dulcis serenus

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Day off October 17, 2013

Filed under: cake decorating,candy,cookies,novelty,nuts,white chocolate — dulcisserenus @ 2:09 am
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Occasionally I spend my day off baking, and my favorite of baking-days-off are spent with the Purma twins. They’re three, and amazing! Today we made Halloween bark and ghosts out of paper plates. It was an awesome afternoon. (Sorry for any fuzzy picture: the twins seem to never stop moving)

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Caramel Corn September 10, 2011

So, I’ve been out of contact for a while and, for that, I am sorry.  I’ve had a busy couple of months with surprisingly little baking, until now.  We’ve moved again; we’re still in the wonderful city of Austin, but in a much better location, and I’m really loving our new house.  The kitchen is a little dated, but there is lots of counter space and, my favorite thing, a double oven, which I have been putting to good use the last couple of days.  Our friends have twins and tomorrow is the little ones’ first birthday party.  I am super excited about this as their mother and I have been diligently meeting, planning, and crafting for the past three weeks or so.  (I must say that my Cricut machine has been put to very good use.)  It is going to be amazingly adorable, and I get to make almost all of the baked goods!  Everyone refers to the twins as “The Peanuts” so the majority of the food at this birthday extravaganza is going to involve peanuts, including this amazing Caramel Corn.

Here’s what you need:

7 cups plain popcorn, popped

2 cups peanuts

2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 tsp salt

1 cup unsalted butter

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

Here’s what you do:

Place the popped popcorn into two greased baking pans.  I used disposable roasting pans.  Add the peanuts to the popcorn.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.  Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Bring to boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes while stirring constantly.

Remove the caramel mixture from the heat, and stir in the baking soda and vanilla.  The mixture will become lighter and foamy.  Immediately pour over the popcorn in the pans, and stir to coat.  Don’t worry about getting all of the corn coated; the caramel will spread out as you bake and stir it.

Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Line your counter top with waxed paper.  Pour the caramel corn out onto the waxed paper and separate the pieces.  Allow to cool completely, then store in airtight containers.

 

A Thank You and Some Homemade S’mores April 11, 2011

As I’m sure you remember, on March 30th I contributed to an online bake sale that was being organized by Sabrina over at The Tomato Tart to benefit earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis victims in Japan.  Despite some technical difficulties with her site on the day of the bake sale, we still managed to not only meet the goal that Sabrina set, but triple it!  Every single item sold and the Online Bake Sale for Japan managed to raise $8,269 to be donated to Second Harvest Japan!  Raising this amount of money is truly amazing.  I’m completely overwhelmed by the charity of others; everyone who participated, from the bakers to the bidders, contributed to the success of this bake sale and I am truly thankful for having been a part of it.  That being said, if you bid on something for the bake sale and did not win, you can still donate to the cause.  Sabrina set up a fundraising site over at Give Forward that will continue to raise money until June 10th.  She has set a new goal of $10,000.  Anything you could spare would be greatly appreciated as Second Harvest Japan will contribute $1,000 in food for every $100 donated.  That means if we manage to raise $10,000, they will donate $100,000 worth of food, which is a staggering amount.

I would like to thank everyone who bid, especially Angele, Karen E., Julie, Karen S., Tali, Kim, and Rose for their winning bids.  Thank you ladies for contributing to a good cause!  I will be sending out your sweet treats soon.  If you were one of my winning bidders and don’t see your name here, that’s because Sabrina hasn’t received your paypal yet.  Be sure to send it soon or contact Sabrina at bakesale@thetomatotart.com.

So, that was the Thank You, now on to the S’mores!

One of the items that I contributed to the bake sale was Homemade S’mores.  Now, one could argue that all s’mores are homemade, but I deem these “homemade” because they start with the Homemade Marshmallows recipe from one of my favorite dessert cookbooks Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth.  I love this cookbook because it is filled with tons of goodies that truly live up to the title.  My only wish is that it had more pictures: I love a cookbook that has a picture to go with every recipe. After I made these for the first time, I decided that homemade marshmallows are a necessity in life; they are just so much better than store-bought.  They’re soft and pillowy and just slightly chewy, plus you can cut them into any shape you want.  (I prefer stars.)  Homemade S’mores are the most requested sweet from all of my friends: I make them for Christmas, birthdays, graduations, random Tuesdays, any occasion I can think of.  The marshmallow aspect of the S’mores is a bit labor intensive (you need to use a stand mixer because they have to beat for 15 minutes and the completed marshmallows have to set for 8-12 hours before cutting), but the time it takes is completely worth the end result.

Here’s what you need:

marshmallows:

1 cup cold water

3 Tbls unflavored gelatin

2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 tsp salt

2 Tbls vanilla

cornstarch and powdered sugar for dusting

s’mores:

graham crackers

chocolate almond bark

Here’s what you do:

Generously dust a large jelly roll pan with cornstarch and set a side.  If you prefer thicker marshmallows, use a 13×9 cake pan.  Pour 1/2 up cold water into the bowl of a stand mixture and sprinkle in the gelatin allowing it to absorb all of the water.  This will take about 45 minutes.

