ANNOUNCING: Change is part of life, and apparently, it's part of blogging, too. As of September 5, 2013, I'm merging The Virtual Goody Plate with Disco Mom Takes on the World and whatever else may henceforth spill from my fingertips (and kitchen), into one great new blog. I hope you'll join me there in exclaiming, "THIS IS AWESOMELAND."

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Soft and Chewy Dinner Rolls

 It was funny.  We took these to a dinner party (this one), and one of the guests, my friend's husband, asked, "Did you make these from scratch?"
"Yeah," I said.
"Like from frozen dough or from scratch scratch?"
"Scratch scratch."
"Like from flour and yeast and water, scratch."
"Whoa. Wow."

Yes, these are that impressive.  Pretty much exactly like Rhodes frozen rolls except more awesome and from scratch scratch.  They go with everything.  And they please everyone.  I tripled the recipe and there wasn't a single one left. 
Soft and Chewy Dinner Rolls (print recipe)
Makes 12 rolls

1 1/4 cups water, heated to 110 degrees
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup instant potato flakes
2 1/4 tsp rapid-rise or instant yeast
2 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten

1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position.  Heat oven to 200 degrees and turn it off.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Grease large, clear, straight-sided container.

2.  Whisk water, oil, and sugar in a large liquid measuring cup until sugar dissolves.  In bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook, mix flour, potato flakes, yeast, and 1 1/2 tsp salt until combined.  With mixer on low, slowly add water mixture and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute.  Increase speed to medium and mix until dough is smooth and comes away from sides of bowl, about 6 minutes. 

3.  Turn dough onto lightly floured counter and knead briefly to form smooth, cohesive ball.  Transfer dough to prepared container and turn to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

4.  Gently press down on dough on lightly floured counter.  Divide dough into quarters and cut each quarter into 3 equal pieces.  Form each piece into a rough ball by pinching and pulling dough edges under so that top is smooth.  On clean counter, cup each ball with your palm and roll into smooth, tight ball.  Transfer to prepared baking sheet.  Cover loosely with plastic and let rest in turned-off oven until doubled in size, about 20 minutes.  (Unbaked, formed rolls can be refrigerated up to 24 hours.)

5.  Remove unbaked rolls from oven and discard plastic.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Brush rolls with egg and sprinkle evenly with remaining salt.  Bake until golden brown and 200 degrees in the middle, about 15 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking.  Cool rolls on sheet 10 minutes.  Serve.
Recipe from Cook's Country, April/May 2011

1 year ago:  Frozen Pistachio Pie
2 years ago:  Marvelous Marble Cream Cheese-and-Chocolate Muffins
3 years ago:  Pita Bread

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dessert Club - Ingredient Exchange

 Remember way, way back last month, we did a white elephant ingredient gift exchange.  Everyone brought a wrapped, <$10, nonperishable ingredient.  We drew numbers, and opened gifts, or stole them, in that order.  So fun.  Exciting, to see what everyone got.

The only thing more exciting was seeing what we made with them!  Creativity truly abounded.  Cookies.  Bonbons. Whoopie pies.  Breads.  And more than one cheesecake, which no one minded at all.

Double Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding (mine)
Ingredient: Ghiradelli dark and white chocolate bars
 I simply took my FAVORITE bread pudding, which I've had a lot lately because I made it for both Christmas and New Year's, and unfortunately I never get sick of, and used half dark chocolate, half white.  I had the one serving of leftovers a few mornings later for breakfast, warmed up.  Best comfort food EVER.

Banana Split Truffles
Ingredient: Thai Banana Flavoring
 As usual, we had a really tight vote.  One two-way tie, and another second-place two-way tie.  These were one of the close second place contenders - they actually tasted like a banana split!  Amazing!

Cinna-bon Cheesecake
Ingredient: cinnamon chips

Hazelnut Shortbread
Ingredient: toasted hazelnut flour 
 The other very close contender for second place - I LOVED these cookies!

Ban-offee Whoopie Pies
Ingredient: dulce de leche

Spiced Pineapple Tart-Brioche
Ingredient: pineapple juice powder 

Coconut Cheesecake with White Chocolate Crunch
Ingredients: coconut sugar, roasted coconut chips, white chocolate pearls 

White Chocolate Apricot Bars
Ingredient: fiori di sicilia 

And now we come to the winners.  After 2 1/2 years of Dessert Club, I'm finally resigned to the fact that we have more ties that not.  So sometimes I'll have two prizes, just to avoid the constant tiresome tie-breaking.  Both of these were decidedly deserving, and basically totally perfect in every way.  Not to mention impressively creative in how they interpreted and used their ingredient.

