementines, grapefruit, navel oranges or pears, and other seasonal fruits.  Maybe a package of your favorite coffee or tea?  Whatever you choose, your recipients will be so pleased by all of the wonderful goods that YOU created from your kitchen.  It really is a gift from the heart, home and hands.  Your time and effort have a value, and you have created a meaningful gift that will leave your friends, family and mail man talking each year about what a fantastic gift you gave them, even when we are again in boon times.

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Changing seasons, weather and holidays invoke varying tastes and desires – to me.  I’m not going to speak for you, so don’t get all up in my face about how much you love candy cane bark throughout the year.  However, there is one candy that really transcends at least two seasons and four holidays: caramel.  You can eat caramel in the fall, whether plain or draped over tart apples with a popsicle stick through its core.  Then caramel milks its way through the rest of winter while invoking comfort and security.  Security? YES.  Each bite of a soft caramel is pure security if for no other reason (that I can find) other than it invokes home, warmth, fireplaces and…security.  Wouldn’t you want to gift that to someone?

First, whip up your favorite batch of caramel, and cut it up into small servings.

BUT, before you wrap it up all cute in individual wrappers made of wax paper (see – homey, cute and sweet!), temper your favorite chocolate in a double boiler.  When it has cooled down somewhat, take a regular/two-tined serving fork or your favorite candy dipping set and dip your caramel in to the chocolate.

However, be careful to get enough of the chocolate off our caramel so as to not develop chocolate feet on the bottoms.  Having the right tools when dipping will also immensely help in avoiding this.  However, if this advice fails you, rest assured that these feet can be amputated as soon as the chocolate has set.

It’s one thing to give the gift of security, as best as chocolate covered caramel can, but it is another thing to give the gift of ugly.  You HAVE to pretty it up, which means nothing more than waiting for the chocolate to set then drizzling chocolate over it.

Do you see the difference?  DO YOU SEE THE DIFFERENCE!? No feet and super sophisticated.  Your friends, family, mail carrier and paper delivery person will be so excited to receive such a beautiful and tasty gift that your friends and family will forever be indebted to you because they will want this treat in years to come.  Your mail will never be returned to you even when you did not include enough postage and your paper will always be at your stoop on time, unless your neighbor steals it.

See?  Security in caramel.

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Rugelach is just about the most adorable little pastry (with the exception of course of petits fours).  It is not only cute, but it’s fillings are limitless.  Wikipedia explains that rugelach means “creeping vine”, but it also explains that it means “little twist” but I thought I read somewhere that it means “little horn.”  I’m so confused and don’t know what to believe, but I can tell you a few things about rugelach:

  • It’s delicious
  • It looks like a conjugal product between a croissant and a Pilsbury Crescent
  • When you bake it, you need to double-pan it up.

Really, these are the most important things to know.  Oh, and here is the recipe from Ina Garten, one of few Food Network stars who is there based on merit and not how much cleavage she can show from a single camera angle.  Anyway…

You start out with a cream cheese based dough.  After mixing it in your mixing bowl knead it on the counter wit a little bit of flour until you can form it into a disk (like pie), wrap the dough in plastic and keep it in your refrigerator for at least an hour.  If you keep it in the refrigerator for more than an hour or a day, you may just need to take it out to warm up a bit before working with it – not a big deal.  When you can work with it, try using as little flour as you can while still having the ability to roll it out in a large circle since you don’t want/need to incorporate more flour than necessary in the dough.

I have a 14 inch round cake pan which I was able to use as a stencil and cut away any of the scraps.  I decided not to utilize the scraps in any future rugelach because I feared over-working the dough which, as we know, would result in a tough end-product – gross.

The, or, a school of thought on rugelach is that you have a wet ingredient and a dry one; apricot glaze and walnuts for instance, where you paint a layer of the glaze on the dough and then sprinkle it with nuts.

raspberry poppy and almond love

I followed that school in one batch, but got totally wild with the second batch where I merely chopped some bittersweet chocolate and combined it with nuts.  Like whoa.

As you can see, I did not cover all of the dough with filling but left room in the middle and on the outsides.

Because you will be rolling the dough and baking it, you certainly don’t want all of the delicious filling to go to waste when it bakes out of the middle.  Using a pizza cutter, or similar tool, cut the ingredient topped dough into triangles as you might a pizza.  The amount is really up to you and how large you rolled your dough out.  Then starting from out the outside and going in, roll each triangle into a croissant like shape.

