Sunday, December 21, 2014
The countdown to Christmas is on for REAL at my house, y'all.
Every day I'm hearing kids saying things like "5 days and a wake-up!"
The pressure for last minute shopping is looming over my head. Primarily what we're lacking is the kids' gifts for each other. I had them draw names so they would only be buying something for one sibling, and so far, only the two little ones have their gifts bought.
Because I bought them during our grocery trip. Ha.
I had every good intention of taking kids shopping yesterday, but the day just got too busy. I decided it would be the best evening to deliver goody trays to our neighbors, so I spending my spare hours of the day, aside from the five hours we spent at Corban's two basketball games, lunch, and some time with my parents, making treats like this fudge, Peanut Brittle, and Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles (which, for the record, I ended up modifying significantly because the original dough just wasn't very good). I already had a double batch of my favorites, Hint of Berry Bon Bons, in the fridge, which I made on Thursday.
Ok, so this fudge. Wowzer!
Now admittedly, I've never met a fudge I didn't like. I love the different flavors, add-ins, whatever.
So when I saw this version, a fairly traditional recipe flavored with coffee or espresso powder, I was just dying to try it.
It did not disappoint.
Like any cooked fudge (assuming its cooked properly), it has a dreamy, creamy, melt in your mouth texture. No grittiness, no stickiness, just pure, simple smoothness.
I used instant coffee granules, a little more than originally asked for, and I found the coffee flavor to be really complementary to the chocolate. Not too overpowering, but certainly present.
There is an interesting addition of cinnamon, which I find mostly interesting because I can't taste it. Maybe its adding some complexity to the fudge that I would miss if it wasn't there????
I dunno. Well anyways, I won't omit it, because it's not like it costs much to toss in there.
So if you're looking for a simple, yet definitely different version of fudge to make this year, I highly recommend this one. I'm going to have to use some serious restraint to make sure we have some leftover pieces to share with my family on Christmas!
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun
7 (oz) jar of marshmallow cream
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 (12 oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
Line an 8" square pan with aluminum foil. Lightly grease the bottom with butter and set aside.
In a 2 qt. saucepan, combine marshmallow cream, sugar, cream, butter, coffee granules, cinnamon, and salt. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue boiling for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips until smooth.
Pour immediately into prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Place on cutting board and cut into 64 1-inch squares.
Source: Adapted slightly from Annie's Eats
Thursday, December 18, 2014
It's Cookie Season!
I'm sure you've seen more cookies than you know what to do with on Pinterest and everywhere else....but I figured I might as well contribute to the madness and post a couple of recent cookie recipes I've tried and had great success with.
If you love chocolate and mint, these beauties will be an instant winner in your book.
And if you don't love chocolate and mint, these might just make you a convert.
I made these for a cookie exchange a couple of weeks ago and they were a smashing hit. With a soft, brownie-like cookie, a creamy chocolate mint frosting, and some festive sprinkles on top, they're hard to resist.
My kids were quite unhappy with me for taking nearly the entire batch with me and would be delighted for me to make another round. Fortunately, since I found the Andes mints on sale, I bought enough for two batches, so another one may be appearing at our house soon. :)
Marissa (9) is exceedingly interested in baking these days and thought it was great fun to help make these, especially the part with the mints and sprinkles.
Note: Be sure to plan ahead, since the dough does require some chilling time.
Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun
Yield: 3-4 dozen depending on how big you make them
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 (4.5 oz) pages Andes mints
In a medium saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, water, and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter melts. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips and stir until melted. Pour mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer and allow to cool 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda.
Using the paddle attachment on the mixer, blend in the eggs one at a time with the chocolate mixture. Add vanilla and stir gently. With the mixer set on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
Cover and refrigerate dough for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 350°. Scoop dough out by rounded tablespoons and shape into balls. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicon liners 2 inches apart. Bake for 7-9 minutes, or until edges are set and cookies are slightly crackled. Allow to cool for 1 minute (meanwhile, unwrap chocolates) then add 1 Andes mint to the top of each cookie. Allow to rest for a minute or so, then spread over the top the cookie gently with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula.
Decorate with sprinkles if desired.
Transfer to a cooling rack and allow chocolate to set. You can speed up that process by refrigerating the cookies for a few minutes if necessary.
Store in an airtight container.
Source: adapted slightly from Allrecipes
Thursday, December 11, 2014
For as long as I can remember, pecan pie has been one of my favorite Thanksgiving and Christmas desserts. My grandma always made it for those two holidays and it was always served with heaps of generously sweetened homemade whipped cream.
Since then, I've tried some variations over the years. Caramel pecan pie, chocolate pecan pie, and pumpkin pecan pie to name a few. And honestly, I haven't met one yet that I didn't like.
But this year for Thanksgiving, since we had a crowd of 24 people meeting up at my parents' home, 13 of which are the grandkids, I figured a traditional pie wouldn't be the best option. They're a little tricky to cut, kids would likely end up with more than they wanted and that precious pie might be wasted, plus a lot of people just want a small taste and not necessarily the commitment of a whole piece of pie.
