Category Archives: Candy

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:

Strawberries and Toasted Marshmallow Fluff

Homemade 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:

DSC05126-2

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:

Nutella Fudge

Chocolate 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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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Caramel Christmas Chex Mix

Caramel Christmas Chex Mix

DAY 5: Caramel Christmas Chex Mix

Not a cookie, but a fun treat to make for family and friends. And maybe slightly addicting. Just a friendly warning.

Caramel Christmas Chex Mix 2

RECIPE:

Caramel Christmas Chex Mix

Caramel Christmas Chex Mix

1 cup butter
1 ½ cups brown sugar
½ cup light or dark corn syrup
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
14 0z box Chex cereal (Rice and/or Corn)
1 ½ cups dry roasted peanuts
1 ½ cups whole cashews
½ cup Christmas sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 1 large or 2 medium rimmed baking sheets with non-stick foil.

In a medium saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and then vanilla (mixture will foam).

Place cereal and nuts in a very large bowl. Pour caramel over the cereal/nuts and gently stir with a large rubber spatula. Spread mixture onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes. Let mixture cool in pan for 2 minutes. If your sprinkles DO NOT melt when heated, stir them into the mixture now. Let Chex mix cool completely in pan, stirring 2-3 times as the mixture cools. If your sprinkles DO melt when heated, wait until mixture is cool to touch, and then stir in the sprinkles.

Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

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Banana Cream Pie with Salted Caramel Sauce

Banana Cream Pie with Salted Caramel Sauce

We went to a church fall festival activity tonight, and I brought this banana cream pie as well as this Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie: RECIPE HERE.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie 2

I was not planning on posting the banana cream pie recipe yet, since I only got a couple of not-so-great photos of the whole pie before we left. And there were no left-overs to take a picture of after getting home. But I have had a few requests for the recipe, so I am going to go ahead and post the recipe without the “inside” pictures. So you will just have to imagine layers of flaky crust, salted caramel, bananas, homemade custard filling and whipped cream.

Salted Caramel Sauce 1

And once you have gone to the trouble of making salted caramel, it goes well with just about everything else you might want to drizzle it on.

Salted Caramel Sauce 2

This recipe was inspired by the many Salted Caramel Banana Cream Pies eaten on “Pi Day” at the Kings’ house in Pittsburgh. Not having Tony’s pies to look forward to every year now, I had to buckle down and make one for myself.

RECIPE:

Banana Cream Pie with Salted Caramel Sauce

Banana Cream Pie with Salted Caramel Sauce

1 Baked Pie Crust
Vanilla Custard (recipe below)
Salted Caramel (recipe below)
3 Bananas
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs cream cheese, softened

Bake and cool pie crust. Spread 3-4 tablespoons of salted caramel sauce over the bottom of the cooled pie crust. Slice 1 ½ bananas and place in single layer over the caramel sauce. Spoon half of the slightly cooled vanilla custard over the bananas. Slice remaining bananas (slice them thinly) and place over custard. Top with remaining custard filling. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1-2 hours.

Combine cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Mix using an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add cream cheese and beat until stiff peaks form. Spread over chilled pie. Drizzle with additional salted caramel sauce and chill until serving time.

Serve pie with additional Salted Caramel Sauce.

Vanilla Custard
1 cup sugar
4 Tbs cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz cream cheese, softened

Combine sugar, cornstarch, milk, cream and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Whisk until well mixed. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Add cream cheese to hot custard about 1 tablespoon at a time. Stir with a whisk until cream cheese is completely melted and custard is smooth. Cool for 15-20 minutes before pouring into pie crust (stir occasionally so that it doesn’t form a skin).

