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40 by 40

30 Dec

Because I’m not busy enough, I let myself be goaded into one of these birthday 40 by 40 challenges – no, it’s not to lose 40 pounds by the time I’m 40, or do some sort of amazing feat of fitness like running 40 races.  While that would be a wise move, it’s nearly the opposite.  Although, maybe if I do both 40s by 40 I’ll unlock some sort of rockstar status life badge.

What I really suck at – is baking.  Well, anything involving following rules and having patience really.  So, you know, baking, candy making – that sort of thing.  I have plenty of exhibits to share with the jury, but just take my word for it.  I have more baking failures than I do successes.  This is all odd since I loved science and performing experiments in school, but for some reason, I cannot slow down and follow the instructions necessary for flawless baking.

And so, likely to benefit himself really, my husband challenged me to bake 40 things by the time I’m 40 (we agreed this could include candy making).  This might just be because he got me two new baking cookbooks for Christmas and this challenge makes them that much more relevant, or maybe because he loves baked goods, but it still seems like a fun way to challenge myself and learn a new skill in the process.  Maybe I’ll EVEN learn patience – but that seems less likely.  And so, with a pile of baking books, and a list of things to try on Pinterest (and even in the archives of this blog) a mile long, I set out. . .just like Frodo. . .to cast my burden into the fire and hopefully emerge with perfect fudge. . .

 

First Up: Fudge

For my mother, it’s just not fudge if it’s not Fantasy Fudge.  I would argue, but since I made this with her in mind, it just made sense to provide her with what she wanted and save any holiday disappointments.

Because Fantasy Fudge is a Kraft Foods recipe, and features all of their own stuff, I felt safe in straying a little bit from their recipe (I realize this is awfully cheeky for my first foray into following directions, but what can I say).  You will also note that my version is walnut free.  To each their own

  • 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli chips)
  • flaky sea salt for finishing

 

Line 9-inch square pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides.
Bring sugar, butter and evaporated milk to full rolling boil in 3-qt. saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook 4 min. or until candy thermometer reaches 234°F, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Add chocolate and marshmallow creme; stir until melted. Add vanilla; mix well.

gearing up

 

Pour into prepared pan; spread to cover bottom of pan. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt for a super delicious salty punch.  Cool completely. Use foil handles to lift fudge from pan before cutting into 1-inch squares.
And because I’m a real wild child, I also made a peppermint version for the first time.  Same as above, but I swapped out the 1 tsp of vanilla for 1/2 tsp vanilla, and 1/2 tsp peppermint extract; and topped with crushed candy cane instead of salt.  Winner!  There was a BIT of grit to the fudge – I have never been able to make it perfectly smooth, even when using a candy thermometer, but I didn’t mind the bit of grit at all really, and neither did anyone else based on how quickly it disappeared.

fudgey goodness

Fleur de Sel Caramels

15 Jun

I love salted caramel.  I love chocolate and salted caramel.  I love these salted caramel truffle things from John Kelly like you wouldn’t believe (though his ganache ones are EVEN BETTER).  I’d love to just have them around to wow my friends but a) they’re expensive, and b) I’d eat them all long before anyone came over.

Thanks to Ina, visions of marshmallow/caramel, chocolate/caramel, and plain old caramel caramel are dancing through my head.  Thanks too, to my coworker Petrina, for bringing me “official” fleur de sel from her last trip to Paris.  Yay!

Vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fine fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Prep the pan.
Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing it to drape over 2 sides, then brush the paper lightly with oil.
Boil the sugar.
In a deep saucepan (6 inches wide and 4 1/2 inches deep), combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar and corn syrup and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until the mixture is a warm golden brown. Don’t stir — just swirl the pan.
Heat the cream.
In the meantime, in a small pot, bring the cream, butter and 1 teaspoon of fleur de sel to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Finish the caramel.
When the sugar mixture is done, turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Be careful — it will bubble up violently. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a candy thermometer.
Fill the pan.
Very carefully (it’s hot!) pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate for a few hours, until firm.
Cut the caramel.
When the caramel is cold, pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board. Cut the square in half.
Roll it up.
Starting with a long side, roll the caramel up tightly into an 8-inch-long log.
Cut into pieces.
Sprinkle the log with fleur de sel, trim the ends and cut into 8 pieces. (Start by cutting the log in half, then continue cutting each piece in half until you have 8 equal pieces.) It’s easier to cut the caramels if you brush the knife with flavorless oil like corn oil.
Wrap the candies.
Cut glassine or parchment paper into 4-by-5-inch pieces and wrap each caramel individually, twisting the ends. Store in the refrigerator and serve the caramels chilled.