These were a perfect solution. The recipe makes a 13 x 9" pan, so there's plenty to go around when you cut little squares. Dessert-seekers could grab one to sample and still have room on their plate (and in their stomach) to have some of the other dessert options.
Now, these pecan pie squares aren't exactly like pecan pie. They have more of a toffee, chewy texture on a shortbread crust, which is reminiscent of pecan pie in flavor but very distinctly different.
I thought some of us die-hard pecan pie fans would feel deprived of our tradition - but you know what? I didn't hear a single complaint. What I did hear was lots of compliments and requests for more.
Personally, I couldn't keep out of them. I was astonished at how addictive they were - and even non-pecan pie eaters enjoyed them. They're not messy, easily portable, small portions, and absolutely scrumptious.
I'm making them again for Christmas. Can't WAIT!!
Pecan Pie Squares
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chopped pecans (chop first, then measure)
- Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 13 x 9" pan with foil, leaving enough for a 2-inch overhang on all sides.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, make crust by creaming together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add in the flour and salt and mix until crumbly.
- Press the crust into the foil-lined pan and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
- While the crust bakes, prepare the filling by combining the butter, brown sugar, honey, and heavy cream in a saucepan and stirring it over medium heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in pecans and vanilla.
- Remove the crust from the oven and pour the pecan filling on top, spreading to cover surface completely.
- Return pan to oven and bake for 18-20 minutes.
- Remove the pan and allow the bars to cool completely in the pan.
- Using the foil overhang, lift the bars from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Peel off the foil and cut into squares.
Store in a sealed container at room temperature. Bars will remain delicious for several days.
Source: adapted slightly from Just a Taste
Monday, December 8, 2014
Most people find a pan of brownies pretty irresistible, right?
How about if you cover the brownies with a layer of peanut butter topping? Oh, don't stop there, let's add a layer of whipped ganache frosting!!
This pan of decadence got 2 big thumbs up from my crew of eaters. I never saw them eat their soup so fast, knowing this was waiting for dessert.
The recipe came from my Secret Recipe Club assignment for the month, It's Yummi, where Chef Becca uses her culinary expertise to create and share from-scratch, mainly healthy recipes. She has a wealth of amazing recipes, like Key Lime Cheesecake with Hazelnut Crust , Slow Cooker BBQ Baked Beans and one that Grant would cheer for - Double Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Tart.
(I need to ask for a tart pan for Christmas. Seriously, how have I baked for so long without one?)
All that to say, I thoroughly enjoyed browsing her blog and have found plenty of pin-worthy recipes to add to my list of things to try.
These brownies just sounded too good though. And they did not disappoint. I ended up halving her ganache layer ingredients - I mean, I LOVE ganache, but I figured we could cut the calories a little bit without sacrificing the flavor.
The peanut butter layer, which is just a package of peanut butter chips melted with some butter, hardened up more than I was expecting and I wondered if it would matter - turned out it added a nice texture variation and great flavor. Just don't expect it to be light and fluffy like a peanut butter buttercream frosting would be.
It still cuts fine with a sharp knife at room temperature, but I imagine if you chilled the brownies in the fridge, they would be harder to cut neatly.
These brownies were a huge hit and would be a great gift for that chocolate-peanut butter fan in your life.
Peanut Butter Frosted Brownies with Whipped Chocolate Ganache
from Rebekah's Family, Food, and Fun
Yield: 9"square pan of brownies
5 oz (1 stick plus 2 Tbsp) salted butter, room temperature
3.5 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
3.5 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3 oz (2/3 cup) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
Peanut Butter Layer:
10 oz (1 bag) Reese's peanut butter chips
2 oz (1/2 stick) butter
5 ounces chocolate, finely chopped (I used mostly semi-sweet and some white chocolate)
4 ounces heavy cream
For the Brownies:
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Line an 8 or 9" square baking pan with foil, extending up the sides by 2 inches. Spray with cooking spray.
- Melt butter and chocolates in a medium bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat; whisk in sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each one before adding the next.
- Continue to whisk until mixture is completely smooth and glossy. Add flour and baking powder and stir just until incorporated.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out with wet crumbs - about 20-25 minutes.
- When the brownies have about 5 minutes left to bake, make the peanut butter filling.
- Place the peanut butter chips and butter into a microwaveable glass bowl. Heat at medium power for 1 minute. Stir and continue to heat on medium power in 30 second intervals until the mixture is melted and glossy in appearance.
- When the brownies come out of the oven, pour peanut butter mixture over the top of the warm brownies. Spread evenly over the top. Cool brownies completely.
- Put chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
- In a medium saucepan, bring cream to a simmer (do not boil). Pour cream over chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Place in refrigerator until completely chilled, whisking occasionally.
- After ganache has chilled, transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and whip on high speed for 2-3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Spread on top of brownies.
Source: adapted slightly from It's Yummi