Salted Caramel Sauce
1 cup sugar
6 Tbs butter, softened and cut into tablespoon-sized chunks
½ cup heavy cream
1 – 1 ½ tsp flaky or coarse sea salt
1 tsp vanilla

Place sugar in a medium to large saucepan (mixture will bubble up and expand as cool ingredients are added to the hot pan). Cook over medium heat until sugar just begins to melt. Stir gently, trying to keep sugar crystals off of the sides of the pan. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar melts completely and is a medium amber color (about 350°F if you use an instant-read thermometer). Reduce heat to low and quickly whisk in butter chunks, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and stir in cream, whisking constantly. Stir in salt and vanilla. Pour immediately into a glass jar or heat-safe bowl to cool. Do NOT scrape sides or bottom of the pan with a spatula. If you do, you are likely to get sugar crystals into your nice smooth caramel. If the caramel has formed crystals while cooking, you can pour it from the pan through a fine sieve into the jar to remove any crystals before cooling.

Caramel can be kept in a covered jar at room temperature for several weeks.

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Fifth Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies Round-up

Twelve more cookie and treats to help you celebrate this Christmas season.

As you whisk and sift and bake this year, be sure to look up from your bowls of flour and melted chocolate to appreciate the joy and wonder of the Christmas season. As we share and give our love to those around us (whether that is through cookies, gifts or service), may we also remember the gift of love given to each of us on that very first Christmas.

Shortbread 3

DAY 1: Scottish Shortbread

Coconut Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies 2

DAY 2: Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Raspberry Blondies 1

DAY 3: Raspberry Swirl Blondies

Oreo Truffles 1

DAY 4: Oreo Truffles

Ninjabread Men 3

DAY 5: Ninja-bread Men Cookies

Hot Cocoa Mix 2

DAY 6: Hot Cocoa Mix

Peppermint Marshmallows 1

DAY 7: Peppermint Swirl Marshmallows

Nutella Marbled Cheesecake Bars

DAY 8: Nutella Marbled Cheesecake Bars

Cranberry Orange Cookies 3

DAY 9: Glazed Cranberry Orange Cookies

Rocky Road Cookies

DAY 10: Rocky Road Cookies

Christmas Fortune Cookies

DAY 11: Christmas Fortune Cookies

Peppermint Bark 1

DAY 12: Peppermint Bark Snowflakes

For forty-eight more cookie and candy ideas, there are links below for the four previous years’ Christmas Cookies:

First Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2009)

Second Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2010)

Third Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2011)

Fourth Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2012)

—-

My best wishes to each of you for a faith filled Christmas season.  May God be with you and your family.

Click the photo above or HERE for videos, music, cards and messages reminding us of the true meaning of Christmas, the gift of the Savior of the world, and how we can incorporate that meaning into our lives every day.

No Empty Chairs Signature

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Peppermint Bark Snowflakes

Peppermint Bark 1

DAY 12: Peppermint Bark Snowflakes

Layers of dark and white chocolate with crushed candy canes. You can spread the bark into a large slab and then break apart when hardened. OR: Use a silicone mold to make fun individual Peppermint Bark Snowflakes.

The bottom chocolate layer in this mold ends up with a fun imprinted design.

Peppermint bark is simply layers of dark and white chocolate flavored with peppermint extract and sprinkled with crushed candy canes between the layers and on the top.

I like to use very finely crushed candy canes (the “dust” that you get when you crush them) in between the layers, and the more coarsely chopped candy canes on the top layer.

Peppermint Bark 2

Let harden in the mold and pop them out for a fun treat. Or an easy, no-bake gift.

RECIPE:

Peppermint Bark 1

Peppermint Bark Snowflakes

8-10 candy canes
8oz dark melting chocolate
8oz white melting chocolate
1/2 tsp peppermint extract, divided

Crush candy canes in a Ziploc bag or bowl. Reserve the larger pieces of crushed candy canes to use on the top of the peppermint bark.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt dark chocolate in the microwave. Stir in 1/4 tsp peppermint extract. Spoon into a Ziploc bag. Cut off a small corner and use bag to pipe chocolate into 12 silicone snowflake molds. Use a toothpick, if necessary to smooth chocolate into crevices of molds. Sprinkle top of melted dark chocolate with finely crushed candy canes. Let dark chocolate harden for about 20 minutes in the refrigerator before adding white layer.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt white chocolate in the microwave. Stir in 1/4 tsp peppermint extract. Spoon into a Ziploc bag. Cut off a small corner and use bag to pipe white chocolate over the dark chocolate. Use a toothpick to spread to the edges of the mold. Sprinkle with the more coarsely chopped candy cane pieces. Let bark harden completely. Pop out of molds and store at room temperature.