Along the way, I could consider layering homemade marshmallow on top before rolling, and those little caramel fluffs could be dipped in chocolate or left plain; or I could just hold off on salting the caramel, dip the pieces in chocolate, and then salt the truffle.  Either way, I don’t think I’ll get many complaints.  A trial run for Thanksgiving or Christmas might be in order.

Fudge

1 Sep

NOT South Beach by any stretch of the imagination, but it is Weight Watchers approved; that’s gotta count for something right? I think these are as close as SB gets to fudge.
A friend of mine made this over the weekend and it is pretty freaking delicious. Chocolatey with a great creamy texture, if a bit sweet.

1 2/3 cup(s) sugar
2 tbsp reduced-calorie margarine
12 oz semisweet baking chocolate, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
14 large marshmallow(S)
  • Coat an 8- x 8-inch pan with cooking spray.
  • Stir together sugar, evaporated milk and margarine. Bring to a boil in a sauce pan, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Stir in chocolate and marshmallows. Remove from heat and stir until smooth.
  • Pour into pan and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. Cut into 36 squares and serve. (Leave fudge in refrigerator or freezer for a firmer consistency.)

Peppermint Patties

1 Jan

Again, from Apartment Therapy. I can’t wait to try to make these.

The preparation time is only thirty minutes.

Ingredients:
2 cups powdered sugar
1.5 tbsp softened butter
2 tsp peppermint extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp cream
8 ounces (about 1-1/3 cup) dark chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable shortening

Preparation:
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper or a silpat. In a blender, cream together the sugar, butter, extracts, and cream on low speed. After the ingredients are combined, raise the speed to medium-high and beat for an additional 1-2 minutes until mixture holds together very well and is creamy, not powdery.

Using a teaspoon, roll the candy into small balls and flatten them on the wax paper or silpat with the palm of your hand into patty shapes. When done, put them in the refrigerator to chill for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the chopped chocolate and the shortening in the microwave or over a double boiler.

Using dipping tools or two dinner forks, dip the patties into the chocolate one by one. Drag them across the lip of the bowl to remove any excess chocolate. Return them to the wax paper or silpat, and place back in the refrigerator to set the candies. They should be ready to eat in a few hours.

And that’s it! Due to the dairy ingredient, these need to be kept in the refrigerator. Layer the patties between sheets of parchment in an airtight container. They’ll last for a month.

Oreo Truffles

1 Jan

Aylene made these once using the mint Oreos and they were fab. Quinn got them from his aunt for Christmas and I was reminded how delicious they are (and recognized them at once). Then, like magic, I see them mentioned in Apartment Therapy. Mmmm.


Total time to make: 1 hr 30 min
Makes: 3-1/2 doz. or 42 servings, one truffle each

1 pkg. (1 lb. 2 oz.) OREO Cookies, finely crushed, divided

1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened

2 pkg. (8 squares each) BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted

MIX 3 cups of the cookie crumbs and the cream cheese until well blended. Shape into 42 (1-inch) balls.

DIP balls in melted chocolate; place on waxed paper-covered baking sheet. (Any leftover melted chocolate can be stored in tightly covered container at room temperature and saved for another use.) Sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs.

REFRIGERATE 1 hour or until firm. Store any leftover truffles in tightly covered container in refrigerator.

Kraft Kitchens Tips

How to Easily Dip Truffles
To easily coat truffles with the melted chocolate, add truffles, in batches, to bowl of melted chocolate. Then use two forks to roll truffles in chocolate until evenly coated. Remove the truffles with forks and allow excess chocolate to drip back into bowl before placing truffles on prepared baking sheet.
Special Extra
Sprinkle truffles with colored sugar or sprinkles in addition to or in place of the cookie crumbs.
How to Soften Cream Cheese
Place completely unwrapped package of cream cheese in microwaveable bowl. Microwave on HIGH 10 sec. or just until softened. Add 15 sec. for each additional package of cream cheese.