Category Archives: Confections and Candies

On the 8th night of Chanukah: Chocolate Pretzel Peanut Butter Squares

On the eighth, and final night of Chanukah I gave my true love Chocolate Pretzel Peanut Butter Squares. Reminiscent of peanut butter cups, but way better because of the crunchy, salty pretzel crust. And, the best part is that they don’t have to be baked!stacked upThis recipe was given to me by my friend Mrs. Dolphin. I’ve granted her this nickname because she shares numerous traits with porpoises. Dolphins are very social animals and excellent communicators. They are friendly, clever and natural performers. Mrs. Dolphin enjoys a very busy and complicated social life. She is charismatic, fun loving and was born to be on the stage. She is very organized and excels in creative problem solving. squares on white boardMrs. Dolphin found this recipe in the food section of the Ottawa Citizen. It was inspired by Trisha Yearwood’s No-Bake Chocolate-Pretzel-Peanut Butter Squares. (Yes, the country singer Trisha Yearwood. Did you know she has a show on The Food Network?)  I took the recipe one step further and made the top layer more lavish, with a marbleized bittersweet and white chocolate topping, because really, we all need more fancy in our lives!what you'll need

making crustpressing crust into panchocolate toppingMarbleizing looks very impressive but it’s simple to do. Here is a video showing you the technique. The video is from my The Ultimate S’mores post, but the method of creating a marble pattern is still the same.

marbelizing chocolate toppingjpg

Click here to print recipe for Mrs. Dolphin’s Chocolate Pretzel Peanut Butter Squares.

Perfect with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee. The awesome drip coffee stand is from Restoration Hardware. I bought it for my husband because his plastic Melita cone offends my aesthetic sensibilities. with drip coffee

On the fifth night of Chanukah: Chocolate Crunch

stacked upOn the fifth night of Chanukah, I made Chocolate Crunch for my true love. Truthfully, this one was for me. My true love is not a huge chocolate lover. This recipe comes from The Mast Brother’s cookbook.

My friends, The Grizzlies, gave me this book as a gift when I broke my foot a few years ago. It kept me greatly entertained while my bones were healing. The recipes are delicious but what I really love best about this book are the deep, dark, exquisite chocolate photos. The book reads like an adventure novel, following the bearded brother’s unusual journey from their home state of Iowa to their factory in Brooklyn. Plus, how could you not love a book whose dedication reads, “To our mother, we love you.”

The Mast Brothers were on the forefront of the bean-to-bar artisan chocolate movement. They source cocoa beans with unique flavour profiles from around the world, roast the beans in small batches to create truly handmade chocolate, one of the very few chocolate makers to do so. And their bars have the coolest packaging.

This is a pretty simple recipe, no baking required. I tinkered with their recipe, ever so slightly by adding some Skor bits to the mix. Rice Krispies add a gentle snap, while the toffee flavoured Skor bits add a firmer crackle and popHere's what you'll need 1

pouring melted chocolate into crunchThe mixture gets poured into a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerated until set. Sliced into thick slabs, this is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up!sliced

Click here to print recipe for Chocolate Crunch.

Ultimate S’mores

We are living in a time of some amazing culinary experimentation. While culinary mashups are nothing new, witness the Turducken, which has it’s roots in ancient Roman times, some creations have gone a bit too far.

While I love nothing better than a bowl of Cheetos and a glass of wine for dinner, I am not keen to give Cheetos Macarons a try anytime soon. Nor will Goat Cheese and Peanut Buttercup Fries be passing these lips… not ever!

However, I firmly stand behind Donut Ice Cream Sandwiches, and will even stand in line for the Cronut (and anything else that genius Dominique Ansel dreams up!).