Russian Rose Bread
Ingredient: marshmallow hot chocolate mix
 You would not believe how amazing this bread tastes, especially since you are so staring at how amazing it looks.  Apparently, it's "easy" to make.  I will get that recipe and post it for you; we can all be the judge.

Marscapone Cheesecake with Balsamic Strawberries
Ingredient: frozen hand-picked strawberries
 Also extremely amazing - I cannot wait to make this myself.  But I think I can wait a few weeks, at least, before eating more cheesecake.  Whew!  It was a rich, but delicious, night.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cinnamon Baked Doughnuts

 One of the several important and exciting cookbooks I got for Christmas was Barefoot Contessa Foolproof.  As you might guess, Ina and her team have put together a gorgeously laid out, impeccably photographed collection of edibles that I can only look forward to delving among.  Although I can hardly stand to watch her show, with her massive estate, sprawling herb garden, nonstop collection of stylish friends and charming shops, and not to mention her stickly sweet adoration for husband Jeffrey, I will gladly give Ina Garten this: her food rocks. 

As do her "10 foolproof tips for cooking", on page 21.  In fact, most of her tips were already my tips, learned the hard way of course.  Like #9 Don't walk away from something simmering on the stove.  While you're not looking, liquids can boil over or evaporate and ruin a perfectly good dish.  Don't I know it.  Or #1 Read the entire recipe before you start cooking.  You don't want to discover the beans need to soak overnight when guests are due to arrive in an hour.  Do people really still soak beans?  Anyway. 

Luckily, what we have here is a straightforward (dare I say foolproof?) baked doughnut recipe, that requires neither stove simmering nor bean soaking.  You don't even really have to read it ahead...though don't tell Ina I said so!
Cinnamon Baked Doughnuts (print recipe)
Makes 18 doughnuts

Baking spray with flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten (seriously Ina?  I used a large egg)
1 1/4 cups whole milk
2 T unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

8 T unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 2 doughnut pans well.

2.  Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, melted butter, and vanilla.  Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined. 

3.  You can spoon the batter into the baking pans, filling each a little more than three-quarters full, but I find it much easier to pipe it into the doughnut wells, using either a piping bag or a gallon Ziploc with the corner snipped off.  Better batter control.  Bake for 17 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then tap the doughnuts out onto a sheet pan.

4.  For the topping, melt the 8 tablespoons of butter in an 8-inch saute pan or in a wide mouth bowl in the microwave.  Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Dip each doughnut first in the butter and then in the cinnamon sugar, either on one side or both sides.

Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof

1 year ago:  Frozen Pistachio Pie
2 years ago:  Chocolate Swirl Babka Bread
3 years ago:  Rainbow Cake

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rougemont Apple Pastry Cake

 I'm not a pastry snob, being a total amateur and all.  And actual pastries are an art, and a hard one.  But this relatively simple cake made me feel almost professional - check out that height!  And how about that pastry cream inside?  Fancy.  And that almost-perfect crust.  Thank you.

Never mind that, when I took this to a dinner party, and was asked what I had brought, I proudly replied, "Oh this?  It's a Rougemont Apple Pastry Cake."  He gave it a suspicious once-over, and sniffed.  "Well," he said, "I never met a pie I didn't like," and walked away, as if he had bestowed some form of acceptance, or approval.  Ahem.  Recover.  Smile graciously.  Keep it deep inside that it's not a pie.  It's a pastry cakeLike I said.

Me?  Nope, not a snob at all.
Rougemont Apple Pastry Cake (print recipe)
Makes 12 to 16 servings

Pastry Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 T sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
4 to 6 T ice water or half-and-half

Apple Filling:
10 to 12 large apples, cored, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup sugar
1 T cornstarch
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins, plumped and dried* (I used golden raisins)
1 T lemon juice

Vanilla Sauce:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 T all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Finishing Touches:
Confectioners' sugar
Apricot jam, warmed

1.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Brush bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform with melted butter and place on baking sheet.

