Category Archives: Candy

Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Chocolate Thumbprints with Homemade Caramel Filling

Chocolate Thumbprints

DAY 5: Chocolate Thumbprints with Homemade Caramel Filling

If you are feeling extra ambitious, instead of making these chocolate thumbprint cookies with melted packaged caramels, you can make your own caramel filling.

With a candy thermometer, the caramel filling comes together quickly and turns a good cookie into a fabulous one!

If you want to take the “easy” road out and buy a bag of Kraft Caramels, that recipe can be found HERE.

Here is my tip for getting a good deep pocket for all of that amazing caramel: Use the back of a rounded measuring spoon and press it into the center of each cookie. I use a ½ teaspoon measuring spoon on the raw cookie dough and then a 1 teaspoon measuring spoon on the hot, baked cookie. This is a good alternative to actually using (and burning) your thumbs.

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RECIPE:

Chocolate Thumbprints with Homemade Caramel Filling

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Chocolate Thumbprints

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups finely chopped pecans

Homemade Caramel Filling (recipe below)

Glaze:
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs corn syrup

Prepare Cookies: Combine butter, sugar, egg yolks, milk and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Beat until light and fluffy. Add flour, cocoa powder and salt. Beat until well combined. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place egg whites in a small bowl. Place finely chopped pecans in a bowl. Set aside. Roll dough into balls. Dip balls into egg white and then into pecans. (I find this easier if I make a whole baking sheet worth of dough balls, then dip them in egg/pecans). Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Make a small indentation in the center of each cookie with the back of measuring spoon (I use a ½ teaspoon) or your thumb.

Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes, or until cookies are set.

While cookies are still hot, press center again (use the back of a round 1 teaspoon measuring spoon). Cool.

Prepare Caramel Filling (recipe below).
Spoon small amount of warm caramel into centers of baked cookies. Carefully remove cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Prepare Chocolate Glaze: Combine bittersweet chips, butter and corn syrup in a small bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave for another 20-30 seconds if not melted. Let cool slightly. Pour chocolate into a small Ziploc freezer bag. Poke a hole in the corner of the bag (a bamboo skewer makes a perfect sized hole). Drizzle chocolate over the cooled cookies. Cool until set.

To store: refrigerate or freeze cookies in individual layers; then store between layers of waxed paper in the refrigerator or freezer. They can also be stored at room temperature, but if you stack them, they will stick together.


Homemade Caramel Filling

1 cup unsalted butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups brown sugar (light or dark)
1 cup light corn syrup
2 Tbs heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp sea salt

Combine butter, sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, corn syrup and heavy cream in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Place a candy thermometer on the side of the pan. Reduce heat to medium low, maintaining a low but continuous simmer, until caramel reaches 235°F (soft ball stage), stirring occasionally. This will take about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt.

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Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

Strawberries and Toasted Marshmallow Fluff

When you have a  kid that hates chocolate, you have to get creative with your campfire treats.

Dipping fresh strawberries in homemade marshmallow fluff and toasting them over the fire on a roasting stick sure makes up for not liking the s’mores that everyone else is eating.

In fact, you may have to guard your fruit ‘n fluff from the s’mores eaters who think they are the ones getting the short end of the roasting stick!

Marshmallow Fluff

Marshmallow fluff is easy to make yourself, but does require a candy thermometer. It is so much better than the stuff you buy in a jar! And toasting it makes it even more delicious. You can coat most fruits with the fluff for toasting. Try things like strawberries, fresh pineapple, mangos, bananas, mandarin orange segments, kiwi fruit. Or even chunks of pound cake.

Another benefit: you can swap out the vanilla extract with something more exotic, like lemon, coconut, orange, or almond extract to give your fluff a fun new flavor. Mango chunks dipped in coconut flavored fluff = YUM!

We may have even been known to make this in the winter, toasting our fluff-coated-fruit over sterno cans.

RECIPE:

Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

Strawberries and Toasted Marshmallow Fluff

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup (9 oz) light corn syrup
1/3 cup water
Pinch of salt
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (or other flavored extract: lemon, orange, almond, coconut)

Mix 3/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Use a spatula to scrape edges of pan as it cooks. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and continue to cook until mixture registers 240°F on the thermometer. Remove from heat.

While sugar mixture is cooking, place egg whites and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl (a stand mixer works best). Beat until egg whites are foamy. Slowly add 2 Tbs sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks form.

Turn mixer onto low speed and slowly pour the hot syrup into the mixing bowl. Once all of the syrup has been mixed in, increase mixer speed and beat for 3-5 minutes, or until mixture forms stiff peaks. Add vanilla (or other flavored extract) and beat for an additional minute.

Store marshmallow fluff in the refrigerator.

FOR TOASTED FLUFF-COVERED FRUIT:

Dip fruit (strawberries, fresh pineapple, mangos, bananas, mandarin orange segments, kiwi fruit, etc) in the marshmallow fluff. Place on a roasting stick and cook over an open flame until lightly toasted.

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (and Treats): Easy Homemade Caramels

Homemade Caramels

DAY 12: Homemade Caramels

Soft and chewy homemade caramels. This recipe uses sweetened condensed milk, so they come together faster than starting with a true caramelized sugar base. This method also produces very consistent results, with little chance of gritty caramels or seizing.

If you don’t have (or don’t want to use) sweetened condensed milk, try this recipe for Salted Caramel Sauce, and cook it to about 245°F.

The hardest part of making these is not popping one in your mouth every time you walk past their container.

This recipe (cooked to a lower temperature, about 235°F) can also be used to make a homemade filling for these Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints:

Chocolate Thumbprints

RECIPE:

Homemade Caramels

Homemade Caramels

1 cup unsalted butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups brown sugar (light or dark)
1 cup light corn syrup
2 Tbs heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract, or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
½ tsp sea salt

Line an 8×8” pan with parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang over the edge on 2 sides.

