Espresso Marshmallows with Dark Chocolate

Espresso Marshmallows

I have to say, I have been putting off this post for a few days now.  Friday’s news really hit a little too close to home for me.  On Friday, it was bad enough learning about what happened – in the state where I went to elementary school.  But Saturday, when I learned that it was two first grade classrooms, it was a little too much to swallow.  My younger daughter is in first grade, and I just can’t imagine what a nightmare those poor families are living right now.  I tried to stay away from the computer all weekend – and we didn’t have the television on except for football on Sunday – but today I couldn’t avoid it any longer.  It was hard enough leaving the house knowing my kids would be at school today.  I got to my office and just cried.  I wanted to call the schools, and make sure they were going to start locking the doors during the day – but I decided they would get many hysterical calls today, and I wouldn’t add to the chaos.  This is just part of the world we live in, and it makes me sick.  We have to enjoy every minute we have – especially with our little ones.  My heart goes out to all the people suffering from this horrendous tragedy.  I hope we can look back at this as the event that changed things in this country.  We can always hope.

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Last week I took a Holiday Gift Making class at my favorite community kitchen – The Pantry.  It was awesome, although I really didn’t need any more edible gifts.  I have about 80 jars of jam I made this summer and fall…  It was really fun, and I came home with 12 more nicely wrapped gifts from the kitchen.  As if that wasn’t enough – my older daughter asked when we were going to make our annual holiday pretzels.  Seriously?  Did we need more treats – of course we did, how could a holiday season go by without making those?  So – on Sunday afternoon, we got out the supplies, and the girls and I hammered out another 7 bags of gifts.  I swear we could go into business at this point.  Does anyone need any?

These marshmallows were one of the treats we made at the class last week – and what an incredible treat they were.  I was snacking on them the entire time.  There were not the easiest of the holiday treats, but they were definitely worth the trouble.  Be careful if you make these with kids – they need to watch you pour the syrup into the egg whites.  They will have great fun decorating though!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/4 cup instant espresso
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 ounce powdered gelatin
  • 14 ounces sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 1/2 ounces egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • good quality dark chocolate for decorating

Preparation

Mix the cornstarch and powdered sugar together.  Prepare a 9×13″ pan by greasing it lightly with the vegetable oil.  Dust it with half of the powdered sugar mixture and lightly shake off any excess.

Mix together the vanilla bean seeds and sugar.  Rub with your fingers until the seeds are incorporated into the sugar.  Mix the water and vanilla sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Stir in the instant espresso until it is completely dissolved.  Transfer to a bowl and place in the fridge until thoroughly chilled.

When the coffee is chilled, slowly sprinkle the gelatin on top, stirring it in to keep it from clumping.  Place this over a pot of hot water to melt the gelatin, stirring occasionally.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup and 3/4 cup of water in a pot over low heat.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Stop stirring and bring to a boil.  You want the syrup to eventually reach 260 degrees.  When the syrup reaches 240 degrees, begin beating the egg whites until they begin to look like meringue.  The goal is to get the egg whites to whip up at the same time the sugar syrup reaches 260 degrees, adjusting the speed of the mixer as needed.  Once they are stiff and syrup is at 260 degrees, begin slowly pouring in the syrup while continuing to beat the whites on medium high-speed.

If needed, re-warm the gelatin mixture and then pour it into the meringue.  Continue whipping until the marshmallow mixture is glossy, tripled in volume and doesn’t visibly have steam rising from it.  Immediately pour into the prepared pan and quickly smooth the top flat.  Let the marshmallow sit, uncovered, for at least 3 hours at room temperature.

Dust a work surface with the rest of the sugar cornstarch mixture.  Run a knife along the edges to loosen the marshmallow and turn out onto the surface.  Cover with a layer of powdered sugar and rub in with your fingers.  Cut the marshmallow up into squares and toss the squares in the powdered sugar mixture.  Decorate the marshmallows with the melted chocolate.  Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Espresso Marshmallows with Dark Chocolate

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Honeycomb

My husband is the jingle king.  He knows every jingle that was ever created – seriously.  He can’t seem to remember when I ask him to take out the garbage, yet when I ask him about a jingle that is 30 years old, it flows out of his mouth like he watched it on television yesterday.  So, when I found this recipe in Bon Appetit for honeycomb, what do you think came next?  You got it…and of course for days, there it was, stuck in my head.