2.  For Pastry Crust, place flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor.  Add butter and pulse to make a grainy mixture.  Add water and pulse to make a shaggy dough.  On a lightly floured work surface, gather dough together, kneading a few moments to make a smooth dough.  Wrap and chill dough at least 1 hour before rolling out.

3.  Meanwhile, for Apple Filling, toss apples with sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, raisins, and lemon juice.

4.  Preheat oven to 350.  Roll or press out dough evenly and fit on bottom and sides of prepared pan (dough should be between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick.)  Fill with Apple Filling, pressing gently.  For final layer of apples, arrange in concentric circles.  Apples should come to top of pan.  If they don't, prepare more to fill out the pan, tossing with 2 T sugar and a touch of cinnamon.

5.  Cover pan lightly with aluminum foil.  Bake cake 60 to 70 minutes or until apples are soft, removing foil after 20 minutes.  The top apples might seem dry and browned around their edges, but interior apples should begin to feel soft - use a skewer to test apples.

6.  For Vanilla Sauce, in a small bowl, blend melted butter, sugar, vanilla, eggs, flour, and cinnamon.  Pour this over hot pastry cake, trying to get sauce to drip into crevices.  Bake another 20 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

7.  Refrigerate pastry cake at least 6 hours or preferably overnight.  Dust with confectioners' sugar or brush with warmed apricot jam before serving.

*I usually don't bother to plump my dried fruit, but if you want to, cover the fruit with very hot water and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes; drain and pat dry with paper towels before using in a recipe.
Recipe from A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman

1 year ago:  Doughnut Upside Down Cake
2 years ago:  My First Fudge
3 years ago:  White Chocolate Macadamia Muffins

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Double Chocolate Cookies

I made these a long time ago - early last year, I think.  One of those recipes that just never got typed up but is totally worth repeating, and therefore keeping.  Crispy-chewy and surprisingly complex.  Buttery and chocolatey.  Dress them up, dress them down.  It's hard to beat a cookie like this.

Double Chocolate Cookies (print recipe)
Makes about 3 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 ounces milk chocolate
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

1.  Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-size bowl.

2.  Coarsely chop 6 ounces of the chocolate, and finely chop the remaining 6 ounces.  Microwave coarsely chopped chocolate with butter for 1 minute, stirring halfway through.  Microwave an additional 15 seconds if necessary; stir until smooth.

3.  Transfer chocolate mixture to bowl of an electric mixer and add sugars, eggs and vanilla; beat until well combined.  Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in remaining finely chopped chocolate pieces.

4.  Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough onto ungreased baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.

5.  Bake at 375 for 9 to 11 minutes or until set.  Let the cookies cool on baking sheet on a wire rack for 2 minutes.  Transfer the cookies to rack; let cool completely.

Recipe from Family Circle, February 2011

1 year ago:  Dessert Club - "Gadgets"
2 years ago:  Pistachio-Raspberry Tea Cakes
3 years ago:  Peanut Butter Melts

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cranberry Curd

 I think my jaw literally dropped when I turned to page 108 of December's Cooking Light, and saw a Mason jar full of delectably smooth, Christmas-red cranberry curd, with the subtitle, "share this tangy treat."  Or don't, and eat the entire contents with my fingers!

The recipe looked simple, and make-ahead, which made her perfect for one of my Christmas Eve appetizers!  We served her with cream cheese and baguette slices, and she was definitely the belle of the ball.  I don't think I've ever genderized a recipe before, but this one, definitely a lady.  Not only gorgeous and delicious, but thoughtful!  The curd is thick and smooth like a cream, but also tart and low in fat (see nutritional info below) - so perfect for starting off a new year! 

We used up the whole batch on bread, but CL suggests this is also excellent swirled into Greek yogurt or oatmeal.  Guess I'll just have to make some more.
 Cranberry Curd (print recipe)
Makes 2 1/2 cups

1/2 cup water
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 T unsalted butter, softened
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 T cranberry juice or Grand Marnier

1.  Combine water, lemon juice, and cranberries in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes or until cranberries pop.  Place cranberry mixture in a food processor; process until smooth.  Strain cranberry mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids.  (Mine was too thick to strain, so I just used it all.  Solids were pretty well processed.)