You should see that I did not wrap each piece tightly.  It is a little loose so as to not squeeze out the ingredients as well as allow room for the dough to expand and puff out a bit during the baking process.  If at this point you want to freeze your rugelach to bake for later, you can.  They freeze nicely and you can take out as many or as few as you may need for a breakfast treat or a dessert table feature.  On this occasion, I baked half the batch and froze the other half, waiting until Thanksgiving to bake them.

When you DO  bake them, make sure to apply an egg wash (I prefer using a whole egg with a smidgen of milk, cream or whatever is on hand) and DOUBLE PAN your cookie sheets.  If you do not, the bottoms will burn before the tops look like they are finished.

Use the egg-wash as the glue that it is to sprinkle some of the filling on the tops of the rugelach so you and guests know what is inside the different little pastries!

If these little guys were animated, wouldn’t you just want to pinch their non-existent cheeks theyaresocute!?

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The most obvious and yet complicated part of baking for Passover is the exclusion of flour, and other flour-like substances.  Thankfully we are not limited to merely eating matzo and instead could feast awesome macaroons and this this rich flourless chocolate cake.

I started early.  We were to attend to Passover Seders last week, and this cake from Smitten Kitchen was to be served on the second night (Thursday), so I started baking on Sunday.

whipped As described at the top of the linked recipe, I only had 2 spring form pans, and instead of halving the recipe, I went all out.  My four layer cake therefore contains two dozen eggs.  TWO DOZEN EGGS.  That is a dozen more than Smitten Kitchewn calls for, and I can see why.  This cake is beyond rich, but is so satisfying as well.

03It wasn’t the taste of the cake that pleased me most as I was more delighted at it’s appearance, and my ability to successfully construct a multi-layered cake unlike my failure of several months prior.

02It was not perfect, but at least a vast improvement.  Had the layers themselves not been exposed and could have been covered in frosting, you would not even see the problem areas.

To accent the Grand Marnier whipped frosting (and the role of women and GLBT, Miriam in particular in the Passover story) I grated orange infused/flavored chocolate to the top of the cake.

01

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We are in the middle what appears to be the beginning of spring.  The snow comes and goes, but it has for the most part completely melted, and the grass is turning to a chartreuse shade of green.  Among a zillion other things, it also means that we are in the midst of the spring holidays or both Passover and Easter.

macaroons in the RAW

Not being religious, this time of year typically means chocolate bunnies, Cadbury mini eggs and the showing of Mary Poppins on Sunday on ABC.  However, this year and last I have been welcomed to join in the Passover Seder activities.  Not wanting to appear ungrateful (or lazy for that matter) I whipped up some chocolate-orange macaroons, which were just about the easiest thing in the world to make.  Easier than even boiling water.

molded

The smell that the oven emitted as soon as two sheet pans were put in was absolutely glorious.  How could it not be though when orange and chocolate go together as well as peanut butter and chocolate.  it’s a marriage to last the ages.

Best of all, they taste as good as they smell.  They do not look like the perfectly piped macaroons that you will find at the store in the bakery (I don’t know how you pipe out long strings of coconut anyway – the visual disgusts me), but they are certainly tasty.

baked

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Usually I can’t wait to make banana bread, but this time I really couldn’t wait, and made it with bananas that were ripe, but not gross-they-are-way-too-brown-to-eat-and-can-only-be-used-in-banana-bread bananas.

I followed this recipe.  Not a big rum drinker, I had to go to the liquor store and buy one of those single shot bottles of rum.  Unfortunately, the store I went to only had spiced rum, which slightly reminded me of how sick I got on it last time i drank any.  But I digress.  I bought it and used it in an effort not to drive around looking for little bottles of dark rum.

I cut up the bananas, put the lemon juice (fresh – mind you), zest and rum.  It was pretty tasty by itself actually.

After mixing up the dry ingredients and the wet and combining them together in my mixer, i added the bananas above (which were mashed) and mixed them all up too! When that was well blended, i poured it in my loaf pan, then layered it with chocolate, then more batter.

I swirled a knife around to marble it up and then threw it in the oven.  Unfortunately I failed to keep it in long enough.  Don’t get me wrong – it was baked, just not long enough. :)

Some things that hindered the quality of this loaf.  Take note, and do otherwise:

  • Bananas were not over ripened
  • I used spiced, not dark rum
  • I took it out of the oven too early.

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