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:
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 FILLING 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.
Filed under Candy, Desserts
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
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
Filed under Candy, Desserts
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.
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.
Filed under Candy, Desserts