So, in the spirit of culinary creativity, I bring you The Ultimate S’moretoasted 2 625 sqready for smores 1Because it’s summer! Because it’s crazy delicious! Do I really need an excuse for taking my favourite Passover snack, Matzoh Crunch and turning it into that summertime staple, the s’more? Instead of using matzoh, I substituted Saltine crackers.saltinesI cooked butter and brown sugar until it resembled molten hot lava and poured it over a layer of saltines.molten gold spreading caramelI baked it until it was bubbling and then I covered it in bittersweet chocolate and marbled in some white chocolate, just because it’s so freaking beautiful.chocolate

Then I toasted some marshmallows and sandwiched them between the caramel chocolate coated crackers.  toasted 625 sqIf you are a purist, like my youngest son, you may prefer them raw!raw 3If you are watching your carbs, perhaps an open faced sandwich is the way to go.open facedHowever you enjoy summer, including the Ultimate S’mores in your celebrations is bound to make it a lot sweeter.

Click here to print recipe for Ultimate S,mores.

stacked smores 1

Dark Salty Caramels – A Labour of Love

cut caramel 625 sq 2 with labelI can not imagine anything more lovely than being presented with a box of these dark salty caramels from your valentine. They are unbelievably deep, dark and delicious, hovering ever so closely to the edge of bitter but narrowly escaping, thanks to the judicious addition of salt.  These are adult caramels, for grown ups with a mature palate that no longer desires cloying sweets.

We have Alton Brown (and my sister Bonnie) to thank for this genius recipe. Reading through the ingredient list I did a double take when I came to the 6th ingredient…soy sauce!  Soy sauce brings the funk to these caramels. It adds to the deep dark colour and provides a salty element as well as contributing umami, that savoury flavour that makes your mouth water.

If you are a fly by the seat of your pants baker, the kind who likes to bake free form, without any recipes or directions, and you know who you are, then this recipe is not for you.

If you are faint of heart and don’t like danger or risk taking, then this recipe is not for you either.

Making these caramels requires precision and nerves of steel. You need to stand over that pot and watch the candy thermometer. When it looks like the caramel is very dark and you are convinced it is going to burn any second now, do not remove it from the heat until the temperature registers 350°F. Have faith that Alton Brown knows what he is talking about. He is wise. If you remove the caramel too soon, you will end up with your grandma’s insipid blah caramels. If you are patient, you will be rewarded with caramels that have a depth and complexity of flavour that you have never experienced before.

That being said, please do not bypass the first step of the recipe where I instruct you to test your candy thermometer. Candy thermometers are not infallible.boiling sugaradding creamThis molten caramel is VERY hot so wear oven mitts and resist the urge to lick the pot. It will take a good 3-4 hours to cool to room temperature so again, patience is required. After 3 hours I refrigerated them so they would firm up even more, making it much easier to get nice clean square cuts with a very sharp knife. carefully pouring caramel into lined panI found this pretty little box at Target last week. It is part of the Nate Berkus Collection and is intended to be used as a jewellery box. I tarted it up with some pretty ribbon and turned it into a bon bon box.beautiful gift boxopened box 625 F sqFor storing the caramels, it is best to wrap each one individually in parchment paper.wrapping 1wrapping 2wrapping 3

Click here to print recipe for Dark Salty Caramels.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Three chocolate peanut butter cups 1Peanut Butter Cups and I have a bit of a love-hate relationship. I love to eat them, but sadly my hips and thighs protest quite loudly when I inhale too many. My hatred of Halloween likely stems from what I refer to the “Peanut Butter Cup Incident of 1985.” It was my first time giving out treats as an official grown up. I bought several large bags of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in the snack size a week before Halloween. They disappeared within 2 days. I purchased several more replacement bags and discovered that I suffer from a chromosomal abnormality that affects my ability to control my willpower.

Luckily, now that “Big Butts” are back in style, we can all eat Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups with abandon!

These chocolate peanut butter cups are a variation on the original. When I saw Anna Olson make them on her Food Network show, Sugar, I knew I had to try them. The cups themselves are crafted from chocolate cookie dough. Once baked these cookie cups become a crunchy vehicle to hold the chocolate ganache filling and the peanut butter and cream cheese mousse topping. These are a very decadent, sophisticated peanut butter cup. mise en placelining mini muffin tinsfolding whipped cream into peanut butter creamcheesepipingon wood and marble tray 625 sq

Click here to print recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

chocolate peanut butter cup on server