Candy

Pumpkin Carving 2013

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Hey everybody!  Happy Halloween!  I just had my annual Pumpkin Carving this past weekend.  Sure it was cold and it did rain a little bit, but I think everyone had fun.  We even did it up a little bit and put some bales of hay around the fire pit so folks could carve and still stay warm.  And we did have a fire extinguisher on hand because having a bunch of dry straw next to an open flame isn’t exactly the safest thing to do.

How autumny!
How autumnal!

Folks brought some stuff to share like a nice rice salad and a yummy warm spinach dip.  We provided the pumpkins and made a big batch of chili.  I baked a whole bunch of stuff as well:

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

I haven't made these extra festive yet with my Halloween accoutrements
I haven’t made these extra festive yet with my Halloween accoutrements

Pepita Lavender Brittle

I love this stuff!
I love this stuff!

Savory Pumpkin Rugelach

Savory and sweet!
Savory and sweet!

Ciderhouse Whiskey (Saveur)

I am clearly not talented at making acceptable lemon twists.
I am clearly not talented at making acceptable lemon twists.

I also made a Harvest Spread, but that was from a mix (I know).  I’ll get the recipes up as soon as I can.  Well, maybe not the Brittle recipe because I have done a Lavender Pepita Croquant before and the recipe is very similar.  On a weird side note, apparently I am the country’s leading expert on Pepita Croquant.  I did a Google search to do some research and there I was — I took up the top three spots.  Weird and unexpected, but still kewl.  Anyhoo, keep an eye out for the recipes and be safe during the holiday!

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Chocolate Caramel Bars

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I love these cookies.  Or bars.  Or whatever.  It’s not important what they are — I still love them.  These are one of the cookies that I like to make for parties, then someone always remarks that these are essentially fancy Twix bars.  I kinda get annoyed, until I taste one and remind myself that these really do taste like Twix, which isn’t a bad thing at all cuz Twix are awesome!  And these are even better (in my opinion); just give me the pan and a fork and I’ll be happy.

Caramel Bars 1

Now these are relatively simple to make.  There’s a shortbread base, a “caramel” filling, and a multi-chocolate topping.  Easy-Peezy!  Plus, this is easy to convert to a gluten-free recipe.  I have done a switch out with some coconut flour and everything tasted great!  Here’s what you need:

Caramel Bars 3

For the shortbread:

  • 2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. superfine sugar
  • 3/4 c. unsalted butter

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 13×9 pan with cooking spray and line with parchment.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and sugar to combine.  Using a pastry knife, cut in the butter until the mixture looks like fine sand.  Now work with your hands until the dough comes together.

3.  Press the dough into the pan and smooth it out with a spatula.  Dock the dough with a fork and bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges.

4.  Cool in the pan and set aside.

For the “caramel”:

  • 7 T. unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk

1.  In a medium pan, place the butter, sugar, and condensed milk.  Heat on low until the sugar has dissolved.  Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil.

2.  Reduce the heat to simmer, again stirring constantly for another 5-10 minutes.  The mixture is done when it has thickened and turned light brown in color.  Be careful not to burn.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

3.  Pour the caramel over the shortbread base and smooth out with a spatula.  Cool completely and set aside.

For the topping:

  • 3 oz. dark chocolate
  • 3 oz. milk chocolate
  • 3 oz. white chocolate

1.  Melt each chocolate in separate heat proof bowls.  You can do this in a microwave or over a double boiler.

2.  Spoon the chocolate in an alternating pattern.  Using a toothpick or a skewer, swirl the chocolate to create a marbled pattern.   Chill until set.

3.  Slice and serve!

Caramel Bars 2

Notes — As you can see from the pictures, I did not take time to temper the chocolate.  They still tasted fine. . . I have a tendency to add too much chocolate for these because I just can’t help myself.  You could thin out and soften the chocolates by melting in a little bit of butter or shortening.  In theory, that should help with keeping the sheen of the chocolate.

Chili-Chocolate Truffles

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Hello again everybody!  Sorry for being out of commission for a little bit, but again I’ve been busy trying to keep busy.  Although today, I’m feeling somewhat under the weather and flu-ey, plus my back hurts.  So you know what that means for me — Cheezits and Rum!  But it also means that I won’t be going to the gym (I’m up to lifting 110,425 lbs. now) so I gots me some time to post some fun stuff for y’all!

This is what I made for a little get-together to help celebrate Cinco de Mayo.  You’ll need some cayenne pepper, which is said to have been used by the Mayans and the Aztecs (cultural nugget — yay!).  It has been some time since I made these and I forgot the heat they impart.  I don’t think it’s overwhelming, but it is definitely noticeable.  It won’t hit you at first, but after the chocolate melts away is when you get that kick from the cayenne.

I rolled some in powdered sugar, and yes, I probably could have shaken more of the excess off.

This recipe came from chatelaine.com, and they in turn adapted it from the book A Matter of Taste by Lucy Waverman and James Chatto.  And if y’all remember my chocolate truffles cake, I prefer a more “natural” truffle — one that actually looks like the truffles you dig out of the ground.  That’s why these chocolates are called truffles after all.  Here’s what you need:

  • 10 oz. (280 g) bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 c. (50 mL) room temperature butter
  • 1/2 c. (125 mL) whipping cream
  • 1 T. (15 mL) liquid honey
  • 1/2 t. (2 mL) cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 c. (50 mL) cocoa powder

1.  Finely chop chocolate.  Place in a large bowl with the butter.  Pour cream into a small saucepan and set over medium heat.