This was quite an adventure.  I was actually making this to go with a dessert I was making for an auction.  More on that later in another post…  So it was time to make the honey comb – and I had about 4 hours left before the dessert had to be sitting at the auction.  I had never made honeycomb before, but I make caramel all the time, so I thought I was prepared.  I read somewhere that you have to use a really large pot, because once you add in the baking soda, it really foams up.  So, I used my large 8 quart saucepan.  That was challenge number one – the pan was so big that I couldn’t use the candy thermometer to make sure I took it off at the right time.  Now, the recipe didn’t say to use one, but I wanted to be safe – I only had 4 hours left.  Instead I decided to go without the thermometer.  I let the sugar turn just golden amber, but it was too late.  By the time I added the baking soda, it smelled like burnt sugar.  I tried to pour it out and see if I could salvage it – but the honeycomb was inedible.

Honeycomb Take 2.  Now I was down to about 3 1/2 hours, and starting to sweat.  It was painful making the first batch.  The pot was so hot and heavy, it was almost impossible to pour the honeycomb out – and I was so worried about burning myself.  I had to have a better plan.  Also – I had to take it off the heat much earlier in the process – this is not like making caramel.  As soon as the sugar starts to turn color – that’s it.  So – I went with that, and it worked.  It was not as hard the second time, and the honeycomb came out perfect.  It tasted almost like burnt marshmallows, which is seriously one of my most favorite tastes ever.  This was sweet and crunchy, and amazingly delicious.  Just like in the jingle…honeycomb’s big, yeah yeah yeah!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda, sifted

Preparation

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Combine  sugar, corn syrup, honey, and 1/4 cup water in a heavy deep saucepan. Stir over  medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high; bring to a boil.  Cook without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a  wet pastry brush, until sugar turns pale amber. Working quickly, add baking soda  (mixture will foam up dramatically); whisk quickly just to combine. Immediately  pour candy over prepared sheet (do not spread out). Let stand undisturbed until  cool, about 20 minutes. Hit candy in several places with the handle of a knife  to crack into pieces.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Honeycomb

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Matzo-Almond Roca

I am very frustrated right now…I have been typing away for a while, I hit the save button, and there it went – everything I typed was gone.  I am SO FRUSTRATED!!!

Ok, I will try to calm down as I try to recreate this post.  I was really on a role, and now my mind is blank.  It is time for me to post my annual Passover recipe, although I am not sure anything can top my grandmother’s Matzo Ball Soup – this actually comes close.  But before we get to that…let’s talk about what we call today in our house – Bunny Day!!!

My younger daughter is OBSESSED with bunnies.  It all started when she was born, and a good friend of my mother’s sent her some things from this darling store north of Seattle, called Bunnies by the Bay.  They actually sell their stuff all around the country (my mother’s friend lives in Tennessee), but it is a local business for us.  She sent her a bunny blanket which is her favorite bedtime buddy, best friend, and the one thing she goes to when she is sad.  Her whole world now revolves around bunnies – so you would understand when she received an invitation to a Bunny Birthday Party, that her head just about exploded.  At this birthday party, each girl got to hold their very own bunny for the entire party – she could hardly contain herself.  Needless to say, it was one of the best days of her life.  Even though we don’t celebrate Easter, she wore her bunny ears all day today to celebrate.

So, back to Passover.  There are not many Passover recipes that warrant you to drop everything and run to the kitchen.  This happens to be one.  My neighbor introduced me to this recipe years ago – she is a fabulous cook, and always has such perfect recipes for the holidays.  She made a batch of these, and I fell in love.  I am telling you – you do not have to celebrate Passover to enjoy these babies.  A few years ago, she sent me this…the first blog post I ever read.  It was after I read this post, that I started thinking about creating my own blog.  So please enjoy my other favorite Passover recipe – I only wish my grandmother was still alive so I could share it with her – she would have loved it.  All you need is some Matzo Ball Soup and some Matzo-Almond Roca – who needs anything more than that?

Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 5 sheets matzo
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, lightly  toasted
  • 5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate  (do not exceed 72% cacao), melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt

Preparation

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; coat with  nonstick spray. Place matzo on sheet in a single layer, breaking as needed and  overlapping slightly, leaving no gaps.

Stir sugar, margarine, honey, and 1/4 cup water in a heavy  saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat  to medium-high and  boil without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a  wet pastry brush, until caramel is a deep amber color, 13–15 minutes. Pour  caramel evenly over matzo. Immediately sprinkle almonds over. Let cool.

Drizzle melted chocolate over caramel. Sprinkle salt over. Let stand until chocolate sets, about 30 minutes. Break into pieces.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Matzo-Almond Roca

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Chocolate-Almond Bark with Sea Salt

Ok – still trying to play catch-up with my posts, but I am getting closer.  I am not going to take up too much time writing today, because I know you all have so much to do right now.  Since we are inching upon Hanukkah and Christmas, my post today is another gift for you.  Just another easy recipe to make gifts from the kitchen.  This time a bark, as opposed to a brittle.