2.  Combine sugars and butter in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined (yum.)  Add egg yolks and egg, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in cranberry mixture, cornstarch, and salt.
 Place mixture in the top of a double boiler.  Cook over simmering water until a thermometer registers 160 degrees and mixture thickens (about 10 minutes), stirring frequently.  Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes.  Stir in juice/liqueur.  Cover and refrigerate up to 1 week.
Hazel was quite the kitchen helper over winter break!
Per 2 tablespoons: Cal 67; Fat 1.9g; Prot 0.7g; Carb 12.1g; Fib 0.8g; Chol 35g; Iron 0.2mg; Sod 20mg; Calc 8mg

Recipe from Cooking Light, December 2012

1 year ago:  Chocolate Clementine Cake with Hot Chocolate Sauce
2 years ago:  Seriously Real Instant Hot Chocolate
3 years ago:  Irish Oatmeal

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chocolate-Cherry Cookies with Hazelnuts

 These little biscuits are unbelievable.  And, one my current favorite recipe features, quick and easy.  No batches in and out of the oven.  No wasted space on the baking sheet.  These darlings cook in one big corner-to-corner cookie, which you later slice into diamonds with your pizza wheel, but not before melting and spreading a boatload of chocolate on them, and sprinkling with toasted hazelnuts.  YUUUUUUUUM!

"But, Kari," you say, "your cookies aren't diamond-shaped!"  And that would be because I took geometry in the summer of 1989 - yes, summer school, to get a year ahead in math, and because the guy I liked was in summer school that year and I could ride the same bus as him, and it was sooo worth it - and haven't used a lick of it since.  I thought, Diamonds.  That means go diagonal.  So I went diagonal.  In both directions.  And ended up with squares.  Not very even ones, either.  Turns out, to get diamonds you have to go straight in one direction and diagonal in the other.  Thank you, summer school. 

Chocolate-Cherry Cookies with Hazelnuts (print recipe)
Makes about 50

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped dried cherries
3/4 cup (5 1/2 ounces) superfine sugar
1/4 tsp salt
16 T unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into sixteen 1/2-inch pieces
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 T cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and chopped

1.  Place an oven rack in the lower-middle position and preheat to 375 degrees.  Line an 18" x 12" baking sheet with parchment paper. 

2.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flour, cherries, sugar, and salt at low speed until combined, about 5 seconds.  With the mixer running on low, add the butter 1 piece at a time; continue to mix until the mixture looks crumbly and slightly wet, about 1 minute longer.  Add the vanilla and cream cheese and mix on low until the dough just begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds.

3.  Press the dough in an even layer into the parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

4.  Immediately after removing the baking sheet from the oven, sprinkle evenly with the chocolate chips; let stand to melt, about 3 minutes.
 5.  Use an offset icing spatula to spread the chocolate into an even layer, then sprinkle evenly with the chopped hazelnuts.  Cool on a wire rack until just warm, 15 to 20 minutes.

6.  Use a pizza wheel to cut the cookies into 1 1/4-inch diamonds - this is done by cutting strips straight in one direction, and diagonally in the other.  Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Baking Illustrated: The Practical Kitchen Companion for the Home Baker

1 year ago:  Cranberry Lime Scones
2 years ago:  Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake and Frosting
3 years ago:  Blue Blueberry Muffins

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mint Chocolate Popcorn

I hope you have already had the distinct pleasure of encountering those pink-and-white peppermint marshmallows they sell around Christmastime.  They make seriously delightful rice crispy treats, add minty fun-lovin' to a mug of chocolate, and, at least at our house, are very persuasive when it comes to bribes.
 This year, I actually flipped the bag over, to discover an intriguing and super easy recipe for peppermint chocolate popcorn, which we immediately made and took to a big post-Thanksgiving family party.  Dang good, people.  Tiny bit of salt, lots of marshmallow and chocolate, with the trademark crispy crunch you always want from a popcorn snack.  When melted with chocolate, I have to say, the mallow mint is very subtle, but with a dash of peppermint extract, equilibrium is restored.

Mint Chocolate Popcorn (print recipe)
Makes about 12 cups

1/2 tsp salt, divided
12 cups warm air popped popcorn
4 oz. semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup unsalted butter
40 Jet-Puffed Mini Peppermint Mallows
1/4 to 1/2 tsp peppermint extract, optional

1.  Heat oven to 275 degrees.  Sprinkle 1/4 tsp salt over popcorn in a large bowl; toss to coat.  Set aside.

2.  Melt chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan on low heat, stirring frequently.  Add marshmallows; stir until completely melted.  Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1/4 tsp salt and peppermint extract, if using.