2.  As soon as cream boils, remove it from the heat and then pour it over the chocolate and butter.  Stir until melted and mixture is smooth.  Stir in honey and cayenne.

3.  Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.

4.  Line a baking sheet with parchment, foil,  or silpat.  To make truffles, scoop out a small amount of the mixture with a melon baller or a very small ice cream scoop.  Use your hands to shape chocolate into 1-2 inch balls.  Set each ball on a baking sheet.

5.  Place half of cocoa powder in a small bowl.  Place one truffle in the bowl and gently roll to coat with cocoa.  Shake off excess and return to the baking sheet.  Repeat, adding cocoa as needed.  When all are coated, place in a container in single layers separated by wax paper.  Refrigerate.  Will keep for up to 5 days.

Notes — Every time I make truffles I always think that it’s a good idea to always have a bain marie ready.  Most recipes I find involve pouring some scalded cream into some chopped chocolate.  More often than not, the heat from the scalded cream is not enough to melt the chocolate.  That’s where the bain marie comes in to finish the job. . . experiment with different types and amounts of chili and see if there’s anything that you like better. . . Don’t forget to like Jereme’s Kitchen and my bakery Daisy Cakes on Facebook!

Sugar Plums

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I love Sugar Plums!  Even though they don’t seem to be popular at my holiday gatherings, I will stand by them.  It is a nice holiday alternative to the richness and sweetness of other holiday treats; essentially these are made of dried fruits, nuts, and spices.  How healthy is that?  Sure it’s rolled in sugar, but that’s beside the point.  Now often times we associate sugar plums with Christmas (e.g. — “visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads” and “the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”), but that’s not necessarily the case.  The Food Timeline website offers a little bit of information on the history of Sugar Plums, in addition to some other traditional Christmas fare.

This recipe was taken from Alton Brown’s Good Eats program; and the link is nice because there is also a video available.  Here’s what you need:

  • 6 ounces slivered almonds, toasted
  • 4 ounces dried plums
  • 4 ounces dried apricots
  • 4 ounces dried figs
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon anise seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup coarse sugar

1.  Coarsely chop the nuts in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the plums, apricots, and figs.  Pulse about 20 – 25 times until coarsely chopped, but before the mixture forms into a ball.

2.  Combine the powdered sugar, anise seeds, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, cardamom, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.  Add the nut and fruit mixture and the honey and mix using gloved hands until well combined.

3.  Scoop the mixture into 1/4-ounce portions and roll into balls.  If serving immediately, roll in the coarse sugar and serve.  If not serving immediately, put the balls on a cooling rack and leave uncovered until ready to serve.  Roll in the coarse sugar prior to serving.

Notes — The sugar plums may be stored on the cooling rack for up to a week. After a week, store in an airtight container for up to a month. . . I didn’t have almonds so I just used some walnuts as a substitute. . . I’m sure you could substitute any number of dried fruits. . . maybe add just a touch of booze?  but I’m always trying to add a touch of booze to everything.

Lavender Pepita Croquant

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One of the things that adds a nice touch to desserts is some croquant.  Croquant is very similar to brittle candies (like peanut brittle, for example), but the recipe is a lot simpler.  There’s no butter, or cream, or baking soda, or anything like that.  Just sugar, water, and your “feature ingredient”, which is usually sliced almonds for some reason.  But it’s fall, so I thought this would be great to try with some pepitas / pumpkin seeds.  I also wanted to add some lavender for that added twist.

When I first started considering making something like this, I thought it would be extremely difficult and laborious, but it’s really quite simple.  I realize now that I was mistakenly associating this with pulling taffy.  And if you’ve ever seen or done that, you know what I mean about laborious.  This recipe is great on its own as a candy, but it’s also nice to garnish, I don’t know, something like a Pumpkin Cheesecake (hint, hint — that’s my next post!).  Of course, this recipe does make more than enough to use as a garnish, so luckily it tastes good in its own right.  Here’s what you need:

  • 4 c. sugar
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 1/2 c. pepitas
  • 1 T. lavender

1.  Line a half sheet pan with a silpat or spray with cooking spray.  Set aside.

2.  In a medium-sized, heavy saucepan combine the sugar and water.  Over medium-high heat, stir until the sugar dissolves.  Do not stir after this point; only swirl the pan.  If a film forms on the sides of the pan, brush the insides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water.

3.  Cook for about 10 or 15 minutes until it is a light golden amber color.  Remove it from the heat and gently stir in the pepitas and the lavender.

4.  Pour onto the prepared sheet pan and spread it out quickly.  Allow to cool completely.  You can break it into pieces or before it has cooled 100% you can score it or slice it into desired shapes.  If you keep it in a dry space, this could keep for several months, but probably could last a week or so.

Notes — This batch does seem a little cloudy because I wasn’t paying attention and stirred it a little bit too much.  When you do that, crystals start to form which isn’t what you want.  I didn’t mind too much since I was breaking the croquant into very small pieces to serve as a garnish.  If you are trying to make larger sheets, take more care than I did in this batch.  A quick trick to help prevent this is to add a little corn syrup.  Without getting into too much detail chemistry-wise, corn syrup is a different type of sugar.  So when those two different sugars mix, it makes it difficult for molecules to organize and form crystals.