So – what exactly is the difference between a bark and a brittle?  I wondered myself, so I decided to look it up – boy was that an exercise in frustration.  I just could not get a good answer.  The most logical answer would have been that a bark is made of chocolate, and a brittle made of candy – but no, not that easy.  So if anyone knows what the true answer is, I would love to know.

This Chocolate-Almond Bark with Sea Salt that I found in Bon Appetit was a little more involved than the Candy Cane Brittle, because of the candied almonds – but oh was it worth it.  The sweetness of the almonds with the richness of the chocolate, balance out with the bright sea salt was quite something.  I could have eaten the whole batch myself if it wasn’t for the fact that I was making these for other people… and I am not even a huge chocolate fan.  That definitely says something.  So – if you are still wondering what to make people this year – this is a perfect gift.  Although, you might just like it so much, you will keep it as a gift for youself…but you deserve it!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted  butter
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted Marcona almonds (not in oil)
  • 1 pound good-quality dark chocolate (62%–70%  cacao), finely chopped
  • Coarse sea salt (for  sprinkling)

Preparation

Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or foil.  Combine sugar with 2 Tbsp. water in a small saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat  until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook, occasionally swirling pan and  brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is dark amber, about  5 minutes. Remove from heat. Immediately add butter; whisk until melted. Add  almonds; stir until well coated. Transfer to baking sheet, spreading out to  separate nuts. Let cool. Break up any large clumps of nuts. Set aside 1/4 of  nuts.

Stir chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of  simmering water until melted. Remove from heat, add nuts from baking sheet, and  stir quickly to combine. Spread chocolate-nut mixture on same baking sheet,  keeping nuts in a single layer. Top with the reserved nuts; sprinkle with salt.  Chill until chocolate is set, about 3 hours.

Break bark into pieces and store between layers of parchment  or waxed paper.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep  chilled.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate-Almond Bark

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Candy Cane Brittle

I am late…I am very late, and I am sorry.  This has been quite a week, one I wasn’t really expecting, but these weeks happen, and you have to prioritize.  Unfortunately my post just didn’t make it to the top.  But here I am, better late than never.  This week really ended on a high note, so even though I am emotionally drained, there is a happiness as I am typing away…one that I have been waiting for, and it is finally here.

I decided on bark (or I guess Brittle) as one of the treats I made for people this year.  I am by no means an expert at this – although after the Holiday Treats class I took on Thursday night – I am a lot closer.  When I made these, I didn’t take the time to do them right – but it was fine, they still tasted great – not just great, pretty awesome.  I avoided the whole tempering thing…which after learning more about it – I can’t wait to try it out.  It doesn’t really impact the taste, just how it looks.  You get that really nice dark shiny look to your bark, that is just beautiful.

I found this recipe hidden in Bon Appetit this month, and when I said hiding, I meant that it was not the showcase of the recipe.  The Pots de Creme were, but this is what caught my eye.  The chocolate wafer cookies definitely make these amazing.  So – my gift to you this weekend?  Here is a perfect gift you can make for people…now I am going to go relax.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound high-quality bittersweet chocolate,  chopped
  • 1 cup chopped candy canes, divided
  • 1/2 cup chocolate wafer cookies (such as  Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers), lightly crushed
  • 1 ounce high-quality white chocolate,  melted

Preparation

Line a large baking sheet with foil. Stir bittersweet chocolate in a medium  metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted. Stir in 3/4 cup  chopped candy and crushed cookies; spread over foil. Sprinkle 1/4 cup candy  over. Drizzle with melted white chocolate. Chill until set, about 30 minutes.  Break into shards.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Candy Cane Brittle

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Hello Kitty Cake Pops

What a weekend…I finished up Thanksgiving, and went immediately into preparing for my younger daughter’s birthday party, which was today.  I had a day to do errands, then a day to bake.  The party was a stuffed animal tea party – everyone got to bring a stuffed animal to our house, which then joined them for the tea party – which consisted of a healthy lunch (carrot sticks, cheese and cracker, fruit salad, PB&J or grilled cheese) and then the birthday treats.  I made some cookies, brownies and the cake pops.  Now, I have to admit that these were partially my fault.  Every year my girls comb through the cookbooks, especially the dreaded Hello Cupcake (which I consider food porn, because really?  seriously, is this for real?), and choose something outrageous for me to make.  This year, I really wanted to try making cake pops, so I brought them up on the computer one day and asked her if she would like them for her birthday.  Ok, now what 5-year-old girl would not say yes to adorable Hello Kitties made of cake and melted chocolate?  I knew that as soon as I pulled them up, it was a done deal.