3.  Pour chocolate over popcorn; toss to coat well.  Spread onto a greased baking sheets.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until crisp, stirring after 15 minutes.  Cool on wax paper.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Recipe from the back of the peppermint marshmallow bag

1 year ago:  Sticky Toffee Pudding

Monday, January 7, 2013

Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread

I should start a new tag/label called "Classics" - the important basics everyone needs at least one good recipe for.  Lemon BarsChocolate CakeCinnamon Rolls.  Whole Wheat Bread - that's what kind of recipe this is.  Homemade wheat bread is comforting beyond description.  Ed tells stories of coming home from school as a teenager on baking day:

"Mom baked bread twice a month - she made 6 to 8 white, the same number of wheat.  My brothers and I would come home and there'd be fresh, hot bread - we'd slice it, slather with butter and jelly - the four of us easily demolished two loaves in one sitting.  Mom had to shoo us out to save some for the rest of the week."

That's what kind of bread this is.  I like to eat some warm, then toast it for breakfast the next few days.  I also like to pretend I'm a pioneer woman, turning out fresh bread for my kinsfolk, with creamy butter from the churn, and a pitcher of milk to dip it in.

Many "classic" bread recipes make 2 to 3 loaves, so please note: this makes one.  Obviously simple to multiply - might as well, if you're making one anyway.  And if you've got anyone like Ed in your family, you'll need to, just to get a slice, yourself.

Whole Wheat Bread (print recipe)

Makes 1 loaf

1 to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water*
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey, molasses, or maple syrup**
3 1/2 cups (14 ounces) King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour
2 1/2 tsp instant yeast, or 1 packet active dry yeast dissolved in 2 T of the water of the recipe
1/4 cup nonfat dried milk
1 1/4 tsp salt

*Use the greater amount in winter or in a dry climate; the lesser amount in summer or a humid climate

**I recommend honey or maple syrup, unless you really love molasses

1.  Mix and knead all of the ingredients together to make a soft, supple dough.  Adjust the dough's consistency with additional water or flour, if necessary.

2.  Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or large measuring cup, cover it, and allow it to rise until it's puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours.

3.  Shape the dough into an 8" log.  Place the log in a lightly greased 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan, cover the pan loosely, and allow the bread to rise for about 1 to 2 hours, or until the center ahs crowned about 1" above the rim of the pan.

4.  Bake the break in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil after 20 minutes to prevent over-browning.  The finished loaf will register 190 degrees on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center.

5.  Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.  If desired, rube the crust with a stick of butter; this will yield a soft, flavorful crust.  Hello.

Recipe from King Arthur Flour

1 year ago:  Parker-Parker House Rolls
2 years ago:  Pound Cake Cupcakes with Lemon-Lime Glaze
3 years ago:  Texas Sheet Cake

Friday, January 4, 2013

Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

Went and got me some Vanilla Bean Paste, that's what I did.  And I plan to use it every single chance I get.  I think it's fancy, and supremely delicious, and gives you vanilla bean flecks in a vanilla extract syrup, with none of the vanilla bean scraping work.  It even says on the bottle, Finest Quality. 
You can get such Fine Quality on Amazon for a pretty penny (plus shipping.)  Or Sur La Table.  Or CHEFS.  Or, if you're lucky, like me, to live near a Home Goods store, you can just browse their gourmet aisle and pick yourself up a bottle or two for just $5.99 each (plus tax.)  Love it.

My VBP's maiden recipe was this super awesome springy, bouncy, perfect marshmallow.  I made it in a jelly roll pan, then used an oiled pizza cutter to cut it into thin strips one way, then mini marshmallows the other way.  They went with my hot chocolate stir stick bar at the church Christmas party.  Good thing I like those people so much.  Not that the marshmallow was that much work; it really wasn't.  But I used a whole tablespoon of my precious VBP, and I wouldn't do that for just anyone.

Vanilla Bean Marshmallows (print recipe)
Makes 96 1-inch cubed marshmallows or about a gazillion minis

About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar plus 3 T cornstarch
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar (cane sugar worked just fine)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites or reconstituted powdered egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract (alternately: 1/2 of a scraped vanilla bean, 2 teaspoons almond or mint extract or maybe even some food coloring for tinting)

1.  Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners’ sugar mixed with cornstarch.  If you want to make mini marshmallows, use a jelly roll pan so the marshmallow will spread out and be shorter.