Combine butter, sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, corn syrup and heavy cream in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Place a candy thermometer on the side of the pan. Reduce heat to medium low, maintaining a low but continuous simmer, until caramel reaches 245°F, stirring occasionally. This will take about 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt.

Pour hot caramel into lined pan (do not scrape the sides of the cooking pan when you pour it into the square pan). Cool, uncovered, at room temperature until completely cooled and firm. Remove from pan and cut into pieces. Wrap individual pieces in waxed paper.

 

CARAMEL FILING OR SAUCE: To use as a filling for thumbprint cookies, or as a caramel sauce, cook caramel to 235°F (soft ball stage) for caramel filling, or slightly lower for a caramel sauce.

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (and Treats): Cream Cheese Mints

Cream Cheese Mints

DAY 10: Cream Cheese Mints

Melt in your mouth cream cheese mints.

Making these mints is like playing with scented edible Play Doh. The hardest challenge will be keeping your kids from playing with it and eating it before you can roll the mints.

Cream Cheese Mints 2

RECIPE:

Cream Cheese Mints

Cream Cheese Mints

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 Tbs butter, softened
1 lb powdered sugar (plus additional, if needed)
¼–½  tsp peppermint extract (or a few drops of peppermint oil)
Red and green gel food coloring

Place cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar in a food processor and process until smooth. Add ¼ tsp peppermint extract or a few drops of peppermint oil. Taste mixture and add additional flavoring, if desired. (Mixture can also be mixed and kneaded by hand.)

Divide dough into thirds and place in separate bowls. Add red and green food coloring to two of the bowls. Knead in coloring until color is consistently smooth. Add additional powdered sugar if the dough is too sticky. It should be Play Doh consistency.

Shape dough into small balls and then flatten with a fork. Place on a sheet of parchment paper. Allow mints to dry for 2 hours (longer in humid locations) at room temperature before storing in a covered container.

Candy molds can also be used to make shaped mints. If you are using candy molds to shape the mints, roll the balls in granulated sugar before pressing into the candy molds to keep them from sticking.

Makes about 50 mints

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (and Treats): Easy Chocolate Nutella Fudge

Nutella Fudge

DAY 7: Chocolate Nutella Fudge

Can you ever go wrong adding Nutella to a dessert?

Here is a perfect example: a rich, creamy fudge made even more delicious by adding Nutella. Plus lots of toasted nuts. And nuts are protein, so that makes this healthy, right?

You can also make this completely smooth and creamy, but I love the addition of chopped toasted nuts. I like lots of nuts per bite, so I use 2 full cups of chopped nuts, but if you just want the nuts sprinkled here and there, use less. My ideal fudge would be a pile of nuts with just enough chocolate to hold the nuts together in one piece!

I used a small cookie scoop to scoop the warm fudge into miniature foil cups. You can also spread it into an 8” square pan and cut it into squares.

Nutella tip: to easily measure Nutella, warm the jar of Nutella in the microwave for 20-30 seconds (be sure that all of the foil seal is removed first!). Spray a measuring cup with oil or cooking spray, then pour warm Nutella into the measuring cup.

RECIPE:

Chocolate Nutella Fudge

Nutella Fudge

1 cup Nutella
8 oz bittersweet chocolate (about 1 heaping cup bittersweet chips)
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
3 Tbs salted butter
1/8 tsp salt (omit salt if using salted nuts)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 cups chopped toasted nuts, optional **

If you are making fudge in a pan, lightly grease an 8” square pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper, letting it hang over the edge on 2 sides. If you are making individual fudge cups, lay 48-64 miniature foil baking cups on a rimmed baking sheet or tray.

Place Nutella, chopped bittersweet chocolate, sweet milk and butter in the top of a double boiler. Heat water in the bottom of the double boiler to a simmer, reduce heat to low and place the top of the double boiler with the chocolate mixture over the water. Stir until mixture is melted and smooth. Stir in salt, vanilla and chopped toasted nuts.

Spread warm fudge into the prepared pan OR use a small cookie scoop (or spoon) to drop about 1 tablespoon of warm fudge into each foil cup. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until fudge is firm.

If fudge was prepared in a pan: For easier cutting, run the knife under hot water, then pat dry before using to cut the fudge. Run the knife along the edges of the pan and use the parchment paper to lift out the block of fudge. Rinse knife in hot water again, dry. and cut the fudge into 1” squares (cut larger squares, if desired). Rinse and dry knife before each new cut.

Makes 48-64 servings

**To toast nuts: Coarsely chop nuts and spread into an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake at350°F for 5-10 minutes.

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Chocolate Halloween Pretzels

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An alternate heading and photo I probably should have led with:

What Not To Do When You Move

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In the spirit of putting away some extra food for a rainy day, I have a 5-gallon bucket full of chocolate chips (of various varieties). Shown above: what used to be a bag of Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet Chips, Costco-sized bag. My favorite.

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Don’t judge my food storage choices. When the zombie apocalypse hits, what do you really want to eat: cracked wheat porridge or chocolate?

Before moving last year, I did not think about the effects that a month of sitting in the back of a moving truck in June/July, would have on my precious bucket of chocolate chips. So instead of a bucket full of chocolate chips, I had a bucket full of chocolate bricks. I have finally made it through the last bag!

The struggle is real.

This is certainly a lemonade from lemons kind of first-world dilemma. We ended up with some fun chocolate dipped pretzels to share at a recent Fall Fest.

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Don’t want to bother remelting the chocolate block? It also makes a good paperweight.

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