Category Archives: Confections and Candies

Marbled Peanut Butter Truffles

dipped 1Just in case you haven’t had enough chocolate or sugar by this point in December, I’m bringing you Marbled Peanut Butter Truffles. You’re welcome! what you'll needThis is an old recipe, from the December 1988 issue of Gourmet Magazine. It has stood the test of time. My girlfriend Marla and I would spend a weekend in my kitchen every December creating hundreds of these truffles for gifts. We kept it simple and just rolled them in cocoa powder. I have updated the recipe slightly, by dipping them in a mixture of bittersweet, milk and white chocolate to create a marbled coating.

Bittersweet chocolate, peanut butter, cream, and butter are melted together. melting_Chill for about 3-4 hours and then use a small scoop to form truffles. scoopingMelt bittersweet, milk and white chocolate. Get organized and set up the dipping station. ready to dipOnce you start, the dipping goes fairly quickly. Check it out in this video I created.

 

Click here to print recipe for Marbled Peanut Butter Chocolate Truffles.

dipped 2

 

 

 

 

Chicago Popcorn and Sleepovers

3 cones in glassMy youngest sister is a kindergarten teacher. I tell you this because it will help to explain the sentence that comes next. For my mom’s 82nd birthday, she organized a sleepover party. Mom’s 6 children, assorted spouses, and 14 grandchildren were all invited over to mom’s for the night, complete with pajamas and sleeping bags.mopmop with her grandchildrenSuch a momentous occasion called for an epic party snack. I knew immediately what I wanted to bring ….Chicago popcorn. In case you’ve never heard of it, Chicago popcorn is a mix of caramel corn and cheddar cheese popcorn.That sweet-salt combo is delicious and highly addictive.

I started with the cheddar popcorn first. Most of the recipes I found online called for a mixture of cheddar cheese powder, dried mustard and a pinch of cayenne. Melted butter was the instrument of choice for getting all that powder to stick. In the midst of all these similar recipes, there was one that stood out like a beacon, calling to me. It was the headline of this one that got my attention. “Alton’s convinced he’s “cracked the code” on the cheesy dust found on Cheetos.”

Cheetos are my guilty pleasure. But not all Cheetos are created equal. Alton Brown put it much more eloquently than I ever could, “The best flavor on earth is that of crunchy Cheetos. Not the regular ones. They’re crap. Just the crunchies.”

If Alton Brown could recreate that flavour to put on popcorn, I needed to learn the secret. cheddar ingredients 2The first ingredient is the requisite cheddar cheese powder, which you can buy at Bulk Barn, or online, or just rip open a bag of the powder that comes in the box of KD. In addition, Alton includes buttermilk powder, nutritional yeast and Kraft parmesan cheese (that stuff in the green can). Those last 2 ingredients are real umami bombs.popcorn in pot 2For the caramel corn, I started out with my favourite caramel corn recipe (minus the nuts).  When I tasted it with the cheddar popcorn, the texture was all wrong. It was way too hard. I did a quick online search and learned from Sally, that a tiny bit of baking soda added at the end of the cooking process will cause the mixture to foam up. This foam contains thousands of carbon dioxide bubbles. Once the caramel is poured over the popcorn and cooled, the trapped air bubbles create a softer texture. So you won’t break a tooth.

I slightly adapted the caramel corn recipe from the charming blog, Sally’s Baking Addiction.pouring caramel 2

Click here for recipe for Chicago Popcorn.

two cones with kernels 2

 

Healthy-ish Salted Almond Joy Bars

all dipped 2While these home-made almond joy bars aren’t exactly healthy, they are healthy-ish. It’s all a matter of degree. Consider the ingredients in a store bought Almond Joy:

Corn Syrup, Milk Chocolate (Milk Chocolate, Contains Sugar, Coca Butter, Chocolate, Milk, Lactose, Milk Fat, Nonfat Milk, Soy Lecithin, An Emulsifier), Coconut, Sugar, Almonds, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oils, Whey, Cocoa, Salt, Vanilla, Chocolate, Egg Whites, Soya Lecithin, and Sodium Metabisulfite, to Preserve Color.ingredientsThese simply contain unsweetened almond butter, unsweetened coconut, honey, coconut oil, vanilla bean paste and salt. They are finished with a thick coating of bittersweet chocolate and topped with whole toasted almonds and sea salt. This recipe is from the genius mind of Anna Jones. I am loving her new book, A Modern Way to Cookmix in a bowlspreading in panChill the mixture for about 45 minutes in the freezer before cutting into bars. Get your dipping station all set up. I was excited to use my chocolate dipping fork. I bought it over 30 years ago and it still thrills me every chance I get to use it. it makes me feel like a professional chocolatier. A regular fork works just as well for dipping. ready for dipping

 

all dippedThese satisfy your sugar craving without being cloyingly sweet. The hard shell of bittersweet chocolate yields to a chewy almond coconut filling.

Click here to print recipe for Healthy-ish Salted Almond Joy Bars.

on a bed of coconut

Mars Bars Rice Krispie Squares

6-squares I have been making these treats for many years now. I don’t even remember where the original recipe came from. Essentially, instead of marshmallows, you use melted Mars Bars (they are called Milky Way Bars in the U.S.) as the glue to hold everything together. I glammed them up with a blanket of bittersweet chocolate and a drizzle of milk chocolate to create a gorgeous marble patter . A sprinkling of coarse sea salt finishes off these addictive treats.tray-of-squaresI made a video showing how quickly these bars come together. I have been wanting to learn how to incorporate “stop motion animation” into my videos. Essentially, stop motion animation involves taking a photograph of your objects or characters, moving them slightly, and taking another photograph. When you play back the images consecutively, the objects or characters appear to move on their own. For each second of video footage, you need to shoot about 10 still photos. Check out the video I created. I used stop motion animation for the last 5 seconds of the video. I get so excited when I learn a new skill.

 

They are very fast to make and require no baking which is always a bonus at this time of year. They are a perfect hostess gift. Just be sure to tell your hosts that they don’t have to serve them if they have other desserts planned. Some folks are prickly about that. They would not appreciate an addition to their perfectly planned meal. Suggest they tuck them into the freezer for another day.

On the subject of perfect gifts to bring when you are a guest, I just got these fantastic new oven mitts. My old ones were terrycloth and had a hole burned in them. These are silicone on the outside but lined with padded cotton on the inside so they are so comfortable to wear. New oven mitts are something everyone can use but never remembers to buy.

Click here to print recipe for Mars-Bars-Rice-Krispie-Squares.

English Toffee

stack-of-toffee Sadly, I never met my father-in-law as he died before I met my husband, and my mother-in-law died shortly before we became engaged. But I lucked out with four brother-in-laws and and  one sister-in-law. My husband’s siblings welcomed me into the family with open arms and have always treated me as one of their own.

When I moved to Ottawa 25 years ago, I felt quite isolated after leaving all my family and friends behind in Toronto. My sister-in-law (who I am blessed to also call my friend), sent me regular care packages to ease my loneliness. The parcels almost always contained a box of Phipps Krunch, a delicious confection of crunchy caramel, roasted almonds and milk chocolate. Nothing like a heap of butter and sugar to fill the emotional void of sadness.

I was so excited to find a recipe for English Toffee in Bobbette and Belle’s new cookbook. It looked exactly like Phipps Krunch. I had to try my hand at making it.

Making toffee is not difficult. It just requires a candy thermometer and some patience. I love the chemistry of candy making. I feel like a magician when I turn simple ingredients like butter and sugar into something so glorious.

 

I was thrilled with the results. The buttery crunchy toffee is just on the edge of bitter, making it the perfect companion for  that blanket of dark chocolate. Nutty toasted almonds take this candy to the next level. Please do not forget to toast the nuts. Untoasted nuts are one of my biggest culinary pet peeves. They taste like sawdust. Toasting nuts is one of the simplest ways to improve the flavour profile of anything.

Just preheat oven to 350°F and place nuts on a baking sheet. Roast for 10-12 minutes until they become toasty brown and fragrant. Let them cool completely before using or storing. If you are not going to use them right away, store them in the freezer, as they can go rancid quickly.

wedges-on-a-plateThis makes a ton of toffee, so keep some for yourself and give the rest away as gifts. You will be quite beloved.

Click here to print recipe for English-Toffee.