While gelatin is absorbing, combing the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a large saucepan.  Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.  Increase the heat to high and let the mixture come to a boil.  Cook the syrup, without stirring, until it reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove the syrup from the heat and slowly beat it into the dissolved gelatin with the whisk attachment on your stand mixer on low speed.  Increase the mixer to high and continue beating until the mixture is very thick and white but still warm, about 15 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla.  (You could use a handheld mixer, if you want, but 15 minutes is a long time.  Believe me I have tried.)

Pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan and smooth out with a spatula or your hands.  It works best if you spray your hands with cooking spray and slowly pat it out.  Dust the top with powdered sugar.

Let the marshmallows stand, uncovered at room temperature, for 8-12 hours to firm up.  Cut into squares or fun shapes.

In a glass bowl, melt 5 to 6 squares of chocolate almond bark according to microwave directions on package.

Line your work surface with waxed paper and prepare your graham crackers.

One at a time, dip the top of each graham cracker in the melted almond bark, lay chocolate-side-up on the waxed paper, and immediately place one marshmallow on top of the chocolate.  Let the s’mores cool until set and store in an air-tight container.

 

Bake Sale for Japan Contributions! March 23, 2011

I have finally decided what I will be contributing to the Online Bake Sale for Japan!  I thought I would give you a little sneak peak of my contributions with some info on each.  Recipes will follow shortly.  Be sure to check the site in the days leading up to the auction on the 30th to see all of the treats up for bid.

The first time I made this Whole Wheat Vegan Banana Bread I fell in love with it.  I now feel the need to make it about once a week.  Sometimes I even make two and store one in the freezer in case I’m having a banana bread emergency and just need to eat some…right now.  This bread is moist and slightly dense, as any good banana bread should be, and completely free of eggs and dairy.  (Two loaves available.)

If you love the crunch, crumble, and buttery goodness of shortbread cookies, but don’t eat dairy or eggs, these Vegan Shortbread Cookies are for you.  They get their buttery taste and flaky crumble from butter flavored vegetable shortening,  are completely egg and dairy free, and made with natural, raw sugar.  They’re especially good with a little jam on top!  You will receive 20 shortbreads in a decorative tin.

Jam is something I always have in my pantry.  It’s so very versatile.  I particularly love to use it to dress up cookies.  This Set of Four Jams would be a perfect addition to your pantry.  The flavors include: Strawberry Balsamic, Lemon Curd, Mango Cinnamon, and Blueberry Lime.  These jams have been canned and will last up to a year, but I expect they will be long gone before then.  Except for the Lemon Curd, they are egg and dairy free.  (Four sets available.)

Whenever an overwhelming urge to bake cookies starts to come over me, I make Blackberry Jam Thumbprints.  They are seriously delicious and everyone loves them.  They are soft, crumbly cookies with a sweet jam center.  The cookies are rolled in white sparkling sugar before baking to give them a little crunch.  These bite-sized cookies are so good I could easily eat a dozen in one sitting, so I am going to ship you three dozen in a decorative tin.

Homemade marshmallows are a necessity in life; they are just so much better than store-bought.  They’re soft and pillowy and just slightly chewy, plus they make the cutest S’mores!  Homemade S’mores are the most requested sweet from all of my friends.  I’ll be shipping a dozen of these in a decorative tin to ensure the marshmallows stay fresh.

 

 

Strawberry Balsamic Pie and a Pi Day Contest March 15, 2011

Pi, as we all know, is 3.14 and since yesterday was 3/14 that made it “Pi Day”.  I recently learned about the Serious Eats Pi Day Baking Contest and decided it was right up my alley.  After all, it’s just one more excuse to bake.  So, to celebrate Pi Day, I made this Strawberry Balsamic Pie and am entering it in the contest.  This is the first contest I have ever entered, and I am super excited about it!  Wouldn’t it be great if I won? (hint, hint)  You can vote for me starting March 20 (the day the contest closes for entries), if you would like to make my dreams come true…

This pie is amazing, by the way.  I love strawberries and balsamic vinegar; they are a perfect combination.  The balsamic gives the sweet, slightly tart strawberries a rounder flavor.  This pie filling also makes a great jam!

**Update: Unfortunately, I did not win any prizes in the Pi Day Contest, but I had tons of fun making this pie and it tasted so good that we devoured it in just two days.  Thanks to everyone for voting!**

Here’s what you need:

6 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced (2 cups reserved)

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 Tbls cornstarch

2 Tbls balsamic vinegar

roll-out pie crust, or homemade pie crust

Here’s what you do:

To make the filling, combine all of the ingredients (minus 2 cups reserved strawberries) in a large saucepan.  Cook over medium heat 12-14 minutes until it thickens and begins to boil, stirring occasionally.  Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Transfer mixture to a glass bowl and cool completely.  (At this point you could use an immersion blender to turn this into jam, if you didn’t want to make a pie.)  Stir in reserved strawberries.  This gives the pie better texture since the cooked strawberries get broken down by all that stirring.  Use all of your restraint at this point to not lick the spatula.  This filling is like molten lava and will seriously burn you!