Ok, so I know this was all my fault, so no need to feel sorry for me (unlike when these were chosen) – but I was still stressed about making them.  I made the cookies, made the brownies, and when everything else was done and I had nothing else to procrastinate with – I started the cake pops.  They were actually not THAT bad, although – yes, it did take some skill.  The only way to get Hello Kitty to be nice and smooth is to double dip.  Yes, that means you dip them in the chocolate once, wait for them to cool, then dip them again.  What that also means is that you have to start with a head that is a lot smaller that you think is appropriate – but don’t worry, it will get bigger.  I also stuck the bow on and the nose when the chocolate was still cooling, it was a lot easier than attaching them afterwards with some melted chocolate.  I basically followed Bakerella’s recipe though to a T – aside from what I just described.  I have to post these crazy things every once in a while – and I always say when I do – these are not quick, these are not easy, and they are not healthy – but for your daughter’s birthday – it is more than fine, it is well deserved.  Go have fun with them – and don’t stress too much – hopefully you will have as much luck as I did!

Ingredients

Preparation

Bake cake according to boxed instructions for a 13×9 size.  After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.

Mix thoroughly with 1 can frosting. (Use the back of a large spoon, but it may be easier to use fingers to mix together. But, be warned, it will get messy. Also, you may not need the entire can of frosting, so start out by using almost the entire can and add more if you need to.)

Shape the Hello Kitty heads into a semi-flat oval shape. Melt some white chocolate melts in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stir each time until melted.  Insert tip of lollipop stick into some of the melted candy and insert into the bottom of the Hello Kitty head.

Place them in the freezer for a little while to firm up.

Take two white chocolate chips and dip the bottoms in the melted candy and then place/glue them on the top of Hello Kitty head.

Stand them up in a styrofoam block to dry. When the ears are firmly attached to the head, dip the entire Hello Kitty head in a bowl of the white melted candy. Make sure the bowl is deep enough so you can get it in one dunk. Then remove and gently tap off any extra coating. This will help smooth it out, too.  If you don’t think the heads are smooth enough, once the chocolate has hardened, dip them into the chocolate again.

When the Hello Kitty heads are drying, apply the hearts and m&ms to make a bow and the yellow rainbow chips to make a nose.

Once the heads are completely dry, draw the eyes and whiskers on using an black edible ink pen

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Hello Kitty Cake Pops

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Candy Sushi

It’s birthday time again, this time for first-born daughter.  Of course birthdays get more exciting the older you get, until a certain point…  This year she wanted to bring candy sushi into school to celebrate with her classmates, and then I would make bowling pin cupcakes for her birthday party over the weekend – yes, they were going bowling.  I planned it all out – one weekend I make the candy sushi, the next I deal with the cupcakes.

Years ago one of my best friends was living in Tokyo – so my husband and I made the long journey over to visit.  We just had to go when we had a personal tour guide that spoke the language.  I loved it, but with my seafood allergy, I have to admit it was a little frustrating.  She still managed to take us to tons of places where I could eat…oh and the bread in Japan is amazing, I know, you would never think that – but I ate very well.

My husband LOVES sushi, so one day we walked down to the fresh fish market so that they could enjoy some fresh sushi – I brought a book, found a nearby hotel, and sat in the lobby while they feasted.  I couldn’t even go near the fish market, the smells were just too much for me…

So candy sushi is about the closest I will ever come to eating the stuff.  Boy was this fun to make.  She helped me a lot by wrapping all the sushi.  I haven’t made rice krispie treats in years – and for some reason I thought it was actually complicated – not at all!  It was so easy, and easy enough to flatten out in preparation for rolling.  We had a blast, and they came out looking spectacular!  She said they were a huge hit at school – lots of kids were out because of the holiday weekend, so her teacher brought the rest into the teacher’s lounge, and they went nuts.  Gotta love sushi!!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 (10 oz., about 40) pkg. regular marshmallows or 3 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 6 cups Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal
  • Swedish Fish
  • Gummy Worms

Preparation

In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add the marshmallows and continue to stir until the marshmallows have completely melted. Remove from heat.

Stir in the Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal coating them well with the melted marshmallow mixture.

Using a buttered or silicone spatula, press the mixture evenly into a 12 x 17 x 1 inch (jelly roll) pan which has been buttered or sprayed with non-stick spray or lined with wax paper.  Cool completely.

To make the rolls, cut a 12 x 2.5 inch strip of the rice krispie teats.  Place gummy worms next to each other in the middle of the strip.  Very carefully, roll the rice around the gummy worms.  Slice the roll into about 11 pieces.  Take some fruit by the foot, and wrap the outside of each roll.

To make the sushi, cut the rest of the rice krispie treats into rectangles.  Place a swedish fish in the center, and wrap with some fruit by the foot.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Candy Sushi

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