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Monday, December 17, 2007

peppermint bark

It’s so easy that there’s hardly any point in posting a “recipe” for this, but it’s so good that it’s worth pointing out: two layers of melted chocolate topped with crushed candy canes makes a yummy brittle candy that’s difficult not to finish in one sitting.

Start with good dark and white chocolate. You want enough for about one cup of each, whether that’s in chips or shavings. I used a pound each of Callebaut semi-sweet and white chocolate (sold in one-pound blocks at Whole Foods), chopped with a knife into chunks no bigger than about half an inch. Since you’ll be eating it pretty much straight, better quality chocolate corresponds directly to a better final product.
Melt the dark chocolate chunks. Use a fancy double boiler if you like, but honestly, it’s just as well to use Pyrex in the microwave. Melt it one minute at a time at 60% or 70% power, stirring just enough to determine how smooth it is. After two or three rounds in the microwave, it should be very smooth. Add in about a 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract.

Pour the melted dark chocolate into a nine-by-thirteen pan lined with parchment paper. The paper is a little clumsier than foil, but it won’t try to stick to your candy when you try to break it apart. Use a spoon that hasn’t been in your seared mouth to spread it into a thin, even layer across the bottom of the lined pan.

While the dark layer cools and hardens, put 12 peppermint candy canes in a plastic bag and smash them up with a mallet, a heavy glass measuring cup, or a saucepan. You’ll get a fine powder quite easily, but you don’t want to pulverize everything. Stop when the largest pieces are about the size of Chiclets.

For white chocolate, 60% power and a minute at a time should get it melted in about two minutes. White chocolate melts more quickly than dark chocolate, and it also burns more easily. If two minutes in the microwave doesn’t do it, keep trying in fifteen-second increments. It won’t take long..

By now, the dark chocolate should be solid enough in the pan not to mix up with the white chocolate. Pour the white chocolate on top of the dark chocolate as evenly as you can. Spread it gently until it covers the dark chocolate completely.

When the white chocolate is laid out in the pan, you can decide for yourself how to apply the peppermint candy. One approach would be to use a strainer to sift the finest of the candy cane dust onto the top of the chocolate. Another would be to sift the fine particles into something else, then lightly apply only the larger pieces of candy to the chocolate. You could also sift the dust into a bowl, put on the bigger pieces, and then sprinkle the dust over everything. I actually sift the dust onto the chocolate first, and then put the candy on top of that, because it’s the easiest.

If you use the bigger pieces at all, you’ll want to push them slightly into the white chocolate with the back of a metal spoon to be sure they stick. If you don’t, they’ll shake off when you break the candy apart later.

Once everything is in the pan, put the pan into the fridge. In an hour or two, pull it out! Lift the candy from the pan by the paper and break it down into small pieces with your hands. As you snap it into bite-size chunks, lay them neatly into a quaint old-fashioned glass jar. When the jar is full, put a pretty ribbon on it and present it to your grandmother. The remainder you can shove directly into your own face.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

monkey bread

last night i went to a holiday party with my niece. we made her famous monkey bread. when we made the second batch, i felt like i was doing a food network tv show. i was explaining each step to some of the women that were at the party and wanted to know how to make it. it was hilarous.

monkey bread

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 containers of pillsbury grands butter flavored dinner rolls
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

preheat oven to 400 degrees

mix white sugar and cinnamon in zip-loc bag
cut dinner rolls into quarters and toss in cinnamon sugar mixture
pile up in bundt pan

in small sauce pan melt butter, once completely melted add in brown sugar and stir until mixed. let it bubble away until it is nearly carmelized. pour over rolls in bundt pan. bake for 40 minutes in 400 degree oven. take out and turn over onto serving tray. let it cool for about 10 minutes before serving as the carmalized sugar will be VERY hot.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Nutty Brittle

Nutty Brittle
Adapted from Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Gift Goodies Show
Aluminum foil
Non-stick cooking spray
24 soft caramel candies, unwrapped
3/4 cup toffee peanuts
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. Spray foil with cooking spray and place pan in warm oven. Spray a heavy small saucepan with cooking spray. Add caramels and stir over low heat until melted. Stir in toffee peanuts and continue stirring for a couple minutes. Spray a dull knife or metal off-set spatula with cooking spray. Remove pan from oven and then quickly spread caramel-peanut mixture over prepared pan. Cool completely; cover pan with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Break into bite-size pieces. Store in refrigerator.