Prepare pie plate by lining with one pie crust.  Fill crust with slightly cooled filling and bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes.  If the edges of the crust start to get too dark, cover with aluminum foil or a pie shield.

To make the pi top, cut out pi symbols from the remaining pie dough using a template.  I found a pi symbol that I liked online, printed it out, traced it onto cardboard, and cut out the symbols using and exacto knife.  This was a bit time consuming, but totally worth it.  Line the pi symbols up on a baking sheet, sprinkle with sugar, and bake 400 degrees for 6 minutes.  Once cool enough to handle, arrange the pi symbols in a decorative pattern on top of the baked pie.  You could use this same method for any design that you would like.  (Think: leaves in the fall, flowers in spring, the possibilities are endless.)

 

Marshmallow Candies February 24, 2011

Filed under: candy,caramel,marshmallows,novelty — dulcisserenus @ 9:35 pm
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Whenever I need a quick present, I make these Marshmallow Candies.  They are super simple, made with three ingredients, take about five minutes to create, and taste deceptively like doughnuts.  I make them, let them air dry for anywhere from ten minutes to an hour, and pack them up in gift bags or boxes.  I last made them at Christmas as part of the candy trays that I give out to all of my friends, but they’re so simple you could make them for any occasion.  I stole this recipe from my mom who used to make them every Christmas, but I changed the recipe slightly.  The original calls for melting down caramel candies with sweetened-condensed milk; I just use caramel apple dip.  The original caramel recipe sets up a bit more so they are not as messy, but the apple dip is much easier and I’m all for easy.

Here’s what you need:

1 bag large marshmallows (the kind you use for toasting to make smore’s)

1 16 ounce container caramel apple dip (I use Marzetti, but any will do)

about 4 cups puffed rice cereal

toothpicks

waxed paper

Here’s what you do:

Cover your work surface with waxed paper and lay out the marshmallows for easy access.  Place the cereal into a large bowl and set aside.  Heat up the caramel apple dip according to the directions on the package, then skewer one marshmallow with a toothpick to form a handle.  Dip the marshmallow about 3/4 of the way into the caramel and immediately roll in the cereal.  Place the marshmallow back on the waxed paper and remove the toothpick.  Repeat with the remaining marshmallows.  As the toothpick gets sticky, trade it out with a new one to make dipping easier.

Let them air dry for at least ten minutes before packaging, or stand at the counter and eat them off of the the waxed paper as I am prone to do.  Somehow this makes them even more delightfully sinful.

 

Because everyone loves a truffle… February 14, 2011

…and because it’s Valentine’s Day; I give you truffles cups.  I’ve been making truffles for Valentine’s Day for about eight years, now, and each year they have changed and evolved.  I used to make the traditional truffle, you know, dark chocolate ganache rolled into truffle-sized balls and covered in cocoa powder.  While those are lovely and delicious, they are also messy to make and eat.  So, I decided that I needed to find a better way to make the truffles I loved.  About five years ago I tried making truffles in cute, little heart-shaped molds.  They were gorgeous to look at, but took way too much time.  Finally, two years ago I had an epiphany: truffle cups!  Yes, truffle cups: mini muffin liners filled with chocolate-y goodness!  Why hadn’t I thought of this sooner?  They are easy to make, easy to eat, individually portioned, and most importantly, easy to fill with things.  Things like peanut butter, or bits of caramel, or raspberries…mmm…raspberries.  This year I made four different types of truffle cups: my standard Myan truffle (milk and semisweet chocolate flavored with cinnamon and cayenne), milk chocolate with sea salt, chocolate peanut butter (equal parts peanut butter and powdered sugar are a delectable little ball in the center), and White Chocolate Raspberry.  No matter which you choose to make, the process is the same and you won’t be able to eat just one.

Here’s what you need:

1 package white chocolate chips

half and half, about a 1/4 cup or so

24 raspberries

24 mini muffin liners

Here’s what you do:

Place a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water to make a double-boiler.  In the bowl place the white chocolate and a splash of half and half.  Mix to combine.  Melt the chocolate over low heat.  While waiting for the chocolate to melt, line a mini muffin tin with 24 liners.  Then, in each liner place one raspberry with the stem side down.

Once your chocolate is melted, slowly add more half and half.  About a tablespoon at a time, until you reach a thick but velvety consistency.  You want to be able to easily stir it, but when it falls back in ribbons, you want them to remain on the surface before settling back into the ganache.  This will be about 1/4 cup of half and half, but it depends on what type of chocolate you use.

Using two teaspoons, scoop the white chocolate ganache over the raspberries, just covering them.  As the ganache settles, the top of the raspberries will peak through just slightly.

Place completed truffle cups in the refrigerator until they are set, about an hour or so.

 

 
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