2.  In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water, and let stand to soften.  It will become a gelatinous mass, and may fascinate your science-minded children.

3.  In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

4.  With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer.

5.  In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat egg whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla (or your choice of flavoring) into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and don’t fret if you don’t get it all out (learning from my mess of a first round). Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.

6.  Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. An oiled pizza cutter works great for this, especially if you are making mini mallows.  Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar/cornstarch mixture back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.  Or you can shake them in a plastic bag. 

Do ahead: Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.

Sorry no pictures of the finished mini marshmallows - we cut them and ran to the party, no time for a photo shoot.  And of course, there were none leftover.

Recipe adapted from Gourmet, December 1998 by Smitten Kitchen

1 year ago:  Crazy Good Cinnamon Quick-ish Bread
2 years ago:  White Chocolate and Vanilla Bread Pudding
3 years ago: The Christmas Haul

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hot Chocolate Stir Sticks

Let's start 2013 off with a recipe I may have made more than any other in 2012. 

I made about 200 of these for our church's Christmas party in December, then helped stir and ladle hot milk from the stove all night, so everyone could have made-to-order hot chocolate.  When you put me in charge of the cocoa bar, you're not going to get Swiss Miss. 

Cutest mug ever, right? 

I didn't invent the whole idea, but it did evolve.  First, I thought of those chocolate-covered spoons you stir into coffee, but I didn't think it would be enough chocolate for a good 8-oz. cup of cocoa.  I hunted around food blogs for awhile, and came up with a few renditions to try - the first was just chocolate, but it bloomed within hours, and I needed something that could keep.  (And there was no way I was tempering chocolate for this quantity.)  The next one I tried was too fudgy, and fell off the stick at room temperature (but still made good hot chocolate.)  We drank a lot of cocoa at our house those first weeks of December.  Our counter became lined with Tupperware of chocolate experiments, and Poppy came to ask regularly if she could taste one of my "speriments." 

 Eventually I settled on a simple ganache, with half the cream, so it would stay just solid at room temperature, but still melt into a creamy mug.  Don't mind if I say so myself, they were the hit of the party.

Hot Chocolate Stir Sticks (print recipe)
Makes 12

12 oz. chocolate chips or other semisweet/dark chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 T cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
12 lollipop sticks
Cooking spray

1.  Melt chocolate and cream in microwave, for 20-30 seconds at a time, until chocolate is just melted; stir until smooth.  Add cocoa powder and stir in.  Add any flavorings you want, like 1/2 tsp peppermint extract or 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon.  Or leave plain chocolate.

2.  Spray a 12-well ice cube tray with cooking spray and dust thoroughly with cocoa powder.  Scoop chocolate mixture into a piping bag or gallon Ziploc and snip off the corner.  Pipe chocolate into the tray cups.  Stick a lollipop stick into the center of each one, giving it a twist as it goes in, to make sure the chocolate attaches.  Sprinkle anything on top that you want, like jimmies, nonpareils, coarse sugar, etc.  Or leave plain chocolate.  Chill for a at least 1 hour in the fridge.

3.  To remove chocolate from ice cube tray, twist the tray a bit like when you are getting ice out.  Place upright and gently wiggle sticks out.  If they don't come easily, run the underside of the tray under hot water for a few seconds and try again.  They should come out easily after that.  Store in refrigerator for a few days or at room temperature for a few hours.

4.  To make hot chocolate, heat 8 ounces milk in microwave or on stovetop, until steaming but not boiling.  It needs to be pretty hot.  Place stir stick in, and stir until chocolate dissolves to make one freaking decadent cup of cocoa.  Top with nutmeg, cinnamon, whipped cream, and/or marshmallows. 

- To make peppermint stir sticks, I added 1/2 tsp peppermint extract and a handful of crushed candy canes to the chocolate after it was melted but before piping into the molds. 
- To make salted caramel, I piped a big blob of dulce de leche on top of each chocolate cube, and sprinkled with a pinch of flaked salt just before serving. 

1 year ago:  Easy Pretzel Fudge
2 years ago:  Gearing Up for 2011
3 years ago:  Yeasted Lemon Poppy Seed Bread with Nutmeg Butter

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