If you are not using molds, spread layers of dark and white chocolate onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or non-stick foil. Let harden and break into large pieces.

Makes 12 snowflakes

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Homemade Peppermint Swirl Marshmallows

Peppermint Marshmallows 1

DAY 7: Peppermint Swirl Marshmallows

Now that you have Hot Cocoa Mix, it is time to step up your Marshmallow game (I shouldn’t write in the middle of BYU basketball games; sports analogies are not really my thing). But in all seriousness, save the bag of Jet Puff for making Rice Krispies treats, and make yourself (and friends) homemade flavored marshmallows this year.

These marshmallows are peppermint flavored with a fun swirl.

Marshmallows are a fairly easy candy to make. Much more forgiving than caramels, no tempering like chocolate. In fact, it is the mixer that does most of the work for you. But the powdered sugar coating does tend to make a bit of a mess. You will also need a stand mixer (or a lot of arm strength with your hand mixer) and a candy thermometer.

Once the marshmallows have set overnight, you can easily cut them into squares, or use cookie cutters to make fun shapes.

Hot Cocoa Mix 1

RECIPE:

Peppermint Marshmallows 1

Peppermint Swirl Marshmallows
———-(adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

⅔ cup powdered sugar
⅓ cup cornstarch
1 ½ cups cold water, divided
3 packets unflavored gelatin (about 2 ½ Tbs)
¼ tsp salt
⅔ cup light corn syrup
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
scant ½ tsp peppermint extract
2-3 drops red food coloring

Line a 9×13” pan with nonstick foil (or spray regular foil lightly with cooking spray). Set aside

In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and cornstarch; set aside.

Pour 3/4 cup of the cold water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let stand until the gelatin becomes very firm, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with salt.

In a small saucepan, mix the remaining 3/4 cup water and the corn syrup. Pour the sugar into the center of the saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, gently swirling the pan, until the sugar has dissolved completely and the mixture reaches 240°F, about 10-15 minutes.

Carefully pour the hot syrup into the center of the mixer bowl with the softened gelatin, avoiding the sides of the bowl as much as possible. Using the whisk attachment, turn mixer onto low speed. Gradually increase the speed to high and whip until the mixture is very thick and stiff, about 7 – 10 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and peppermint extract and mix until well blended. Turn off mixer and place 2 –3 drops of red food coloring on top of the whipped mixture (space drops evenly throughout the bowl). Pulse 2 or 3 times until gently swirled. Do not overmix, or you will just have pink marshmallows.

Working quickly, scrape the mixture into the oiled pan using an oiled spatula. Smooth the top into an even layer. Sift 2 Tbs of the powdered sugar mixture over the pan. Cover and let sit overnight at room temperature.

The next day, turn the marshmallow slab out onto a cutting board and peel off the foil. Sift 2 tablespoons of the powdered sugar mixture over the slab of marshmallows. Using a sharp knife that has been rubbed with oil, cut into 1-inch  square marshmallows. Or use cookie cutters to make fun shapes. (If you are using cookie cutters and don’t want them to be 1” tall, then spread soft marshmallow mixture into a foil lined half-sheet baking pan before letting them set overnight.)

Place the remaining powdered sugar mixture in a large Ziploc bag. Working with 3 or 4 marshmallows at a time, toss the marshmallows in the bag with the powdered sugar mixture, then toss in a fine-mesh strainer to remove any excess powder.

Marshmallows can be stored in an airtight container or bag for up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 90 square marshmallows

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